12 Delicious Ways to Use Frozen Veggies for Meal Prep
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.
Do a Roast Veggie Tray
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.
Make a Kitchen-Sink Soup
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
Toss Veggies Into a Quiche
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.
Try Veggie Fried Rice
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.
Power Up Quesadillas With Sweet Potatoes
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.
Make Veggie Smoothie Packs
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.
Sauté a Batch of Garlicky Greens
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.
Make Taco Filling (That’s Good for More Than Just Tacos)
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.
Make Broccoli Pesto for Pasta
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.
Add Frozen Spinach to Lasagna
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.
Do a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Veggie Curry
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.
Two Words: Grilled Cheese
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.
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The Australian government has announced a A$190 million (US$130 million) investment in the nation's first Recycling Modernization Fund, with the aim of transforming the country's waste and recycling industry. The hope is that as many as 10,000 jobs can be created in what is being called a "once in a generation" opportunity to remodel the way Australia deals with its waste.
Waste Mountain<p>The need for a dramatic increase in Australia's recycling capacity pre-dates the COVID-19 pandemic. <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-27/where-does-all-australias-waste-go/11755424" target="_blank">Australians create approximately 67 million tons of waste a year</a>, and like in many wealthy countries, much of that was sent overseas. That all changed when China announced it was <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/10/china-has-banned-foreign-waste-so-whats-the-future-of-world-recycling" target="_blank">banning the import of a huge range of foreign waste</a> and recyclables. Soon <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/05/malaysia-flooded-with-plastic-waste-to-send-back-some-scrap-to-source" target="_blank">other countries followed suit</a>, and Australia was forced to look for alternative solutions.</p>
Biggest exporters of plastic. Statista
Waste Export Ban<p>Australia has adopted a strategy of taking responsibility for its own waste. Starting in January 2021, it is phasing in <a href="http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste-resource-recovery/waste-export-ban" target="_blank">bans on the export of different forms of waste</a>. By mid 2024, Australia's home-grown recycling industry will have to deal with an extra 650,000 tons of waste plastic, paper, glass and tires.</p><p>"As we cease shipping our waste overseas, the waste and recycling transformation will reshape our domestic waste industry, driving job creation and putting valuable materials back into the economy," federal environment minister Sussan Ley said in a <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-australia-waste/australia-to-set-up-132-million-fund-to-boost-recycling-following-export-curbs-idUKKBN247060" target="_blank">statement to Reuters</a>.</p>
Timeline for Australia's waste export ban. Australian Government
Trash Into Treasure<p>The benefits to the environment of boosting recycling rates are well known – less landfill, less plastic in our ocean, reduced need for virgin materials, and lower carbon emissions. The Recycling Modernization Fund initiative aims to divert more than 10 million tons of waste from landfill, part of an <a href="http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste-resource-recovery/publications/national-waste-policy-action-plan" target="_blank">overall strategy to reduce the total waste generated per person by 10%</a>, and push <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/7381c1de-31d0-429b-912c-91a6dbc83af7/files/national-waste-report-2018.pdf" target="_blank">Australia's total resource recovery rate from 58% in 2017</a> to 80% by 2030.</p><p>But like many countries, Australia is focusing on the economic benefits of better waste management as well.</p><p>"This will mean Australia converts more waste into higher valued resources ready for reuse locally by manufacturers and brands in their packaging and products," Rose Read, CEO of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council, <a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-australia-waste/australia-to-set-up-132-million-fund-to-boost-recycling-following-export-curbs-idUKKBN247060" target="_blank">told Reuters</a>.</p>
Green Jobs<p>The great potential of the circular economy to create green jobs is being recognized across the world.</p><p>In the UK, the Waste and Resources Action Program has launched a <a href="https://wrap.org.uk/buildbackbetter" target="_blank">six-point plan which it claims could add $90 billion to the economy, and create 500,000 new jobs</a>. Investment in the circular economy forms a significant part of the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan that Democratic candidate Joe Biden</a> is taking into November's US presidential election. And the <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_940" target="_blank">European Union has put its Green New Deal at the heart of its plans for recovery</a> from the economic shock of COVID-19.</p><p>The World Economic Forum's <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_Future_Of_Nature_And_Business_2020.pdf" target="_blank">Future of Nature and Business</a> report identifies 15 systemic transitions with annual business opportunities worth $10 billion a year that could create 395 million jobs by 2030.</p><p>As is the case with Australia's Recycling Modernization Fund, a combination of private enterprise and government investment can offer ways to get people back to work by building a more environmentally sustainable economy.</p>
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The Great American Outdoors Act is now the law of the land.
<div id="e0008" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ffc07febbf5d2d585ad06d3f43e2be56"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1290667833999929344" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Breaking News: The President has just signed the bipartisan #GreatAmericanOutdoorsAct. It will help: 🏗️ Restore… https://t.co/RPefKPMn7S</div> — Fix Our Parks (@Fix Our Parks)<a href="https://twitter.com/FixOurParksUS/statuses/1290667833999929344">1596554165.0</a></blockquote></div>
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By Andrew J. Whelton and Caitlin R. Proctor
In recent years wildfires have entered urban areas, causing breathtaking destruction.
Survivors left everything to flee the Camp Fire's path. Andrew Whelton / Purdue University
Wildfires and Water<p>Both the Tubbs and Camp fires destroyed fire hydrants, water pipes and meter boxes. Water leaks and ruptured hydrants were common. The Camp Fire inferno spread at a speed of one football field per second, chasing everyone – including water system operators – out of town.</p><p>After the fires passed, testing ultimately revealed widespread hazardous drinking water contamination. Evidence suggests that the toxic chemicals originated from a combination of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/aws2.1183" target="_blank">burning vegetation, structures and plastic materials</a>.</p>
Pipes, water meters and meter covers after wildfires destroyed them. Caitlin Proctor, Amisha Shah, David Yu, and Andrew Whelton/Purdue University
Dangerous Contamination Levels<p>Benzene was found at concentrations of 40,000 parts per billion (ppb) in drinking water after the Tubbs Fire and at more than 2,217 ppb after the Camp Fire. According to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, children exposed to benzene for a single day can suffer <a href="https://engineering.purdue.edu/PlumbingSafety/resources/Benzene-Levels-in-Water.pdf" target="_blank">harm at levels as low as 26 ppb</a>.</p><p>The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends limiting children's short-term acute exposure to <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-03/documents/dwtable2018.pdf" target="_blank">200 ppb</a>, and long-term exposure to less than <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/national-primary-drinking-water-regulations" target="_blank">5 ppb</a>. The EPA regulatory level for what constitutes a hazardous waste is <a href="https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-06/documents/tclp.pdf" target="_blank">500 ppb</a>.</p><p>In early 2019, California conducted contaminated water testing on humans by taking contaminated water from the Paradise Irrigation District and asking persons to smell it. The state found that even when people smelled contaminated water that had less than 200 ppb benzene, <a href="https://engineering.purdue.edu/PlumbingSafety/resources/Dissipatiion-of-Burn-Related-VOC-From-Water.pdf" target="_blank">at least one person reported nausea and throat irritation</a>. The test also showed that water contained a variety of other benzene-like compounds that first responders had not sampled for.</p><p>The officials who carried out this small-scale test did not appear to realize the significance of what they had done, until we asked whether they had had their action approved in advance by an institutional review board. In response, they asserted that such a review was not needed.</p><p>In our view, this episode is telling for two reasons. First, one subject reported an adverse health effect after being exposed to water that contained benzene at a level below the EPA's recommended one-day limit for children. Second, doing this kind of test without proper oversight suggests that officials greatly underestimated the potential for serious contamination of local water supplies and public harm. After the Camp Fire, together with the EPA, we estimated that some plastic pipes needed <a href="https://engineering.purdue.edu/PlumbingSafety/opinions/Final-HDPE-Service-Line-Decontamination-2019-03-18.pdf" target="_blank">more than 280 days</a> of flushing to make them safe again.</p>
Plastic pipes can be damaged by heat and fire contact. Andrew Whelton / Purdue University
Building Codes Could Make Areas Disaster-Ready<p>Our research underscores that community building codes are inadequate to prevent wildfire-caused pollution of drinking water and homes.</p><p>Installing one-way valves, called backflow prevention devices, at each water meter can prevent contamination rushing out of the damaged building from flowing into the larger buried pipe network.</p><p>Adopting codes that required builders to install fire-resistant meter boxes and place them farther from vegetation would help prevent infrastructure from burning so readily in wildfires. Concrete meter boxes and water meters with minimal plastic components would be less likely to ignite. Some plastics may be practically impossible to make safe again, since all types are susceptible to fire and heat.</p><p>Water main shutoff valves and water sampling taps should exist at every water meter box. Sample taps can help responders quickly determine water safety.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9540d7e271306ed417112042a3efc9a4"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GnlrzI1wdAI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Smell Test Doesn’t Work<p>Under no circumstance should people be told to <a href="https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/press_room/press_releases/2018/pr122418_voc.pdf" target="_blank">smell the water</a> to determine its safety, as was recommended for months after the Camp Fire. Many chemicals have no odor when they are harmful. Only testing can determine safety.</p><p>Ordering people to boil their water will not make it safe if it contains toxic chemicals that enter the air. Boiling just transmits those substances into the air faster. "Do not use" orders can keep people safe until agencies can test the water. Before such advisories are lifted or modified, regulators should be required to carry out a full chemical screen of the water systems. Yet, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/aws2.1183" target="_blank">disaster</a> after <a href="https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlehtml/2017/ew/c5ew00294j" target="_blank">disaster</a>, government agencies have failed to take this step.</p><p>Buildings should be tested to find contamination. <a href="https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2020/Q1/study-your-homes-water-quality-could-vary-by-the-room-and-the-season.html" target="_blank">Home drinking water quality can differ from room to room</a>, so reliable testing should sample both cold and hot water at many locations within each building.</p><p>While infrastructure is being repaired, survivors need a safe water supply. Water treatment devices sold for home use, such as refrigerator and faucet water filters, are not approved for extremely contaminated water, although product sales representatives and government officials may <a href="https://undark.org/2019/09/19/camp-fire-california-drinking-water-carcinogens/" target="_blank">mistakenly think</a> the devices can be used for that purpose.</p><p>To avoid this kind of confusion, external technical experts should be called in assist local public health departments, which can quickly become overwhelmed after disasters.</p>
<div id="71cf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e059d199e8368d282a31601e372e4dda"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1204068265980547075" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">The Los Angeles City Council's Planning and Land Use Committee signed off on an effort to expand the city's fire-re… https://t.co/fP8Z8mUq7R</div> — IntlCodeCouncil (@IntlCodeCouncil)<a href="https://twitter.com/IntlCodeCouncil/statuses/1204068265980547075">1575907219.0</a></blockquote></div>
Preparing for Future Fires<p>The damage that the Tubbs and Camp fires caused to local water systems was preventable. We believe that urban and rural communities, as well as state legislatures, should establish codes and lists of authorized construction materials for high-risk areas. They also should establish rapid methods to assess health, prepare for water testing and decontamination, and set aside emergency water supplies.</p><p>Wildfires are coming to urban areas. Protecting drinking water systems, buried underground or in buildings, is one thing communities can do to prepare for that reality.</p>
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By Zulfikar Abbany
"We don't have a definition of life," says Kevin Peter Hand, one early California morning when we speak via video. "We don't actually know what life is."