When I shared my meal plan last week, I had a few questions here and on Facebook, asking how I actually handled it all — the shopping and then the prep/cooking.
(and, yes, I realize it is NOT Monday … but getting back into the “Working Mom” routine is wearing me out … so humor me and pretend this post is getting published on Monday, m’kay?)
First of all, thee must have thyself a Husband. Ok, maybe not really … BUT, if you have little ones around, having someone to help watch and entertain them while you shop and lock yourself in the kitchen is a MUST.
I would NOT have been able to cross everything off of my list without that Man o’ Mine. . . trying to cook with children running through my kitchen drives me INSANE.
So — are we clear? I had child-care. And I don’t want to ever do it any other way.
Other than that, my plan is simple and pretty much goes in this order:
(1) Plan for the Week’s Meals
Everyone has their own way of meal planning but I tend to stick to a routine that looks more or less like this (most weeks):
- Slow Cooker Monday
- TexMex Tuesday
- New Recipe Wednesday
- Soup Thursday
- Pizza Friday
- Grill Saturday
- Leftovers Sunday
It’s a known fact around here than I’m a planner and I don’t like surprises, so sticking with a certain theme each day of the week helps me quickly choose recipes (whether from my cookbooks or Pinterest or my creations). In addition, as I pick those meals, I try to choose dinner ideas that (1) utilize ingredients I already have (cause the Husband likes me to save money) and (2) will also translate well into packed school lunches (Laura Fuentes from Momables helped me learn this last time-saving trick!).
Now that I’m working, I simply do NOT have the time I used to for dilly-dallying in the morning (or evenings) over bento lunches. So, I have been using a LOT of leftovers this year in our lunches … and, there haven’t been any complaints!
While I plan our dinners, I go ahead and plan out every other meal. Why? Because I only have time to visit the grocery store ONCE during the week. I plan for every meal and snack, and then I shop once. It’s just easier for me … plus, I like knowing (without having to rely on my tired brain cells) ahead of time what the kids are going to eat for breakfast and snacks. Not having to think before or after school is just awesome. My list just saves brain-power.
(2) Wash and Prepare Veggies and Fruit
Once I’m back from the store, I take the time to clean all of the fruits and veggies we will be using for lunches and snacks. I use a vinegar solution for things like broccoli, carrots and our fruit. It helps kill any bacteria, which in turn keeps things lasting longer in the fridge!
After everything is clean and dry, I use my (sadly lacking) knife-skills to slice apples, broccoli, etc., so that everything is ready to “grab and go” when needed.
(3) Prepare any “Make-Ahead” Entrees and Sandwiches
At this point, I deal with any meat I have purchased that I wanted to use for a “freezer stash” of prepared meals… i.e., this week, I purchased ground chicken in order to make homemade Chicken Nuggets. I am REALLY picky about chicken nuggets (that’s just one of my things) and while I *could* spend money at the grocery store for pre-made, organic nuggets, I realized this past week that it was cheaper to make them at home.
It took about 45 minutes to make 48 chicken nuggets (after shaping them, I flash-froze them in the freezer); the total cost was under $8 … way, way, way cheaper than buying that same number of organic chicken nuggets from the store. Now I have enough for quick meals or quick “Mama-Made” Lunchables.
If I needed to fill my freezer with Homemade Uncrustables (like last week), I would have made those at this point too. It takes about 10 minutes to make enough sandwiches for two weeks.
I also throw Slow-Cooker Meals into freezer bags at this time. This is by FAR the easiest task of weekend prep. I like “dump” recipes where I just open and dump ingredients into a labeled freezer-safe bag and then throw the sealed bag into the freezer. It’s awesome.
(4) Handle the Baked Goods
If I’m not utterly exhausted or it isn’t getting toward the end of a busy Saturday, I might work on a few of the baked goods. Otherwise, they get taken care of on Sunday. But, it doesn’t take a lot of time to handle those items. They tend to use a lot of the same ingredients, so I can whip them out in no time …. it’s the baking that takes awhile.
But, baking in the oven means I get to put my feet up and watch Law and Order reruns … or listen to the Husband say things like “I don’t know how you handle kids all. day. long.” Either way, not a bad time while waiting for things to finish baking.
(5) Clean Up
After the baked items are done, then it’s time to get those items packaged and frozen (if necessary) and then clean up. Yes, it takes a few hours out of my weekend, but it frees up SO MUCH TIME later during the week. Practically every meal is ready to go after a busy school and work day. Every meal ready to go…. did you catch that? Every. Meal.
Maybe at some point, I won’t need to do so much ahead of time. I’ll have children that are self-sufficient and time will be my own and I’ll be (once again) able to enjoy cooking our evening meals without crazy, loud, boisterous little people running between my feet.
But, that time has not arrived and right now…. Mama needs to do whatever it takes to keep her sane.
Weekend Prep Work
- Grocery Shop while the Husband baby-sits. (mwahahahahaha)
- Wash Berries and Wash/Slice Apples
- Make and Freeze Homemade Chicken Nuggets
- Make Beef and Bean Burrito Filling (I ended up using half that same day for a Tex-Mex Pizza and then I froze the other half for Burritos on Tuesday)
- Make a Slow-Cooker Pasta e Fagioli Soup Kit and freeze
- Make and freeze French Toast Sticks, Pancake Muffins, Zuchinni Bread, Pumpkin Bread
- Make and freeze French Bread Dough (using dough setting of bread machine)
- Breakfast: Pumpkin Oatmeal with Roasted Almonds and Cranberries
- Lunch: Homemade Uncrustables, Cucumber slices and Homemade Ranch Dip, Apples and Strawberries
- Dinner: Slow-Cooker Cranberry Pork, Oven Potatoes, Salad
- Breakfast: French Toast Sticks and Fruit
- Lunch: Organic, Nitrate-Free Hot Dogs, Cucumber and Carrots, Raspberries and Oranges
- Dinner: Beef and Bean Burritos, Homemade Corn Chips with Salsa, Guac, and Sour Cream, Salad (package leftovers for Wed Lunch)
- Breakfast: Yogurt Parfaits
- Lunch: Burrito, Tortillas & Salsa, Cherry Tomatoes & Carrots, Oranges
- Dinner: Homemade Chicken Nuggets, Corn on the Cob, Broccoli Salad (pack leftovers for Thurs lunch)
- Breakfast: Pancake Muffins
- Lunch: Chicken Nuggets & Ketchup, Corn on Cob, Broccoli Salad, Blueberries and Oranges
- Dinner: Slow-Cooker Pasta e Fagioli Soup (new recipe in development), Homemade French Bread, Salad
- Breakfast: Freezer Smoothies
- Lunch: Leftover Soup in Thermos along with Pumpkin Bread, Veggies and Dip, Fruit Skewer
- Dinner: 3-Cheese Pizza with Perfect Whole Wheat Crust, salad
- Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Bacon and Fruit
- Lunch: Sandwiches and Veggies
- Dinner: Pulled Pork Sandwiches (using leftover Cranberry Pork from Monday), Salad, Sweet Potato Fries
- Breakfast: Oatmeal
- Lunch: Out after Church
- Dinner: Leftovers
Snacks During the Week:
- Air-Popped Popcorn
- Homemade Chips & Salsa
- Pumpkin Bread
[exceptional-citing quoted=”rachel” template=”bubble-gray” date=”” ]Do you have any other questions for me about my Weekend Prep process?[/exceptional-citing]
disclosure: some affiliate links used in this post