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.)

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