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The twelve best frozen food values

Frozen foods are often quite a bit cheaper than fresh, and in many cases, such as with the list here, they can be just as flavorful. 

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    Berries, blueberries in particular, are much more affordable when purchased frozen.
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Many people only stop in the frozen aisle for ice cream and a selection of TV dinners, but there's more to this section of the grocery for value seekers. Frozen food offers real convenience, variety, and savings. Items are typically ready-to-cook, they have a much longer shelf life than their fresh counterparts, and are available year-round. Produce is typically frozen at its peak, sealing in nutrients and flavor.

Many items are simply cheaper frozen, and many others offer real value because of their ease and longevity. This includes the 12 items below — stock your freezer with these smart buys and save some cold, hard cash.

1. Berries

Frozen fruit is typically a good deal across the board, and this is definitely true with berries. While price checking at my local grocery, the savings were most noticeable with blueberries. Fresh ones were 66 cents an ounce, while frozen were a mere 25 cents. Strawberries, cranberries, and raspberries are also great values. They are washed and frozen at their peak, and the quality is consistent all year. Fresh berries also tend to go bad quickly, and freezing eliminates that problem while locking-in nutrients.

Frozen berries are especially handy for making smoothies (they actually work better than fresh), pancakes, muffins, and other baked goods.

2. Fish

Many shoppers gravitate toward the fresh fish counter when shopping for seafood, but few know that in the U.S., most fish must be frozen before being sold, in order to kill germs. Since this means the "fresh" fish has already been frozen and defrosted, why not buy it still frozen? Fish is often frozen when it has just been caught, keeping it as fresh as possible. The price difference is also huge. At our grocery, wild-caught salmon was 75 cents an ounce at the fresh counter, and only 30 cents an ounce for frozen, individual filets. Similar savings can be found for cod and other fish.

3. Shrimp

The same deal goes for buying shrimp. You could pay big prices for shrimp that's already been frozen anyway, or you can just buy it frozen and save big. We found frozen shrimp for almost 60% cheaper than the "fresh" version, and there were lots of options, as well. Find various sizes, shelled and unshelled, de-veined, and cooked varieties in your frozen food aisle.

4. Pizza

The frozen pizza section seems to get bigger and bigger, and varieties have greatly expanded beyond Bagel Bites and Digiorno (don't worry, those are still on offer). When comparing prices to the "fresh," pre-made (uncooked) pizzas that they sell in the deli section of the grocery, frozen is a much better buy. During our trip, the deli pizzas were $7, while comparable frozen pizzas were as little as $4. They also offered more options on toppings, types of crust, and some healthier choices. Frozen pizza is also worth considering over delivery, since many chains have started using frozen pizzas anyway. There's no wait, no tip, and they are typically cheaper.

5. Mango

If you find mangos to be especially hard to pick at the store and a little difficult to cut up, we can relate. Frozen mango eliminates these problems, since they are perfectly ripe and cut before being flash frozen. Mango is an excellent smoothie fruit, so buying the frozen version is a no-brainer. Ounce for ounce, mango also tends to be cheaper when bought this way, and unless you live someplace tropical, the quality is higher.

6. Spinach

This nutrient-dense green vegetable is one of the better deals in the frozen food aisle. Frozen spinach is offered chopped and whole, in bags and in boxes. It's a perfect solution if you're planning to wilt your spinach anyway in dishes like soup, stew, quiche, or other hot items. It's also a great way to keep greens handy without them quickly going bad in your crisper, and will save you money, too.

7. Corn

Frozen corn is a freezer essential. It's amazingly cheap — just 9 cents an ounce at our store — and comes in handy at dinnertime. As opposed to opening up a can of corn, you can use a little or a lot and throw the rest of the bag back in the freezer without wasting any food. Corn is perfect for adding to soups, salsa, and more, and because the kernels are so small, it doesn't need lots of defrost time.

8. Burritos

While doing price comparisons at the grocery store, we found frozen burritos for just 33 cents a piece. Prices like that practically harken back to the 1950s, and are hard to beat today. Plus, they only require a quick ride in the microwave before eating. Our store offered dozens of flavors and brands, and a number of healthier options ranging from $1–$4. They're a great item to keep in the freezer as a last minute quick meal or snack. Unless you have time to freeze your own burritos, of course.

9. Broccoli

When shopping in the frozen food aisle, you can find broccoli for as little as $1 a pound. It's a great deal regardless, but when you consider that frozen broccoli is already cut up and only includes florets, it becomes an even better deal when compared pound for pound with fresh. It's great for steaming or adding to curries and stir frys. It's also super convenient, since it's already washed, cut, and good to go.

10. Juice Concentrates

More often than not, when you look at your carton of orange juice or container of lemonade, it says "from concentrate." You can buy that concentrate in the frozen food aisle for a fraction of the cost, mix it with water, and you have the same thing for cheaper! These concentrates are especially good for making big batches of lemonade, punches, or fruit tea for gatherings. They'll also last in your freezer, so you will have everything you need to serve up a cold, fruity drink at a moment's notice.

11. Waffles

There's a reason that many of us grew up eating frozen waffles — they are cheap, easy, and quick. When feeding a family that's rushing out the door for school and work, it just makes sense. Now there are more options than ever, with whole grain and gluten-free varieties offered. They cost less than 50 cents per waffle, and even though mixing up and making waffles yourself would be cheaper in the long run, it's not by much, and the time saved is valuable. Add some fruit and yogurt for a complete breakfast for about $1 a serving.

12. Puff Pastry

To make a gourmet dessert with a low budget and almost no effort, turn to the freezer aisle. Puff pastry takes skill and hours to make, but the frozen variety bakes beautifully and is sure to impress. Use it to make flaky tarts, napoleons, or turnovers. Puff pastry is also great for savory dishes like chicken pot pie. Even the most skilled home cooks use it, since making your own is unreasonable for most people, and the frozen version is almost as good.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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