Some notes on meal planning:
I do not plan a month in advance all the time. Some times I go week to week. Like this month-after coming off a big month last month with visitors in my house and sickness-my meal planning went out the window mostly. I plan to pick it up again but for now I am just planning a week in advance.
I write my meals down on a calendar and post it on the refrigerator. Some people use a dry erase board-that way they can make quick changes or switches easily.
After I plan what meals I want…I make my list. I plan down to the snacks and drinks. I plan breakfast, lunch and supper. I usually have a couple of things for breakfast and lunch and we just rotate them. Sometimes I tweak my plan a bit after visiting the grocery store. If I had planned apples for snacks, but oranges were on sale buy one bag, get one free. Then I will change the apples to oranges.
Snack Prep examples:
On Monday, I might wash and chop up carrots, celery and broccoli and place them in a Tupperware type container and store in the refrigerator. I will also make large amounts of peanut butter crackers. I also might peal about 8 oranges and put in a zip lock bag and store in the refrig. Occasionally I will bake bulk muffins or mix up some granola or trail mix. It helps me to have snacks that are quick and easy but with the amount of people we have, I try to make it as healthy and frugal as possible – making my own peanut butter crackers is much cheaper than buying them. I boil large amounts of eggs for snacks or for use in tuna salad. When I make tuna salad…I make a lot of it and use it the next day as well.
You can freeze meals a couple of different ways. Either work up your freezer meals gradually. For example, if you are making lasagna for supper, make two of them and freeze one. It doesn’t take that much extra time..but saves a lot of time in the long run. Or you can just plan a day or two of major cooking and baking. When I do this, I never bake and cook on the same day. I have a separate baking day.
I have followed the Once a Month cooking book in the past, but now I use a couple of recipes from it and make up my own plan. If I am cooking for the month, it takes me more than a day to cook all the meals and I will have a helper come over.
It might look something like this: the last Wednesday of the month is planning day, Thursday is shopping, Friday and Saturday are cooking.
To start off, I will take a piece of paper and write down something like this:
Lasagna – 4 meals
Mexican Stroganoff- 2 meals
Pizza Bread – 2 meals
Chicken n’ rice – 2 meals
Bar-B-Q chicken -2 meals
Teriyaki chicken – 2 meals
Chicken soup – 4 meals
Chili – 2 meals
Spaghetti – 4 meals
meatloaf – 4 meals
sandwich pockets – 4 meals
This is how I plan how many “FREEZER” meals I want and how I know how much to buy. This doesn’t include the other items I will need for other meals. If I am going to make 4 lasagnas, I will buy 4 boxes of noodles, 4 tubs of cottage cheese, 2 large blocks of cheese, a huge can of sauce with enough onion, garlic, mushrooms, green pepper or what ever else I want in my sauce…..etc. etc. I will cook my sauce in a large crock pot and have my four trays ready to fill with noodles, cheese, sauce etc. Then wrap them up and freeze.
If I make meatloaf, I mix up the meat with the egg, spices, bread crumbs etc. and shape into a loaf and freeze it. I don’t cook the meatloaf before freezing. When I want to use it, I thaw it and bake it. Throw in some potatoes or steam some veggies and toss a salad…it is an easy meal that would have taken more time if you would have done it all at once.
Teriyaki chicken- if you use the frozen chicken breasts, add some teriyaki sauce and a can of pineapple rings. Drain the juice from the can. Freeze the chicken, sauce and pineapple in a zip lock bag. My kids love this either on a toasted bun for a sandwich or cut up over rice.
Marinated meats are the easiest though. If you want to marinate steak or chicken or pork chops or even fish, you can buy the gallon size zip lock bags and assemble by mixing the marinade and meat in the bag and freezing. I buy frozen chicken breasts and place them in a freezer bag with the sauce. Don’t thaw the chicken breasts…just stick it back in the freezer. When you want to have the B-B-Q chicken breasts for supper one night, you let it thaw and it does great at soaking up the sauce..pour it in a pan and bake it.
When freezing your soups or chili or spaghetti sauce….. you will need to let them cool. Freeze the bags laying flat or else you will get very misshapen frozen bags that are hard to organize in a freezer.
Label your bags or freezer storage pans with a permanent maker. Don’t forget baking instructions.
You may not want to eat a freezer meal every night. I have some nights where I make supper with the pressure cooker or where I will have something simmering in the crock pot all day.
Our job as the manger of our home is an important one. Many of us forget how important this job is.