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So far in my freezing meals series, we’ve talked about how planning ahead and having meals ready to go can help you eat healthier!
And we’ve gone through the specifics of foods you can freeze and which ones you shouldn’t.
So today, I thought we could talk about how to get it all done.
I’m not going to lie. It takes discipline to meal plan. I’ve started and failed many times. But… the key is that I always start again. Why? Because it’s so totally worth it! Now days I nearly always have a plan. I mean, I kind of have to considering I write a food blog and I need to have recipes to post (and they have to be delicious too, of course!). Plus I personally create the recipes for my meal planning service as well. But the benefit I’ve noticed to knowing what is going to be going on the table at the end of the week? Less stress!!
Less stress from not having to rush to the store at the last minute. Less stress because I can actually answer the kids when they ask the dreaded “what’s for dinner?” question. Less stress because I didn’t just gobble down something with little nutritional value and zero satisfaction only to be hungry again 30 minutes later.
This is by no means an exhaustive how to, because everyone is going to do things their own way, but I’ve written up the basic steps to get you started on the path to creating your own meal plans for you and your family!
- You will need to start off by deciding how often you will meal plan. Will you prepare menus for one week or one month? How many meals will you make per week? How often will you repeat meals and are you okay with leftovers? My suggestions: if you are new to meal planning start out with one week at a time. Any more than that and it can easily become overwhelming. And you may find out you don’t like some of the recipes or your family is having a hard tim adapting to eating this way and if you have too much food purchased ahead of time you may end up wasting it. Try planning out 3-4 meals a week to start with and see how that goes. You will get the chance to see how well the leftovers get used up and you will still have some flexibility if you are used to eating what “sounds good” for dinner.
- Next you will need to pull together some recipes. Following the guidelines from this post, find recipes that use ingredients that freeze well. Unless your family is super adventurous in eating, start with some basic recipes that you know they will love. This tater tot casserole or this chicken and dumplings are usually family favorite comfort foods! Gather recipes that use the same basic spices and ingredients (such as a bag of carrots you split between 2 dinners) so that you won’t have much waste. If you need some new recipes ideas, you can of course search my site :), use Pinterest, your favorite cookbook, or an old family favorite. Just be careful, it’s easy for the hours to slip away while you search the web or scour cookbooks looking at pictures of delicious food!
- Use the 3-4 recipes you gathered to create a specific grocery list, including amounts. Nothing worse than getting to the store and seeing chicken broth on your list but you can’t remember just how much you need. List out all of the ingredients and tally the amounts. Then go through your fridge, pantry and cupboards carefully and mark off any ingredients you already have on hand that you will be able to use.
- Block off 2-3 hours after coming home from the store to get to work on meal prep, at least for the first time. Once you get the hang of it, it most likely won’t take you this long any more, but you want to make sure you leave yourself time to get your meals assembled. Review all the recipe instructions and combine as many like steps as possible to save time (e.g. chopping onions for use in 2 different recipes). If you are planning to make your meals as you go, then at least plan to spend 1 to 1 1/2 hours organizing your ingredients and doing a little prep work to make things go smoothly during the week. At a minimum brown up any ground meats, wash and chop any veggies that won’t go bad, and chops any meats that need it.
And there you have it! A basic run through of how to get started in meal planning (or how to get re-started!!). What tips do you have? What questions do you still have? I’d love to continue the series if you have more questions and want to know more about meal planning!!
Does this all sound like a great idea but you seriously just don’t have enough time in the day as it is? That’s okay! I also offer a meal planning service that can seriously save you some time! For less than the cost of one fancy cup of coffee a month, I will provide you with delicious recipes for your slow cooker, easy side dish recipes, an interactive and customizable shopping list that you can use right on your phone, and all the prep ahead instructions! It starts with a 14 day free trial! If you’re ready to have me start helping you right away, you can sign up here!!
Are you ready to start meal planning? What favorite tips and tricks do you have to share?