Frozen food has a bad reputation—and really with good reason. Often, what you find in the frozen food aisle is heavily processed frankenfood entrees with all kinds of factory-made ingredients.

But…. frozen can be healthy. And convenient. And wonderful.

The secret is to stick to frozen plain veggies (no weird butter or cheese sauces), frozen fruits, frozen grains and frozen legumes. Even frozen hormone and antibiotic-free poultry, red meats and seafood. In fact, I’ve got a weird factoid for you: Because frozen food is picked and immediately put in the deep freeze, it doesn’t sit around languishing on a truck and in the produce department, drying up and losing precious nutrients with every post-harvest hour it sits around waiting for someone to take it home and eat it. So frozen produce will often have 50 to 200% MORE nutrients than the fruits and veggies you find in your neighborhood grocer’s produce department.Plus, frozen food is convenient. You can stock up and have what you need. You can open a bag or box and use just what you need. There is nothing left rotting in the fridge. And so on.

Lastly, frozen food can be cheaper than the unfrozen stuff. Weird, but true.

Some tips when shopping for frozen food:

* Go for pure food. No chemicals, no preservatives (frozen food does not need chemical preservatives), no colorants, no flavorings. None. Just spinach. Or green beans. Or cooked millet. Or trout fillets. Or bison meat. Or blueberries. Or whatever.

* If you can afford organic, wonderful. There are some great organic frozen brands. If money is an issue, head to Whole Foods and check out their 365 Brand. Or check out Trader Joe’s frozen organic offerings. These two stores have some of the best organic frozen prices around.

* If you cannot afford organic, don’t sweat it. Buy what you can buy.

* Get the frozen food home quickly and into your freezer. You don’t want to let the food thaw, then refreeze, thaw and refreeze. If it happens, don’t sweat it. Just pop it into the freezer. But try not to let it happen.

* Make sure your freezer is cold enough. That would be 0° F or -17 C (or colder).

* Use the item within three months. To help you do this, get a Sharpie marker or food marker and mark the purchase date on the package. If the package has a “Use By Date”, circle that so it’s easy to see.

* Place frozen items in a second freezer-safe bag or place them in a freezer-proof glass or other container to help preserve their freshness. Freezer burn happens when food dehydrates due to exposure to cold air.

* It literally is the protein and fiber in food being burned by extreme cold. Double protecting items increases their shelf life.

* Check your freezer every two weeks to make sure the items that are approaching expiration are used.

* Be adventurous! Frozen mango chunks, a new kind of fish, veggie burgers, heritage beans, a quinoa-millet-red rice blend—there are some awesome, exotic, whole food frozen offerings out there. Have fun!

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