Between posting slow cooker meals, I wanted to share some helpful hints on how to maximize your dollar when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables. I am a tight budgeted shopper when it comes to fresh produce. It can get pretty expensive depending on where a person lives, and especially with how many mouths they have to feed.
I’ll start with fruit.
- The number one piece of advice I can give you- lay the fruit out piece by piece on a parchment (or silicone baking mat) lined sheet pan and freeze them individually. After they have frozen, add them to freezer storage bags in smoothie portions, or larger quantities for baking and grab and go use. Fruits contain plenty of moisture, so if you throw them all in the same bag freshly cut- they will freeze together into a big rock. When you go to use them, whether it be in the blender or to bake, they will be an arduous task to break apart. By doing it this way, they will be easier to work with and stay longer in the freezer.
Moving on to veggies:
- For green vegetables (broccoli, kale, green beans, Brussels sprouts, etc) I am a huge proponent of blanching and shocking. To blanch green vegetables, dunk them into boiling water for about 1 minute, and then immediately transfer them into an ice water bath to shock them out of cooking any longer. This method helps the vegetables become a vibrant green, and it also preserves them longer.
- Once they have been blanched and shocked, lay them out to dry on paper towels. Put them into freezer storage bags and use them as needed for soups, stews, stir fry, etc.
- With kale and spinach, you can definitely freeze them fresh, but only do that if you planning on making smoothies out of them. If you freeze them fresh and thaw them out to use them in a salad, they will become pretty mushy and have a strange texture when eaten.
- Below are photos of broccoli that starts out fresh and goes through the blanching and shocking process. It looks so pretty at the end. Not to mention, green is my favorite color, so I might be a little biased.
- Root vegetables are the same. Potatoes cannot go straight into the freezer or they will turn black and also have a strange texture. Cut them up into the desired sizes, blanch them for 3-5 minutes, shock them until cold, and lay them out to dry. Place them into freezer bags and use them in soups, stews, baked dishes, stir fry meals, etc. I always do this when I am freezer prepping slow cooker meals. I’ll blanch several potatoes and other vegetables to add to my freezer bags with meat and other ingredients.
- This method also applies to carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes, yucca, rutabaga, so forth and so on. You can also do this with butternut squash. It works like a charm.
I hope this helps you stretch your dollar a bit more in the produce category. Most importantly, I hope this helps you to prepare meals in advance so you are able to spend meaningful time with your family. It doesn’t take long to prep a bunch of vegetables for the coming days and weeks. I find that having vegetables in the freezer gives our meals a healthy boost when I haven’t been able to make it to the grocery store for something fresh. Also, freezing fruits and vegetables does not hinder their nutritional value, so go ahead and buy that extra bunch of kale, banana, or green beans and get them in the freezer. Taking care of our bodies, and making sure our families eat healthy is one small thing we can do to honor the life God gave us.
Lots of love and many blessings,
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest, says the Lord.