Freezer Essentials – How to Stock Your Freezer For Healthy Eating
Freezer essentials are your go-to items to make healthy eating realistic f0r your family. A well-stocked freezer is an insurance policy for last minute dinners and go-to healthy snacks. Learn about the must-haves from a family that loves to cook from scratch.
You’re much less likely to order pizza or go through the drive-thru when you have lots of real food at your fingertips.
Everyone has different eating styles, needs, and requirements, so use the guide below simply as a starting point to build your healthy freezer stash.
Oh, and because I know you’re just as nosy as I am, head over to this post and check out my list of Pantry Essentials For the Home Cook. Maybe it’s just me, but is there anything better than looking in the closets of other people?
I’m a sucker for an open house.
Here is my basement freezer on a good day:
If you don’t have a separate stand-alone freezer, the freezer essentials below can still apply, just in smaller quantities.
Can we talk about freezer storage for a second? Yes? Oh good!
Many people prefer to store items, even sauces, in plastic freezer bags. I totally get the appeals of these bags as you can freeze them flat and then stack them.
I do my best to avoid single-use products when possible. If you plan to use plastic freezer bags, it is ok to reuse them for certain foods like fruits and veggies. I never reuse freezer bags for meat.
And if you use them for cooked foods (soup, sauces, etc.), I highly recommend making sure the food is cold before it touches the plastic.
My preferred two freezing storage containers are reusable silicone bags (you can even reheat in them if you’d like) and canning jars.
You can absolutely freeze in canning jars and they’re wonderful! You must use wide-mouth jars and leave 1-inch of space between the top of the food and the top of the jar (this is referred to as headspace).
For more info about freezing in jars and different types of canning jars, check out this Canning Supplies and Preserving Equipment List.
I see many people running out to get expensive bins and tubs for organizing their freezers. If buying stackable freezer bins will motivate you to clean out your freezer, then do it! But if you want to do this in a more frugal way, use what you have hanging around.
Empty shoe boxes and orphaned toy bins work amazingly well as freezer storage. Don’t let not having “the right storage” prevent you from organizing your freezer.
Resources for Affordable Freezer Essentials:
In addition to local stores, I use and love these online resources for stocking our freezer at affordable prices:
- Thrive (First-time thrive customers can take an extra 25% off their first order + free 30-day membership here.)
- Butcher Box
- Azure Standard (check out this post for an Azure Standard shopping list for a full rundown)
People often discount the nutritional value of frozen veggies, but my goal in life is to change that. And to eventually have a good hair day. We’ll see.
Frozen vegetables are flash frozen at the peak of freshness. That means their nutritional profile is way higher than an ear of corn in January that was trucked in over 2,000 miles to your grocery store.
The real value in frozen vegetables is when buying organic. Many stores have a generic store brand of organic products and sell organic frozen veg for just a slightly higher price than conventional.
I love frozen veggies so much that I wrote this guide on Roasting Frozen Vegetables. It is such a well-kept secret that frozen veg can be roasted and enjoyed just like their fresh counterparts.
My favorite all-time recipe for using a bunch of frozen vegetables at once is this Crispy Oven-Fried Gnocchi and Veggies dish. It’s a one pan wonder that everyone in the family will LOVE.
Freezing your own veggies is also a simple task that allows you to know how your food was processed. Check out this post on Freezing Peas to learn how to freeze your own peas.
My Favorite Frozen Veggies to Stock:
- Asparagus (related: asparagus recipes)
- Beets (related: beet recipes)
- Broccoli (related: broccoli recipes)
- Brussels Sprouts (related: brussels sprouts recipes)
- Butternut Squash (related: butternut squash recipes)
- Carrots (related: carrot recipes)
- Cauliflower (related: cauliflower recipes)
- Green beans (related: green bean recipes)
- Peas (related: How to Freeze Peas)
- Tomatoes. And yes, I know they’re technically a fruit. But you can still freeze tomatoes!
Frozen fruit has endless possibilities! You can use it to make and prep smoothies (related: Make and Freeze Smoothie Packs), add it to yogurt (related: Easy Instant Pot Yogurt) or even make a dessert (related: Homemade Blackberry Crisp).
You can also use frozen fruit as a stand-alone snack. Until my oldest son was five, he thought a bowl of frozen blueberries (AKA “cold blues”) in the bathtub was considered dessert. Pro tip: always feed messy kids frozen fruit in the tub because it contains the mess AND cleans them up at the end. #winning
If you have a garden or access to a ton of fresh and amazing produce, try freezing your own fruit! Check out this post on Freezing Strawberries for all the how-tos, tips and tricks.
My Favorite Frozen Fruits to Stock:
- Bananas (related: banana recipes)
- Blackberries (related: blackberry recipes)
- Blueberries (related: blueberry recipes)
- Mango (related: mango recipes)
- Peaches (related: peach recipes)
- Pineapple (related: pineapple recipes)
- Raspberries (related: raspberry recipes)
- Strawberries (related: strawberry recipes and How to Freeze Strawberries)
We have a local butcher that we love, but we also supplement their selection with a monthly box from Butcher Box. Butcher Box sources only organic and free-range meat for their customers and ships them to your home once a month.
Everyone has different preferences for meat, but we always have these on hand:
- Grass-fed burger
- Organic chicken breasts
- Organic whole chickens (related: Paleo Roasted Chicken)
- Organic ground turkey (related: Greek Turkey Meatballs)
- Bacon (related: Whole30 Bacon Brands)
- Ground sausage (related: Whole30 Breakfast Sausage)
- Organic chicken sausage for dishes like Healthy Sheet Pan Sausage and Veggies
And if you love having food cooked and ready to go (who doesn’t?), check out this post on How to Bake Bacon in the Oven. Cook up a bunch and freeze for fast breakfasts. Bonus: even my three-year-old can heat up his own slice of cooked bacon in the microwave.
Jars of bone broth or stock are the building blocks to so many delicious meals! You can learn How to Make Chicken Bone Broth or buy it if homemade is just not your jam.
If you don’t want to make your own homemade bone broth, check out this post on where to buy bone broth. In a very dorky move on my part, I’ve created a free download where you can compare protein and sodium content as well as the price per ounce for various brands. #nerdalert
Next time you shell out $2.50 for a small package of fresh herbs, don’t let the excess go to waste. You can totally freeze the leftovers for quick additions to future meals.
Simply clean and chop the herbs and portion into ice cube trays. Fill with a bit of water or olive oil and freeze. Remove and transfer to freezer storage bags.
Whole grains like flour, quinoa, and flax seed are delicious, but can also go rancid if stored at room temperature for too long. You can freeze those items in their own packaging, but I prefer to use these useable containers.
We grind our own flour for many whole wheat recipes and store five pounds of ground flour in the freezer at all times. Interested to know what it is like to be a giant crunchy hippie who makes their own flour? Check out this post on Grinding Your Own Wheat.
Freezer Essentials – Bread/Baked Goods
Having some baked items on hand can be a great way to expand your meal (and dessert!) options.
Bread freezes really well. Back when we were eating a lot of bread, I would always freeze homemade Simple Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread. Now, I keep a few storebought loaves in there for emergencies.
Stashes of Fluffy Whole Wheat Pancakes, Whole Wheat Waffles, Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins, and unbaked Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies can often be found in our freezer for quick breakfasts and treats.
Freezer Essentials – Sauces
Sauces ready to thaw and serve are an amazing freezer essential. I keep canning jars full of Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce for quick and healthy homemade dinners.
Pesto freezes like a dream! When I make a few batches of Homemade Pesto with basil from our garden, I freeze them in 4 oz canning jars or in ice cube trays. Once frozen, remove from the ice cube tray and store in a freezer bag.
Freezer Essentials – Soup
My brief love letter to soup: Oh, soup. I love you so much! You’re easy to make, affordable, and so nourishing. You also freeze like a dream.
Soup is the perfect grab and go kind of meal. You can make a giant batch and freeze in individual or family-sized portions.
I prefer to save soup in pint jars (16 oz) for one serving, and quart jars (32 oz) when I need family-size soup. Pro tip: make sure the soup in the jars is cool before freezing and only use wide-mouth jars. This prevents the jars from cracking once frozen.
My favorite Soups to Freeze:
*The Instant Pot soups also have slow cooker and stovetop cooking instructions!
You can check out all my soup recipes here.
Freezer Essentials – Premade Meals
Homemade meals that are frozen and ready to go is like having a unicorn in the freezer. I mean, not really. Glitter gets everywhere. But, premade ready to go meals are the miracle you might need at the end of a very long day.
Some of my favorite easy freezer meals are:
- Mini Quiche – the ultimate heat and eat homemade dish because it can be breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack. You can make it vegetarian, or packed with your favorite meat.
- Frozen gnocchi – the gluten-free kind from Trader Joe’s is the star in my Dairy-Free Chicken Gnocchi Soup.
- Homemade frozen pizza. Everyone in my family loves when I bust some frozen pizza out for dinner. They’re happy and have no idea I totally forgot to plan for dinner that night.
- Paleo Salmon Cakes – cook and then freeze. Reheat on a sheet pan with frozen veggies for a complete dinner.
- Bagged ice. I use it a lot for blanching veggies like when I freeze peas, or for canning peaches (hot peaches dipped in an ice bath will peel easily).
- Pre-cooked beans! Make a big batch of beans in your Instant Pot and freeze in pint jars to replace the standard grocery-store cans of beans (15 oz).
- Precooked grains like Instant Pot Garlic Parmesan Rice, Instant Pot Quinoa, and Instant Pot Farro. <—if you don’t have an Instant Pot, all of those recipes have stovetop cooking notes in the posts.
- I always have a quart of garbanzo beans in the freezer to make my award-winning Addicting Garlic Hummus. And yeah, I freeze the hummus too! I use 4 oz jars for individual servings and pint jars for “party-size”.
- Butter. Yes, butter freezes really well. If you find a killer deal on your favorite butter, stock up!
- Coffee ice cubes – I use these in my Blended Iced Coffee recipe. You can use them in regular iced coffee, or to cool down a too hot cup.
- Homemade popsicles like Watermelon Popsicles or Healthy Tea Popsicles For Sore Throats (a must have for cold and flu season).
- Ice cream bowl for my Kitchen Aid mixer. We love making homemade ice cream!
- Yogurt tubes. I know, I know, I said I don’t like single-use disposable items, but I always keep some organic yogurt tubes in our freezer. My youngest kiddo seems to have some sort of preschool party every other week. Not only do the kids love when I show up with yogurt, but the teachers adore me because frozen yogurt doesn’t make a mess.
Every family is different and has different diety needs, so I would love to hear what your freezer essentials are! Drop a comment below and tell me what is one of your must-have items for your freezer.
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