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Topic: Meal Planning and Prep Cook-Along  (Read 3487 times)
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MareMare
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« on: June 15, 2014 11:45:05 PM »

Hey all! I thought it would be nice to have a spot to share our meal planning tricks and tips and to help us keep track of grocery lists and prep. I keep an ongoing grocery list in my phone (add to it whenever I realize I need something). Before I head to the grocery store, I transfer everything onto it to an Excel spreadsheet that is organized by sections so I don't have to double back in the grocery store (dairy in a column, canned foods and condiments together, etc). Then I check some of my pantry staples (nuts, seeds, dried fruit, oats, sugar/oil/flour) to see if I need more of any of those.)



I tend to have lots of pantry and freezer staples on hand. Each week I loosely plan 3-5 meals and then pick up anything extra I need that isn't included in my regular shopping/staples. Some of my ideas for this week:

--Breakfast pizza (already bought ready made crust from Trader Joe's)
--Pork Chops and mashed sweet potatoes
--Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce
--Ground Turkey Stir Fry
--Homemade chili, baked potatoes

All I need to buy to make these meals are mushrooms, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, poblano peppers, cabbage, chuck roast, and ground turkey, so those get added to my in progress grocery list.

Usually I try to do food prep on Sunday nights, but this weekend was busy so I'll do it tomorrow. For this week, all that means is grilling or sauteing up a bunch of chicken breasts, cooking some hard boiled eggs, and making a batch of salad dressing. These will be for easy snacks and lunches, and go along with lunch salads I send to work for my mom and her co-worker. I try to do different proteins each week, some weeks it might be beans instead, or I'll make a big batch of tuna fish with lots of veggies in it.

I'd love to hear how you meal plan and prep and what you are working on this week!
« Last Edit: June 15, 2014 11:48:20 PM by MareMare » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2014 12:44:35 AM »

Wow. you are amazingly organised. I need to borrow some of your tricks.  Now that I am on my own most of the time I have gotten lazy about planning.
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« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2014 06:09:52 AM »

I am sure I would eat more healthy if I planned a bit better....hubby does the grocery shopping, but he would be happy to pick up whatever ingredients I would need...

Also, to be able to prepare things ahead of time, I guess for me, that would be on the weekend or possibly Thursday nights, would be a good time saver...I never know what can be done ahead...

First question:

How do you organize your pantry?  Do you know what you have on hand by just looking?

I have a large closet pantry that is a mess.

« Last Edit: June 16, 2014 06:12:13 AM by alwaysinmyroom » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2014 09:14:57 AM »

I just organized my pantry really well and threw out a lot of stuff as we are trying to eat less processed food!

I have a big closet type one plus a bazillion cupboards. I have one cupboard for canned goods (soups, beans, vegetables, tomatoes and tomato sauce) and pasta. And another cupboard for baking supplies and spices that I use less frequently (spices I use more often are above the stove). Yet another cupboard for tea, and another one for vinegars, sauces, and coffee.

In the actual pantry I moved things around so my food processors are easier to get to (I use them a lot!) and moved my nuts, seeds, and dried food to mason jars (I buy them in bulk). I just kind of allocated space for rice and beans, breakfast foods (oatmeal, cereals, pancake mix, syrup), my nephews' foods (juice boxes, fruit snacks, single serving fruit cups), crackers and snack foods, and anything else I could group up that I actually use on a regular basis.

I think for me throwing out anything stale and giving away things we weren't going to eat made it really easy to organize what was left!
« Last Edit: June 16, 2014 09:15:19 AM by MareMare » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2014 03:46:17 PM »

I am so busy right now, it's disgusting. Blech. But I'll follow along and chime in now and then Smiley.
We lived on a farm (and also in college when I was Very broke roomie and I lost our entire kitchen food stores to grain moths) so I keep everything in mason jars, NO plastic at all 'cause they get in there, the mice and the moths. It's easy to see what and how much you've got at a glance and it keeps things fresh.
For bulk cooking I will buy organic celery when it's on sale and saute it with some onion and garlic then flat pack into ziplocks and freeze it. I do this also with onions, many pounds at a time run through the food processor then carmelized. This is Hours of work but only once instead of many times. Then I just break a piece off whenever I want to add some deliciousness to a quick meal. I will do this with raw liver too, puree in a food processor and flat pack to freeze then break off a piece to add to whatever I'm cooking. We need iron and this is the best way to get it, never taste the liver at all either. I add that to soups, stews, sauces, roasts, casseroles, etc.
I also cook large batches of oatmeal then chill it in the fridge in a large covered glass dish. I slice off pieces and fry in butter or coconut oil for quick delicious breakfast, the kids love that.
I make a LOT of potato leek soup and freeze that too, if I've made a soup the kids don't like I can cut it with this and they magically think it's ever so tasty Cheesy.
I make giant batches of hummus and freeze serving size containers of it, other bean dips too. That's great as a veg dip or spread for wraps or added in a spoonful to salads or thinned for dressing or used as the base for a bean soup or a layer in a casserole.
I cook beans from scratch but rather than one serving at a time I'll cook a whole pot full and then freeze it in portions to add to whatever, saves overnight soaking and 4 hours of boiling every time!
Sometimes I roast all the veg and things that are going to go off in the fridge then freeze in ziplocks. Reduces waste.
Zucchini is prolific, if you grow it in summer you'll have Way more than you can ever use. I grate it fresh then freeze flat packed for zucchini bread and to use as an addition to oatmeal, soups, etc. Peeled if you don't want kids to know it's there!
I freeze all the fruit that starts to get to ripe and let the kids make soft serve ice cream whenever they want with a thing we got called a Yonana. They can put it together, use it, and clean it themselves easily. AWESOME fun breakfast.
If we're doing a lot of smoothies I'll make up portions of everything (fruit, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, bee pollen, green powder, whatever) and freeze them (in small mason jars). I put one into the fridge at night and it's ready to dump into the blender with some juice in the AM for a quick smoothie breakfast.
That's a lot of info, whew! Not all I'd like to do though. I'd really love some more bulk cooking when I find a chest freezer for a good price, more dehydrating, and meal planning which I am just not great at.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2014 03:50:26 PM by craftylittlemonkey » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2014 03:49:26 PM »

Ooh, great ideas clm! I'd love your recipe for Potato Leek Soup if you'd like to share!
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« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2014 04:02:04 PM »

Oh, it is so super easy. I don't follow any sort of measurements because it turns out great no matter what. Here are some rough instructions but really, do whatever!
Saute well-washed leeks (I use the white and the green part both) in butter or oil with a little garlic until starting to get transparent (optional additions: onions and celery), add chopped potatoes (skin on or off, your choice) and saute for a 10 mins or so. Add stock to cover all, bay leaf, TONS of fresh thyme, salt and pepper to taste (optional: fresh or dried parsley). Simmer until potatoes are soft. Cool slightly, remove bay leaf and puree in a blender small batches at a time or use an immersion blender in the pot. Careful not to splash yourself!
Re-heat by portions as needed and garnish with either cubes of cheese (cheese bombs!), sour cream, yogurt, heavy cream, grated Parmesan, crumbled fried bacon, chopped up sausages, fresh shelled peas slightly cooked while heating the soup, or chopped herbs of any kind.
Freezes very well Smiley.
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« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2014 04:09:33 PM »

Yumm! Thanks!
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« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2014 06:17:11 PM »

Sounds yummy!

It is only my husband and I, so freezing large quantities tends to create a lot of waste for us...we forget it is there or we can't or won't eat it all...I do think I could manage smaller batches of soup stock and maybe freezing more veggies...some good ideas there!

I decided already that there are too many non-food items in my pantry that could go somewhere else...I haven't used my punch bowl in years, so out it goes...and the black roasting pan could go into the garage as we rarely use it for just us...we have a lot of food to take to the food pantry...

Planning meals is my weakness...I just want to come home and have it there, ready to eat!
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« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2014 07:07:29 PM »

Right now I've got chicken tenderloins defrosting, eggs steaming, bacon baking, red potatoes boiling and I'm taking a break from chopping veggies right now! Some of that is for dinner tonight, some is for lunch salads, and I'm also going to make some potato salad to go along with lunch salads this week. Tomorrow I have to get groceries so using up the tail ends of a few things to make room in the fridge!
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