Meal prep planning.

November 4, 2011
Today Renee is sharing how she does meal prepping.  We can all use help in this category, right?  I know I definitely can. 

Thank you, Toni,  for the chance to come share my obsession passion for what has made such a huge difference in my cooking and in my family’s dinnertime!
I’m Renee, and I like to blog about a little bit of everything…


…from my organizing and decorating fun,  the escapades of my three wild ones and the ups and downs of homeschooling, to my weekly Menu Monday post where I share that week’s adventure in planning my menu and prepping all my dinners in less than an hour!
Want the low down on this meal prep planning?
Basically I give up about an hour Sunday afternoon whilst my boys are snoozing and my girl is otherwise occupied, and in return I have all my dinners for the week… in the fridge and ready to go!
Is this plan something YOU could do too?
Absolutely… 100%!
If you read my blog long enough you’ll see that I’m not anywhere close to being an amazing chef. If I can make it work… ANYONE can!
I learned all about Making Five Dinners in One Hour from Michelle back in January.  Most of these ideas are straight from her!  She does offer a paid subscription to her recipes that have the meal plan and coordinating grocery list all laid out super simply.  She also posts free recipes and tips on her blog that are definitely worth following.  What’s neat about her meals/plan is that all meals are covered and kept “fresh” in the FRIDGE not the freezer!  At dinnertime you just pop one out and in the oven, and you are good to go.
I have never been much of a cook actually, but through this experiment I have found myself enjoying cooking more and more. Maybe because I am taking all the stress out of the process.  I’m choosing to cook at a time more convenient for me and my family.  If your kids are anything like mine, then you know that the “witching hour” is those late afternoon hours right before dinnertime where everyone is bored and hungry and GROUCHY!
Add an infant into the mix and fixing nutritious interesting meals gets put WAY down low on the survival priority list.
I have 3 kids… an eight year old that I am homeschooling, a 3 year old that makes me constantly wonder what he’s into now,  and a tottering babe who loves his momma.  Needless to say, my time is very short each day, and at mealtime there may be a host of things that arise to get in the way of traditional, normal meal prep.
I think this is something everyone should at least TRY!  It has transformed our dinnertime.   I am not stressing {as much}. We are not eating blessed CHICKEN every other night anymore, and we have cut down our eating out drastically.  {And saved us much moolah!} Changing the quality of our meals also somehow motivated us to change the quality of our dinnertime experience. We went from eating in the Living Room most nights {I know.  How bad is that?} to eating around the table… as a family.  What a concept.
It is definitely a no brainer to me.  Giving up an hour on Sunday afternoon gives me my dinners for the week in the fridge and ready to go.
Uh,  So. Totally. Worth. It.

Here’s how you do it.

Most any recipe can be almost completely prepped ahead of time in order to save tons of time each night.
Work in stages.  I do each stage on a different day so it’s not an overwhelming task.
~ First, plan your menu for the week, and create your grocery list.  {I do mine Friday, and I got my free menu plan printable here. Love it cuz it has the menu plan on one side and the grocery list on the other.}
~ Do your grocery shopping, and you will be ready to get started the next day {or whenever you choose to prep.} {We shop Saturday… usually as a fam.}
~ Make a list of every ingredient and utensil you will need.  I do this on my menu plan sheet on Fridays before I create my grocery list.


~ Set the timer!  Competing against the timer helps me work quickly and turns the whole process into something of a game. {Whatever I can do to trick myself into thinking it’s fun helps. Yes, I know that’s sad.} I also like to turn on some tunes for some extra motivation.  🙂
~ Gather all of your ingredients and utensils on the counter before you start.  Foil and Ziploc bags are your allies here.  I love Michelle’s tips on using Ziploc bags to mix ingredients thereby saving the dirtying of one more bowl and spoon!  If it works, why not I say!


~ Follow the recipes usually up until the point that the food is put in the oven.  At that point, cover your dishes and pop ’em in the fridge. I like to label each meal so I don’t have to uncover and try to remember what each one is through the week.

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Easy peasy!
I am totally SOLD on this method.
It has brought a wonderful change to our family dynamic.

Better meals each week, all week… a priceless thing!
If you think you might want to try the oh-so-marvelous prep ahead lifestyle, check out all my 5 dinner 1 hour escapades
Thanks, Toni, for letting me share!!!

13 comments on “Meal prep planning.

  1. While the baggie thing is convenient, it’s totally wasteful. 🙁

  2. Toni says:

    I think a lot of busy women would definitely use this system. Sometimes convenience wins over wasteful… unfortunately. :/ You can always rinse out the baggies and hang them on a bottle drying rack to reuse them if you are “green”. Great feedback lauren!

  3. Good points… Yes, baggies aren’t the greenest, but it helps me to look at the big picture of what is accomplishable and realistic for me and my fam. Using baggies means less dishes which means less times I have to run the dishwasher too which is good. 🙂

  4. Jacoblrishly says:

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  5. Taly says:

    I find the idea interesting, but how do thing stay fresh for 5 days? I am not sure about that idea. I cook from scratch every single day for my family of 9. I’d love to cut down on kitchen time (for me that is about 3-4 hours a day for all meals and baking). I live in Serbia and things like baggies and foil is not something I use a lot because they are expensive. Even paper towels are hardly ever used because of price. I’ll have to look a bit more into this idea and see if there is a way to implemented at least a bit of it.

  6. Taly, I get that question a lot actually. I think it’s just a foreign idea to most of us so it seems like it wouldn’t work. I’ve been doing it every week since January and haven’t had any trouble. Things like meat are sold FRESH in the grocery store. If they can sit in the fridge in the store for several days than they’ll keep in our fridge too. 🙂 I do try to watch the sell by date even though it is just a “sell by” date.

    One other thing that I started doing was pulling freezer meals for Friday and Saturday most weeks since our schedule is flexible those days and lots of time we end up with other dinner plans.

    I try to double EASY meals during my normal meal prep to send one to the freezer and have grown quite a freezer stash. This is awesome for the weekends! 🙂

    Hope you decide to give it a try! You might just love it!! 🙂 I can’t imagine cooking for NINE, wowsa!

  7. Grace InAZ says:

    Wow! I could use this idea! I’ve lost my love for the kitchen in the last few years and we find ourselves taking the easy way out too often. Thank you! I’m a new follower and love this blog! I NEED this blog! LOL! I hope you’ll follow my blog, too. Growing Old With Grace

  8. Rhiannon says:

    i always reuse baggies for as long as i can get away with it! Thanks for visiting! love the tips

  9. it is a wonderful idea. When I do it, it works. Then I fall back into the same old routine and get lazy, then I have to work harder because I have to plan every day. I love it all the same.


  10. Casey of SMD says:

    I’m new to trying to freeze-ahead prep things, so far I’ve just tried things like making larger batches of side dishes than I need at the time and freezing or canning the rest (like homemade applesauce, cranberry sauce from the berry, dinner rolls, cookies and soup stocks). On the weekends my husband works 12 hr shifts, leaving me plenty of down time (minus entertaining a 3 year old) to try something like this.

  11. laurensmommy says:

    I love this idea as well. The menu planning sheet is really nice- is it something I could print from somewhere? I love how it is laid out! 🙂

  12. Julie says:

    This is a wonderful idea. I will try it after Thanksgiving! I am a relatively new organizational blogger and I just posted about using vacuum-sealed glass jars to store prepped veggies ready to cook. Check it out!!

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