Meal Prepping for your Busy Family

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?!

Meal Plannign for your Busy Family

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.
List of MealsBe 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!)

Family meal planning and prepping

  • 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.

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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

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I want my Baby Back Ribs

After a very short stint as a stay-at-home-mom I’m headed back to work. We’ve been a bit spoiled having me home, and have been having way more home cooked meals than we’re used to. I’ve been looking through my crockpot dinners to see what kind of meals we’ll be having when I return to the office. Tonight I decided to try out one I haven’t used before, and I have to tell you it was DIVINE!

While on Pinterest today (because, where else!) I saw a recipe for crockpot ribs. I’m pretty sure I’ve had this one my dinner board for a couple of years, I’ve just always been scared of it. It seems like ribs would be something easy to mess up. I tweaked the recipe based on a few others I read. See below! After trying it tonight, I don’t think I’ll be ordering them in a restaurant again. They were that easy, and just that good.

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Here’s what you need:

  • Package of ribs – the recipe I read said a slab would feed 6 people, but I call shenanigans on that. I’d say it feeds 4. Not even because we’re over eaters, but because you’re probably getting between 14-15 ribs per slab.
  • Can of Coke-Cola – We’ve cut back on drinking pop at my house, so I just grabbed a 20oz bottle at the checkout.
  • 1 Bottle of BBQ Sauce – Our grocery store was having a buy one – get one free sale, so SCORE!

The process couldn’t be easier

  • Cut open the package – based on the size of my crockpot, I cut the ribs in half
  • Place the ribs in the crockpot – I put them meat side down to start
  • In a bowl mix together 1 cup of Cola with 1 bottle of BBQ sauce
  • Pour mixture over ribs in crockpot
  • Set crockpot to high for 4 hours, or low for 8 hours.
  • I turned my ribs once an hour (on high for 4) and basted them with the sauce
  • Remove from crockpot, and transfer to foil covered cookie sheet.
  • Set under broiler for 3-4 minutes, then baste. Broil another few minutes.
  • PERFECTION!

Next time I make these, I’ll probably cook them a little less time in the crockpot. These were falling apart, and while that makes them delicious, they’re hard to handle, both to the cookie sheet, and to the plate. I’ll probably also make some mashed potatoes to go along with dinner. Tonight we just had some potato salad.

I can’t wait to share some more of my fabulous finds! Stay tuned.