Monday, December 2, 2013

Paleo Freezer Meals

I've written about food before. Eating healthy is important to us. We tried a Whole30 Challenge a while back and loved the way we felt. Our goal is to eat a Paleo diet, but there are some real challenges. One, the kids don't like eating what we would like to eat, so I'm faced with making separate meals, eating sandwiches myself as well, or having hangry children. Typically I end up eating sandwiches with the kids. Secondly, Papa travels for work which makes it difficult and expensive for him to eat well. We got him a mini-crock pot so he can pack freezer meals which works wonderfully. However, most freezer meal menu plans I've come across make large servings and take an entire day to prepare. I don't love anything enough to eat leftovers for a week and I don't have the time or energy to devote an entire day to cooking each month.

So I came up with my own system. This system makes 24 two-ish serving meals in about two hours (including breaks for attending the kids). This is the first time I've shared something like this, so bare with me. We can get through this together!

First, the meals. I have six beef recipes we have tried and loved. All are Paleo. Five can be Whole30 compliant. Each recipe will be split into four freezer meals. Each meal makes one large serving or, more often for me, a dinner serving with enough for lunch leftovers the next day. If Papa and I both happen to be home we can throw two meals into the crock pot instead of one to have plenty.

I'm going to walk you through my process. This might get jumbled, but it will help you if you'd like to use different recipes. I write each recipe on a sticky note to have handy while assembling meals. Do whatever is most convenient for you. I have six recipes because that makes plenty of food, and I don't want to commit more than a couple of hours to the food assembly process. I tediously make a grocery list of everything which will be needed for all six recipes. If you choose to make the same recipes I have, it's your lucky day because here is the grocery list!

5 lbs beef roast
7 lbs cubed stew meat
2 lbs ground beef
6 onions
18 cloves garlic
2 red bell peppers
1 green bell pepper
2 limes
2 large sweet potatoes
1 cup green beans
1 cup spinach
1 cup carrots
1 cup celery
1 cup mushrooms
1 cup parsley
1 cup cilantro
4- 8oz cans tomato sauce*
28 oz can crushed tomatos*
14 oz can diced tomatos*
1 chipotle pepper
22 oz beef broth*
1/4 cup red curry paste
2 cans coconut milk*
2 cups burgundy wine
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
4 tsp and 1/4 cup coconut or olive oil
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp honey
1 1/2 Tbsp applesauce
1/2 cup arrowroot powder
quart sized freezer bags

herbs and spices-
chili powder
onion powder
garlic powder
4 bay leaves

*obviously if you'd like to avoid canned products you can use fresh tomatoes, home canned tomatoes, home made broth, and home made coconut milk.

I come home and dump all this stuff on the kitchen table, then set up my work station on the counter. I start by labeling four quart sized freezer bags for each recipe. You could get fancy here with labels. Fancy is not my MO, and scribbling "Curry" on the bag doesn't take too long.

Here is the first recipe I'll be assembling.

Red Curry Beef and Veggies-
3 tsp olive or coconut oil
2.5 lbs stew beef cubed
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 onion diced
4 cloves garlic minced
1 red bell pepper diced
1 large sweet potato diced
1/4 cp red curry paste
2 cans coconut milk
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 lime juiced
2 Tbsp honey (omit if you want to be Whole30 compliant)
1/2 cup cilantro minced

 I have all my things ready to go. I've put them on the cutting board here for you to see, but really everything is piled on the table to my right. 

 I open the freezer bags and start putting 1/4 of each ingredient listed into each bag.

I find that if I put the beef in first they stand up nicely. Having a handy bottle of something at the end is nice to hold them up too.

If dividing each ingredient by four is not something you want to deal with, just eye-ball it. Seriously, it's not rocket science. It's a crock-pot meal. Get the food in the bag. You can do it!  

Seal it up, press all the air out, lay flat, stack and put them in the freezer. Then move on to the next recipe.  I love this process because at any time I can stop without having committed to chopping all 6 onions at once and not yet assembled anything. One recipe at a time, one ingredient at a time. It really goes quickly.

Here's what your freezer will look like when you're done. Twenty four meals ready to go!

Here are the other five recipes. All cook times are 4-6 hours on low, 2-3 hours on high in the crock pot.

Beef Burgundy (not Whole30 compliant)
1/2 cup arrowroot powder
4 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
4 pounds cubed beef
1/4 cup olive or coconut oil
2 onions sliced
1 cup mushrooms sliced
1 cup parsley minced
4 bay leaves
2 cups burgundy wine
1 cup beef broth

2 lbs ground beef
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 red bell pepper chopped
1 green bell pepper chopped
1 cup carrots chopped
1 cup celery chopped
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
14 oz can diced tomatoes
2- 8oz cans tomato sauce
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp oregano
1 Tbsp basil
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp cayenne

Beef Stir Fry
1/2 lb beef cubed
1 1/2 Tbsp applesauce
pinch cinnamon
pinch cloves
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 cloves garlic
1/2 Tbsp ginger
1 large sweet potato diced
1 cup green beans
1 onion sliced
1 cup spinach
1 tsp coconut or olive oil
*season to taste after cooked. Papa likes to add coconut aminos for a soy sauce flavor.

Taco Roast
2.5 pounds chuck roast
14 oz beef broth
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
juice of 1 lime
*this will need some veggies to make it a full meal. Goes great over kale salad, in cauliflower tortillas, Romain leaf tacos, etc.

Beef Burritos
2 lb roast
1 onion diced
4 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp pepper
2- 8oz cans tomato sauce
1 chipotle pepper
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
*shred meat and mix with sauce once tender. Goes great over kale salad, in cauliflower tortillas, Romain leaf tacos, etc.

Cost analysis-

I bought everything on the grocery list at my local Super Target. All the beef was grass fed organic and all the produce was organic if available. I had some items and most of the spices already on hand. My grocery total ended up being $161.39. That makes each meal $6.72, and if we consider each meal to have 2 servings, that's $3.36 per serving. Not bad for using organic meat and produce, and no grains.

My goal in sharing this is to hopefully provide other parents some support in eating healthy on a budget and under time constraints. Best wishes to you all! Please let me know if this works out well for you or if I need to clarify anything.


  1. Do you cook these from frozen or defrost first?

    1. Frozen. I take them straight out of the freezer and into the crock pot.

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  3. Can you sub chicken for the beef? (not a red meat eater)

  4. I've never tried using chicken instead. I imagine it would be fine, but you might keep a closer eye on cooking times to be sure it doesn't dry out.

  5. Is it really a half a cup of arrowroot.

    1. Yes. The recipe is fine without any arrowroot, the sauce just won't be quite as thick.

  6. Do you pre-cook the ground beef for the chili or put it in the bags raw?

  7. I put the meat in raw for everything. I just kind of break it into chunks after it cooks and let it simmer a while longer to keep it from being meat loaf like.

  8. I have 6-7ish people that sit and eat at a time, I'm a little confused on how many servings per bag this makes. And if i need to double the recipe for my size of family will it take longer to cook?

  9. Thank you for all the work you put into this. It'll make life so much easier for me!

  10. Thank you for all the work you put into this. It'll make life so much easier for me!