Filling up your cart with frozen foods can help you save money on groceries. Plus, many frozen foods are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts. Here's what to buy in the freezer aisles for maximum value, nutrition, and taste—and what to watch out for.
Salmon: Oddly enough, you’re likely to find the freshest seafood in the frozen-food aisle—not at the seafood counter. Often fish is frozen immediately on the boat, whereas seafood labeled “fresh” might actually have been frozen and then defrosted improperly. Save yourself up to 40 percent, and control the quality, by buying frozen seafood and thawing it yourself. Buying 4-ounce packages of salmon takes the guesswork out of serving sensible portions, plus you can get a hearty boost of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Bake, pan-fry or poach for an inexpensive, nutritious meal.
Shrimp: Frozen shrimp can be pricey, but it's healthful and convenient (defrost in less than 30 minutes in a bowl of cold water), so stock up when you see a sale. Look for bargains on frozen shrimp before Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and other holidays.
All-Natural Bread: If you prefer all-natural or whole-grain bread, the best values can often be found outside the bakery aisle. Check out the breads made by natural-food companies and sold in the freezer section: They're often less expensive than the whole-wheat loaves in the bakery aisle, and with fewer additives.
Bread Dough: Frozen bread dough is a versatile powerhouse—use it for cinnamon buns for breakfast, rolls to go with lunch or pizza for dinner—all for about $2 per pound.
Bagels: For a cheaper breakfast, try frozen bagels: They have about half the calories of fresh and are about a third of the cost.
Pound Cake: Frozen pies are convenient, but frozen pound cake is probably a better option. Pound cake freezes well, and is easily customized for real homemade flavor. You can top it with ice cream and chocolate sauce, for example, or toast it and scatter sliced berries on top, or layer it with whipped cream and lemon curd.
Whole-Wheat Waffles: These freezer aisle all-stars are affordable multiuse items. Drizzle with maple syrup, spread with almond butter or top with eggs and cheese.
Produce: Frozen veggies and fruits are a great way to save money on groceries (especially if your fresh produce tends to spoil before you can use it up), and often just as nutritious as fresh. But be a smart shopper: If a vegetable or fruit is currently in season, you may find a better deal in the produce aisle than in the freezer aisle. Also avoid fruits and vegetables that are frozen with heavy sauces, which are less healthful and can cost more. If you hear ice crunching in the bag when you squeeze it, there might be freezer burn, so steer clear. As long as produce remains frozen, it won't spoil, but the quality can deteriorate over time. Try to use fruit within a year and vegetables within 10 to 12 months.
When to Steer Your Cart Out of the Frozen Aisle: Frozen meat can offer less value and nutrition compared to fresh: Premade burger patties from the freezer case can cost a dollar per pound more than plain ground beef, and you don’t get to choose the serving size. Frozen chicken options—from nuggets to Buffalo wings—are often loaded with extra fat or sodium.