There’s no one thing that streamlines weeknight meals better than a well-stocked pantry. But it doesn’t stop with the dry goods. When I say “well-stocked” that means your fridge and freezer, too. And while a bushel of long-lasting produce (carrots, broccoli, parsley) and a hard cheese or two (Parm, cheddar) will get you pretty far, the freezer offers bench support that shouldn’t be overlooked. Here are a handful of the things I always have in the deep freeze.
Sausages are one of those items I always buy in bulk. While my household is currently comprised of just two adults, you never know when you’ll be called to serve friends or extended family, or get a hankering to make a big batch soup or sauce. I keep several links of sweet or hot Italian sausage wrapped tightly in plastic in packs of two, stashed in a re-sealable plastic bag. When you’re ready to sauté, grill, or meatball 'em up, grab as many links as you need and defrost overnight in the fridge or in a bowl full of cold water (that’ll take about an hour).
I prefer to stock spinach, peas, and corn, but it’s smart to keep a couple of bags of whatever frozen vegetables you prefer on hand. I stress that you buy those you like and will actually eat, because we’ve all found that half-eaten bag of emergency veggie medley wedged in the back. Toss the vegetables in pastas, simmer in soups, or whip into an irresistible dip.
I love a smoothie on a Saturday morning, but I also like a handful of berries in muffins, pancakes, and quick breads. I’ve even been known to spin them into a no-churn sorbet. Freezer space can get tight, though, so know your own habits—if you’ll use the berries, stock up, if not, skip them for one of the other items on the list.
Nuts can be pricey which is why I a) buy them in bulk and b) keep them in the freezer. Because they’re full of natural oils, nuts can go rancid quickly if not stored in a cool environment. The one sure thing you can do to lengthen their shelf life (and save some coin) is keep them in the freezer. I keep walnuts, pecans, almonds, and pine nuts in the inventory for dressing up my morning oatmeal, adding crunch to salads, or just snacking out of hand.
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Maybe the fanciest thing in my freezer, puff pastry makes a decadent pizza crust or a sturdy base for vegetable tarts. Got a last minute dinner party to contribute to? Defrost a sheet or two, dust with cinnamon sugar and roll up into twists or palmiers. Or, bake it plain and layer with sweet or savory toppings, like mascarpone and smashed berries or ricotta and sliced tomatoes.
Say goodbye to moldy loaves. Rather than race through your boules and batards, slice them while they’re still fresh, and tuck them in the freezer in a re-sealable bag. You’ll have toast at the ready at all times, plus options for stratas, sandwiches, and the ever important crouton.