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Freezer Staples: 8 Everlasting Must-Haves for Healthy Cooking

Although we all strive for ‘fresh’, reality is that many days require that we rely on our freezer to help us out. Therefore, I wanted to share my freezer staples in hopes that I can give you some valuable ideas to help you through the busy week.

1. Fruit: I regularly keep strawberries and blueberries stocked as the season here in New England is so short. Toss them into smoothies, muffins and when thawed add them to salads, cereal and pancakes.

2. Vegetables :

  • Frozen peas, corn, and green beans are the top three I reach for during the week.
  • Peppers, and Onions: I enjoy buying these in bulk from the farmer’s market. I then prepare them in two ways: chopping and julienning and then placing then in a freezer bags.  Talk about a time saver!

More staples you need in your freezer are:

3. Shrimp: I buy it in 2 pound bag of raw.  They are super quick and easy to thaw and cook. Toss them with some whole wheat spaghetti and marinara sauce and you have a protein rich dish.

4. Bulk Meats: Make sure to stock up on your families favorite when they are on sale. The meats we keep are:

  • Bison, Pork Chops, and Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts. We buy them in bulk and separate them into 1 lb. increments and freeze. Occasionally, I buy a whole chicken (small size) when they are on sale.
  • Turkey cutlets and ground turkey These are usually cheaper and healthier than beef.
  • Pork tenderloins give a big bang for the buck. Roasted in the oven, a tenderloin will often yield leftovers for stir-fry later in the week.
  • Fish fillets such as Wild Alaskan Salmon  and Tilapia
  • Bacon: I usually cook Turkey bacon in the oven first until it is just under our preferred texture and then I freeze it after cooling. I can then grab a few slices, microwave them and they are done to perfection.  Shall I remind you to enjoy bacon in moderation?

5. Breads

  • Phyllo dough and puff pastry. I enjoy taking a bunch of leftovers and creating ‘pockets’ with the phyllo as they look more elegant and makes you feel like you are having a treat.
  • Breads: We make a trip to our locally bakery every weekend and toss rolls and our favorites breads into the freezer. As you all know, you always need bread so stock up when your favorite is on sale. If you are Pita bread and  English muffins lovers, stock up on those as well.

6. Cheese: Whether you grate your own Parmesan or buy a pre-grated bag at the store, you can extend the life of it by keeping it in the freezer. Cheddar cheese also freezes well.

7. Frozen pizza or whole wheat pizza dough. These days there are some quality frozen pizzas available by companies such as Kashi, Newman’s Own and Nature’s Promise (found at Stop & Shop and Giant stores). I like to keep these in my freezer for times when I am heading out as you know the kids will eat pizza for the sitter.

8. Herbs: Believe it or not, I have a large freezer bag full of basil from our garden.  Yes, I do make some pestos and freeze them but I love having my favorite herbs in my freezer waiting for me to get around to drying it.

Finally, before you toss your foods into the freezer, heed the warning to always properly label and date each item. Martha Stewart has kindly created templates for you to download and print at home.

Photo by Antonis Achilleos. Copyright © 2004, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. Originally published in the September 2004 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine. Reprinted by kind permission.

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