zero waste

Embracing frozen vegetables

Vegetables form an essential component of my daily life. My typical meal consists of one part grain (usually rice or quinoa), three types of vegetables, and a vegan protein (e.g., tofu, legumes, etc.). Half my plate consists of vegetables. I used to insist on using only fresh vegetables, but I’ve recently been embracing frozen vegetables in an effort to combat food waste. I’ve recently been given a medical diagnosis that affects what vegetables I can eat, how frequently, and in how much quantity, which means that I can’t get through the same amount of fresh vegetables as I used to. I found that I was wasting a lot of fresh vegetables as a result; as an example, where before I would eat a much larger portion of fresh squash, I can eat only very small portions at a time now, which means that a fresh squash once cut open, can’t be consumed at the same speed as before and often goes bad.

I was rather a snob about frozen vegetables, as I assumed they would be tasteless, mushy, and not as nutritious. I’ve consulted a number of resources to help me have a better understanding of frozen vegetables, and have been very pleasantly surprised. Because vegetables Because vegetables are usually frozen immediately after harvesting, they generally retain many of their nutrients. Frozen vegetables can be cheaper than fresh vegetables and have a longer shelf life, which could save both money as well as food waste. Frozen vegetables allow me to eat off-season vegetables throughout the year; this is particularly important during the long Canadian winter months, when the variety of these vegetables can be low. Blanching and flash freezing can cause a reduction in water-soluble vitamins, such as C and the B group, but this will happen also with fresh vegetables if you boil or steam them. Raw vegetables are off my list at the moment, per medical advice, so this will be a factor for me whether the vegetables are fresh or frozen. Fresh vegetables lose nutrients while they are stored, so frozen vegetables may actually retain more of their nutrients.

I typically either steam frozen vegetables, or cook them in the air fryer; this latter technique helps reduce the further leaching of water-soluble nutrients. If the vegetables are headed for the soup pot, I simply toss them in frozen. I buy frozen vegetables that have no salt, sauces, spices, etc. My usual assortment includes broccoli florets (I can’t digest the stems well), brussels sprouts, green beans, and edamame beans (yes, I know, it’s not a vegetable). I buy a California mix that I use in soups. I do buy fresh carrots, as they can last a long time if I store them in water, as well as fresh zucchini, as the latter don’t freeze well with their higher water count. I will be experimenting with frozen squash soon.

The downside to frozen vegetables is the plastic packaging, of course. I counter this by using the empty bags to collect cat litter waste, so at least I’m re-using the bags and eliminating the use of another bag. I think this makes for a better balance, especially when I consider how little food I’m wasting using frozen vegetables. While I would always prefer fresh foods, my existing medical situation makes frozen vegetables a better and more sustainable option.

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