Learn How To Plan Your
Meals To Free Up Your Time
by Aurelia M. Williams
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 refrigerating 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
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'!
Aurelia Williams is the owner of Real Life Solutions
which is a Family Resource site that was created to help you lead an emotionally
& physically healthier, more productive and less stressful life.