A well-stocked freezer can make meal prep easier — and help you eat healthier. The first step? Learn how to properly freeze foods. Once you know the basics, it’s time to decide what you want to keep in your freezer. Here are freezer-friendly options to help you put together a quick and healthy meal on a busy day.
Fruits and veggies
You can enjoy various fruits all year long, even when they’re not in season. Freeze the last of your summer blackberries and blueberries. Then put them in a smoothie or add them to a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal or overnight oats. Or consider using fruit to make a sweet frozen treat. You can also freeze bananas — just peel them, wrap individually in plastic wrap, and throw them in a well-sealed freezer bag — so you can add one to an early-morning smoothie or have a quick energy-boosting snack. If you’d rather leave the banana peel on before freezing, that’s okay too — you’ll just need to defrost it slightly when you take it out.
Vegetables are another good freezer staple. Studies have shown that certain vegetables, like broccoli, can keep their nutritional value even when frozen.* You can fill your freezer with the extra veggies you picked up at the farmers market. Try green beans, kale, or cauliflower.
Before freezing, wash and — for veggies like squash — cut them into pieces so they’ll be easier to cook once defrosted. You can also blanch many veggies before freezing. Simply place a vegetable in boiling water for a few minutes, then transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Blanching will help your veggies keep their color, texture, and even flavor.
Some vegetables, like peas, carrots, and spinach, can lose some of their nutritional value during the freezing process. And anything with too much moisture, like cucumbers or mushrooms, won’t thaw very well. So it’s a good idea to make both fresh and frozen veggies and fruits a part of your regular diet.
Tip: Veggies and fruit can easily clump together when freezing. One way to avoid clumping is to arrange pieces of fruit, for example, in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place the sheet in the freezer, uncovered, for at least an hour or until the fruit is just frozen through. Then add them to a container, like a freezer bag, making sure to seal it tightly.
Sauces and soups
A simmering pot of tomato sauce, homemade chili, or a hearty soup all make excellent freezer candidates. The best sauces and soups to freeze are those that don’t contain cream or milk. So, if your recipe calls for dairy, add it after you’ve defrosted the soup.
And skip the bulky containers in favor of reusable freezer bags. You can stack them for easy storage. Just remember to leave space in each bag because liquids expand when frozen.
Tip: Making chicken noodle soup? Noodles can get soggy when defrosted — consider adding them when reheating.
Nuts and herbs
Nuts may seem like a surprising choice, but there’s a reason to move them from the pantry to the freezer. Many nuts, like walnuts, have a high oil content, which means they can spoil when left at room temperature. Freezing nuts helps them last longer and can preserve their freshness. And nuts are a great snack to have — they’re heart-healthy and can bring a satisfying crunch to a salad.
Adding fresh herbs to a dish can up the flavor. But if you find your herbs going bad in the fridge before you use them, try freezing. One way to freeze your mint and thyme? Ice cube trays. First, rinse and then gently dry the herbs. Then chop them, place the herbs in an ice cube tray, cover with water, and put them in the freezer. Once the cubes are frozen, you can pop each one out and seal it in a freezer bag.
Tip: Instead of water, use olive oil to cover your herbs when freezing via the ice cube tray method.
Looking for another flavorful freezer option?
Try ginger root. It’s part of the ginger plant and is often used as a spice to add flavor to foods from curries to smoothies. You can simply put the ginger root in plastic wrap — no need to peel it — and store it in your freezer. When you’re ready to use it, take a sharp paring knife to peel the skin and then use a zester or cheese grater to grate the amount you need. And if you prefer, you can peel it first and cut it into smaller pieces.
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