We've all been there — you're wrapping things up at the office, grocery list in hand, game plan for the night in mind . . . but the phone rings, and you're stuck at your desk for another 30 minutes — mission not accomplished. When life doesn't allow you the time to shop and cook the way you want to, takeout's not the only option. Keeping just a few basic staples in your pantry and freezer means that you'll still be able to make dinner for your family, even when fresh ingredients aren't on the menu.
All but the most organized cooks have been there: the dreaded "I forgot something" rush back to the grocery store. Luckily, with a little strategizing, much of the frustration and panic can be circumvented. While we'll often hack an ingredient substitution in a pinch, some foods have no analogue. In those cases, the freezer aisle (or your home freezer) can be a real savior.
Foods to Buy Frozen:
- Fruit: Stock frozen berries, mango, and cranberries for morning smoothies, out-of-season pies, and fruit-studded pancakes. Just keep in mind that freezing fruit damages some of its structure, so employ these only in cooked or pureed applications.
- Shrimp: Due to its highly perishable nature, most commercially available shrimp is sold frozen or previously frozen. Not only is this briny nibble great to keep on hand for last-minute dinners, but also, it's often more economical to buy from the freezer case.
- Phyllo and puff pastry: Keep these fussy-to-prepare pastry bases stocked so that a rustic tart or spanakopita is quick to whip up.
- Vegetables: Peas, spinach, edamame, artichoke hearts, corn, broccoli, and black-eyed peas are all good bets for adding fresh flavor to vegetable sides and pasta dishes. Like fruit, vegetables' high-water content means that once frozen, they won't retain quite the same snap as their fresh counterparts, so save these for cooked dishes only.
- Rice: Sure, freshly steamed rice wins out on the texture front by a hair, but frozen rice is an excellent substitute in a pinch and a quick way to round out a meal.
We are pumped to share one of our fave stories from Self here on FitSugar!
Shopping for a few quick dinners? The items in the frozen food aisle are more often bad than good, but that doesn't mean you should avoid the freezer completely. You just need to be sure you're making the smartest choices.
After an extra-long shopping trip (the guy stocking the shelves officially thinks we're totally psycho!), we came up with this list of 4 healthy frozen dinners. They're low in calories and high in nutrition and satisfaction — no cardboard burritos here.
Kashi Chicken Florentine
With grilled chicken, spinach, red peppers and baby portobello mushrooms over orzo pilaf, this meal has 22 grams of fiber to keep you full and satisfied. And it won't cost you much in terms of calories. You're looking at 290 calories, 9 grams of fat (4 saturated grams) and 550 mg sodium. Bonus: The white wine garlic sauce is delicious.
Lean Cuisine Santa Fe-Style Rice & Beans
This meal gives you two servings of veggies — so you're well on your way to the daily 3 to 5 servings recommended by the USDA. Though it feels indulgent and fills up your belly (mmm . . . cheese and sour cream!), this dish only has 290 calories, 5 grams of fat (2 grams saturated fat) and 590 mg sodium.
Read about the other two options after the break.
What's the deal with frozen green beans? Last Fall, a New Zealander discovered a shrunken mouse's head in hers, and, proving we're just as prone to the situation stateside, a Texas woman reportedly opened a bag to find a frog's face staring back at her.
Chasity Erbaugh from Tyler, TX, went to stir butter into her green beans and encountered the whole front end of a frog, spinal cord attached, with its tongue hanging out. Horrified, she notified county health inspectors, who got in touch with the Wal-Mart where she purchased the beans to have the rest of the lot pulled from shelves. Although the county health department filed a complaint with the FDA, it also urged consumers to look closely at their food before eating it. But Erbaugh has lost her confidence with frozen foods. Moving forward, she vows to only buy fresh vegetables, even if the measure is at her expense. "Do you know how much my grocery bill is fixing to go up?" she said.
After hearing about a shopper who — almost literally — got a frog in her throat, are you less likely to buy frozen fruits and vegetables? Do you agree with the health department, which insinuated that the responsibility lies with each diner to ensure he is eating safe food? Have you ever found something that's less than kosher in your frozen produce?
Last month, I asked what you could tell me about canned foods and since today happens to be National Frozen Foods Day, I thought I'd find out what you know about frozen foods. Although much of the food industry's focus lately has been on farm-fresh produce, it's important to to give flash-frozen products some credit — after all, they help millions of Americans get food on the dinner table each day.
Will you freeze in your tracks when I quiz you on your knowledge of frozen products? There's only one way to find out.Take the Quiz
How's this for a Halloween fright? A woman in Auckland, New Zealand, was opening a package of Heinz-Watties "choice cut" frozen green beans when she came across a strange-looking foreign object. The unidentified frozen object in question was a shrunken mouse's head.
"I thought it was a little husk or something so I took it out of the microwave and pulled it out. It had eyes looking back at me," said Jacquie Lewis, the surprised recipient. If she hadn't stopped to take a closer look at the one-centimeter-wide object, she could have eaten it. She described the experience as "incredibly nauseating. I thought, 'If this is your head, where exactly is the rest of you?'"
Heinz-Watties explained that wildlife can get into its food products from time to time, but the thought of this happening to someone still makes me shudder. Have you ever found something in your store-bought products that shouldn't have been there?
Women's Health has read all those confusing food labels for you and compiled a list of the 100 Best Supermarket Foods. Next time you're shopping in the dairy aisle be sure to put the following items in your grocery cart.
Women's Health has read all those confusing food labels for you and compiled a list of the 100 Best Supermarket Foods. If you're looking to pick up some quick-to-make frozen foods, be sure to put the following items in your grocery cart next time you go shopping.
Curious about healthy carbs? Then also check out this list of healthy breads, pasta, and rice.
Sometimes I get a question that I know you guys will be able to answer better than if I were to attempt it myself. So help fellow user mandy2lin out by giving her your expert advice.
"Being a college student, I practically live on frozen meals. I was just wondering which healthy entrées are the most delicious. I just recently discovered South Beach Living Pizzas. What other frozen meals should I try?"
I've found that I enjoy frozen meals from Amy's Kitchen and Kashi, especially the Lemongrass Coconut Chicken. You may also want to check out my advice on how to pick a healthy frozen meal. I know you guys have your own go-to tasty and healthy frozen foods so share them in the comments section below. You may even find a few items to add to your grocery list this week.
In a perfect world you can do all you want and need to do as well as make yourself a lovely dinner. Unfortunately, the world just doesn't really work like that. When push comes to shove on those tightly scheduled days, a frozen dinner doesn't necessarily have to be an unhealthy option. You just need to know what you are looking for. Here are a few guidelines to following when shopping for a frozen meal.
Fat: Look for a fat to calorie ratio that is three grams to 100 calories. If the meal is 500 calories, you want there to be only 15 grams of fat.
Saturated Fat: Keep the ratio of saturated fat to calories per serving to be one gram saturated fat to 100 calories. So that same 500 calorie meal should have only 5 grams saturated fat.
Trans Fat: Steer clear of trans fat. If you see the words "hydrogenated oil" on the ingredients list, put the package down and move on!
Fiber: You want a frozen entrée to have at least three grams of fiber. Fiber helps keep you feeling full.
Sodium: You want no more than 200 milligrams of sodium for every 100 calories. A 500 calorie dish should have no more than 1000 milligrams sodium. Remember, the recommended upper limit of sodium intake per day is 2,300 milligrams.
All this being said, you still should supplement your frozen meal with some fresh fruits and veggies just to ensure you're getting all the nutrients you need per meal.