The other night I was planning on making chicken enchiladas with some leftover shredded chicken I had on hand but the day got away from me. One of my kids was having a bad day, which pushed homework out to later and the homework itself was time consuming. I was faced with dinner time and no food to put on the table. Have you been here?
These are the times the idea of getting fast food comes to mind. My thoughts start pulling me towards Carl’s Jr. and I tell myself, ‘we don’t do it often; it would be nice to not have to think about dinner, etc’. Fast food is not a big deal once in awhile but if you find yourself in this situation weekly it’s a good idea to have an easy-dinner-backup-plan.
I turn to my freezer during times like this. I was grateful to have some frozen rice in the refrigerator, a can of black beans and tomatoes and avocados on the counter. Burrito bowls it was. Along with keeping your pantry stocked with healthy food choices, there are a few things you can keep in your freezer so you can whip up a healthy meal even if you don’t have a plan.
Don’t fear frozen foods. Foods are frozen immediately after harvest at their peak so they retain their nutrients. Here are some of my favorite freezer foods.
- Berries. Frozen berries are a freezer staple in my house. I use them daily. Frozen blueberries make a quick side for kids (my kids love to eat them frozen). I also add assorted frozen berries to hot oatmeal and smoothies. A quick thaw makes them perfect to top off granola, salads or pancakes. You can also whip up an oatmeal berry crisp if you’re craving something sweet.
- Stir-fry vegetables. You can find a bag of stir-fry veggies in nearly any store. This is basically already sliced broccoli, peppers and sometimes carrots and snow peas. Whether you add a little soy sauce or simple seasonings, stir-fry meals are quick and simple. You can mix it up by making vegetarian, chicken, beef or shrimp. Perfect when you don’t have time to make an elaborate meal.
- Kale or Spinach. I like having greens around the freezer. They’re easy to use in a smoothie and you can also thaw quickly, saute them with olive oil and your favorite seasonings for a quick side dish. You can also add frozen greens to soups to add more flavor and nutrients. Not everyone loves frozen greens but if you do like them it’s great to have on hand for those nights when that fresh broccoli you were planning on looks a little iffy.
- Shrimp. I realize this may sound strange but shrimp offers a good protein source, high in nutrients and contains omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also very easy to thaw compared to other protein sources. You can thaw frozen shrimp in a bath of cool water and you should be ready to go in 10 to 15 minutes. Saute or grill shrimp (only takes about 5 minutes) and use with pasta, rice, quinoa or salads. Quick and easy!
- Frozen rice. I typically make my own rice and if you make a lot of it you can freeze it in individualized containers. You’ll also find frozen white and brown cooked rice at most grocery stores although you’ll pay a lot more than making your own. Pre-made frozen rice takes minutes to warm up and you can use it for Stir-fry recipes, burrito bowls, or poultry dishes. Frozen rice has saved me more than once on busy nights.
With the above items in your freezer you can make shrimp stir-fry over brown rice in minutes…all from foods stocked in your freezer. It’s a great strategy to pull together healthy meals when time is tight so you can avoid hitting fast food too often.
Check out these helpful tips when choosing frozen foods along with a few recipes.
Meri Raffetto is the founder of Real Living Nutrition, triplet mom, dog butler and author of the Glycemic Index Diet for Dummies® and coauthor of Glycemic Index Cookbook for Dummies® and Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Dummies®.