Ahhh, the fabulous freezer. It’s one of the most misused and under-appreciated tools in our kitchens. If your freezer could talk, it would tell you that it is has bigger aspirations than being the land of ice cream, TV dinners and forgotten mystery food.
Your freezer can be a haven for the healthy, long-lasting goodies you need to create easy vegan meals—meals that nourish your body and delight your taste buds. Learning what kinds of foods to freeze, as well as how to properly prep and store them, completely transformed how I use my freezer. And today I’m gonna help you do the same!
But first, grab your Plant-Based Pantry Checklist!
We’re about to talk all things frozen food, but a well-stocked pantry is another key ingredient for easy vegan meals. Grab this free checklist to start building your dream pantry today!
Now, without further ado, let’s take a peek inside my freezer!
7 Freezer Staples for Easy Vegan Meals
Berries, mango, bananas, pineapple… oh my! Frozen fruit is a staple for me because it’s easy to keep on hand and has lots of different uses. Plus, it’s a great way to eat more in-season fruit. For example, I like to freeze a bunch of fresh blueberries in the summer to have at-the-ready when the colder months roll around.
Here are a few frozen fruit pointers:
- Save money at the grocery store by buying the larger bags of frozen fruit, which are often cheaper per ounce. Since fruit lasts so long in the freezer, stocking up is a no-brainer!
- If you have fresh fruit that’s about to go bad, wash and prep it before putting it in a reusable baggie in the freezer. Chop all bigger fruit (mango, bananas, etc.) for easier blending or defrosting. Make sure to peel your bananas before freezing.
- Green smoothies are one of my go-to easy vegan meals. Toss frozen fruit right in the blender with seeds, nut butters, greens and plant-based milk, then blend to creamy perfection! This Peachy Green smoothie is one of my personal faves from Crazy Sexy Juice.
- Plan ahead for breakfast by moving a portion of frozen berries from the freezer to the fridge the night before. Use it as a sweet topping for your morning oatmeal or nondairy yogurt.
- You can use frozen fruit in baking, too! Try this Mixed Berry Crisp from my Test Kitchen Tuesday series—just give the blueberries and raspberries some time to defrost before you start cooking.
- Most fruit can be frozen for 2-6 months, depending on the variety. If you see freezer burn, that’s usually sign it’s time to discard!
2. Leafy greens
You know I’ve got dark leafies squirreled away wherever I can keep ‘em! Pick up pre-chopped and frozen spinach, kale and collards at the store for tossing in sauces, soups, stews, casseroles and grain/pasta bowls. Or make this delish plant-based Spinach Artichoke Dip for your next movie night… YUM!
And those fresh greens languishing in your veggie drawer in the fridge? Give them new life by washing and chopping them, throwing them in a reusable bag, then tossing them in the freezer to be used later for green smoothies. I’d steer clear of freezing lettuce for salads, though, because the thawed greens won’t be crisp anymore. You can keep most greens in the freezer for 10-12 months.
3. Sprouted whole grain bread
I know that just seeing the word “bread” might make you break into a cold sweat because of all the mixed messages out there about carbs. But I’m here to tell you that it can be part of a healthy, gut-friendly diet (read more about why I love grains here). I usually stick with sprouted, whole grain bread because it contains more vitamins and minerals than your standard processed white bread. Plus, it’s easier to digest and a lot more satisfying!
My favorite sprouted whole grain bread is Ezekiel, which you can find already frozen in many stores. You can make easy vegan meals in a snap by grabbing a couple slices from the freezer and popping them in the toaster. Top ‘em with avocado, crushed red pepper and hemp seeds for breakfast. Or make a hearty sandwich for lunch with Save the Tuna Salad, tomatoes, lettuce and mustard.
Most store-bought bread stays good in the freezer for 3-5 months, and I use the same guidelines for homemade bread. Just make sure to label it so you can check the date when in doubt!
4. Veggie burgers
I always keep veggie burgers in my freezer because they’re so versatile. Top a salad or grain bowl, roll into a burrito, press on a panini or pile high on a bun with all the fixins—so many scrumptious (and simple!) possibilities.
If you’re buying burgers at the store, look for options with minimal ingredients. Also keep an eye on the salt, saturated fat and additives, which can be high in prepared foods. I love the frozen veggie burgers from Hilary’s and Sunshine Burgers!
Or make your own, like these Black Bean and Roasted Sweet Potato Burgers from Crazy Sexy Kitchen. Freeze them in a single layer or stack with parchment paper between each patty to prevent them from sticking together. Homemade burgers are usually good in the freezer for up to 2 months!
5. Cooked whole grains and beans
Whole grains and beans are staples in a healthy, plant-based diet. And while you can usually find that stuff pre-made (canned beans for example), the homemade varieties are extra delicious. But you might not always have the time to cook up a batch of chickpeas or brown rice for dinner at the end of a long day. Luckily, they can be cooked in bulk and stored in the freezer for next week’s (or month’s!) easy vegan meals.
Try these pro tips for freezing grains and beans:
- Spoon single portions (or however many you’ll use for a meal if you’re cooking for others) of grains and beans into silicone or other eco-friendly baggies.
- Stack bags on top of each other in the freezer to save space. If you’re putting them on a wire shelf, lay down a piece of parchment paper first to keep your grains and beans from settling in the cracks.
- Grains and beans keep well in the freezer for up to 2 months.
6. Mixed veggies
Some days, you just don’t wanna chop. Ya feel me? And those are often the same days when you really need a hearty, comforting meal that would normally require a lot of prep. That’s when frozen veggie mixes really shine!
You can usually find good combos in the freezer section of the grocery store. I always keep some mixes with mushrooms, bell peppers, carrots, onions and broccoli on hand for stir fries. Just sauté them with some organic, non-GMO tofu and sauce, and you’re good to go! You can even use a pre-made sauce in a pinch. Just avoid anything with artificial ingredients, added sugars or animal products, and keep an eye on the amount of sodium per serving (anything greater than 400 mg per serving is considered a high-sodium food).
Sure, frozen veggies probably aren’t as cost-effective as buying and chopping fresh produce, but shortcuts like these can be life-savers on nutty days. And it’s ok to take shortcuts sometimes, toots. Knowing when and how to do that is part of taking care of your sweet self!
7. Complete meals
Is it just me, or is the best kind of meal one that’s already done?! When I have extra time or am feeling inspired in the kitchen, I seize the opportunity and make big batches of soups, stews, casseroles, etc. to freeze and eat later.
For example, one of my favorite easy vegan meals is this 1-Pot Lentil, Potato and Spinach Soup from my Test Kitchen Tuesday series. It’s filling, loaded with plant-powered nutrition and super simple to make. I usually make a double batch and freeze the second half in individual portions for up to 2 months. Easy peasy!
Here are some more ideas for cooking and storing complete vegan freezer meals:
- Before making a lasagna or casserole that you intend to freeze, line the baking pan with parchment paper. Once it’s frozen, you can simply lift the food out of the pan and transfer it to an airtight container or freezer bag.
- Pour individual portions of soups and stews into muffin tins and put them in the freezer for several hours. Once frozen, pop ‘em out of the tins and store in freezer-safe containers or bags. They’ll defrost much faster that way!
- A few days before you’re ready to eat your homemade frozen meals, move them to the refrigerator to defrost. If you don’t remember to do that in advance, you can also defrost on low heat in the oven or on the stovetop.
Mmmm… I’m over here drooling just thinking about all the delicious, easy plant-based meals you’re gonna create with your fully stocked freezer. And if you want to take your kitchen game to a new level, don’t forget to grab your free pantry checklist here!
Your turn: What’s your favorite freezer staple? Let me know in the comments below!
Peace & freezer foodies,
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