As it turns out, Mama and Meemaw were right: It’s good to eat your greens. Even if you grew up resenting the notion of having to “clean your plate,” particularly when broccoli and Brussels sprouts were on the dinner menu, Mama’s sound advice on eating more fruits and vegetables to grow big and strong is just as effectual today as it was back then. Perhaps the only thing better (and healthier) than a Southern veggie plate chock-full of seasonal finds is the money and time you could save on produce. Although fresh is usually best, sometimes going the organic route or waiting on farmers’ market season to start can be a hassle. When it comes to convenience and cost, that’s where we make the case for frozen.
But, not all frozen vegetables are created equal. Think: salad greens, green beans, or boxed vegetables covered in a cheesy sauce. If you’re a little hesitant about buying the bagged varieties behind those glass door freezers, you should know that frozen veggies are processed at the peak of ripeness, when their nutrient levels are highest. Here are nine vegetables you can feel good about stockpiling from the cold aisle. Mama would be so proud.
Fresh broccoli begins to deteriorate and spoil after just a few days in the fridge. So if you don't plan to use up a whole head of fresh broccoli right away, cooking with frozen broccoli may save you more money and prevent food waste. To achieve that same tender yet crunchy consistency, you can roast broccoli on a sheet pan, steam frozen florets quickly in the microwave, or add it into a cheesy pasta bake.
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2. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts can be ridiculously expensive, especially when they're not in season. However, frozen Brussels sprouts are a lot less costly. You'll want to forego the defrosting to ensure you don't end up with mushy, bitter, or watery sprouts. Instead, coat them in a little olive oil and roast them for about 35 minutes, until they brown and form a nice caramelized crunch.
3. Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is grossly underrated among its winter squash counterparts. With its high-fiber content and nutrient-dense properties such as potassium, folate, and vitamin B6, we should always make room for this superfood in our diet. To take all the work out of peeling and chopping a fresh butternut squash, grab a frozen bag to make a simple roasted dish.
While carrots are practically available year-round, fresh finds only last a few days in the refrigerator. In the time it takes to transport carrots from the farm to the supermarket, the nutrient levels tend to decrease. On the other hand, frozen carrots are chosen shortly after harvest, allowing them to maintain their fiber, vitamin A, and beta-carotene nutrients.
Similar to the other cruciferous family member, cauliflower is one of those versatile veggies that tastes just as great frozen as it does fresh. Thanks to the snap-freeze process, frozen cauliflower is cheaper and easier to prepare. Whether you sauté, steam, or boil it, you still get all the vitamin C benefits with frozen cauliflower.
For those long months when sweet corn isn't in season, opt for frozen instead of canned. It's just as sweet as fresh ears and takes less time to cook. Another added bonus is that frozen corn generally has less calories and carbs than fresh corn.
Depending on where you live in the South, fresh green peas may be hard to come by. Not to mention, they're only available for a short season, and you have to shell them. Frozen peas are a great alternative. When cooked properly (boiling them quickly on the stovetop with butter), they bear a striking bright green resemblance and similar sweet taste as fresh peas. This bacon-topped side dish full of frozen peas is delicious proof in the pod.
Frozen spinach is full of fiber-rich nutrients, iron, and calcium, and it lasts much longer than fresh spinach. But, the greatest incentive for using frozen instead of fresh comes down to quantity. Fresh spinach leaves tend to cook down significantly. If you have a recipe that calls for spinach as the main ingredient, you can use frozen. Also, cooking with frozen spinach means you don’t have to worry about squeezing out excess water when making a tasty spinach dip.
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9. Vegetable Medley
A mixed bag typically includes the eight aforementioned veggies, but the frozen blend allows you to get the most bang (and nutritional value) for your buck.