Jumping on the Freezer Meals with Beef and Broccoli

Sometime last winter I remember telling you that I had decided to date my slow cooker. I needed some easier meals and Macie was mobile so cooking was getting harder and harder. I've never been huge into my slow cooker but friends, I was wrong. I think my slow cooker is becoming my BFF, sorry to all former holders of that position - no hard feelings. If you come to my house and start cooking my dinner for me, you may reclaim your spot. No Name Baby Girl #2 has made Allen and I take a harder look at our budget (my LEAST favorite topic ever) and the food budget got the hardest look. It was an ugly day. Ugly. Anyway, after the budget talk and the weather turning cold I thought it was time to rekindle my romance with the slow cooker.

This is kind of two fold. The first fold is this - Meal Planning. I have seen lots and lots of pins about freezer meals and meal planning. You know the ones "I fed my family of eight on $125 for 6 weeks and you can too." Yeah, I'm a cynic. Here's the rub, I try not to buy processed food. I don't do whole bottles of ketchup or cans of cream of mystery soup or big bottles of salad dressing - I am not bashing if you do - don't get mad. We buy more whole foods and all organic meat. That makes it hard to feed the world on the cheap. I stumbled on a crock pot Beef and Broccoli from my fridge food and then saw a freezer slow cooker cooking day from Loving My Nest and the wheels started turning.

I found eight slow cooker meals that I felt could be frozen without losing their taste, some from other freezer plans and some that we like to eat anyway (and the Beef and Broccoli because I wanted to try it) and started making a shopping list. That is no easy task - here's how I did it.

- On the first piece of paper I wrote every item I needed to buy for every recipe, even if there were duplicates.
- On a second piece of paper I made categories like "Meat" "Veggies" "Other".  I broke the ingredients into these categories, putting together any duplicates. This got a little daunting. 

After looking over the list I realized I needed a lot of stuff. A lot. I'll spare you the details but the list led to Miranda and I taking a trip to BJs. That's a story for another day but let's just say: Beckett+Macie+Logan+BJ's Shopping trip = hilarious chaos. Logan even danced down the aisles to entertain the kids. It was awesome. You know what else was awesome? I got a ton of stuff off my list and all of the meat I needed there. There were a few things that I still had to go the grocery store for but overall I spent about $185 for everything on the list. I know that isn't the cheapest ever but it really wasn't bad for all organic food. 

Here's where I have to give mad props to Allen. I got all of the freezer bags out and labeled them with the name of the meal and the instructions for how to make it. All in all I had 12 bags because I had enough for double on some of the meals. I cut the veggies and Allen cut all of the meat for me. It made everything go so much faster. He would add the meat the bags and then I would add the veggies and seal it up. We made 12 meals in two hours. Yeah, he's a good husband.

This system has made my life SO much easier. I haven't been feeling good the last few days so the last thing I've wanted to do was either go to the grocery store or cook and luckily - I haven't had to do either. I take something out of the freezer, look at the bag - throw it in the slow cooker and walk away. That easy.

That brings me back to the Beef and Broccoli. You need to try this one. This is also the only recipe that I didn't add everything to the bag. I left the broccoli out because it doesn't get added to the slow cooker until the end. This one is really good. You need to make it. You don't even have to make it as a freezer meal. Just make it for dinner one night. It was so easy and so much less of a clean up than stir frying.  

Beef and Broccoli
from my fridge food

1 lb boneless beef chuck roast, sliced into thin strips
1 c beef broth
1/2 c soy sauce
1/3 c brown sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp sauce from the crock pot after being cooked
Fresh broccoli florets (as many as desired)
Hot cooked rice
1. Place beef in a crock pot.
2. In a small bowl, combine broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, oil, and garlic. Pour over beef. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
3. In a cup, stir cornstarch and sauce form the crock pot until smooth. Add to crock pot. Stir well to combine.
4. Add broccoli to the crock pot. Stir to combine.
5. Cover and cook an additional 30 minutes on high (the sauce has to boil for it to thicken).
6. Serve over hot cooked rice.

**If making this as a freezer meal, add the beef to a freezer bag, combine broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, oil and garlic and then add to bag as well. When ready to cook, thaw slightly and add to slow cooker and follow directions above.**