Learn How To Plan Your Meals To Free Up Your Time
Meal planning and bulk cooking are both wonderful techniques you can utilize and modify to fit your families needs. The idea behind this is simple. The principle is that you cook and or prepare your meals ahead of time and then preserve them by either freezing or fridgerating them. Also, meal planning you can cook one large meal and get 2-3 other meals out of it! The key here is to make every meal you cook count!
When you are going to prepare a family favorite, double, triple, even quadruple the recipe if it will keep in the freezer. Sound wonderful doesn?t it? Why not give yourself a much-needed break -- cook ahead today so you can relax tomorrow!
The first step in meal planning is always the most challenging. To make it less challenging I suggest that you grab the following supplies: Pen, paper, your personal recipe collection or your favorite cookbook and a comfortable chair.
Start by writing down a list of your favorite meals and plan on preparing a grocery list that will coincide with your list. Now, since we are talking bulk cooking here ? if you normally would serve up one pot of spaghetti ? plan to serve 2 (that would mean that you will have to double the recipe ? so be sure to alter your shopping list accordingly) ? It will take the same amount of time to cook ? just a little extra planning is needed.
Next you can use a blank calendar and simply write the meals down on the day you will serve them. I personally post my meal plan up on my refrigerator for the entire house to see. This also helps to prompt me for the next day of meals that will be served.
The most important tool in meal planning and bulk cooking is your freezer. If you have a small freezer, don?t fret; you can fit many meals in that small freezer space ? it will just call for a little more creativity on your part. With the use of freezer bags, that you can stack flat and the use of some freezer proof containers you will be surprised at how many meals your freezer can hold.
Here are a few essential and widely used meal planning techniques and tips:
Multi-recipes ~ Using this strategy requires you to cook many main course meals in one day. For instance, on a Sunday morning you could prepare a roast in your Crock pot, some spaghetti on top of the stove, a baked Chicken in the oven and perhaps a nice salad. You also could quarter and boil some potatoes, cook some rice and some veggies (either fresh or canned). What you now have is 5 different meals that you can use throughout the entire week. You can eat one of the meals that very evening and you could Freeze or refrigerate the rest. This technique works very well for some people and it provides a wide variety of dishes that you can use. I personally use this technique from time to time. I usually do my multi-recipe cooking on a Sunday and it can take up to 5 hrs to complete but what you are left with is 2 weeks worth of food that you can enjoy. And notice that the meals that I use in my Multi-recipe list are easy to prepare.
One Cook Wonder ~ With this strategy you would cook one main course recipe that can be used for different meals. For Instance, let?s say you just baked a large turkey. You could slice some of the turkey off and serve the breast with gravy, dice some of the turkey and prepare a turkey gumbo and use the rest for either a soup or turkey salad. Mind you, you do not have to prepare all of those meals on one day. After the Turkey has been cooked and cooled, you can freeze and refrigerate the turkey that you cut off the carcass and prepare your other Turkey related meals at a different time.
Quick and Easy meals ~ Be sure to incorporate those quick and easy meals into your planning process. If your family loves Sloppy Joes ? cook up the sloppy joe meat in bulk and freeze it ? then all you need to do is defrost the meat, grab some buns and viola.
What about Hamburger Helper? Why not cook 2-3 boxes of it, separate it into 3 separate large containers and freeze them. That idea alone allows you to prepare 3 meals in just 30-minutes.
Designate a meal for a particular night ~ Every Friday night in my house is either Pizza or burger night. The idea here is to choose any night of the week and just designate a meal to go with that night. I always make sure that I have plenty of Frozen Pizza?s with a variety of toppings on hand in my freezer. The same goes for those Turkey burger patties (my family doesn?t eat much ground beef). The idea behind this process is that you now have one night?s meal already planned. You can also stock up on that meal when the products are on sale. If you see Frozen pizza?s being sold in bulk, grab them up!
Love your leftovers ~ This is one of my favorite parts of meal planning as it allows you to use your imagination. At least every other week or so be sure to go through your refrigerator and take inventory of what you have in there. When you combine 2-3 leftovers, you may find that you have a meal right there. You can use left over pasta from spaghetti to prepare a pasta salad, leftover spaghetti sauce and just a few pieces of chicken can be a wonderful dish to top with cheese and place in the oven. Again, with a little imagination ? you can make your leftovers work for you!
Use the sales paper ~ everyone loves a good sale and I use the sales paper to help me in my meal planning. When I see our Family favorites on sale ? instead of buying one, I will purchase 3-4 of the same items and simply come home and prepare the meals or freeze the food that I purchased. My family and I love Chicken. When I spot whole chickens on sale I?ve been known to purchase up to 5-6 at a time. Keep in mind that I have a family of 6 and in my family of six; there are 3 teenagers (and you know how much they can consume). By shopping like this, I actually save hundreds and hundreds of dollars a year in food alone!
Labels/freezer bags/Freezer-proof containers: Be sure that you have all of your freezing and refrigerating needs on hand. When storing food in freezer safe containers be sure to place a label on the container with the name of the meal and the date the meal was prepared.
Crockpot: This handy appliance is my best friend in the kitchen. When using a crockpot you literally prepare the meal, place it in the crockpot, Set it & Forget it. It is a hands free cooking experience. I cook whole chickens in my crock pot and then slice the chicken up to freeze and use for sandwiches, enchilada?s, chicken salads, chicken soup, chicken stew.. as you can see ? the possibilities are endless.
As you can see, meal planning is a money, sanity and time saver - what else could a busy mom ask for?
Now, let?s get Cookin?!
About the Author: Aurelia Williams is the owner of Real Life Solutions http://www.reallifesolutions.net which is a Family Resource site that was created to help you lead an emotionally & physically healthier, more productive and less stressful life.