For the longest time I loved filling up my grocery cart with fresh fruits and vegetables. I spent more time in the produce section than any other and it just felt good to unload all of those healthy, colorful, leafy, fresh items onto the belt.
And then I had a baby.
Spending the time to find the freshest of the freshest, the least bruised, and the brightest colored produce, (and then bringing it home to watch half of it go bad in my fridge) was agonizing with a child in tow, and didn't really help my efforts to decrease our living expenses while I quit working. You know you're guilty too...you had the best intentions of preparing that enormous head of cauliflower you picked up, but each night you swear you're going to find a good recipe and cook up that cauliflower TOMORROW! Next thing you know, it's sittin' in your refrigerator drawer, brown as can be.
I am a huge supporter of pre-planning your meals for one week to avoid such waste in your refrigerator, but I too find myself at the grocery store on occasion without a specific plan in place. Instead of filling up my cart with fresh vegetables, in this case, I reach for the freezer.
Frozen produce is just as good as, if not better than, fresh! What? As a fruit or vegetable ripens, the content of its nutrients changes. Produce that is chosen for freezer packaging is picked at it's peak ripeness (when nutrient content is at its best). They then blanch the food, which does cause leakage of some of the water soluble nutrients, like vitamin C and B vitamins, but flash freezing them then locks in the remaining high content of other nutrients.
Fresh produce, picked at its peak ripeness from your back yard (or bought at the local farmers' market in season), will result in the highest nutrient content available from that fruit or vegetable. But off-season, we buy produce that's been picked before it is ripened (not reaching its full potential) and then shipped long distances and set in an aisle---all the while losing even more nutritional value.
Not all fruits and veggies are good frozen so we still buy the obvious things like apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, and carrots fresh. They are still a great alternative snack to high calorie items, even if they have lost some nutrients in the winter.
Here's a great list of veggies you can keep in your freezer for easy addition to meals:
*Stir Fry mixes
How to cook frozen veggies? Steaming is best, but sometimes in a skillet meal, you can just add them in toward the end and they will thaw and cook without getting mushy.
And you can't go wrong with bags of frozen berries! Add them to your morning oatmeal or make a quick smoothie by blending with yogurt and a splash of 100% juice.
A word of caution:
Frozen produce is a great alternative to fresh if and only if the bag of frozen produce is just that...a bag of frozen produce. Read the label! Anything with a sauce, or those 'meal in a bag' deals, has added preservatives, sodium, flavor, and sometimes color enhancers. Think about it, if the food was picked at its peak ripeness and flash frozen, it actually is the color nature intended it to be!
Canned? I'm not even going there. The canning process leaches nutrients and adds sodium! Use sparingly!
I've mentioned Wildtree before, but my sister just informed me that many of their all natural blends can be tossed with frozen veggies in a Ziplock bag, and stored in the freezer until meal time that week. You can have flavored, healthy veggies as a great addition to pasta, rice, cous cous, quinoa, or just as a tasty side dish. Send me a message if you're interested in learning more about Wildtree, or visit her page: