When it comes to the freezer, there are two types of people: The first try to forget what's in there, and the second treat it as an essential sidekick for easy, healthy, and waste-conscious meal prep.
If you relate more to the former, don't worry. Read on for our favorite tips to transform your freezer from a dumping ground of leftovers and long-forgotten meats, veggies, and ice cream pints to a trusty tool for supporting healthier eating habits. Which goal resonates with you?
1. "I want to have healthier options to eat in a time crunch."
Grab-and-go, plug-and-play—whatever helps you get a wholesome, nutrition-packed meal on the table in minutes flat is good. You already know that frozen fruits and veggies make meal prep fast and flavorful since they're preserved at the peak of freshness, but stocking these options can help you keep up a healthy lifestyle when crunched for time, too.
- Embrace the one-pot method. There's a good chance your favorite soup or stew can be deconstructed and sealed in a freezer-safe baggie, so when you need dinner in a pinch, you've got a filling freezer meal with no cook prep or advanced thawing needed. Just measure out your produce (you can use fresh or frozen), grains, liquids like broth or coconut milk, and seasoning, and freeze them together. They'll be ready to cook up in a pot with any extra water, oil, dairy, and fresh garnishes it calls for.
- Get creative with protein. Van's® Power Grains® Waffles, made with satiating nutritious grains like steel-cut oats and brown rice, are loaded with 10 grams of protein per serving, and considering the countless ways you can incorporate waffles into your favorite meals—from savory breakfast sandwiches to post-workout recovery snacks—you'll always have a wholesome source of fuel for your day on hand.
2. "I want to cut down on food waste!"
Anyone who cooks meals at home somewhat regularly—or at least attempts to—knows the feeling. Drastically eliminating kitchen waste (and keeping more money in our wallets because of it) is one of the best things our freezer can help us do. Here's how:
- Save those greens. Prevent a weekly routine of tossing out wilted, slimy leafy greens by buying spinach, kale, chard, and arugula in bulk and freezing them as is or pureed in ice cube trays (then transferred to a freezer-safe baggie). Use them anytime you want to add a quick hit of greens to soups, stir-fries, or smoothies. Do the same thing with fresh herbs left over from recipes—simply chop them up and store in a freezer bag.
- Stash your scraps. Freeze your veggie peels to use for making homemade stocks. Or just keep all compostable food scraps in a reusable container or paper bag to take to your local drop-off site once full.
- Think realistic portions. A better defrosting practice? Freeze your food in realistically sized chunks for serving to prevent having to thaw (then having to eat) 5 pounds of chicken breasts or steak at a time. You won't want to refreeze excess meat once you've defrosted it.
3. "I want to cook up more functional foods."
As Hippocrates said, "Let food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be food." If you want to prepare more meals that keep your gut happy, help fight inflammation, make your skin glow, and so on, your freezer can help!
- Make superfood compound butter. Start with grass-fed ghee, coconut oil, or unsalted butter, and whip in your favorite sweet or savory ingredients like ground cinnamon, citrus zest, Manuka honey, maple syrup, fresh herbs, or pepper. The potential flavor combos are endless, and so are the pairings: Freeze them in ice cube trays (then transfer to a baggie) and use them to flavor meat, veggies, fish, even your Van's® waffles for a delish breakfast.
- Make homemade bone broth. Want to reap the anti-inflammatory, digestion-supporting benefits of bone broth on the regular? Make your own by simmering grass-fed beef bones in water for a few hours. Add a splash of apple cider vinegar and use an ice cube tray to freeze leftovers. Microwave a few cubes in a mug anytime you crave a warming, healthful cup.