A couple of Fridays ago I shared that I was returning to work after a short stint as a stay at home mom. My return day came faster than expected, so Thursday was meal prep day. Meal prepping is one of the activities that allows us to keep our household running smoothly.
Why? By having meals, or meal components, pre-prepared we’re able to get dinner on the table quickly. Think about a standard night, you get home from work, and start dinner. How much time could you save by having a few steps already out of the way?!
The first step for me in meal prepping is actually planning the meal calendar. Usually I sit down and make a list what we like to eat. Normally on my list I’ll note how many times we’ll plan on having a particular meal, for instance, we’re probably having cheeseburgers more than once in the month. On my list last month I just make a quick note out to the side of each meal for the number of times we would have it. This was a shortened version of the list I made last month.
Be sure to write down everything you think you will have. For us the boys are in summer school, so I don’t have to specifically plan for lunches. We do a combo of home and school lunches. For July meal planning, I’ll have to plan for more meals, because they’ll be home during the day.
I usually try to think in regards to type of meat and work through that way. I start with ground beef and decide how I’ll prepare it. Normally I know I’ll brown most of the ground beef, so I can plan meals that way. From there I think about some other options, such as hamburgers because I can pre-make the patties, and meatloaf because I can mix it up, and form it to place in the freezer. From there I move to chicken and the various ways we might use it. Shredded chicken, and other portioned types. We make several different Chinese food dishes for I might cut the chicken into 1″ cubes and individual freeze before placing into a single pack for storage.
Ok, once I’ve decided what we’re having, I can start planning for the grocery store trip. We shop at Sam’s Club, I know there are lots of opinions about the value of one of these memberships, but we LOVE ours. On this most recent trip I purchased 2 trays of chicken breasts, approximately 12 pounds of hamburger, chicken legs & thighs, 1 slab of ribs, shoulder roast, pork tenderloin, beef hotdogs, and a HUGE pack of pork chops. (We bought other items such as fruit, bread, and other needed stuff)
When I got home I set out to really get to prepping. Below are a couple of tips I’ve picked up along the way (I don’t implement all of them, but I will be doing more!)
- Extend your ground beef – when browning your ground beef add grated carrots. This was a new one to me, but it can significantly beef up how far your purchase will stretch.
- 2 cups of browned ground beef equals approximately 1 lb. (This is handy for when you’re ready to divide for freezing)
- Add your onion and seasonings when browning your beef, this helps with flavoring for when you’re ready to use!
Random, but this is literally the largest skillet I’ve ever used! In that pan to the left is a full SIX pounds of ground beef for browning.
I already had some frozen chicken breasts in the freezer, so I dropped 6 frozen chicken breasts into the crock pot, turned it up on high, and put a little water in to the bottom of the crock pot. (There’s also a lot of discussion surrounding putting frozen meat into the crock pot. We’ve done it a number of times, and had no problems.) I left the crockpot on high while we ran our errands for the day, making sure to separate and rotate the breasts during cooking to ensure they were cooked through. Once I was sure they were done, I busted out the hand mixer, cause it’s the most genius trick I’ve learned in this process! I forgot to take a picture, but 6 chicken breasts netted us 5 quart size freezer bags. We’ll use these for quesadillas, tacos, and shredded bbq chicken sandwiches. (I’ve cooked up to 12 chicken breasts in the crockpot previously to divide and freeze, I just had 6 on hand before the trip to the store).
Once the hamburger was browned and drained, I divided into quart size freezer bags. I should have stacked the bags differently so you could see, but there are 7 equally appointed bags, ready for the freezer. I always squeeze as much air out of the bags as I can, then lay them flat and press the contents as flat as possible. These individual bags are then placed into a gallon freezer bag. Helps me keep the freezer tidy. The other package was used for hamburgers and a meatloaf, also stored in my freezer.
Whew, that was a lot of work! I will undoubtedly be glad I did it when it’s time to eat it all up. I’ll be back soon to share some of my favorite recipes for freezer cooking, which is another part of the meal prepping process