These Are the 6 Foods You Should Always Have in Your Freezer, According to Chefs

·3 min read
woman looking into freezer
woman looking into freezer

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It's more than just a home for ice cubes and ice cream: Your freezer is also a great place to store foods your family loves—and healthy ingredients that help you put meals together fast.

When it comes to the frozen items you should always have on hand, food experts recommend you thinking strategically: "The key is to have nourishing food that you enjoy—otherwise, it will sit in the freezer and collect freezer burn," says Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN of Maya Feller Nutrition, which is based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Consider seasonality, too: Freeze your favorite in-season foods now, so you can enjoy them at a later date. Summer peaches in the dead of winter? We'd make room for that.

Related: How to Use Your Freezer More Efficiently

Spinach

"Frozen spinach is a healthy vegetable to have on hand if you haven't been to the grocery store or are over take-out and want something homemade," says Virginia Willis, an award-winning cookbook author and baker. She adds that it's also a welcome addition to dishes like pasta, soups, or stews and "is super to defrost to make as Creamed Spinach or Spinach-Artichoke Dip."

While store-bought frozen vegetables should have a place in everyone's freezer, Feller says they aren't the only veggies you should focus on. "I encourage my patients to freeze any fresh produce that doesn't have a long shelf life (especially if they know it won't be used in time) for later use as a way to reduce food waste, as well as to have foods that they want on hand in a pinch," says Feller. The perfect example of this would be fresh spinach, as this vegetable tends to spoil quickly.

Homemade Stock

Another essential to keep in the freezer, says Willis, is homemade stock. You might choose chicken or beef, but she opts for a vegetable iteration made with scraps that are rich in potassium, like potatoes, along with a whole onion and carrots or celery. She calls it a potassium broth and freezes 1/2 gallon pitchers at a time; she uses it whenever she needs homemade stock in a dish—or if she wants something to sip on for a mid-morning boost.

Peak-Season Fruit

Preserving fruits, such as berries or peaches, in the freezer when they are in peak season is a smart move, says Feller. And don't overlook tomatoes, especially if you have too many; this tends to happen if you have a prolific vegetable garden. "You will be so happy later, in the winter months," she says. Martha also loves freezing tomatoes, and adds them straight from the freezer—no defrosting necessary—to homemade pizzas, focaccias, and pasta.

Nuts

Willis stores freshly-harvested nuts in her freezer for convenience—and to save money. "For example, Georgia pecans are harvested in the fall, so I purchase a large amount and then have them fresh-frozen for the entire year," she says. "They are great for baking, as well as for savory recipes."

Meat

Stephanie Izard, an award-winning chef, restaurateur, and the founder of food company This Little Goat, recommends separating meat that you may buy in larger packs, such as chicken thighs, and freezing them in smaller batches.

And after your meat is cooked, consider freezing it again if you have any extras: "It's great to save any leftovers from various meat dinners (bits of beef or pork chops, leftover roasted chicken meat, etc.) to make into fillings for dumplings and such," Izard says.

Pre-Made Meals

Feller also suggests stashing a favorite meal or two in your freezer, whether that is fried rice, lasagna, curry, chili, or stew, to have on hand when you need a meal if plans change or you're too tired to cook. Izard recommends having frozen pizza for when you need a quick dinner, tortillas to fry and top with a spice mix for a quick appetizer, and, of course, ice cream or popsicles for dessert.