15 proteins to keep on hand

Getting lunch or dinner on the table easily is a key strategy when you want to cut your dependence on processed food and/or eating out. Having the right proteins on hand and having them ready without having to thaw something for two hours can make or break the deal.

Here’s how I stash proteins for ultimate convenience.


(Note: links on this page go to my food blog, oh, that’s tasty!)

In the freezer

Any meat leftovers may be stashed in the freezer for later use, but the way you freeze them will make a big difference in how quickly you can make a meal of them later. Separate them into chunks or slices, and freeze these separately before putting into bags or containers for long-term storage.

freezer meal prep; quick proteins

In addition to leftovers, here are five items I try to always keep in my freezer. They are all quick-to-thaw, and either already cooked or quick to cook.

  • individual salmon fillets
  • cleaned (deveined), shelled shrimp
  • cooked, crumbled sausage
  • cooked, crumbled hamburger – plain, or flavored with garlic, onion, salt & pepper
  • individual fish fillets such as tilapia, mahi mahi, etc.
  • cooked chicken, chopped or torn into bite-size pieces, bagged into individual servings

Because the shrimp and the fish are individually frozen, they’re quick and easy to thaw. Once thawed, all cook in about 10 minutes or less.

For sausage, I rotate (depending on my schedule and motivation) between using homemade (my recipes for homemade sausage), antibiotic-free sausage from Whole Foods, and J.C. Potter brand from Dillon’s. The J.C. Potter isn’t as “clean” as the other two options, but I do like that its ingredient list looks like something I could make in my own kitchen: no corn syrup, maltodextrin, or the like. Just pork, water, salt, spices, and sugar.

I label the cooked, crumbled hamburger and sausage, because it’s hard to tell the two apart once frozen. I divide them into individual-serving sized portions, place those in sandwich baggies, then place all of those in a labeled gallon baggie. I make them individually-sized, because I often use these when cooking for myself. If I were only going to use them for family cooking, I’d bag them in larger portions — but still freeze them in the baggie laid out flat on a cookie sheet first.

In the fridge

I always have these proteins on hand in the fridge:

  • canned tuna for my favorite tuna salad (you don’t have to refrigerate it, but this way it’s cold when it goes in the salad).
  • hot dogs or sausage to eat with sauerkraut.
  • raw eggs, for a quick scramble, frittata, or other creation, such as flourless quesadillas, or an open-face omelette with pizza toppings.
omelette pizza

These are other proteins that may show up in my fridge from time to time:

  • thawed single-serving of cooked chicken
  • thawed single-serving of cooked sausage
  • already-cooked bacon (do you know the easiest, cleanest way to cook bacon?)
  • chopped ham
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • sliced or cubed leftover pork tenderloin

Make your own list!

Your favorite protein standby list may not look the same as mine, but I hope this post gives you some idea starters for various ways you can keep meat and eggs on hand for quick, easy, healthy, meals!


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