Fresh is always best, right? While we’ll admit some frozen and canned foods’ flavors aren’t worth the time-saving and always-on-hand convenience, sometimes they really (really) are.
And don’t just assume fresh is always best in terms of nutritional value either. According to the health myths center at Harvard’s medical teaching hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, frozen and canned produce is better than none and could potentially be more nutritious in some circumstances.
1. Canned pumpkin
If you need pumpkin purée, it takes a couple of hours and a lot of strong-arming to break down such a hefty gourd, prep it and then bake it to its blendable goodness. It’s good to say you’ve made a fresh pumpkin pie before, but once you realize how similar canned pumpkin tastes (as in, identical), you’ll never go through the hassle again. Purée can also be used in a variety of dishes, like chilies, soups and more.
2. Frozen Brussels sprouts
Most people aren’t big fans of uncooked Brussels sprouts anyway, so for many recipes, frozen will do just fine. You can even allow frozen sprouts to defrost and then roast them using your favorite recipe.
3. Canned beans
Most of us don’t have access to fresh beans, and dried beans take forever to soak. Canned beans are a faster alternative, and they’re just as good for you so long as you rinse them well to remove all the extra sodium and preservatives before you use them.
4. Canned tomatoes
Fresh tomatoes are delish, and they’re not usually that big a pain… unless you’re making a tomato soup, sauce or other long-cook meal. Use canned tomatoes for soups, sauces, stews or any long-cook recipe that calls for tomatoes.
5. Frozen spinach
If you’re making a dish that requires the spinach be cooked down anyway, then frozen is almost always an acceptable substitute.
6. Canned tuna
If you’re making tuna salad or casserole, then canned is faster and just as tasty. Just make sure you get the kind packed in water and not oil. If you like bigger chunks, then opt for the packages instead of the cans.
7. Creamed corn
If you’re having creamed corn as a side dish, then it’s always best to make it from scratch, but the canned stuff isn’t bad at all. And if you’re using it in a recipe for cornbread, casseroles or other goodies, then canned works just as well.
8. Frozen berries
If your berries will be cooked down anyway, then frozen berries usually work just as well. Just note that sometimes you might need to defrost them first.
9. Cranberry sauce
This holiday staple is actually available all year-round, unlike its fresh progenitor. Unless you prefer your own special recipe for relish, the canned version is just as tasty. The whole version can also be used in place of sometimes hard-to-find lingonberry jam, and the jellied kind is great on toast, PB&J sandwiches or as a tarter substitute for strawberry or other jellies in recipes.
10. Frozen corn
The only way to get the freshest of fresh corn is on the cob — and if that’s how you’re serving it, then buy it fresh. But if you need the kernels of the cob, it’s just not usually worth the effort. You can use frozen corn (though it might need to be defrosted first) in any recipe asking for fresh corn, including homemade salsas.
Fresh chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are hard to find anyway, so get familiar with their canned version. Rinse them well, and use them in salads or in your favorite hummus recipe.
12. Frozen peas
Fresh peas are certainly sweeter, but are they worth all the snapping? Unless you’re addicted to the flavor of fresh peas, frozen works for everything from just steamed peas with a little butter to casseroles.