My freezer door gets opened multiple times a day. Frozen foods are my secret weapon against food waste, food boredom, and, most importantly, ordering takeout when I don't feel like cooking. I walk down the freezer aisle of the grocery store and toss bags of frozen Asian dumplings, broccoli florets, turkey meatballs, and shrimp into my cart. That way, when dinner needs to happen fast, I'm armed and ready to dish out tasty meals without a last-minute shop.
These five dinner recipes revolve around foods I consider freezer staples. With just a little prep, you too can be enjoying teriyaki meatball bowls, lemon ravioli casserole, shrimp and rice casserole, a summer veggie pesto tart, or a spicy-sour Thai-inspired dumpling soup. Ready to stock and shop your freezer like I do? Let's go!
But first, a few principles of cooking with frozen foods.
Shop "Just in Case"
While there are those who make meticulous meal plans and grocery lists, there are others who don't have the time and luxury to plan everything in advance.
This is why I recommend the "just in case" shopping mentality. Since frozen foods can be stored for such long periods of time, get to know which brands and foods you like most. Then, every time you're in the store, make sure you pick up some of these foods and stash them in your freezer — just in case.
I've been saved by the freezer countless times when I need a vegetable side dish or we have unexpected dinner guests and I need to cook up some extra food fast.
Freezer Staples Help You Focus
Another thing I love about having freezer staples is that they usually help me narrow down what to make for dinner. It can be a bit overwhelming to answer the "What's for dinner?" question when it's already 5 o'clock and your stomach's growling, but knowing that you have something like meatballs or ravioli in your freezer means that there's a starting point to center the meal.
Frozen Foods Don't Mean Skimping on Flavor
You'll notice that I like to stock the freezer with frozen foods, not complete meals. I find that frozen meals tend to be expensive and higher in sodium, so I rely on frozen foods as building blocks for recipes instead.
You can make tastier meals for less money by adding things like pantry staples, rice, cheese, and herbs to what comes out of the freezer. Boxed broth, frozen Asian dumplings, and fresh veggies can turn into a quick Thai-inspired soup; frozen puff pastry can be topped with that bumper crop of tomatoes or zucchini; or frozen shrimp and frozen broccoli can simmer away into a stovetop rice casserole.
Your family and your taste buds will be pleasantly surprised at what your freezer can provide for your dinner table if you stock it well.