As a new parent you need plenty of healthy food to keep you going, but you don’t have much time to spend making it. Enter frozen veggies.
Frozen vegetables are always a good idea — but they’re a real lifesaver when you have a new baby.
You’ve got the baby’s meal plan covered (not much variety there!) but what about you? Even if you used to be a meticulous meal planner and prepper, sitting down to map out a week’s worth of food — and finding a few free hours to shop and cook — can be hard as a new parent. Like, surprisingly hard.
But frozen veggies can help. You can stock up on big bags and stash them away without worrying they’re gonna go bad before you can use them. And since they’re already fully prepped, you don’t have to waste precious minutes washing, peeling, or chopping.
Then when you find yourself with a block of free time (the baby is taking an awesome nap and you’ve already showered and it’s not a laundry day!), the veggies are waiting for you to hit the ground running.
Except, what do you make?
Turns out, frozen vegetables are good for way more than throwing into the occasional stir-fry. Here are 12 easy, delicious ways to incorporate them into make-ahead meals that’ll keep you nourished for days.
Surprise: You can totally roast frozen veggies — and they don’t even need to be thawed first.
Spread the veggies evenly on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and your favorite seasonings, and bake them in a hot oven until soft and caramelized.
“A high heat, like 425°F (220°C), will help evaporate any condensation while they cook,” says Amanda Frederickson, author of Simple Beautiful Food and a mom of two.
Use the finished product in grain bowls or omelets, tossed into pasta dishes, or as a simple side for chicken or fish.
Practically any mixture of veggies and protein becomes delicious and satisfying when simmered in a flavorful broth.
- shredded rotisserie chicken, frozen carrots and peas, and broken spaghetti in chicken broth
- diced frozen butternut squash, chickpeas, and brown rice in veggie broth
- premade mini meatballs and frozen spinach in beef broth
Quiches are new parents’ BFFs: They’re easy to make (just mix, pour, and bake), packed with protein, and last for days in the fridge.
Best of all, they’re delicious with just about any veggie, says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, author of “Smoothies and Juices: Prevention Healing Kitchen” and mom of three.
Try folding in thawed frozen artichoke hearts or peas.
That leftover white rice from the Chinese takeout you’ve been living off of? You can turn it into a killer main dish.
Sauté a cup of mixed frozen veggies with sesame oil and a splash of soy sauce and add a few beaten eggs, then fold in the rice. Let it cook on medium-high in a flat layer to let the bottom of the rice get a little browned, then stir and repeat a few times until the entire mixture is heated through and you’ve got plenty of crispy bits.
Baking a whole sweet potato takes an hour, but you can sauté frozen, cubed sweet potatoes in a matter of minutes.
Cook up a package with Tex Mex-inspired seasonings like cumin and chili powder, then add them to quesadillas throughout the week, Largeman-Roth recommends.
You probably already use frozen fruit for your smoothies, so why not toss a handful of veg in there?
“Adding frozen spinach or cauliflower is a great way to add a ton of nutrients to smoothies,” says Frederickson. (And since the flavor is pretty neutral, you won’t taste them.)
Make individual smoothie packs by filling plastic zip baggies each with:
- 1 diced banana
- 1/2 cup chopped frozen fruit (like berries or mango)
- 1/2 cup chopped frozen veggies
- a generous spoonful of nut butter
When you’re ready to drink, just dump the ingredients into a blender with your milk of choice.
Spinach, kale, or collards all work here. Add a generous glug of olive oil and plenty of chopped garlic, plus a pinch of red pepper flakes if you like some heat.
Use these greens as a side dish for anything, stuff them into omelets, or pile them onto a baked potato and top with shredded cheese.
Those frozen Southwestern veggie blends with corn and bell pepper? They’re awesome sautéed up with canned black beans, garlic, and some cumin or smoked paprika.
Make a big batch for stuffing into tortillas, stirring into scrambled eggs, or sprinkling on top of tortilla chips for healthy-ish nachos.
Just because you don’t have fresh basil on hand doesn’t mean you can’t have pesto.
Toss a cup of frozen thawed broccoli in the food processor with garlic, Parmesan, pine nuts or walnuts, and olive oil, and pulse to make a thick, pesto-like sauce that’s ready for pasta whenever you are.
Lasagna’s the ultimate make-a-big-batch-and-freeze-for-later meal, and folding spinach into the cheese mixture is an easy way to get a serving of veggies.
To keep the lasagna from getting watery, sauté the spinach and squeeze out the excess liquid before adding it to the cheese, Frederickson recommends.
It’s easier to make than you think — and you can adapt it to whatever you have on hand.
Sauté a package of mixed frozen vegetables until softened, then add red or green Thai curry paste (to taste) along with a can of coconut milk (add a splash of water or broth if the mixture seems thick).
Fold in any protein you’d like — cubed tofu, thawed frozen shrimp, or chicken breast cut into thin strips — and simmer until cooked.
Because sometimes you’re not into making a big batch and just need to eat ASAP. A handful of veggies turns a buttery cheese sandwich into something sorta virtuous while only tacking a few minutes onto your total prep time.
Try diced cauliflower or broccoli florets with cheddar, spinach with mozzarella, or artichokes with goat cheese. Or if all you have on hand is green beans and plain old American cheese slices, go with that. It’s all good.
Marygrace Taylor is a health and parenting writer, former KIWI magazine editor, and mom to Eli. Visit her at marygracetaylor.com.