The freezer is sort of the unsung hero of the kitchen. It's the one place you can turn when you're fresh out of dinner ideas (and fresh produce, too) and need to whip up a meal without going to the grocery store. You can stash something in there and pull it out in desperation many months later.
So we asked you, our readers, what items — aside from homemade leftovers — are always in your freezers. Here are some of the best, most common, and most surprising responses. Are your favorites listed?
"We always have frozen veggies to eat plain or add to stir-fry meals. Meatballs for last-minute meals. Frozen old bananas to defrost and make banana bread. We also buy bulk pork tenderloin a lot, add a marinade in a zip-top bag, and freeze it. Then we defrost it for a few days and throw it onto the grill."
"The last two years I have gotten the frozen share from our CSA and we get tons of frozen veggies. Frozen corn sautés really nicely in butter with salt and pepper — or with frozen shelled edamame for a sort of succotash. Frozen kale is almost indistinguishable from fresh when sautéed with garlic, olive oil, and hot pepper. I even put frozen cauliflower and butternut squash purée into smoothies."
"We always have frozen fruit on hand for smoothies, chia bowls, and oatmeal."
"It may be a Southern thing, but we ALWAYS have a mix of field peas and green beans. We boil and salt them to serve as a side for virtually anything. Our favorite is mixing them into our collard greens, but they're also really good with blackened chicken."
"We keep frozen veggies so that we always have dark greens for dinner (broccoli and Trader Joe's green beans are staples), plus frozen rice for dinner (it's so much easier than cooking in a pot and always comes out perfectly). Frozen pizza for dinner emergencies.''
"Not the healthiest, but we keep chicken nuggets, French fries, and frozen pancakes and waffles in our freezer, always!"
"Against the Grain make a baguette that I try to always have so that I can make panzanella in the summer. The good thing about using gluten-free bread in panzanella is that it already has a bit of a stale texture."
"I always have frozen chicken nuggets and waffles and biscuits, since that's the only thing my kid eats! Growing up we always had frozen lasagna and frozen chicken pot pies."
"I like to keep seafood like shrimp and salmon (the ones Whole Foods sells in individual serving sizes) in my freezer. They defrost in less than 30 minutes and cook in less than 10. Shrimp sautéed with butter, garlic, and Sriracha (with basil, mint, and lemon if I have), and salmon either with lemon or with olive oil, stone mustard, and thyme broiled a few minutes on each side are my nicer pantry meals."
"Berries and puff pastry are always in my freezer for quick desserts. I use mixed berries to put in pies or add to angel food cake with or without whipped cream for fancy-looking but easy dessert that everyone raves about. Blueberries or blackberries I boil down with honey, rosemary, and balsamic vinegar to top panna cotta or a meat dish. And for puff pastry, I add sliced apples or pears with some cinnamon, lemon, and sugar and you can make a beautiful simple galette, or use to make spanakopita appetizers."
"I keep chicken breasts, homemade meatballs, bone broth, ground beef, and Parmesan cheese rinds. I throw the rinds into pasta sauce as it simmers, also into some soups!"
"My freezer is usually full of zip-top bags filled with blackened bananas I stashed because they were getting too brown to eat and I was too busy to make banana bread."
"There is usually a chicken carcass for making broth or the broth itself, a bottle of vodka, and ice cream. Essentials!"
"I always have frozen fruit, pastas (tortellini or ravioli), pork steaks, chicken breasts, chocolate chips, mystery soups, ice bags, and butter … for starters."
"I make sure I have frozen berries, ice cream, ravioli, pastry, and frozen bottles of water for emergencies."
"Homemade red sauce, pesto, chicken and beef stock, wine cubes."
"We always have pita in the freezer because it reheats really well in the oven and then we'll make easy pita sandwiches during the week with homemade hummus and a bunch of raw or pickled veg, whatever is in the fridge. We almost always have ice cream in the freezer (but are trying to be healthier lately and not do dessert), frozen peas, and up until a few weeks ago, the top tier of our wedding cake!"
"A variety of herbs, leeks, sesame seeds, and then peas, tofu."
"Butter, Ezekiel bread, blueberries, broccoli, bacon, chocolate chip cookie dough."
"Boneless chicken thighs, hamburger, and tater tots! Always!"
"Bacon and vodka!"
"Pizza. How is this seriously a question? It's pizza. Always pizza."
"My grandmother kept her cash wrapped in tin foil."