It’s FMF: Freezer Meal Friday. And to kick things off, I wanted to start with the recipe for one of my very favorite make ahead freezer meals — Quick Korean Beef. I’ve never actually eaten real Korean food, so I can’t attest to this recipe being particularly authentic. But I can tell you that it is delicious!
This Quick Korean Beef is a slightly modified version of the Korean Beef recipe found on one of my very favorite recipe sites, Six Sisters’ Stuff.If you compare my version to theirs, you’ll see that I’ve omitted the sesame oil (even lean beef has plenty of fat to make this dish tasty), swapped garlic salt for fresh garlic, and left out both the green onions and red pepper flakes based on my family’s taste preferences as well as to pare down the ingredient list. This makes mine an equally tasty, even simpler version. With just 5 ingredients and zero chopping involved, it comes together in minutes. WIN. Note that I’ve also quadrupled the Six Sisters’ version so that you get several nights of dinner out of one night in the kitchen.
Quick Korean Beef
4 lbs lean ground beef (I use the 91% lean beef found in the freezer section at Costco)
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon dried ground ginger
garlic salt to taste
Brown and then drain the lean ground beef.
Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic salt to the beef and mix in thoroughly.
Let cool completely before portioning into freezer-quality ziplock bags. You can put these together as individual portions in sandwich size bags. Or, what I tend to do, is portion out the approximate amount my family of four will eat in one sitting and put it into a slightly larger ziplock bag.
On the day you want to eat this meal, you can either warm this beef through on the stovetop or defrost it on low-power in your microwave until hot. Voila! If I am thinking ahead, I like to put it in the fridge the morning I plan to serve it so that the warming process is even faster.
On the Side
This dish is wonderful served over either white rice or quinoa. I make and freeze batches of both, portioning them into individual bags since my husband prefers rice, I prefer quinoa, and the kids vary from day to day. I then warm up the bagged rice or quinoa as I’m warming up the beef on the stovetop.
I also buy pre-frozen bags of broccoli that I steam in the microwave or quickly boil on my stovetop to serve on the side. Frozen peas or green beans also pair well with the meat and rice/quinoa in this dish.
If you’re willing to do a quick bit of chopping, I’ve found that raw baby carrots give this dish an extra crunch. The bright orange and green also look so pretty on the plate together.
This data comes from divvying up this big batch into 15 individual servings (or for my family, 5 big bags. I then serve up about 1/3 a bag apiece for my husband and I and split the remaining 1/3 between my 5-year-old and 2-year-old). Also note that this data is for the beef alone. If you’re counting calories or macros, be sure to account for any grains or veggies you eat on the side.
Today I’m going to introduce you to your new best strategy for eating healthier, saving money, and spending less time in the kitchen: an arsenal of easy freezer meals. Make-ahead, freezer-friendly versions of my favorite recipes are my go-to way to feed my family.
I started freezer mealing about three years ago. A few weeks before having my second baby, Aurora, I read online somewhere that it’d be a good idea to make a few freezer meals. That way, I’d have easy, healthy options I could pop right into the oven or crockpot, even during the craziness of having a newborn to care for. Remembering my days of eating fistfuls of dry Captain Crunch and calling it a meal after my first daughter arrived, I decided this was a good idea.
So I hit Pinterest for some recipes and made about a month’s worth of easy freezer meals. We ate them in those first few weeks after Rorie came, and it dramatically changed my postpartum recovery/first weeks with a newborn stage. Being able to sit down and eat at least one filling, healthy, balanced meal each day was a huge game-changer for me, physically and emotionally. I decided I liked freezer meals so much that I was going to keep doing them every single month. Now my Rorie is almost 3, and I’m still doing a batch of freezer meals each month for my family’s dinners. 🙂
Here are 3 reasons why freezer meals work so well for me and my family. Freezer meals are awesome and will seriously change your life!
1. Freezer Meals Save You a Ton of Time.
It’s true that making a monthly batch of freezer meals takes some planning and time. But think about how much time you spend DAILY trying to not only figure out what to make for dinner but then actually making it. While freezer meals require a time investment up front, I guarantee that the TOTAL amount of time you’ll spend in the kitchen if you freezer meal will be dramatically less than if you stick to making dinner each night.
It takes me about 8 hours total in the kitchen (including washing, chopping, cooking, assembling, then cleaning my kitchen afterwards) to make a month’s worth of easy freezer meals. Think of how long you spend daily to make and then clean up after yourself each night at dinnertime. Unless making dinner = bringing home Little Caesar’s by your definition, I am sure you spend a lot more than 8 hours each month in the kitchen! Whether you’re working full time, going to school, are a parent with a whole house to feed, or some combination of all of the above, freezer meals can save you time so you can focus on other things.
How do freezer meals save you so much money, though? I think it’s because without a dinner to worry about every night, I go to the grocery store a lot less often than I used to. I make one big shopping trip at the start of each month to buy all the freezer meal ingredients, and after that I can usually keep myself to one weekly grocery run to restock on fresh things like milk, eggs, and produce. Fewer grocery store trips = less spending.
Another factor in why freezer meals help your wallet is that we waste so much less food. I portion out my freezer meals to be about as much as my family will eat in one sitting. We rarely have leftovers, and every last bite gets eaten. That feels good both in terms of my budget and from an ethical standpoint. Knowing how many people in the world go hungry, it’s nice that my family rarely throws away food.
3. Freezer Meals Can Help You Eat More Healthily.
I find I’m most likely to overeat at night, when I’m tired and sometimes stressed from all I had to do during the day. It’s easy to mindlessly dig in for seconds at dinnertime even when I’m not truly hungry. But portioning out freezer meals into amounts that will feed my family but not leave us with tons of leftovers means there’s not always the option of piling up a second heaping plate, even if that might have been my impulse otherwise.
This has also helped me in recovering from bingeing. On some late nights, having a half-pan of delicious pasta in my fridge to dive into would be tough to negotiate healthily. Not having big amounts of leftovers in my fridge at any given time helps me steer clear of binges on weak days where my head isn’t where it should be. This isn’t a benefit I would have foreseen to freezer mealing, but it’s a huge plus in my mind.
But Freezer Cooking Sounds HARD!
Here’s the thing: if I can figure out freezer meals, so can you. I’m just an ordinary person with no particular culinary inclination or talent who did something repeatedly enough that I got really good at it. Try it out and you’ll find the same happens for you after a month or two. You don’t need to be some domestic goddess or organization freak to do freezer mealing well. I, for one, am definitely neither.
I’ll admit, though, that when I began making freezer meals, I was VERY grateful for Pinterest and other people’s blogs. There are SO many freezer meal recipes out there! If you aren’t yet a freezer meal pro, the Internet is full of people who are and whose sites are full of recipes and ideas to help you along.
And if you’re intimidated by the thought of making a mass batch of meals that could last you 4–6 weeks, start smaller. Freezer mealing isn’t an all-or-nothing thing. Maybe you can make one freezer-friendly recipe a month to have on hand for especially hectic nights rather than making a mass-batch of five or six recipes like I do. Or maybe you do 3 recipes a month so that half of your meals are freezer ones while you make dinner the other half of the time. As time goes on, you can find your own rhythm of how freezer mealing works best for your situation.
Introducing Freezer Meal Fridays
There’s a lot of great stuff out there when it comes to easy freezer meals. But over the past few years of my freezer cooking experience, I’ve weeded out some of the meh recipes and found a few dozen that are outstanding, both in taste and nutritional quality. Some are recipes I’ve found online through Pinterest or other bloggers, some are recipes I’ve found online and then tweaked to make even healthier or yummier, and some are variations on recipes my mom made for my family when I was growing up. And I want to share these recipes with you! So this week I’m beginning my Freezer Meal Fridays series here on the blog and on Pinterest.
Every Friday for the next several months I’ll post a freezer meal recipe I use and love, along with pictures, detailed instructions, and nutritional data for you guys. I get asked for my freezer meal recipes a LOT by family and friends, so I’m excited to put them out there both for them as well as for anyone else who’s interested in giving healthy, delicious, time-saving and money-saving freezer meals a go.
Now, here’s a disclaimer. I blog about healthy eating, yes, but the meals I make aren’t paleo, “clean,” Whole 30, or any other real label like that. I’m just shooting for balanced and healthy. I try to incorporate whole grains, lean-ish protein, and fruits and veggies in each meal I feed my family. Overall, the meals I make are a balance of pretty healthy, pretty cheap, pretty yummy stuff. And most of all, these are EASY freezer meals, because I’m not a professionally trained gourmet chef. Sure, they may take a little time to put together, but none of the steps are complicated, and none of the ingredients I use are difficult to find. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
See you Friday! 🙂
How have freezer meals changed YOUR life? Let me know in the comments!