Healthy Fast Food

One of the best ways to stay on track with eating healthy is to be prepared. A freezer, whether small or large, is a great asset with this process. Here are a few suggestions for fast food from the freezer.

We have always had a freezer from the start of our marriage 49 years ago. It is not difficult to pick up an inexpensive freezer in the spring when people are moving. Often just $50 will seal the deal and the mercenary and health benefits will far exceed that expenditure in no time! It also affords the opportunity to buy bulk items that can be purchased on the best sales of the year.

Last year I froze almost all our fruit because it requires no sugar and there are so many delicious ways to use it which will be the topic for another TIP.

Here are the “innards” of our freezers for ideas if you need any (sorry, I didn’t fancy it up before taking the shots). Labeling everything is critical and a date can be helpful also. I know right where to go for specific things, and the plastic containers help keep the frozen fruits and vegetables organized.

We get our nut butters from Trader Joes and Costco so there is a row in the freezer door for that. I have single servings of beans and sauces and some soups in jars on the remaining shelves and some bagged grains.

The additional freezing we did instead of canning pushed the limit of our upright freezer, so we added a small chest freezer and it has been a huge blessing!

By now you have probably noticed that I freeze a lot of things: soups, entrees, leftovers (made into frozen dinners), all kinds of legumes, cooked grains, diced mushrooms, onions, celery, and peppers, minced garlic and ginger, dressings, sauces, and the list goes on!  A freezer is an essential item at our house.

While our children were still at home, I didn’t freeze leftovers as often because there were none!  But if you are single or a couple it is a great way to eliminate cooking daily, so go ahead and make a full recipe!   Not everything freezes so you need to “know” your entrees, but it is amazing how many things do well.  For example, if a sauce is made with cornstarch it gets a funny texture once it is frozen but heating it sufficiently after it thaws and giving it a good stir brings it back to normal; this works with most thickeners.

I like making different types of cheese substitutes and find that most of them freeze well (items made with agar do not do well as a rule).  This is very convenient for making an entrée that might require one of these cheeses.  I freeze items in quantities that we will use (you don’t want to thaw a whole container just to use a small amount), I like having cashew jack cheese on hand in the freezer. I enjoy it on a baked sweet potato as the savory compliments the sweet (just as tahini on a baked sweet potato does) and it is handy for a quick pizza or lasagna topping, so I size the containers accordingly.

Haystacks are always a great “fall-back” meal!  The oil-free version serves the beans over a grain with a huge salad on top and maybe some fat-free chips on the side with a little guacamole.  This can be a 15-minute meal if there is frozen rice or quinoa and millet in the freezer.  I repeat this so often, but I always make extra when cooking grains so I have some frozen for a quick meal base or to add to an entrée.  Cooking healthy is much less complicated with a little planning.

Frozen diced mushrooms and veggies are a great time saver for making entrees and stir-fries, and it keeps from wasting those odds and ends that can hang around in the fridge and go bad. I keep these in my fridge freezer.

If I’m gone for the day my husband can easily have a nice lunch, or if I have too much going on to make a meal there is always something hearty and good in the freezer! On my bake day, I use a freezer meal so I don’t have “overload” when cleaning up in the kitchen.

Once a fresh batch of cookies has cooled completely, they always go in the freezer for several reasons.  1) when we thaw a few, they closely resemble a freshly made cookie, remaining chewy or crispy depending on the kind; 2) they aren’t hanging around on the counter tempting us to eat more than a serving at a time;  and  3) it is great to have a treat on hand if your grandkids show up!

So, find some space for healthy “fast” food in your freezer—you’ll love it!