Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Paleo Freezer Meals

I don't do them.  Wait, let me explain.

My sister in law sent us a big ol' batch of paleo chili in that ice cream container there in the back... yum.  It's going to be perfect for a busy weekend.  It got me thinking.

So, a lot of people like freezer cooking.  What is freezer cooking?  Well, it is defined in practice as prepping the ingredients for a recipe ahead of time, assembling and freezing them in a container of some sort (often a zip top bag - or an aluminum pan if you are the casserole type), and then simply heating and eating on the day you choose to use them.  Whether those ingredients have to actually be cooked upon removal from the freezer (because they are frozen raw) or if they are cooked before freezing depends on the recipe used.

From my perspective, it seems that most "paleo" freezer cooking recipes I've seen out there are simply marinades with the raw meat added in.  I love a good marinade.  I love dumping things into the crockpot or on the hot grill upon removal from the freezer (some great examples to get you going).  But, to me, those dump in the crockpot or on the grill meals aren't the kind of meals that take much prep anyways.

What I appreciate even more, is a completely cooked meal, ready to go.  A meal that is ready to be grabbed and thrown in the canvas grocery sack that my husband carries his food in to work each day.  A meal you can store in the freezer for weeks and then take to work to eat for lunch when there is nothing else the fridge.  Basically a meal on standby for when all else fails.

I must admit, I am not an expert on this subject.  However, I thought I would try to brainstorm a bit for what makes a good, already cooked, paleo freezer meal.  One common sense tip that comes to mind is to use meals that include meat that is in a sauce.  Why?  Because it keeps the meat moist when reheating.

Hearty soups and stews are a good example of this-

Uh, I kinda got stuck there (help me out in the comments if you can)...

So, moving on...

"Just the meat" ideas-

While spaghetti sauce is an easy one to freeze, too, my no-brainer method isn't worth doing ahead of time.  But if you have leftovers, go for it.

One more recipe came to mind-

  • crispy carnitas  (not in a sauce, but the idea is to crisp the meat up upon reheating anyways)

Or, take freezer meals to the most basic level, and just brown some ground beef or cook some shredded chicken in the crockpot and then freeze and it will be ready to throw in a recipe wherever called for (as long as you thaw it a bit).  I've never frozen whole, cooked pieces of chicken.  Maybe I am missing out.  Do they thaw well or do they get rubbery?

One thing that I like to do is to freeze leftover ingredients such as homemade chicken stock, beef broth (because I never use a whole container from Trader Joe's at once), coconut milk, overripe fruit (for smoothies, muffins, or fruit crisp), shredded cabbage, spinach, whole tomatoes, herbs, chopped celery, onion, or bell peppers. I've already shared about some of those things.  If you are wondering if something freezes well, just google it.  You might be surprised and it could stretch your grocery money a little further.  I rarely intentionally make paleo freezer meals. That usually only happens when we accidentally have leftovers.  But I frequently freeze individual ingredients for later use.

What else can we add to these lists?  Please share and let us know any paleo meals or ingredients you have found freeze well... I bet we all can appreciate some cost savings, convenience, and variety!

(Update: You can find my latest on make-ahead paleo meals on my post 10 Easy Slow Cooker Paleo Meals.)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Weekly Menu

Last week's menu had some additions because this family was hungry.  I'm thankful we had enough food in the pantry to outlast the snowstorm and create some new items (even though I didn't prepare especially for the snow and the additions weren't particularly super healthy).  I am also thankful for the new tubs of coconut oil that arrived.  This paleo family is lost without their coconut oil :)  Details on both the menu additions and coconut oil here.

For the week ahead... I had a little more time to make a detailed menu for this week (utilizing those snow days)...

giving the kids a little break from eggs every single morning
sausage & sweet potato hash
eggs & cranberry scones
coffee, raw milk

grilled gf chicken sausages
fudge babies
tuna stuffed avocados
ants on a log
banana blueberry egg mini muffins
cottage cheese
turkey, kale, onion, & sundried tomato frittata

School snacks:
pirate's booty
fruit leather or raisins

pork chops in creamy turmeric sauce, roasted green beans x2
high pockets chicken, peas
unstuffed peppers, salad with dressing
primal chicken tortilla soup, avocado
pizza (add beef & toppings), salad with dressing

Other desserts/finishing touches:
primal fudge covered frozen bananas :)
berry crisp (only use half of the sugars)

P.S. During my procrastinating on schoolwork during all the snow, I added another little page at the top about me, us, paleo, and the blog.  Come say hi!

Have a good week!

P.S. This is cool-

(sharing my menu and finding ideas here)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Snow Day Food + Our Vitacost Order

Goodness.  Hungry people around here!  My family has been playing hard in the snow, shoveling lots, and therefore blowing through the calories, I am sure!

I add in fat to their meals wherever I can in the form of butter from pastured cows, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, olives, coconut milk, fresh tallow, raw whole milk, but most people sure wouldn't guess it by looking at them!

They are eating so much.

Last week, I raided the cabinets and came up with the ingredients to make these cookies (half a batch and with almond butter), some homemade gmo free popcorn in coconut oil on the stovetop, some paleo thin mints (what??) and this pumpkin custard to follow up some meals because supper just wasn't cutting it most days.  All hit the spot.  We also made a couple batches of breakfast bread to go with our eggs on the lazy snow day mornings.  Plus, I had to buy more food by the time we got to the weekend... we made a balsamic roast (yum) and some white potatoes (gasp!)  None of that was on the original menu, which is fine, just want you to now I sometimes have to add or tweak things.

I think we will end the month of February $30 over budget on groceries and entertainment expenditures, which is not bad considering we had guests twice, did some other extra cooking for other get togethers, restocked on coconut and olive oil, etc.  But I do think we should raise our weekly limit if we can.  Or else we can just resort to eating really boring food, which isn't the end of the world, either.

So anyways, speaking of adding good fats.... our order from Vitacost arrived!  I have ordered from them in the past and have been very pleased with the quality of their products and their prompt shipping. This order was no exception.

Here's what we got-
  • two 54oz. containers of organic extra virgin coconut oil
  • one jar of coconut manna (my husband has been bugging me to get some for him to try to see if it would be a good fuel source for his off-road/adventure riding/camping trips)
  • one container of facewash (We both use this and it lasts like 2 years.  We put it in another smaller container for daily use.  They used to carry it at our Whole Foods, but no longer have the refill size.)

We got free shipping (spent $25 or more on a Vitacost brand product) and I applied a $20 off credit (on a purchase of $30 or more) thanks to referral credits from readers like you!

Total out of pocket cost: $42

So here's my take on purchasing coconut oil at a good price... I'd love to try Tropical Traditions since I've heard amazing things about it.  But I've never caught one of their really good sales yet and so I keep sticking with my more frugal options.  I have ordered from other companies online before, including Amazon, but those prices are not the best as of this writing.  Trader Joe's is an option if you don't want very much quantity.

But if you want a lot (like we do)...if your Costco has the coconut oil for $16 like ours does, then that is a great price.  If not, you can get about that same price per tub from Vitacost by doing what I have done: purchasing 2, getting free shipping, and applying a $10 discount (I usually don't do referral programs, but they make it really easy).  That should make your total $33 for two 54oz. tubs of delicious organic extra virgin coconut oil.  If you go the Vitacost route (as I have mentioned before), please sign up via my referral link and we will both get $10 off our next order!  And you can then refer your friends (only if you want) and earn credit the same way.  Super easy and it comes straight to your door.

I might have to open the coconut oil and break out the old primal fudge recipe.  It seems to be a hit on pinterest these days :)  Thanks so much for pinning and sharing, y'all!

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Primal at Aldi: Chunky Marinara Pasta Sauce

As promised, I am back to show you the EASY and CHEAP primal spaghetti sauce that we eat around here.  We take the Chunky Marina Pasta Sauce shown above and mix it with 1 pound of browned grass-fed ground beef.  Serve the mixture over some shredded zucchini (that has been roasted in a pan with salt, pepper, garlic, and olive oil), and you have my 3 year old's favorite meal, also known as zucchini spaghetti around here!

5 reasons I like this sauce:

  • as mentioned, it is relatively cheap ($1.79 per jar)
  • although making your own is not that difficult, this is still easier!
  • glass jar (not as much risk for BPA as a full aluminum can)
  • no added sugar
  • no soybean oil

I was hard pressed to find a sauce at Trader Joe's (or anywhere else other than Whole Foods) that didn't have either sugar or soybean oil added.  And they were more expensive anyways.  I think I'll stick with my Aldi sauce.  Fyi, I'm pretty sure (though not 100%) that all the other sauces at Aldi had either sugar or soybean oil on the ingredients list.

Some disclaimers:

  • This contains milk products which is why I am labeling it primal and not paleo.
  • I realize the potential exists for mystery ingredients in there with the vague ingredients such as "spices".

Anyways, I hope this helps someone trying to eat paleo on a budget, and I think I might highlight some more of my favorite wallet-friendly paleo and primal products in the weeks to come - so stay tuned if you are curious!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Weekly Menu

This past week I was lucky enough to hear the Michael Rutherford give a nutrition presentation.  Nothing like a coach to give it to you straight.  It was great.  I am so thankful that my husband's employer supports paleo living and provided the opportunity for so many people to hear life changing information.  That may sound trite, but I mean it!

I shopped at Hy-Vee, Costco, and Aldi for this week.

eggs w/ fruit or salsa (most days!)
maybe use this muffin recipe for some homemade pumpkin donuts (on our day off)
coffee, raw milk

best chicken ever
salami & goat cheese
celery & almond butter
apples, bananas, clementines, strawberries, pineapple

School Snacks:
pirate's booty
fruit leather

Sunday - crispy carnitas
Monday - dinner w/ friends, taking homemade BBQ meatballs (the sauce is not paleo, but the balls are)
Tuesday - chicken marsala skillet, roasted broccoli
Wednesday - zucchini spaghetti with meat sauce* (my 3 year old's favorite meal)
Thursday - beanless chili (maybe try this chocolate chili?)
Friday - hamburgers, sweet potato fries
Saturday - shawarma chicken salad

*So, not a lot of links this week.  I pretty much wing it on these dinners.  I do want to share my favorite  EASY meaty tomato sauce with you, though... I plan to be back early in the week with that.

And some randomness to start off your week:

Clearance jewelry at Target makes me happy.  I rarely shop for myself, so $4 earrings are special.  See, I even have to legitimize it with that disclaimer...

And while I do not think fame in and of itself is something to aspire to, I still like this song: Hall of Fame.  Kinda similar to The Fighter which I've liked for awhile, too.  And Carry On.  And Try.  (I like Pink.  Watch at your own risk).  Notice a theme?  Suck it up, keep going, keep your chin up - which is what I need to hear a lot :)  Not because my life is hard, but just because.  What about you?

Progress Report: I did my workouts 4 days last week.  They were short.  As in 20, 12, 15, and 30 minutes.  But I did something!

Homework time now.

Wishing you a great start to your week!

(I'm sharing this post at the Gluten-free Recipe Round-up and Menu Plan Monday.)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Weekly Menu

on the table

Things are in full swing for my crazy 6 weeks of class!  Just want you to know the reason for me not posting as often right now... the goal is survival for 4 more weeks and then I can breathe again hopefully!

Working out was completely nonexistent last week which is unlike me and that made me feel blah, so the goal is to do something this week :)

I did the grocery shopping at the usual places this week: Trader Joe's on Friday, and Costco, Aldi, and  little at Hy-Vee on Saturday.  I had to shave the list down to stay close to budget.  I think I did pretty well.

Also, who wants to come conquer Mt. Laundry on the living room couch?

And the menu for this week is...(drumroll)...

trying to give the kids a bit of a break from everyday eggs
berry crumble with raw milk
pumpkin muffins
scrambled eggs
coffee w/ creamer

gf chicken nuggets
turkey roll ups
hardboiled eggs
cottage cheese
strawberries, pineapple
carrots & homemade ranch
celery & almond butter

School snacks:
raisins and homemade organic popcorn

add organic salad greens w/ dressing
Sunday - steak, roasted brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes
Monday - zucchini spaghetti with meat sauce
Tuesday - lydia's sausage kale soup (no beans)
Wednesday - best chicken ever, roasted green beans
Thursday - leftovers, broccoli
Friday - baked asian style salmon, stir fry vegetables
Saturday - leftovers-filled frittata

So last week I attempted to make kale chips.  I had tried once before a few years ago and did not like them (I think I burned them) and never understood everyone raving about kale.  Well, I don't know if I have just become accustomed to these kinds of veggies lately, or if the roasting and olive oil and spices do the magic, but I tried to make some last week and the result was tasty.  I undercooked rather than overcooked them, and so they weren't quite crunchy.  My kids were not fans, but I was :)  I guess I do like seasoned, roasted kale.  (The prewashed, precut bag of kale from Trader Joe's salad section works perfect for this.)

PS - These easy peasy pancakes are the closest thing to classic pancakes I've had since going paleo.  If you miss pancakes, you gotta try em!

Have a good week!

(I'm sharing and snooping for more recipes here.)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Weekly Menu

this sure hits the spot when I am hungry!  eggs, sausage & sweet potato hash, avocado, salsa.

Reflections on last week's menu:
1. the creamer is a keeper
2. this easy chicken is delish (truly not spicy!)

Now for this week:
I went shopping and stayed in budget!  Or close enough.  I've got lots of recipe links this week for you.  We are trying a handful of new recipes.

eggs, avocado, salsa
blueberry muffins*
coffee, creamer

tuna salad w/ bell pepper scoops, sweet potato chips x2
honeyed chicken bites*, kale chips*
nitrate free mini hot dogs, carrots & homemade sour cream ranch
apples/bananas/strawberries w/ plain yogurt & roasted almonds

School snacks:
banana chips, raisins, popcorn

Sunday - hamburger vegetable soup (paleo-fied), paleo pretzels
Monday - leftovers
Tuesday - BBQ chicken in the crock pot*, vinaigrette cole slaw*, fresh strawberries, ding dongs*:)
(buns optional. my turn to cook for Bible study girls.)
Wednesday - taco salad
Thursday - sticky chicken in the crock pot, salad w/ dressing, roasted brussels sprouts
Friday - leftovers
Saturday - baked mustard lime chicken*, roasted green beans, mixed berry grain free crisp (doing this again w/ berries, enjoy it so much, going to try halving the sugar since the berries are so sweet, topping with this!)

*first time following these recipes

(sharing and finding inspiration here!)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Shopping Paleo at Costco and Aldi

I am determined to stay on track for the budget this week.

So far, I've spent $10 on raw milk and homemade yogurt from the diary farm, $12 at Price Chopper on chicken and strawberries, $10 on farm eggs, and then I made these purchases today.

Costco: $36

holy sugar, that is a LOT of honey. it is the best price around. it better last a long time.

Note to self: don't got to Costco when it is a payday weekend plus the day before the Big Game.  Redonk.

Aldi: $35

sweet potato chips are an exception for packed lunches.  great deals on bell peppers, avocados, tomatoes, & pineapple.

And I have plans to go to Trader Joe's early this week and spend $37.  I was going to wait until on my way home from work on Tuesday, but I might have to head over there tomorrow because we are planning to eat some of the items I planned to get from there sooner than that!  And that won't work if we don't have them! :)

My TJ list:
  • banana chips
  • kale
  • organic popcorn kernels
  • nitrate free beef hot dogs
  • organic apples
  • frozen mixed berries
  • red wine vinegar
  • frozen brussels sprouts
  • nitrate free bacon
  • canned tuna

We restocked our freezer with local grassfed ground beef for the month.  If I consider this week's % of that monthly purchase (comes out to $12) in this weeks grocery budget total, our grocery total for the week should come in right at $152 when all the shopping is said and done.  Not bad.  $150 is the goal.

I did buy more food than what is just purchased here, but it is for other people.  It is not going to be consumed at my house and most of it is not paleo.  So I kept it separate.  Spending an additional $30 got me the fixings for-
  • 1 full course meal for 5 adults (my turn to cook for my Bible study)
  • 1 main dish for a family of 5 that has a new baby
  • baking supplies for special birthday treats for a coworker (we take turns providing - I'm doing gluten-free surprise cupcakes with buttercream frosting... not gonna tell them they are sneaky, I know... and yes I am making them gluten free because I will have to test one, ya know.)

I'm going to count that $30 as entertaining or gift giving from the budget.  It doesn't provide any more money in the household budget (boo), but it lets me see where it is being spent when I look back.

Wanna see what is happening to all this food?  Look for the menu plan tomorrow.  Allright, I am fried.  Goodnight!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Friday Thoughts

I read a quote on one of those motivational "posters" that people share round the internet.  Sometimes I think those things are a bit over the top.  But. This serves a good reminder to me, because I don't always work diligently at things and need a kick in the rear. It went something like this-
If you only give
1/2 of your possible
then you better be OK
with only 1/2 of the possible
What do you think?  I could argue it, but that's not the point.  I get the point and it is a good one.

I made the kids take the day off (it's only preschool :)) because the they (and I) needed to sleep in after a long week.  And it actually worked and everyone woke up happy.  Amazing.  I have still been trying to be productive today (housecleaning, work, school work).   Now, I am off to run errands on a Friday afternoon/evening.  But I don't have grumpy kiddos along, so I  am OK with that.

I hope you have a good start to the weekend!

P.S. This book is on hold for me at the library.  I'm going to get it this weekend and looking forward to reading it very much!!

(affiliate link)