Back in November 2015 I decided to make myself a month-long meal plan to help simplify my life. It seriously was the best thing I have ever done. I even wrote in breakfast and lunch ideas so that, even if I chose to deviate, I had up to three less decisions to make in the overall course of a day.
In my opinion, December is the worst month for shopping (the stores are insanely busy), so I decided that year to buy all my dinner items in one big shopping trip and make them into freezer meals to simplify my meal planning even more. Now I realize not everyone can do this. My husband gets paid weekly so it is an option for me. If he got paid bi-weekly, I might buy only half the month one week and half the month another week. But this worked and I totally fell in love with it, to the point that I was still doing it two months later. Things were tweaked here and there, but, overall, the idea stayed the same. I learned not to think too big and to just stick to the idea that less is more.
That November, I found a website that had an amazing idea for planning out your meals each week (although I can not endorse the entire site, this post is the one I found useful). I liked the idea of the themes, but, I found we started eating similar meals over and over and they got boring (I’m not a repeat person). You can see the first week’s menu here.
In December, with the freezer meals, I decided to make things as simple as possible and I made two of most of them (I split them between chicken and beef) and filled in with things like sausages, chicken nuggets, etc.
Cabbage Rolls (from the THM book for the crockpot)
Hamburgers (I make them THM with no fillers – just some onion and spices for flavor)
Meatballs (again – no fillers, just onions and spices) I make my own sauce and put over rice.
Lasagna (with noodles for the family and with spinach for me) I also added carrots to make it a little healthier for the family.
Chili – my mom’s recipe. It’s super yum and I MIGHT share the recipe at some point (if she lets me, haha).
For the chicken meals, I put a whole chicken in the crockpot and made stock first, used part of the stock for Chicken Soup and used 1/4 of the chicken….then broke up the rest of the chicken by 1/4’s into:
Chicken Fried Rice (in the crockpot)
Chicken Enchilada Bake – I also added a layer of rice to make this go farther
(I forget what the last meal was – I have a feeling I just froze the chicken to make Quesadillas with but I’m pretty sure the packaged chicken is still in the freezer, haha.)
Making Homemade Chicken Soup
The Chicken Noodle Soup was from a website that is no longer available – but was just a simple recipe that, so far, everyone has loved. You make the stock by cooking a chicken in the crockpot with carrots, celery, bay leaves, and pepper on the bottom – covered with water to within an inch of the top of the crockpot. I cooked mine on low overnight. After removing the whole chicken, I took out some of the liquid, leaving enough to make my soup with. Then I added back in 1/4 of the chicken chopped into small pieces. That’s it. Sooo simple for a very yummy, good-for-you chicken soup. You can add any other spices that you choose. I’ve made this twice now and it really is very good. If you prefer noodles in your soup, I would cook them and add them as you fill your bowl. I find noodles just get too soggy if they are left in soup bases. Personal choice, though.
That was December’s freezer meals session. I did it over the course of two days. Doing the beef one night. It took me about 3 hours with prep, cooking, and clean up. The chicken probably took about the same amount of time. I forgot to document that part of it, but I think it was about the same. Creating the meals while I was making supper made the time pass better and it didn’t seem so labor-intensive.
These are just a few more ideas to add to last week’s menu plan…I’m going to be adding two more weeks worth of meals in the next little while and share about how I’m using Epicure to simplify my meals and make them healthier for the family. I’m trying to get my kids away from heavily processed foods and I’m loving Epicure’s meal options (but more about that another day).
Have you tried meal planning? What are the pros and cons for you?