Frozen foods have come a long way since I remember as a child eating my unevenly cooked, microwaved Swanson’s Turkey Dinner (while watching TV, of course). As a busy mom of three boys, I lean on frozen foods more than ever. While most of my frozen purchases are fruits and vegetables, we also often buy pre-made turkey burgers, pasta and whole-grains.

Top 6 Reasons I Buy Frozen Foods (FF):

  1. They speed up meal prep. Why peel and cut butternut squash if I can buy pre-cut frozen?
  2. It’s easier to manage the right serving sizes. Only use the amount you need!
  3. You’ll reduce food waste. Using frozen foods generates 47% less food waste compared to food stored in the fridge.
  4. They save me when I don’t have a plan for dinner. Stayed to late at the office to fire up the grill? Just saúte the frozen chicken breasts.
  5. Frozen foods are nutritious. If you don’t cook the heck out of them, frozen produce is equally (and in some cases, superior) to fresh produce.
  6. You’ll save money. For example, frozen fish and seafood is 25% less expensive than fresh, and frozen broccoli is over 50% cheaper than fresh florets.

Freezer to Table Ideas

Option #1: Pre-Bought Frozen Dinners.

While you can buy frozen dinners that all have the entire meal ready to nuke, we typically don’t go this route. Most complete meals are made for one, and the entire meal “kits” tend to have a bit more sodium and “extras.” If you have a healthy complete frozen family dinner meal you love, we’d love to hear about it.  I do buy individual frozen dinners for myself when I don’t have time to pack a lunch.

Option #2: Frozen ingredients turned into a Meal-In-A-Minute Idea.

Part of my meal planning includes what I call “meal-in-a-minute-idea.” Basically, they are meals I can quickly put together in minutes as long as I have the necessary ingredients on hand. Frozen items are part of this formula. A few examples:

Example 1: Spaghetti with broccoli & noodles: In the last few minutes of cooking pasta, add a bag of frozen broccoli to boiling water. Drain pasta & broccoli (any veg will work) and top with jarred marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese.

Example 2: Asian stir-fry: Saúte cut up meat or tofu (in my example below) and add a bag of riced cauliflower and rice with veggies; add teriyaki sauce to flavor. I also used a bit of low-sodium vegetable broth to speed up cooking time.

Example 3: Indian-Spiced Beans

Saúte your choice of frozen beans and frozen vegetables in a touch of coconut oil. Add a can of light coconut milk and your curry sauce of choice.

Option #3: Make Pre-Prepped Freezer Meals.

Use frozen or fresh ingredients to assemble “freezer” meals that can be frozen and saved for later! Freezer meals can be warmed up over the stove, added to a slow cooker or Instant Pot. They require no-cook prep or advanced thawing.  In research for this post, I stumbled upon Pinch of Yum’s 16 Healthy Freezer Meals, and the recipes were not only fairly easy, they also sounded DELISH. Meal ideas include vegan, vegetarian and meat-based recipes, so there is something for everyone. I mean, why invent the wheel? I made their Detox Lentil Stew, despite the fact I despise the word “detox.”

We’re all pressed for time, and frozen foods help us press the easy button.  In honor of National Family Meals month, peruse your frozen aisle this week, and hopefully I provided you some “short-cut” menu idea inspiration.

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.