This weekend I decided to sit down and give my meal planning and prepping another go. So far, so good. Although I discovered I need to do it over a couple days, and by myself. I need the place to myself! My husband ended up having yesterday off, which was when I had planned to do all my prep work. For some reason, having him home really threw me off my game. It drove me nuts! And it isn’t like I didn’t get everything done—for some reason it was just very distracting. And maybe, if we had gone shopping earlier in the day Sunday I would have been able to do the prep that day as well, but I was so over it (I really don’t like grocery shopping) that I just didn’t care. So, I need a day for shopping and a day for prepping.
Here you can see where I decide what meals I want to make and what I plan for lunch and snacks for the week. Also at the bottom I wrote down what I would have to prep on Sunday as well as what needs to be done next Sunday (placing frozen meals in fridge, etc.)
Anyway, I decided to share with you my process. I started Friday afternoon by sitting down and planning out two week’s worth of meals. In order to do this, I needed my cookbooks, my schedule, pen and paper and some peace and quiet. I typically plan three full meals each week. My husband works evenings three days a week and I just don’t see the point in me cooking a full meal if he isn’t here to eat it. So I eat leftovers or a sandwich—something easy. On the days I do cook, I look at my schedule and decide which days I need something to be simple and easy and which days I can do a little more involved cooking. For example, tomorrow I work 8-3:30 and I know that by the time I get off and home I’m not going to want to go all out (especially since Thursday I work at 4:45am), so I prepped some casserole yesterday that I can just throw in the oven. Saturday, however, I get off at 2:30 and will have plenty of time that evening to cook, so we are having meatballs! I plan what to cook according to what I work that day. I also plan lunches and snacks for work. Another thing I like to do to make it easier for myself is to use the same main ingredients. Next week we are having chicken fajitas and chicken stew. I only had to buy chicken for next week’s meals. It makes it easier for me at the grocery store, not having to pick out a bunch of different meats (plus, I don’t have a ton of freezer space, so I can’t go buy 5 lbs of chicken and only use 1 lb of it. I wouldn’t have anywhere to store the extra). So what I did was gather all my cookbooks (which I keep in a nice little container on my counter), get my notebook, pen and a cup of coffee and sit down at my kitchen table to pick out meals. Once I picked out meals, I went through the recipes and made my list. I organized my list according to departments at the store—produce, meats, dairy, etc—and ordered it for which department came first. This way I don’t have to backtrack.
My grocery list. You can see it divided out into departments, as well as my prices next to each item and the circled items I couldn’t find.
My next step was to go grocery shopping. My favorite store here in town is Food 4 Less. I like it so much better than Walmart. It’s less busy and I don’t feel like I’m congesting the aisles when I stop to compare. I like to bring a couple of my own larger bags so I can pack more stuff in it. At Food 4 Less you bag your own groceries (which makes me happy because I can do it my own way!) so it’s easier to bring your own bags. We also shop with a budget in mind. I brought my grocery list, divided out into departments. I wrote down the price of everything, rounding everything up to the nearest quarter of a dollar. (If something costs $3.79, I round up to $4.00. $2.17 gets rounded up to $2.25. You get the idea.) It allows me a little bit of wiggle room when it comes time to pay the bill and it’s also easier to add. Speaking of adding, I add up my total at the end of every department. Once I get to the end of my produce list, I add the total. After I get all my meats, I add the total. Then at the very end, I add all my department totals for a grand total. There are certain things I can’t get at Food 4 Less (my shampoo and conditioner) or things I know for certain are quite a bit more there than at Walmart (the dog food we buy). These items get put on another list. Also, if I can’t find a certain item, I will circle it on my current list and transfer it to my other list after I’m done at that store.
The final step—MEAL PREP!! This is the most time intensive, but hopefully worth it (I’ll let you know what I think in the next couple of weeks). First things first—start with a clean kitchen and lots of clean bowls, cutting boards, utensils, storage containers, etc. Then, gather all your recipes (if you marked them as you were picking them out earlier it shouldn’t be too hard). I used recipes from cookbooks, magazines, and my own handwritten ones. Gather them all. Figure out what all you need and the best order to get it done. For example, I made some Make-Ahead Mac and Cheese, chicken salad and Ricotta Meatballs (thanks to Real Simple magazine) as well as some slow cooker chicken fajitas and a chicken stew, both of which I prepped and put in the freezer, since those are for next week. I decided that the mac and cheese needed to be first, since it needed to be cooled before I stored it in the fridge for dinner later this week. While the noodles boiled I made the chicken salad because it was simply mixing ingredients. It took a whole five minutes. I then started the cheese sauce for the mac and cheese, put it all together and set it aside to cool. Next came the chicken fajitas and chicken stew—both of these needed cubed chicken, so I cut my (raw) chicken and divided it into my freezer bags. Both of these also need onion—one needed it diced, the other sliced. So I cut an onion in half, diced one half, sliced the other and put them in the appropriate bags. From there I added the rest of the ingredients to those meals, closed the bags and put them in the freezer. After that came the meatballs, and last but not least I chopped a pineapple. Make sure everything is labeled appropriately. Also, be very careful when using Ziploc bags for freezing meals, especially when those bags are full! I was extremely careful and I still had one spill! It was a long 2-3 hours, but I now have all my major meals for the next two weeks prepared. All they need is to be cooked. Also, for next week’s meals (which are frozen) I simply have to pull them out of the freezer and place them in the fridge to thaw. Hopefully it will be worth it!
My cookbook display in my kitchen. Isn’t it cute?