Friday, March 1, 2013

Kitchen Clean Out- Part 2- Making a Plan

Whenever I have even considered doing a big batch of freezer meals, I lose interest when it comes to making  a shopping list.  It seemed like too much calculating.

I always feel like it will take eons to figure out how much of everything I need for the all of the meals combined verses what I have on hand.  I would be super ticked if I started making everything and I ran out of a common ingredient.  NO ONE likes to have to go back to the store.

So I was surprised when I decided at 9:00 on a Tuesday that I was going to make a months' worth of meals that day along with shopping for all of these meals.

***Again, the key is to have cleaned out your food that you have at home.  I wrote about that here in Part 1-Refrigerator/ Freezer. You will be familiar with what you have and don't have.  You won't make the mistake of thinking you have something and then go to use it and it is bad or an insufficient amount.

I have received A LOT of questions.  I am so glad there are so many people interested.  Here are the answers to a few of the most common ones:

Where did I get my recipes and what they are?
I have pinned recipes on Pinterest over the last few months. There are a handful of blogs that I follow who put up their freezer meals and I have used some of them.  I have made some of my family's favorite meals into freezer meals.  I have some recipes from Taste of Home little booklets.  They are the ones you can buy at the checkout of the grocery store.  I bought one once that was all freezable foods.

Have I tried all of the meals I am going to share?
No, I have not.  Most of them, but not all.  I will tell you which ones I have tried and which ones I haven't.

How do you have enough time to do this?
How do I not have enough time?  If  I take one day to make all of these meals and I barely have to think about or actually prepare a meal for 1-2 months then it is totally worth my time.  (My husband helped me some too!) I spend at least an hour or more a day thinking about and then actually making dinner. So roughly 30 plus hours a month. I have never made this many meals at once, but I just can't find the down side at this point.  I get one 4.5 hour preschool day a week to myself.  I typically spend the first few hours going to the grocery store and back and then unloading it all.  I am hoping to cut back on those trips and the time that I could be doing something else.  So call me crazy but I'm not wondering what were eating tonight or for the next 30-60 days!

Getting Started
When I did this, I made my plan and went to the grocery store and made the meals in the same day.  It worked out just fine, but it was probably a rookie mistake.  I also took Alaire with me to the store.  I could have cut out at least an hour or more of shopping time if I was by myself.

My suggestion would be to pick your meals and make your shopping list on Day 1.  On Day 2 do your shopping and prepare your meals.

DO NOT attempt this if you are not feeling it because you probably don't have enough room to store all of your food for more than 24 hours. Chances are if you don't make the meals right away, you won't end up doing all that you had planned.

Here is what I did.  You don't have to do it this way, it is just what I did and it worked for me.

Choose Your Meals
  1. I started by printing a blank calendar.  I Googled "meal planning calendar" and i got a blank monthly calendar template.  I printed two of them. One to use as a draft and one to write in after I was done making the meals
  2. Choose the meals that you want to make.  Print off all of the recipes that are online and copy the ones in cook books onto a piece of paper.  I think this is important to have a hard copy so you aren't getting food all over your phone, iPad or computer, while trying to look up recipes.  It will save a lot of time and help with organizing too.
  3. I then filled in the calendar with the meals.  Not to say what night I was having them, just to plan for enough.  Our family will not use 30 meals in a month, but those can spill over into the next month if they go unused.  Maybe you only want to have enough for week nights, it is totally up to you.  You know better than I do what will work best for your family.  If you are going out of town or eating out you can cross those days off.  
If I make 4-5 meals a week, then we will have leftovers, order pizza, go out, or make fresh salads the other nights.

Above is my calendar typed out and much more organized than my original.  I will be providing all of my freezer recipes listed on the calendar.

Making an Ingredient Inventory and Shopping List
  1. This is the most important part.  If you make a great shopping list that is easy to follow, then you will spend minimal time at the store and hopefully not have to go back.
  2. I go to Costco and I go a regular grocery store, so therefore my list is split between the two.  Its not complicated I promise.
  3. Take one recipe at a time and add any ingredients to the "Ingredient Inventory" list that you know you don't have or are unsure if you have the right amount.  Make sure to tally items that are really common in all of the recipes too, even if you have them, because you might not have enough of the item.  
  4. You will then take the "Ingredient Inventory" list to your pantry, fridge and freezer and cross out any items that you have or don't need as much of and update the amounts that you do need.

As you can see below this is how I did it.  I wrote out basic categories for foods.  These are also going to be in similar places in the grocery store and in my home.

To make this simple I wrote how many of an item I needed for things like vegetables and canned goods.  For meat i wrote out pounds (sometimes i just guessed how many pounds 3 chicken breasts would be). For spices and sauces I just wrote a tally of how many recipes called for it.

I went through all of the recipes and tallied up all of the amounts.  Next follow step 4 and figure out how much you have already and how much you still need.

CONGRATULATIONS!!! If you got this far, you are past the worst of it, in my opinion!!  There isn't too much thinking left to do anyway!

Finalizing Your Shopping List 
  1. Now that your Ingredient Inventory list only has needed items on it, you can type or rewrite that baby out and go to the store.  Below is a copy of mine.
  2. As I said before I shop Costco first and then to  the regular store.  There is a reason I go in that order too.  Costco doesn't always have items, so I will know what they didn't have before I go to the grocery store.  You don't have to shop at Sams or Costco, but they work for us.
  3. So, here is how I separate the list.  I try to buy meat at Costco so that goes on the Costco list, along with any item that I need a lot of, such as tomato sauce, common spices, quinoa, tortillas, bell peppers, celery, carrots, milk, eggs, shredded cheese, etc.
  4. Everything else goes on my other grocery list.  If I get to Costco and they don't have something or I think it isn't cheaper than the store I write it in on my grocery list.  
  5. I always type my list so that it is spaced out and easy to see what is and isn't crossed out.  Again I hate going back to the store, but I also hate walking back to the other side of the store for one thing.
  6. One more thing.  This is the hardest part for me.  STICK TO THE LIST.  If you are making as many meals as I did, you don't need to rack up your grocery bill any higher.
Here was my list.  The categories match the areas that are grouped together in the store.  Then I know before I leave the produce section I should have all of the items listed.

Here is the list of recipes.  I wanted to tell you what I have eaten and what I haven't, just in case you are hesitant of one of them.  Remember you can substitute or take out any ingredients your family doesn't eat.  My husband loves vegetables and tries anything, so he is easy to cook for.  I know that some of you or your families are picky or have food allergies.  We have dealt with that too, so just modify.

  1. Kung Pao Chicken- We eat this very often.  It is a staple around here.
  2. Hamburger Soup- We love this especially when it is cold out.
  3. Crock Pot Chicken Fajitas- HAVE NOT TRIED 
  4. Cashew Chicken- Love it!
  5. Crock Pot Lasagna Soup-We have eaten this twice.  LOVE IT. It isn't really soupy.  It's thicker.
  6. Cilantro Lime Chicken- So good.  We have made salads, wraps, nachos with it
  7. Crock Pot Beef and Broccoli- HAVE NOT TRIED
  8. Slow Cooker Steak Quesadillas- HAVE NOT TRIED
  9. Quiche- have made something VERY similar, so I am fairly confident in this one.
  10. Tastees- HAVE NOT TRIED BTW Tastees are sloppy Joe's from a drive through in Sioux City,IA
  11. Corned Beef and Cabbage- HAVE NOT TRIED This is for St Patty's day
  12. Minestrone-I cooked this and tried it.  Really really good.  You can leave out the pasta too.
  13. Broccoli Beer Cheese Soup- I cooked this and tried it.  It is really good, but not super thick.
  14. Jalapeno Chicken Enchiladas-HAVE NOT TRIED
  15. Pizza Burgers-HAVE NOT TRIED   I will just freeze the meat and buns separately not together.
  16. Bolognese Sauce-HAVE NOT TRIED

So here is what you have all been waiting for, the recipes.  I really hope this is helpful.  I typed them up specifically for freezer meals. The preparing for freezing instructions and cooking instructions are all included.  

Click on the links below to view and print. 

Printable Recipes with Bagging and Cooking Instructions

Print this one on sticker paper sheets and cut apart to label your bags and containers.

Printable Cooking Instruction Labels for Freezer Bags

I hope you made it through all of that.  I KNOW it was a lot, but I wanted you to have as much information as possible.  As overwhelming as all of that looked, it really isn't.  I hope at least one person makes something from that list, because it took a while to type up! (That wasn't passive aggressive at all.)

Email me with any questions or if I left something out somehow! Lairij at gmail dot com

 I will be back, hopefully tomorrow, with some tips about how to prepare your kitchen for the chopping and bagging session.  There will be lots of photos and A LOT less words.  I will also tell you some items I buy to shortcut some of the common ingredients, such as garlic and onions. (They are the worst things to cut or mince in my opinion!)

Have a great weekend!  I hope you do something fun.  We are going to attack a major project that we started last week and fizzled out on finishing!  I'll have a progress picture on Monday if I follow through. (fingers crossed!)

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