You can't go wrong stocking up on these frozen staples.
Regular readers will know that I'm a freezer fan girl. Whether I'm using it to stash extra batches of food for busy weeknights or to hoard almost-expired meats or produce for later consumption, my freezer is a true ally in the fight against food waste and excess spending.
Not everything that goes into a freezer is a deal, however. Most pre-made meals are a waste of money because it costs much less to make the same thing from scratch with better ingredients. Obviously, what you're paying for is convenience, which might feel worth it once in a while, but this will add up over time if you're not careful.There are, however, a few key ingredients that I regularly grab from the freezer section because they're significantly cheaper than their fresh counterparts and of comparable quality. These are my freezer staples, things I always have on hand.
Frozen berries are much cheaper than fresh, except at peak season or if you've picked your own. I buy the biggest bags I can get, preferably the "imperfect" brand at my local supermarket. (They are reduced in price, but I've never noticed any difference in quality.)
2. Sweet cherries
My favorite fruit in the whole world, I cannot justify the cost of fresh cherries outside of peak season, so I buy bags of pitted sweet cherries to use in baking and post-gym smoothies throughout the rest of the year. (I'd buy sour cherries, too, if I could, but they're almost impossible to find.)
Where I live, mangoes cost $3 apiece, so they're a special treat. Between the times when they go on sale, I purchase bags of frozen mango, which go for $13 for 2 kg.
I go for two types of pastry in the freezer section, phyllo and puff. While I persist in making pie dough from scratch, my attempts at puff pastry have fallen short of my expectations, and phyllo, well, not even I am that ambitious! These often go on sale and are useful for making savory galettes (a good way to use large quantities of greens) and quick fruit-based desserts.
5. Fruit juice
I don't buy juice very often, but when my kids are really begging, I buy frozen concentrate, around $0.75-$0.99 per package, as opposed to $5-6 for fresh juice (which often comes from a concentrate anyways). It's definitely our go-to for summer lemonade.
There was a time last year when fresh cauliflowers went up to $7 per small head. That's when I realized I had to switch all my favorite recipes to broccoli or start using frozen. I did a little bit of both. Frozen cauliflower is not ideal for recipes in which it features prominently, but it does a great job in any baked, braised, or pureed dishes.
Have you ever noticed how cheap frozen spinach is? It goes for $1-2 for 300 grams. Now, fresh spinach isn't too expensive to begin with (if you're buying regular spinach, not baby), but it goes bad very quickly. Having a few boxes of frozen spinach in the freezer make for a quick and convenient healthy addition to soups, baked pasta dishes, stews, and dals.
Hat tip to Wise Bread's 'The 12 Best Frozen Food Values' for this idea