The Frozen Pantry

We’ve talked a lot here in The Bachelor’s Kitchen about keeping a well-stocked pantry. We’ve also talked about some of the things you need to keep in the freezer as part of your pantry stock. We’ve said the freezer is your friend. Today we’re exploring that cold environment for items you should always have on hand to make quick, easy, nutritious meals.

Many times we have mentioned the value of frozen vegetables. These aren’t those side dish packages loaded with salt, sauce and sugar. We’re talking about plain, cut and cleaned vegetables. Not only are these a great time saver, but they have better nutrition than canned foods. Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at their prime, meaning more flavor and more nutrients than their out-of-season counterparts. Most of the time you don’t need to thaw frozen vegetables before using them in your recipe. However, if you do thaw them, drain off the water that accumulates with the vegetables.

Frozen fruit is great for making sauces or adding too many desserts and even savory dishes.

When we say you should have some fish fillets, we’re not talking about those square, stick or trapezoid-shaped shaped bread or battered things you find in the frozen food section. The problem with those is you have no idea from where they come or what parts of the fish are used or what’s in the outer coating. Avoid all that by buying real fish fillets. These can come in individual portions in separate frozen bags. If you buy a big bag of fillets, just remove what you need the night before, wrap them up and allow to thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

Chicken breasts and, even better, chicken breast tenders are also good staples for the freezer. The tenders are better because they thaw more quickly. But either is always good to have on hand. Buy when they are on sale and wrap each one individually in plastic wrap. Place each of those in a freezer bag or wrap in aluminum foil before freezing.

Bread spoils fast. And when you run out, it’s not always convenient to go to the store. If this is a staple in your house, as it is for most Americans, keep a loaf in the freezer. Bread thaws in just an hour or two. A single person might not go through a full loaf in a week and can end up with several moldy slices before the next shopping trip. Take half the loaf and put it in a freezer bag and into the freezer, keeping it fresh longer.

Another bread-type item to keep on hand is whole wheat pizza dough. Unlike bread, pizza dough doesn’t have to develop a lot of gluten because it doesn’t need to rise. So this is ideal for using heartier whole wheat flour. Dough balls can be wrapped well and frozen for use later. It’s a great way to use up leftovers.

Nuts are a good food item to have around, both for eating and cooking. But they have a lot of fat in them. It’s good fat, but it’s still fat. And fat spoils. Keep extra nuts in the freezer. They don’t take up a lot of space and don’t need to be thawed before using.

We always recommend buying a chunk of cheese rather than the bagged shreds. It’s a lot cheaper. All you need is a box grater. But we’ve all had little pieces of chunk cheese end up a moldy mess. Instead, take those end pieces and shred them. Put that into the freezer. Then you can remove what you need, it thaws in just a minute and retains the same texture and taste.

Reducing food waste is important. These techniques not only mean you throw less food away, but you can create a meal in no time.