So, this is a topic I've wanted to talk about here for some time but honestly it intimidates me. While I do feel like I've got some things figured out that work well for my family, I hesitate #1 because I don't want anyone to think I've got it all figured out and #2 because what works for my family may not work for yours and #3 there are people out there who know WAY more about this stuff and do it better than I do.
Meanwhile, I have had many face-to-face conversations about meal planning and "putting up" food (or what normal people call freezer meals). I really do enjoy talking about it and helping in any way I can. So my cousin, who I've helped with freezer meals and talked to about meal planning, asked me to put together a list of a few freezer meals and maybe some shopping list ideas for the ladies of her moms group.
After I finished panicking about my lack of qualifications, I got excited, because I really like this stuff. If one person is helped out that makes me happy. Also, I know some friends who read my blog have asked a few questions so I figure this will be a great way for me to work my thoughts out for my cousin's mom group and answer some questions some of you have asked me.
First I want to start with the why. Why I do meal planning and "put up" freezer meals:
I think I really started the habit right before Amelia was born four years ago. She and Hazel are only 15 months apart and I felt very overwhelmed by the idea of having two under two and a 6 year old plus the responsibilities of daily living. My mom helped me set up my menu planning and shopping list. In the last month before I had Amelia we filled my freezer with so many yummy meals. It helped me feel like I was at least one step ahead. And it also distracted me in my last month of pregnancy.
A benefit of meal planning for me is availability. We live about 30 minutes from "town" and our closest store (20 minutes) is a Safeway. While we actually do shop at Safeway quite a bit, it is too expensive for me to shop there for everything. Because of the distance I try to do one big shopping trip once a month with a few runs mid-month to Safeway for fresh veggies and fruit, milk, cheese, etc. This gives me more time to focus on school and other activities we'd rather do than grocery shopping. And I honestly believe that meal planning, whether weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, will save you money.
As far as freezer meals go, what mom/wife/teacher/busy-crazy-running-around lady wouldn't find it helpful to be able to pull a meal out of the freezer in the morning and only have to bake it or heat it up before being able to call it dinner? I love it! But I didn't always understand the value. At first it was a "homeschool" thing to do, but when I was able to have a months worth of dinners made in one to two days I got excited.
I don't always do my freezer meals for a month in one day. I've gone back and forth. For me it depends on the season I'm in. Lately I find that I shop for the month and do prep work for meals (chopping veggies, separating meats, cooking beans, etc.) and then try to either make double batches if it's something we'll eat more than once a month or make a few of the simpler meals to freeze.
I have a list of recipes and a few topics regarding meal planning and freezer meals to talk about here. Do you meal plan and do freezer meals? Have a favorite recipe you want to share? If you have any questions please leave a comment below. I'm not an expert, but maybe we can help each other.