Who doesn't want to put fresh, simple, and easy meals on the table every day? Home cooking doesn't have to be hard or take a lot of time. Our grandmothers were great cooks, but they had to do everything from scratch. It's not that way anymore.
Today, we can take advantage of an entire section of the grocery store and make our favorite foods using frozen ingredients that Grandma didn't have access to. And while pre-made lasagna, pizza, or fish sticks might be OK on rare occasions, we can do better than that.
Frozen fresh, easy simple meals at home
Commercially frozen foods are every bit as nutritious as fresh fruits and vegetables. They're also convenient and available in any season. Getting the benefits of fresh produce without the hard work and hassle of growing, harvesting, and preserving your own is just smart thinking. You don't have to do things the hard way.
Stocking a few bags of frozen staples in your freezer can make mealtime so fast and easy! Here are some freezer hacks to help you make great-tasting and nutritious meals for your family and friends. These ideas are meant to inspire you to look for recipes online or in your favorite cookbooks and your grandma's recipe file.
Or you can just wing it with what you have in your pantry and freezer.
Some Basics to Have on Hand
- Keep frozen chopped onions on hand for easy meal prep without tears!
- The red and green pepper strips with onion are so versatile and add a nice touch to casseroles and soups.
- Frozen and riced cauliflower can be used in place of rice or potatoes in many side dishes.
- Frozen mushrooms are a nutritious addition to egg dishes, soups, and casseroles.
- Frozen avocados are especially nice since it seems that fresh ones are always either not ripe or overripe.
- Packages of individual fruits and vegetables, the ubiquitous mixed vegetable blend, and any combinations that you enjoy. Try California mixed vegetables, Mexican and Asian blends, and seasoned potatoes. Be adventurous!
- Look for frozen single-serving packages of spices like ginger, lemongrass, and garlic. They make an average meal special! There's no limit to the ways that you can use them. These are in addition to your spice rack. A good selection of seasonings and spices allows you to be creative in your cooking.
- Hot rolls and biscuits now come in resealable bags so that you only need to thaw and heat the amount you need.
- Frozen pizza dough and/or pie crusts for making pasties, hand pies, and, well, pizzas.
- Frozen grilled chicken strips and beef fajita strips make meals fast and easy. Chicken breasts can be pressure cooked and shredded for enchiladas, chicken salads, or soups.
- Frozen fruits and/or berries make an easy breakfast smoothie! Add a little protein powder, some frozen avocado, and perhaps some leafy greens and nuts or seeds for a tasty and nutritious start to your day. There are even single-serve smoothie blends in the freezer section. All you need is a blender!
- Add a handful of thawed blueberries to oatmeal for some extra vitamin C, a pop of color, and a nice flavor.
- Thaw some peach slices or strawberries to top pancakes or crepes.
- Breakfast casseroles start with frozen hash browns, sausage, mushrooms, and a red and green pepper blend with onion. Add beaten eggs and bake. It's easy and can feed a crowd.
- Frozen precooked sausage patties can be a fast breakfast protein. Serve with scrambled eggs and perhaps a frozen biscuit.
- Make a nice tea by adding a serving of frozen ginger to a cup of hot water. Sweeten with honey. This is also good for an upset stomach, and even morning sickness.
- Frozen shelled edamame adds protein and fiber to pasta dishes and salads.
- Likewise, frozen corn and/or green peas can be added to other dishes for color and a nutritional boost. Corn is especially nice added to taco bars and salads, and as an addition to cornbread.
- Add thawed rotisserie chicken slices to a frozen rice or pasta entrée, or a salad for an easy and quick lunch.
- Frozen avocado can be added to salads or made into a quick guacamole.
- Make avocado corn salsa to serve with corn chips and a sandwich.
- Frozen tortellini can be an interesting addition to soups.
- Toasted frozen ravioli served with pizza sauce is good, too.
- Sauté some frozen pierogis in butter, with a handful of frozen onions and mushrooms.
- A simple soup recipe is to brown a pound of hamburger with some onion, and add a can of diced tomatoes, a bag of frozen mixed carrots, green beans, corn, and peas, some tomato juice, V-8, or beef broth, and seasoned with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. This is a great Instant Pot recipe, too.
- The hamburger soup recipe can be turned into a taco soup by using a frozen blend of corn, black beans, red peppers, taco seasoning, and a can of diced hot peppers. Serve with sour cream and tortilla chips. Try it with chicken instead of hamburger, too.
- The same hamburger soup can have an Italian flavor by using Italian herbs and a can of spaghetti or pizza sauce.
- Frozen stir-fry vegetable mixes are terrific with some chopped and browned chicken and a bottled teriyaki or chili sauce. The hardest thing about making a stir fry is prepping the vegetables, so skip that part!
- Frozen hash browns or Tater tots can be used to make a base layer for a hamburger casserole.
- Try roasting a frozen vegetable blend with olive oil and sea salt for an easy side dish. Food doesn't have to be fancy to be exquisite!
- Roasted frozen potato mixes, seasoned with rosemary and thyme make a good accompaniment to a pork roast.
- Pureed frozen vegetables can be added to pasta dishes, soups, and sauces for added nutrition. This is especially useful for picky eaters and those recovering after an illness.
- Chop yellow squash and zucchini into chunks, add some frozen onion and pepper blend, spray with olive oil, and cook in an air fryer until almost done. Season with Italian seasonings and throw in some frozen meatballs. Cook until the meatballs are hot, stirring once or twice to brown the meatballs. Serving with spaghetti sauce is optional.
Snack and Dessert Ideas
- Just thawed fruits and berries are the perfect toppers for ice cream. You can add sugar, or not.
- Try a bowl of nearly thawed strawberries mixed with 2 tablespoons of ricotta cheese and a little sugar for a healthier treat. You won't miss the calories! Blueberries work well, too.
- Frozen puff pastries make an elegant dessert when cut into squares and baked in a mini muffin pan with cream cheese and topped with fruit or berries.
- Make a fruit compote by cooking frozen fruits and/or berries with a little sugar, water, and butter. It's a great topping for pound cake or ice cream.
- Blend frozen fruits with a banana to make another healthy alternative to ice cream.
- You can have a fruit cobbler or even a pie in any season with a supply of frozen fruit and berries on hand. Just thaw and follow your favorite recipe.
- Heat a frozen croissant and top it with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce or fruit compote for a sweet croissant sundae.
Don't be Tied to Fast Food for Quick Meals
Ordering pizza delivery may be fast, but in the same amount of time, you can provide a well-balanced and nutritious meal for less money at home. We know that a diet of fast food is not healthy in the long term. And the same old burgers and takeout meals sure get boring.
Food shouldn't be boring!
With an inventory of frozen foods, a well-stocked pantry, and a few modern conveniences like an Instant Pot and an air fryer, you can cook almost-from-scratch meals quickly. You have options.
Cooking can be a way to destress after a long workday. If you enjoy it, look for ways to make it easy for you. It's possible to get that good, old-fashioned home-cooked taste and quality without driving yourself crazy. A little preplanning and a shopping list that fills your freezer with healthy foods are a good place to start.
Organize your freezer to make locating ingredients easy. Keep fruits in one area. Separate vegetables and veggie blends into bins so that you can find what you need for any recipe. Keep proteins on another shelf, and in bins, if you can. You'll save time both in the kitchen and at the grocery store if you plan your freezer storage and pantry well. Make it so easy that calling for takeout is a chore.
Search the internet for fast and easy recipes featuring frozen foods. Save the ones you want to try or print them off and put them in a binder for those days when you need an idea. Plan your freezer hacks in advance so that you have what you need when you are ready to try that new recipe that caught your eye on that food blog.
Take a look at your favorite old recipes and see what substitutes you find in the freezer section of your grocery store. If you keep the ingredients for two or three of your tried-and-true recipes on hand, it's easy to make a meal that you will be proud to serve - even on those days when you don't have a lot of time or energy.