We don't want to knock the entire freezer aisle. Premade entrées and other processed products are expensive and often void of nutrition, but frozen fruits and vegetables can be a good buy. They're usually picked at peak ripeness and retain their vitamins and minerals in the freezing process, losing only about 5 percent of most nutrients. They might even be more nutritious than their counterparts in the fresh-produce section, which are often picked before they're totally ripe and are exposed to heat and light while they're being transported. Especially in the winter, when a variety of fresh produce options can be slim (and pricey), buying frozen can be a good option.
There is a bit of a difference, nutrient-wise, between frozen fruits and vegetables. Fruits survive well because their acids neutralize the enzymes that promote deterioration, but vegetables do lose some nutritional value. If you're freezing your own vegetables, you should blanch them to kill bacteria and enzymes -- but that process causes them to lose as much as 30 percent of their vitamin C and some B vitamins.
Meats and poultry, however, come out of the freezer pretty much nutritionally intact. You can put meat directly into the freezer in its original packaging if you're planning to use it fairly soon. But if you want to freeze it long-term, wrap it up more securely.
On the next page, we'll talk about how best to freeze your food -- and how long it will last.