Unlocking the Potential of Frozen and Shelf-stable food

Happy New Year! We wish everyone a healthy and happy 2019!

Now that everyone’s holidays and celebrations are over, it’s time to get back into the regular routine. January is a great time to explore healthy recipes and try new things, while sticking with a good budget.  A great way to balance your grocery budget is to substitute food items with products that are shelf-stable and less expensive, but just as delicious. Shelf-stable foods such as canned or frozen options are great because they are long-lasting, convenient and tasty. This blog will give you some tools to make these swaps health happy and enjoyable for individuals and the whole family.

Canned fish

Canned fish is a great protein that is a cupboard staple. Buying canned is a great option if the fish aren’t biting or if it’s challenging to get fresh fish. There are many different types of fish you can buy in a can such as salmon, tuna and white fish. Fish are high in calcium (keep the little bones in), protein and healthy fat. Canned fish is great in a sandwich or mixed with rice or pasta.

Canned or frozen vegetables

When not “in-season”, fresh produce can be expensive. Frozen and canned vegetables are picked and packaged at the peak of freshness and the process preserves all of its nutrients, vitamins and flavour. Canned/frozen vegetables are just as healthy as the fresh ones! These veggies are easy to cook in the microwave or in a pan.

Health Happy tip: Rinse off canned vegetables with water to remove excess salt.

Canned chicken

Canned chicken is a quick and inexpensive way to get a good protein source. It is a very convenient food that can go in warm dishes or sandwiches.

Freezing Meat

Fresh meat and poultry spoil quickly when stored in the refrigerator. Freezing them is an excellent way to avoid food waste.

Buying meat in bulk is budget-friendly! Buying many chicken breasts or ground turkey/beef and separating them out to freeze ensures you have good sources of protein ready to pair with your meals.

Health Happy tip:  Divide up portions based on individual or family size to make it easy to select only what you need for future meals.

Canned or frozen or dried fruit

Similarly with vegetables, fruits do not last very long in the fridge. Buying frozen or canned fruit ensures you have healthy fruits all year round. Fruit is full of fibre, vitamins and minerals and tastes delicious.

Health Happy Tip: look for fruit canned in water instead of syrup/juice.  If all you can find is fruit stored in syrup or juice, be sure to drain the liquid before enjoying to remove excess sugar.

Eggs

Eggs can last in the fridge for up to 3 – 5 weeks, but did you know you can also freeze eggs?

Crack and beat whole eggs in a bowl, pour into freezer-safe container, then seal and label with the date. They’re good for up to one year. Eggs are a great staple to have in your freezer as they can be added to most recipes for added protein, vitamin D and vitamin E.

Canned beans

Beans are a versatile and wonderful source of fibre and protein. They can be added into most recipes such as soup or rice dishes. Rinse each can of beans to wash off excess salt. 

Bulk Meal preparation

Making large meals and freezing portions are a super way to save money and time on cooking. Most meals are good in the freezer for up to 6 months, like casseroles and soups.

Safety Tips: Store canned goods in a dry location. Discard if you see bulges or rust on the can. Once a can is opened, the contents are exposed and could spoil. Put any unused portions or leftovers in a container and keep in the fridge if using within days. Store in the freezer if using within weeks or months. Be sure to label all foods with the date put into the freezer and how long it will last in the freezer, see chart for details.  

This table shows how long certain foods can stay in the fridge or freezer:

Food Type Refrigerator (40F° of below) Freezer (Refrigerator 0F° of below) 
Bacon & Sausage Bacon 7 days 1 month
Sausage, raw - from chicken, turkey, pork, beef 1 to 2 days 1 to 2 months
Hamburger & Other Ground Meats Hamburger, ground beef, turkey, veal, pork, lamb & mixtures of them 1 to 2 days 3 to 4 months
Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb & Pork Steaks 3 to 5 days 6 to 12 months
Chops 3 to 5 days 4 to 6 months
Roasts 3 to 5 days 4 to 12 months
Fresh Poultry Chicken or turkey, whole 1 to 2 days 1 year
Chicken or turkey, pieces 1 to 2 days 9 months
Soups & Stews Vegetable or meat added  3 to 4 days 2 to 3 months
Leftovers Cooked meat or poultry 3 to 4 days 2 to 6 months

I hope these tips can help you with your meal planning in 2019. There are always positive and small changes we can make toward being budget-friendly and making healthier choices. I hope you have a health happy start to your 2019!

Michelle Stevens, RD
Michelle Stevens is a Registered Dietitian with a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition from University of Manitoba. She has experience working with clients for diabetes management, kidney disease management, weight loss and has inpatient and outpatient experience. She is excited to bring her knowledge to northern communities to help provide healthy options and nutrition education to families.

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