First, some background. Indulge me while I stress out a little bit…or skip down about five paragraphs to the cooking details.
For the past few months, I’ve been coping with a nagging shoulder injury. After the initial acute flare up in August, I’ve had sharp, stabby pains during attempts at movements like pull ups and handstands and a general low-level ache in the shoulder and surrounding area. Neither symptom was relieved with rest, ice, mobility work, NSAIDs, muscle relaxants (so soporific that trial only lasted about 24 hours), or various attempts at strengthening stability muscles, i.e., physical therapy. When my best efforts to fix myself met with no success, I made an appointment with UVa Sports Medicine. Cue a whirlwind holiday season that kicked off with a shoulder injection and an MRI and ended with an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon. The verdict? Proximal tear of the biceps tendon.
My options were a) don’t get it fixed, but also stop most of the activities I really enjoy doing; b) keep doing what I enjoy with chronic pain and weakness and probably eventually rupture it and then choose option (c); or c) have surgery (a biceps tenodesis), spend 4-6 weeks in a sling, followed by a few months of physical therapy and rehabilitation and, if all goes well, be back to 100% pre-tear strength and mobility within 6 months.
While the surgery is completely elective, I had planned on having at least 30+ years to continue to train hard and heavy…so surgery it is! I’ll be going under the knife on January 23.
In the grand scheme of things, 6 months is pretty minor, especially as I’ve already spent nearly 5 months training with and around a nagging injury. My biggest fears are the stab of the initial IV and seeing the bloody bandages post-surgery. Beyond that, 4-6 weeks in a sling will be a challenge, especially as my initial condition will put more coaching demands on Michael at Solidarity CrossFit while simultaneously reducing my ability to help out around the house.
We could just say “F it!” and eat out all the time, but that poses its own challenges, gets old pretty quickly, and would quickly blow our budget (which will already need to accommodate increased expenditures for my surgery and subsequent physical therapy). So, with 2 “free” weekends to prep for surgery day, I did what any type-A compulsive planner who enjoys cooking and eating would do: I embarked on a manic frenzy of grocery shopping, chopping, and freezing in my best attempt to to prepare us for the roughly 6 weeks during which I will be at significantly reduced work capacity.
Without further ado, the details on Paleo Freezer Stock 2013, or, as Michael has dubbed it: countdown to ARMageddon.
Prerequisite: freezer space. We were fortunate to get an old, but highly functional (and spotlessly clean!) basement freezer when we bought our house, and it has enabled us to buy meat in bulk AND facilitated my current craziness.
Inspiration: I’ve been reading lately about the notion of “once a month cooking,” initially through the mention of “Once A Month Mom” on Stuff I Make My Husband’s site. I was intrigued by the idea of freer weekday evenings, and Erica from SIMMH had some success adapting the technique to paleo cooking, but, lacking external motivation, I never really pursued the idea. Instead, I just encouraged all of my pregnant friends to look into it, as it seemed like a really great idea (for someone else to do…).
While I liked the idea of a big once a month cook up, it was still a lot of work. I wanted food in my freezer now. Enter the From Your Freezer to Your Family (FYFTYF) cookbook from mama and baby love. I liked the idea of just taking pre-chopped ingredients and spices, shoving them into ziploc bags, putting them in the freezer, and dumping them in the crockpot with a little bit of water/broth when necessary. Plus, because she is a Weston A. Price enthusiast, most of the recipes are already grain-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free. I quickly purchased her ebook early Friday evening.
By late Friday evening, I had a few labeled Ziplocs filled with food ready for the slow cooker nestled in my freezer, and I was hooked. I didn’t even know if it would taste good, all I knew was that there were meals in my freezer, and that was good enough for me! At this point, I became so inspired (unhinged?) that I decided that any recipe I had or could find that was moderately crock-pottable could also be frozen. And so began a Saturday trip to C’Ville Market for produce, Whole Foods for some meat (pretty sure the lady was secretly judging me for the quantity of meat and paucity of vegetables in my purchase), and Trader Joe’s for a few bonus items.
24 hours later, I felt like I’d just come off a busy shift waiting tables, but was pretty proud of the results: more than 80 meals prepped and key ingredients for a dozen others at the ready. While much of the food was for eating this week, the majority of it went into the freezer, giving us the equivalent of lunch and dinner for about 10-12 days, or at least the first week and a half when I am most incapacitated. I plan to do another, probably less insane, cook up this weekend, with the hopes of having a solid 2-3 weeks of meals in the freezer. And one source of post-surgery stress? Pretty much gone…
I like variety, and consequently did not duplicate any recipes (if your goal is more food in the freezer in less time…duplicate/double). Most of these will yield 4-6 servings (conservative estimate), and can stretch to 6-10+ if you don’t eat as much as we do or don’t put as much emphasis on protein. Here’s what’s in my freezer now:
To dump, fully frozen, into the crockpot:
Italian Pot Roast (from Primal Blueprint Cookbook) (halved)
Cumin-Cinnamon Beef Stew (from FYFTYF)
Healing Chicken Soup (from FYFTYF)
Ginger Cranberry Pork Roast
Pork with Butternut Squash (from FYFTYF)
Moroccan Chicken Stew (from Primal Blueprint Cookbook) (1.5x original recipe)
Unfreeze, prior to tossing into the crockpot:
Slow Cooker Chicken Makhani (halved the recipe and substituted coconut milk for the dairy; froze sauce and chicken separately)
Require dethawing prior to baking in the oven:
Crispy Roast Chicken with Artichokes, Turnips, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Make Ahead Salmon Packets with Green Beans, Tomatoes, and Olives
Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry (cook on stove top) (omitted corn starch, substituted coconut crystals for brown sugar and used wheat-free Tamari)
Most of these already contain a veggie and some starch. For those that might need a little “extra” to fill out the meal, I will either cook a pot of rice or bake some potatoes or sweet potatoes on the side. My intention is to make notes on what goes well and what performs less than optimally, or what might be easily adapted for better performance.
If you have any recipe suggestions, or something you’d love for me to try freezer-to-crockpot-style, send ’em my way!