With winter upon us, local and seasonal produce will be less readily available, driving up prices for fresh fruits and veggies and making some varieties much tougher to find. A great way to save money without skimping on nutrition is to take advantage of the frozen products in your grocery store. Frozen fruits, veggies, and even proteins are a great way to stock up on your favorites while also saving money. To help you shop smartly and nutritiously in the freezer section, here's a quick crash course on your frozen food options.
Frozen Foods, Fresh Nutrition
A big concern surrounding the use of frozen produce is that the nutrient profile isn't as robust as the fresh versions, but this popular notion is actually a myth. Produce that's fated to be sold in the freezer aisle is typically flash-frozen right after harvest, so it retains nearly all of its nutrition. When you compare this to fresh produce that's been picked several days or even weeks prior to arriving to the grocery store, losing nutrients with each passing day, frozen produce might actually be more nutritious.
Choose This, Not That
Not everything you'll find in the freezer aisle is created equal, however. Here are a few tips to help you successfully peruse the frozen-foods section:
- Go for the plain versions. Sure, those veggies that come packaged with a sauce that you can toss into the microwave may sound appealing, but think twice before going down this easy route. These sauces and seasonings often contain exorbitant amounts of sodium, saturated fat, sugar, and preservatives. By choosing plain frozen fruits, veggies, and proteins, you can have control over the flavor in your dishes -- without all the extra additives.
- Avoid frozen dinners. Think of the frozen section as a place where you can buy separate ingredients to create delicious and healthy dishes in your kitchen, not where you stock up on frozen meals and pizzas. These items tend to be incredibly high in sodium, calories, and preservatives. Even the products of supposedly health-centric brands can be culprits, so be sure to read the label if you're considering purchasing a prepared frozen meal.
- Stock up on sale items. The freezer section can be a great place to save money. If you see your favorite frozen fruit, vegetable, or protein on sale, stock up! The freezer can be a lifesaver when you need a quick meal or fresh produce is running low.
- Think convenience. Whether it's separately packaged chicken breasts perfect for dinners for one, frozen berries for your smoothies, veggie burgers to be tossed on the grill, or precut vegetable blends for soups, stir-fries, and stews, the frozen section can save you a lot of time, even without having to purchase the ready-to-prepare meals.
The freezer section provides you with the option to enjoy your favorite produce all year long, especially when it isn't in season. Frozen products can save you time and money while offering the same wholesome nutrition as the fresh versions. And while it's true that the frozen section can be home to some unhealthy choices, you can steer clear of these by reading labels and ingredient lists. So don't shy away from the freezer during your next grocery-store trip -- there are plenty of frozen items that can make a great addition to your next healthy meal.