Minutesaver Monday – Fresh vs. Frozen?

I wish we all lived in a perfect little world where there was a fresh market around the corner with only amazing, beautiful produce.  I wish it wasn’t such a chore to lug children around the grocery store <momcanihavethat>.  I wish I liked grocery shopping more than I like trips to the dentist.  But I don’t. 

I try to limit my grocery store trips to two or three times per month.  This makes it a little harder to keep fresh veggies on hand.  I’ve learned a few things over time about how to keep healthy vegetables on my table without frequent <mind-numbing> trips to Kroger.

Most of us think of produce in this way – fresh, then frozen, then somewhere way down the list after just going hungry lies the canned vegetable <horror>.

Canned veggies are a last resort around here, but I will occasionally toss some in a soup – especially corn – but corn is not a veggie, folks!  It’s a grain!  Shocking, I know.  The concept took a while to settle firmly into my brain, too.  Take a deep breath and repeat after me – corn. is. not. a. vegetable.  Now keep saying that a few times a day and after a few weeks, it won’t hurt anymore.

So next…frozen veggies.  These are clearly inferior to fresh, right?  NOT ALWAYS.  Frozen veggies are a great timesaver <and that’s what we’re talking about today, right?>  I love the $1.00 bags of frozen veggies at Kroger (store brand).  I buy them by the truckloads.  I buy frozen pearl onions for soups, stews, and roasts.  I don’t cut up onions anymore for a roast!  No more tears (and better flavor with a pearl onion, too).  I buy carrots, peas, brussels sprouts, broccoli, etc. for $1 a bag and they cook in no time, with no additives.  I also buy corn and beans in this same fashion.

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Now, you don’t want to go buying frozen veggies smothered in some buttery sauce or laden with other things besides the vegetable itself <read the label kids>.  This means stay away from the broccoli with cheese or anything mixed with rice or pasta.  You also want to make sure the veggies haven’t frozen into a lump (sign of defrosting and refreezing, which we don’t want.)  And you always, always, always put your cold stuff into the cart last so it doesn’t defrost before you get it home!  Gotta keep ‘em frozen until it’s time to cook.

When a vegetable is frozen immediately after being picked, it can seriously help the nutritional content.  There are many studies out there that suggest that our frozen vegetable friends have just as much nutritional goodness to share <if not more> than the fresh varieties!  Preparation is important.  You want to cook the frozen veggies in a small amount of water, only for the recommended time on the package.  This ensures you don’t cook out the good stuff.  And don’t cover your cooked veggies in piles of butter and heaps of salt.  I’ve come to love the taste of plain vegetables, and you can too!

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A simple rule of thumb is that foods with high levels of vitamins B and C are best fresh – bell peppers, cabbage, oranges and citrus fruits, and berries.

In the frozen foods aisle, look for vegetables high in vitamins A and E and carotenoids.  This would be carrots, broccoli, and leafy greens.

You can buy the steam-in-bag microwave varieties if you prefer, but I choose the $1 bags that are tossed into a small amount of boiling water and cooked for typically less than ten minutes.  I don’t even put the salt or butter on the table anymore, and the fam doesn’t ask for it anymore.  The baby wouldn’t even know to add that stuff.

Here’s to eating more vegetables <frozen or fresh> this new year!

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