When it comes to cooking homemade weekday meals for your family, it’s time to reconsider the freezer. When stocked with a lineup of essential ingredients, it can serve as your cold pantry, letting you whip up tasty meals with minimal prep — perfect for fending off that end-of-day hangry feeling!
KEEP THESE INGREDIENTS ON ICE
These recipe components give you the ultimate flexibility and great flavour so you can whip up an array of interesting dishes any time you want.
Proteins: Smaller meat cuts, such as stir-fry strips; sausages; and meatballs are excellent for building a quick meal because they cook quickly. Freeze them for up to two months and thaw overnight in the fridge. Don’t stress if you forget to take something out — frozen bacon strips, fish fillets and peeled raw shrimp can go right into the pan to cook. You can also save time and boost flavour by cubing, marinating and freezing extra-firm tofu so it’s ready to add to recipes (check out our Meatless Monday option for inspiration).
- Pro tip: Buy big packs of meat and freeze in portions that fit you — a single sausage for one or a quartet for a family of four — so you won’t have to thaw an entire package at once.
Sauces and pastes: Have leftover canned tomato paste, pesto, or Indian or Thai curry paste? Spoon it into small freezer bags, and freeze flat so you can break off pieces as you need them.
- Pro tip: This technique also works for half-full jars of cooking sauces and partial cans of coconut milk, which often linger in the fridge past their expiry dates.
Frozen vegetables: These veggies are picked in-season and frozen right away, so they taste terrific, and you can’t beat the convenience. Stock up on all your favourites, and don’t forget Compliments Frozen Diced Onions — you’ll avoid chopping (and tears!) and you can sauté them from frozen.
- Pro tip: You can roast some veggies straight from the freezer. Toss frozen broccoli, cauliflower or diced sweet potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast on a baking sheet in a 200°C (400°F) oven until lightly browned, about 25 minutes.
Frozen fruit: It’s not just for smoothies and desserts. Reach for frozen fruit when your savoury recipe needs a balancing hint of natural sweetness. Think pineapple or mango chunks in a curry, or pomegranate arils in a grain salad.
- Pro tip: Don’t bother thawing frozen berries — throw them straight into your oatmeal or morning yogurt. They can also add flavour to a glass of water.
Shredded hard or firm cheeses: A food processor makes fast work of shredding blocks of firm or hard cheese, such as cheddar or Parmesan. Scoop them into freezer bags, gently squeeze out the air and freeze flat to save space. They’ll melt easily from frozen and are perfect for quesadillas and pizzas.
- Pro tip: You can make a simple cheese omelette using frozen cheese and eggs. (Check out 10 Foods You Didn’t Know You Could Freeze.) Just thaw the eggs in the fridge overnight so you can beat them.
Frozen grains, beans and pasta: Your future self will thank you when you cook two or three times the grains, beans or pasta you need for a recipe. They’re a delicious base for fried rice, pasta with sauce, beans-and-greens soup and quinoa salad.
- Pro tip: Spoon cooked grains, beans and pasta into bags and freeze flat to save space. To reheat, add a sprinkle of water before microwaving to keep them from drying out.
Pizza dough: Freeze balls of Compliments Pizza Dough or your fully risen homemade version so you’re ready for pizza night any time. Thaw it in the fridge overnight, and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before rolling.
- Pro tip: Bought one too many balls of dough or not in the mood for pizza? Turn it into dessert with our Chocolate Hazelnut Monkey Bread recipe.
Flatbreads: Having a supply of flatbreads, such as pitas, naan and tortillas, in the freezer means quick snacks and meals are minutes away. Top frozen tortillas with refried beans and cheese, and then heat in a covered cast-iron pan until the bottom is golden and the cheese is melted. Or toss pita wedges with olive oil and bake in a 200°C (400°F) until crisp, and then serve with hummus or dips.
- Pro tip: Frozen flatbreads can be reheated in a jiffy. Wrap a stack in foil to keep it from drying out and warm in the oven. Or skip the foil and microwave for 30 seconds.
Freeze Your Assets:
A well-stocked freezer can be a money- and time-saver. For all the basics — from choosing and packing containers to safe temps and ideal storage times — check out our Freezing 101 guide.
A Week of Dinners from the Freezer
To get you started, here’s a week of easy dinner ideas made from freezer-friendly ingredients to get you started.
- Meatless Monday: Grain & Greens Tofu BowlBrown rice + Compliments Super Green Blend + firm tofu + Sensations by Compliments Creamy Asian Sesame Dressing + pickled ginger + sliced green onionsAny frozen grain can stand in for the rice. Heat up the rice and sauté the greens, and then add tofu, dressing, ginger and onions, and toss to combine. This is the ideal recipe for using that tofu you already marinated and stashed in the freezer!
- Tuesday: Thai Beef Curry with Squash & PineappleBeef stir-fry strips + Compliments Diced Butternut Squash + Compliments Pineapple Chunks + Sensations by Compliments Thai Yellow Curry Cooking SauceSauté the beef, and then toss in the squash, pineapple and curry sauce. Simmer until hot and veggies are tender. Garnish with fresh cilantro (optional) and serve with reheated frozen cooked jasmine rice or naan.
- Wednesday: Turkey TacosExtra-lean ground turkey + Compliments Diced Onions + diced sweet potatoes + Compliments Taco Seasoning Mix + Compliments Taco ShellsFry up the turkey, onions and sweet potatoes until meat is no longer pink and veggies are tender. Stir in taco seasoning and cook for a few minutes. Spoon into shells and let everyone pick their favourite toppings. Try shredded Tex-Mex cheese, black bean and corn salsa, pickled jalapeño slices and sour cream.
- Thursday: Potato & Roasted Vegetable FrittataCompliments Hash Brown Fried Potatoes + Compliments Roasted Vegetables + eggs + shredded mozzarella cheeseHurray for breakfast for dinner! Fry up the frozen potatoes and veggies until softened and hot, and then pour in the eggs and sprinkle with mozzarella. Pop in the oven and bake until set and top is golden. Serve this quick spin on Spanish tortilla (a frittata-style omelette featuring eggs and potatoes that’s popular in Spain) with roasted garlic aioli and a big green salad.
- Friday: Cheeseburger PizzaCompliments Pizza Dough + ground beef + Compliments Diced Onions + Compliments Smokehouse Bacon Mayo Sandwich Spread + shredded cheddar cheese + bread-and-butter pickles + sliced tomatoesIt’s pizza night! Fry the beef and onions together, and then roll out the dough and brush with mayo. Then add cheese, pickles and tomatoes (ask the kids to help!) and bake until golden and cheese is melted.
- Saturday: Quick CioppinoTomato paste + Compliments Frozen Vegetable Mix for Spaghetti + chicken broth + Sensations by Compliments Uncooked Pacific White Shrimp + cubed tilapia filletsBreak off a chunk of frozen tomato paste and set aside. Fry up the veg and the tomato paste before pouring in the broth and bringing it to a simmer. Just before serving, add shrimp and tilapia, and cook until opaque. Slurp it all up with Compliments Texas Garlic Parmesan Toast.
- Sunday: Broccoli & Meatball PastaCompliments Penne Rigate + Compliments Broccoli Florets + Sensations by Compliments Prime Rib Beef Meatballs + Compliments Organic Garlic Seasoning Paste + olive oil + grated Parmesan cheeseThis one’s for the garlic lovers in your crew (but, trust us, even vampires would like it). Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente, adding the frozen broccoli in the last few minutes. Heat up the meatballs according to the package directions and toss into the drained pasta mixture along with the garlic seasoning paste, olive oil and cheese.