The freezer is making a well-deserved comeback, although savvy — or just plain busy — home cooks may scoff at the idea of it being a "return" to grace. Because when you have to throw a well-rounded family dinner together in a mad rush on a regular basis, you probably never left the freezer behind. In fact, it may hold your secret weeknight cooking weapon. It certainly does for these parents.
I asked 10 busy parents to share their favorite things in the freezer aisle that make dinner easy on their busiest nights. Check out their answers.
Sarah Dubbeldam, mom of 1, CEO of Darling Media and Editor-in-Chief at Darling Magazine
I always keep Nature's Rancher fully cooked angus beef meatballs in my freezer to top simple pasta with olive oil or red sauce and a side of steamed broccoli, which is a lifesaver meal when you have a 2-year-old. It's also a quick and delicious meal I make for myself and my husband too.
Julie Tanous, mom of 2, Recipe Developer and Co-Creator of Julie & Jesse Cook
I often opt for frozen vegetables, especially if it's a time of year when that particular vegetable isn't in season. So, except for the short time when fantastic fresh corn is available, I'm never without frozen organic corn. I use it in soups, quesadillas, enchiladas, fried rice, and more, including this coconut curry with chicken and corn that's a favorite in my house.
I'd rather use organic frozen corn that was shucked and frozen in season than buy sad-looking fresh corn in the middle of winter. One of my favorite brands is Cascadian Farm.
Nacia Walsh, Mom of 4, Writer, Television and Podcast Host
Switching from regular potatoes to potato hash is a simple way to make kids feel a meal is brand new, so frozen hash browns are my go-to carb when I want my kids to think I'm doing something fancy. I add some to the top of BBQ burgers and breakfast sandwiches, and even use them to top summer salads for extra crunch. They can bulk up any meal in just minutes and all you need to season them is salt, pepper, and thyme.
Sine Siemkowicz, Mom of 3, Food Artist at Foodbites
"For dinners, our favorite freezer aisle item is frozen peas — mainly because peas are one of the veggies that all three of my kids will eat! We add them to stir-fries, one-pot meals, salads, and pasta dishes. I especially love serving them as a warm side dish with mashed garlic, melted butter, chopped almonds, Himalayan salt, and citrus zest. So easy and delicious!"
Danielle Krupa, Mom of 2, Recipe Developer & Food Blogger at Red Kitchenette
My go-to freezer item is Trader Joe's frozen organic brown rice. It's a lifesaver on busy weeknights when I need to get dinner on the table fast. Just pop some in the microwave and you miraculously have perfectly cooked brown rice in three minutes flat. You never have to worry about it being undercooked, overcooked, or sticking to the bottom of the pan.
We use it as a side dish, tossed with stir-fried veggies, as the base for Buddha bowls, and in salads, burritos, and more. It's universal, inexpensive, healthy, and filling!
Erica Chan Coffman, Mom of 2, Founder and Editor at HonestlyYUM and HonestlyWTF
My favorite freezer aisle items that help make dinners easy are frozen vegetables, especially peas, corn, and spinach. I love tossing them into soups, stews, and stir-fries. Frozen vegetables save me so much time washing and chopping veggies!
Lola Dweck, Mom of 1, Food Writer and Recipe Developer at Lola's Cocina
I can't go without having boneless, skinless chicken breasts in my freezer. Chicken is so versatile and lends itself to so many dishes. I can grill and serve chicken breasts with rice or on top of a salad, or boil them for soup, chicken tacos, or taquitos.
Majo Mansour, Mom of 2, Founder of Mini Fresh and Co-Founder of Majka
Riced cauliflower has been my go-to vegetable for the past year-and-a-half. I love it frozen because it doesn't stay fresh very long refrigerated. The best thing about riced cauliflower is that it cooks in no time – a lifesaver! Also, you can do much more than just steam and serve it as a rice substitute. You can also add it to quiche, cauliflower fritters, cauliflower pizza cups, stir-fries, and so much more.
Kanchan Koya, PhD, Mom of 2, Cookbook Author, Health Coach, and Founder of Spice Spice Baby
I'm also obsessed with riced cauliflower — it just might be the best culinary invention ever! I always have a few bags of the frozen, organic variety on hand to either sauté with peas, cumin, and turmeric as a kid-approved side or to mix in with rice or couscous to add more fiber and nutrients to our meals. We also love it in smoothies and oats for a nourishment boost.
Brittany Jones, Mom of 2, Blogger at Strollergang
I use Trader Joe's chicken breast breaded strips at least twice a week! You can cut these up to make quick chicken tenders for kids, top them with marinara and mozzarella to make a chicken Parmesan pasta entrée, or simply add them to a salad for a quick, healthy dinner option.
I love that these taste delicious whether you heat them in a microwave or in the oven, which is great when dinner plans change and you don't have much time to bake a full meal and just need to feed the kids in a hurry.
What are you favorite freezer finds for easy meals?