Freezer Meal Fun: One Saturday, 8 Recipes, Less Stress

A couple Saturdays ago, a long time friend and I spent the day together, had a ton of fun and got a lot accomplished.  Blog readers, let me introduce you to Christine.  She’s the bubbly, kick-butt wife and mom sautéing the balls in the photo below.  I don’t think she will mind me telling you that as I write this she has gone over 60 days without consuming soda and pasta – no easy feat for someone who once really loved both those things!  And she accepted my challenge last month to walk or jog 25 miles in 30 days – in fact she made it 27.5 miles!  Christine is motivated because she wants to feel great and I’m always for people I love feeling healthier, happier and generally awesome.

Over the last few months, Christine has patiently listened to me yak on and on about paleo and how awesome it is.  She is trying to move closer to it slowly rather than go cold turkey like I did – which I think is a great approach for her (Read this article – A Case for Baby Steps). Her challenges are very different from what mine were back when I started.  Having a husband and a 5 year old that also need to eat the food you are cooking makes things a little more complicated.  I had the luxury of only worrying about what I liked.  She also works full time, and by the time she walks thru the door at the end of the day, it’s hard to find the energy to make a full blown paleo meal from scratch and then go workout, especially when your family needs your time and attention too.  I might be single, but I know that juggling priorities is a common concern and very real challenge for a lot of people. And change is hard, especially when it effects those around you.

It really does take energy and commitment in the beginning to change the way you cook – I certainly experienced that because once upon a time all of the dishes I felt comfortable making were not paleo-legal.  It requires brain power and time to research and execute recipes.  So the best way I found to deal with paleo, especially for newbies, is being prepared.

Enter the freezer.  One appliance that was non-existent in the paleolithic era, but is saving the sanity of families all over the 21st century.

So when Christine decided to cash in my offer to help her cook meals to freeze, I was there!

It helps that I really like to cook; for me spending a day in the kitchen is totally fun.  I know not everyone likes cooking, but in general all activities are more fun when you do them with friends.  This day was going to be an exercise in extreme multi-tasking because we were attempting to prep 8 different recipes on the Saturday that Iowa State played the Hawkeyes.  If you’re from Iowa, you know that life kinda stops that day and everyone parties and watches that game.  But we had goals darn it and we were gonna do it all – including cheering for our Cyclones!

We started out shopping for all those weird paleo ingredients: coconut oil, coconut milk, arrow root, etc.  One of the recipes she chose was Thai Meatballs, and we needed fish sauce.  We ended up going to 3 different grocery stores to find it.  When you’re in it to win it, you can’t quit just because the first Hy-Vee doesn’t keep fish sauce.  We pressed on!

We started cooking around 11am.  Three stock pots, two crockpots and two food processors make quick work of pretty much everything.  (I was introduced to a little plastic tube gadget that made peeling garlic super easy, and now I need to buy one for my own kitchen!)

There was a slight mishap with one of the cans of coconut milk.  It kinda flew thru the air like a bird and speckled the counter, the lazy susan cabinet and the hardwood floor with a big puddle of white creamy poo.  Which meant we had to go back to Hy-Vee again, for more 🙂

We were still cooking away when the game started at 2:30pm.

We made some of my recipes including:

Marinara Sauce

Slow Cooker No Bean Chili

Healthy Pizza Casserole

There was also a sweet potato casserole and a slow cooker chicken recipe that I have used before.

We tried several recipes for the first time from a book I recently ordered from Amazon – Make Ahead Paleo by Tammy Credicott.  It is a gorgeous book with photos that will really inspire you to cook – you can see it below in the picture with the pork shoulder we slow cooked.  Aside from the pork shoulder, we made her Thai Meatballs, Creamy Green Bean, Pearl Onion and Beef Casserole and Mushrooms Stuffed with Italian Sausage in a Tomato Sauce.

My thoughts on choosing meals to freeze?

  • Soups and chilis are golden because their texture will not be effected.  They are also easy to pull out of the freezer and take to work on a day when you don’t have leftovers.  All you gotta do is warm them up.
  • Maybe you don’t have a full day to devote to stocking the freezer, but if you have time to make one meal, why not just double it?  I do this with taco meat all the time.  I love a big taco salad with seasoned ground beef, avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, green onions, etc.  So if I make one for dinner, I just make 2 or 3 times the meat I need, and freeze the rest.  Then, I can pull out the beef and easily throw together a salad in the kitchenette at work after I heat up the beef.
  • Meatballs are great to freeze for paleo snacks – in small bags with 3 each.  If you cook them for 10 min at 350 before freezing, you’ll be able to pop them in the oven or microwave and have them ready quick!
  • Use your crockpot.  Throw something in it before you go to bed, and in the morning you’ll have food – use half for lunch or dinner and freeze the other half for a meal later.
  • Be sure to label – especially if someone else might need to do the cooking.  The name of the dish and simple instructions like “Cook @ 350 for 35 minutes” can clear up a lot of confusion.
  • If you are new to paleo, pick recipes with flavor profiles you know you like.  You might not recognize all the ingredients, but a lot of recipes out there are designed to be reminiscent of stuff you and your family will be familiar with.  For example – the Creamy Green Bean, Pearl Onion and Beef Casserole Christine chose from the cookbook was basically like Tater Tot casserole without the taters.

We finished with 4:55 left on the game clock and sat down to watch the good guys (go Cyclones!) take home the Cy-Hawk trophy.

It’s too early to tell if all of the recipes will be a hit with the family but I did get a message from Christine last Thursday that made me smile – smile bigger and made me happier than seeing the scale go down ever did.  “balls and creamy beans are a hit!!!  The gr beans are soooo good!”

That’s what it’s all about people.  Food that tastes soooo good and is soooo good for you.  Food that even your 5 year old (as evidenced by the picture below) will devour (note the empty plate).  Not every recipe she tries will be good enough to make again because every family has different tastes – but the point it to keep trying and stay open minded.

So here’s to one Saturday of fun that led to a less stressful week (or more) of healthy dinners for my friend and her family.  Here’s to happy kids (and adults) eating yummy food that’s good for them.   Here’s to two women watching Iowa State beat the Hawkeyes while they kicked butt in the kitchen 😉

And if anyone is still reading and you want some ideas for jump starting Paleo meals Feel free to email or message me and we can chat!  Happy to give you tips on where to get ingredients or some ideas on how to re-make some of your favorite recipes 🙂

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Making lots of tasty balls – NBD 🙂
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pork roast recipie from Make Ahead Paleo
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happy kid = a happy mom 🙂
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