I love the produce section of the grocery store. When I see freshly picked heirloom tomatoes or ripe, juicy peaches, it inspires me to cook and makes me feel like I’m providing my family with the best ingredients possible. However, a lot of research has been done on the benefits of frozen vegetables lately. I was shocked to read that many times, fresh produce has already lost 20-45% of its nutritional content before arriving at the grocery. When produce is frozen after being picked, the nutrients are retained, leaving the vitamins and minerals exactly where they should be: in your food. I found this to be great news because, like many Circle of Moms members, I think there’s a time and place for both fresh and frozen vegetables in my cooking.
Here are my favorite reasons to keep both in my house.
The case for frozen veggies:
- Price. Frozen produce can be much less expensive than its fresh counterpart, so if you’re working with a budget, consider starting in the frozen section.
- Time. I don’t know about you, but those frozen peas, carrots, and corn sure come in handy for the babysitter when I’m running out the door. And with just a little olive oil or butter on them, my kids seem to think they’re the greatest.
- Seasonality. I am the first to preach eating seasonal produce, because it helps us keep costs down and encourages us to try different things. But there are a few foods I love to eat year round and the frozen versions are really delicious. Spinach, pearl onions, peas, and mango are just a few that I love.
- Functionality. Some recipes actually work better with frozen foods. For smoothies, I only use frozen fruits because the frozen fruit lends wonderful texture. Also, frozen asparagus and peas defrost beautifully into risottos and braises while maintaining their integrity.
- Organics. If you want to go organic but are concerned about the price, consider buying some of your organic foods in the frozen section. You’ll be surprised by how little some of them cost.
Why I love fresh produce:
- Flavor and Texture. Have you ever taken a bite out of a plum that is fresh from the farm or grilled corn the day it was picked? The flavor of freshly picked produce is incomparable. When I want produce to be the standout ingredient in my cooking, I buy the freshest I can find.
- Seasonality and Price. When produce is in season, the cost comes down dramatically because grocery stores aren’t paying to fly it in from South America. Become a savvy seasonal shopper and watch the prices drop on your grocery bill. Plus, there’s something to be said for looking forward to stone fruits in the summer, leafy greens in the winter, and citrus in early spring. Cooking with the seasons encourages creativity and variety in our diets.
- Local Support. I love buying local farmers’ produce because it supports our economy, is a “greener” way to eat, and it reinforces my desire to eat seasonally whenever possible. Tip: If you’re looking for your children to have a greater interest in what they eat, consider a field trip to a farm this summer. Making the connection between where food is grown and how it arrives on their plate is a wonderful way to help our children take an interest in their own diets.
No matter what you’ve got in your kitchen right now, here is a great recipe to make for your family this week: Risotto with Sweet Corn and Basil.
Amanda Haas is a cookbook author, teacher, cooking video host, and the founder of One Family One Meal, a website that helps families menu plan, grocery shop, and cook on a budget. She's also on Twitter and Facebook.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.