I’ve got a new attitude…about meal planning and prep that is!


After cooking in bulk in for the last year making individual meals, in individual containers and filling the freezer, I realized there must be a faster, more efficient way to do this. And once The Bump arrives, there will be no cooking for 6 weeks. I made this decision, and now it’s going to happen, in practice. We have a deep freezer, a broken, non-working deep freezer. One that I have been trying to unload for months now with no success. I have found a new one that I want, but we can’t get it until this broken one hits the road.

So until then, I am doing this plan on a much smaller scale. So here’s how my process works:

1. Figure out what we want to eat, plus locate some new recipes. I try to add at least one new recipe per week, that way we are not always eating the same ole boring meals every night.  Currently I am doing this every week…but once that freezer gets here…this meal plan will last us up to 2 months if I plan right.

2. Then I make a list of what goes into each meal. Then I shop in the pantry, freezer and cupboards to see what I already have, and cross it off. That way I am not buying a 4th can of black beans because my baby brain can’t remember if I’ve got them or not.  I also make a list of what we’ve got for other meals like breakfast and snacks.

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3. Then I compile all of what’s left into a master shopping list I created in excel, with how much of each item that I need.

meal planning shopping list WB

 

4.  Now for the fun-ish part…Shopping!  I print the above list, and write in how much each item costs as I go, and then I can keep a running total of how much this is going to cost me, before I get to the register.  And then I can track big picture, I will know how much each meal costs me to make, if an item was on sale, if I had a coupon, or when the last time I bought pantry items was.  the items with a $ in the notes column is an item that I was able to get at the Dollar Tree, saving anywhere from .02-.98 per item!  Those items are usually packaged smaller, but then I only pay for what I need right now and don’t end up sitting on pantry items, or the like for weeks at a time without using them.

5. When I get home I input the prices into the spreadsheet  and also enter the receipts into quickbooks.  We use that to manage our household finances…The Hubby is a CPA after all.

6. COOK!  or Prep!  I assemble the ingredients for each meal and slice, dice, and chop and get it ready to go into the bags.  I write on the bag the name of the meal, and the date it was prepared; along with any other special instructions or additional ingredients that are not freezer friendly onto the bag and then I fill em up!  squeeze the air out and stick it in the freezer.  Remember to freeze the bags flat so they stack better.

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Then on cooking day I just pop in a slow cooker liner into my crockpot and dump the contents of the bag in, and turn it on!  I will usually take the bags out of the freezer the afternoon before so that it has some time to thaw a bit…otherwise getting that huge bag into the crockpot would be a nightmare!   Also remember to add any of those additional ingredients listed on the bag.

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The meal shown above is our favorite.  I know I’ve featured it on here before, but I’ve never prepped in and then frozen it.  So I am curious to see how this goes.  But I will share the recipe again for you, as what is pictured above is different than how I usually make it.  And that is why I love those “kitchen sink” meals..you know that ones that you can make different each time, different protein, a new veggie…

Zucchini Skillet (as pictured above)

In the bag:

2 lb ground beef

4 small zucchinis, sliced

1 can of diced tomatoes, I prefer the Fire Roasted, but I had a garlic & basil flavor so that is what I used

1 bag of Southwest blend veggies (black beans, corn, peppers & onions), I usually just use black beans call it good but the extra veggies are a bonus!

Serve with:

rice – I make mine in the rice cooker per the cookers directions we use 2 scoops, and each scoop is just under 2/3 a cup

shredded cheese, I like the colby jack, and I cover the top of it in the skillet, so I would do the same here in the CP, cover it in cheese and stir it up prior to serving.

I always freeze the left overs, and it freezes really well.  We usually eat it with tortilla chips, dip style but I love just diggin in with a fork!!  The one pictured above has chicken in it, and some pinto beans for an extra kick of protein.

In this week I planned on make lots of new recipes along with some old faithfuls!

Penne Rosa (4)

Chicken Parm (6)

Meatloaf & veggies (5)

NEW! Savory waffles with turkey and gravy (holy cow was it good!) (5)

Cheesy chicken & rice (4)

NEW! Chicken & dumplings (6)

NEW! Balsamic & brown sugar Pork chops with sweet potatoes (4)

NEW! Chicken & stuffing (4)

Zucchini skillet (8)

NEW! Overnight apple cinnamon oatmeal (5)

Most of these meals will make 4-5 servings, so we each get 2 dinners, and then The Hubby will get a lunch out of it totalling around 51 meals.  And seeing as I still have 7 or so meals in the freezer we’ve got dinner every night for 2 months.  Not to mention the ingredients for Sweet & sour chicken, and about 36 burritos (breakfast & chicken, bean, rice & cheese)

I have perfected this process over the last year, and then I totally turned it upside down and started all over.  But much prefer this process as I spent an hour this afternoon and did the Chicken & dumplings, currently in the crockpot, the double batch of zucchini skillet, and the cheesy chicken & rice, which gets divided into two bags.  This is much faster as compared to the previous method which was always a 3 hour endeavor as everything got cooked and then split up.

Do you cook in bulk?  Do you prepare freezer meals?

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “I’ve got a new attitude…about meal planning and prep that is!”

  1. I would like to make your zucchini skillet recipe, but I’m not sure I understand the recipe. I want to make it as a freezer meal. Do you cook the ground beef ahead of time? Then put all the ingredients in a bag to freeze? Then how do you actually cook the meal? Is it done in a skillet like the name? Or a slow cooker for 3-4 hours like what’s written on the bag? You can email me any more tips or suggestions for this recipe! It looks delicious in the picture!! Thanks,
    Ashley (ashley.rose.stroud@gmail.com)

    1. Both actually! I would normally cook it on the stove, so when I froze it everything was already cooked. This time, I wanted it as a freezer meal so I did not cook the beef, or veggies ahead of time. I put all of the veggies, beans and beef in the bag and froze. Then added the rice about 20 minutes before serving and it cooked perfectly. You cook pre-cook the beef to make it easier, but I had no issues with it. It does depend on the temp of your crockpot, so keep an eye on it. but I believe that it took about 4 hours for the whole thing.

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