Apr 5, 2011

Healthy Eating On a Budget: Freezing Foods

The freezer is one of your BEST friends when it comes to eating healthy on a budget and is great for busy families. No more store-bought frozen waffles or mystery chicken pot pies. Here is how we use our freezer to eat healthy on a budget:

Stock up on produce sales, especially organic
Whenever I spot a great deal on produce, I stock up, especially if its organic. I recently spotted 1 lb tubs of fresh strawberries on sale for a little under $2. I bought several of them, chopped them (for muffins, pancakes, and quick fruit spreads) and quartered them (for smoothies, oatmeal & cereal topping), then stored them in small freezer bags. 

More of what is in our freezer now:

I love to chop and freeze several on-sale vegetables together to make cooking really convenient. I divide these in small freezer bags for several meals. Here are some examples:

  • chopped onions, peppers and mushrooms (for lasagna, homemade pizza, omelets, breakfast casseroles, homemade pasta sauce, and stirfries)
  • broccoli crowns and carrots (a favorite combination of Haley & Gavin. I freeze in the smallest freezer bags to serve with their lunches)
  • varieties of squash and zucchini (for rice or quinoa pilafs, pasta or a quick pan fry with garlic) 
  • Spinach (this is the only leafy green that I've tried freezing so far. I'm not quite sure other varieties would freeze well. I use frozen spinach lasagna, homemade pizza, omelets, casseroles, and smoothies)
  • Red potatoes and onions
Homemade breakfast items
If I buy on sale items in abundance, like bananas or strawberries, I make a huge batch of breakfast items to freeze. 

Other breakfast items I have made and frozen:
  • Homemade "hot pockets" (using whole wheat pastry flour, free-range eggs, vegetables, and grassfed meat)
  • Breakfast cupcakes and muffin varieties (vegan, pumpkin, apple, cranberry, raspberry, oatmeal variations, etc.)
  • Pancakes and crepes (spelt, buckwheat, blueberry, apple, oatmeal) I place a small piece of wax paper in between each pancake for easy removal.
Cooked, bulk grains
We buy nearly all of our grains in bulk. The grains I have frozen so far are cooked rice and quinoa. The key to freezing these is allowing them to cool in the refrigerator before sticking them in the freezer. You don't want to freeze them while they're still hot, otherwise they'll come out mushy when you go to use them. Also, allow them to defrost completely before reheating. I divide these into small or medium sized freezer bags.

I'm still new to freezing foods but it has saved us not only money but also time! I love just reaching into the freezer, grabbing a bag of whatever variety of chopped vegetables I have and preparing a nutritious meal for my family. I'll post more along the way as I experiment!