The Make-Ahead Meal-Plan Experiment

Earlier this month, I made this post on Facebook:

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It’s a beautiful set! I can’t wait to sit outside with my tea <3.

At the time there seemed to be some debate as to whether or not I understood what my husband actually meant :P. It was great fun, but none-the-less I took it upon myself to really try to be more efficient with our food purchases and consumption.

We live near the grocery store, so it’s a habit/hobby of mine to select our food on a day-to-day basis. When you add my love of cooking with my love of the finer things in life, it results in a fairly hefty grocery bill. My husband and I have debated this topic for years and so far I have always found my way around and out of it, but this year I decided to really try to see things from his point of view, and I accepted the challenge of cutting our bill in half.

At the same time, I’ve been working a few evenings a week here and there in the bakery, so if I don’t have a meal in the crock pot then he and our daughter usually end up eating out somewhere. We love restaurants in this house, but with our daughter being lactose/gluten and soy intolerant it makes it difficult to find variety. Really, you can only eat so many Subway salads before you lose your enthusiasm for a night out.

Long story short (ish), I did some research and found so many frugal women out there in cyber space who powered through one solid day of cooking and baking and then enjoyed weeks of pre-made meals from their freezer – for only a fraction of the cost! It really seemed to good to be true, but I sat down with my meal planner app, some favorite cook books and a calculator and discovered how easy it really was.

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A quick glance at a week in the meal planning app

For only $210 I was able to prepare enough dinners for my family (of 3) for the next 4 weeks. I’m serious. Keep in mind, I used a lot of things I already had in my pantry! I already had flour, sugar, salt, etc. I was able to make pastry with ingredients on hand, and I already had canned soups and canisters of Vega in my cupboards. Had I needed to buy all of this at the store, my bill would have been considerably higher. This also doesn’t include things like fresh greens for salad, fruit for snacking or milk and other beverages, but it IS certainly a step in the right direction for cutting back on the groceries! I also tried to stick to recipes with like-minded ingredients for cooking efficiency, and I also planned meals that I knew could stretch for 2 dinners. Remember, I’m working a few nights a week, so on those nights it’s just my husband and daughter eating at home. I’m actually good with just an apple and a Vega smoothie, so no big deal :). The 6 hours it took me to actually bake and cook everything though…

M5
Not the actual photo of my kitchen, but it is close, very very close…

End of the day, I had a lovely mix of meals ready for the freezer! Not only am I certain this will save us money on groceries, but it also saves me on time! For the next 4 weeks I will have an extra hour a day. I won’t need to cook dinner, and I won’t need to worry about all the clean up either. I’m also certain it will cut down on waste. Try as I might to use up all of our leftovers, I fail each week. With my new meal plan app, I’ve checked out our schedule and factored in when we will be away, nights we are going to be at restaurants and probable “left over” nights. If this actually works out, I will be thrilled! 1 intense cooking day for 4 weeks of efficiency makes for a pretty good trade.

M1
It doesn’t look like much, but this will go far!

Meals that I made for this round:

  • Hot Chicken & Gravy (Heat and Serve)
  • Green Curry with Chicken & Lentils
  • Southern Chicken Casserole
  • Chicken Pot Pie
    (I used 2 rotisserie chickens, shredded them for their meat and used a half chicken in each dish. I simmered the bones in the crock pot for 2 days to make 3 jars of stock).
  • Hamburger Patties
  • Enchilada Pie
  • Meatloaf
  • Stuffed Sweet Peppers
  • Spaghetti Sauce
    (I bought a large bulk package of ground beef and divided it for these dishes).
  • Pizza Soup w. Baked Pizza Dough Garlic Fingers
  • Salmon & Potato Pie
  • Corn Dog’ins
  • Roasted Spicy Sausage for Egg Night
M2
Some items were packaged neatly in freezer bags. Mostly soups, sauces and our hamburger patties.

Another benefit of having each meal packaged so neatly? They ALL fit in the 3 drawers of my freezer :). I also bought and froze 4 bags of cauliflower (a popular veggy for us) and the hamburger buns we will need for burger nights.

M3
So neat and tidy!

I’ll let you know how it works out at the end of all this, but I’m optimistic since I planned each step very carefully. At the end of these 4 weeks, we will toast my success with a fantastic shopping spree. And pedicures.

BR.

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2 comments

  1. […] wouldn’t cooperate with each other so I shelved the idea. This past week though I made a meal plan and I actually had a package of hormone/antibiotic/preservative free franks in the fridge already, […]

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  2. […] cooperate with each other. It was a mess, so I shelved the idea. This past week though I made a meal plan and I actually had a package of hormone/antibiotic/preservative free franks in the fridge already, […]

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