Meal Planning 101: The Beginning

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It seems antithesis to say, but now that I’m not working from home, I finally feel like I’m getting organized around the house. I know, crazy right!?

One of my big goals in returning to a regular office job was to get our menus and meals more organized during the week. With our freelance business, coaching, and WOD’ing at CrossFit Fringe and the dogs, we are looking to streamline our weeknights. In speaking with a few people at our box, it appeared to be a goal of theirs as well, so I decided to pull the trigger and make a plan. So here we go!

Goal:
To streamline weekday meals with pre-planned and prepped options that require minimal preparation and mess in the kitchen — mainly dinners as they seem to happen in the midst of our activities, hobbies and down time.

Challenges:

  • Preparing and possibly freezing meals for later use that will still taste good when thawed and align with our desire to have fresh, unprocessed meals.
  • Not getting stuck in the loop of eating the same meals over and over again.
  • Finding meals that can be batched and made in the crock pot that aren’t covered in cheese, cream soups or grains.
  • Having enough time to actually prepare  food (e.g. no taking on more than we can chew — see what I did there!?)

Of course, there is the desire to save money, but we’re already pretty good about not buying junk and I don’t want spending less to overshadow eating well. I also don’t want to jump on the bandwagon of prepping and freezing things for more than a month of eating at a time. So for now, the goal is to focus on planning complete meals that share as many ingredients as possible in order to save time, 1-2 weeks out. I will also continue to shop sales and seasonally wherever possible.

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So for the first week, we’re starting out super relaxed and easy — almost like a testing week. Since there are a few of us doing this — we’re trying to align our tastes, preferences and hunger levels throughout the day (currently high, as most of us are training heavily now for competition season).

Menu

Dinner is my main focus of this effort, so we’ll start here:

Monday – Holiday (we ate plenty of BBQ and grilled veggies)
Tuesday/Wednesday – Sweet and Spicy Crock Pot Ribs
Thursday/Friday – Tacos/Taco Salad
Saturday/Sunday – Open/Tailgating

Lunches for the week:
Every day: Bacon, Egg, Tomato and Avocado Salad
For lunch, we typically split a large tomato, avocado, 3-4 hard-baked eggs and 6 slices of bacon. I toss it gently in a bowl with a little creole seasoning or seasoning salt and lemon juice. We’ve been eating this every day for months, and it never gets old. We sometimes boost it with a little whole milk cottage cheese.

Breakfasts for the week:
Breakfasts aren’t as consistently loved as lunch, so we like having a few different options for the week.

English muffin egg sandwiches
Banana Bread
Oatmeal with nut butter

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As you may have noticed, this isn’t 100% Paleo. Because we’re trying this with other people, it’s kind of a mish-mash of different meal ides, all healthy. We’re still maintaining an 80/20 balance — with as many homemade items as possible and organic dairy thrown in here and there. This is again kind of test week, so we’ll see where we end up.

Our Shopping List:

1 rack of ribs (pork or beef)
1 head of cauliflower
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 yellow onions
1 head garlic
1 jar BBQ sauce (whatever brand you prefer)
1 12-ounce container of whole milk cottage cheese (buy bigger if you think you need it)
6 medium tomatoes
5 medium/large avocados
1 package no nitrate bacon
24 eggs
2 pounds ground pork
1 jar salsa
Organic Greek yogurt or sour cream (5 oz thereabouts)
8 ounces organic cheese (whatever you prefer on your tacos)
1 small head lettuce
1 box taco shells
1 bunch bananas
English Muffins
Half and Half

Additional Ingredients:

Here are things we already had on hand:
Salt and pepper
Garlic powder
Onion Powder
Chili Powder
Cumin
Sugar
Flour
Baking soda
Baking powder
cinnamon (optional)
Almond butter
Coconut milk

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Thoughts after one week
I am already super impressed with how much less stress our week carries. We’re still doing some preparation and cooking for each meal, but having everything, knowing what you’re making and having several steps taken care of makes it so much easier. I’ve already started planning for next week, and am trying out a few different things:

  • Using technology: I planned our first week using the Evernote app on my Tab 2. While chatting menu planning with some wonderful ladies on Twitter, someone suggested the app Pepper Plate to me and said it made menu planning a breeze for her. Definitely think I’m going to give it a whirl this week. I’ve used apps like Ziplist in the past, so I am excited to see how this one stacks up.
  • Focus on breakfasts: Even though I had the supplies for breakfast each morning, it was still a scramble to get out the door with it. Create some ideas for stuff that’s more “grab-n-go” capable.
  • Plan for incidentals: I’d like to freeze a few meals just to have on hand for when we fall off of schedule, or need an extra meal.

Since I’m totally new to the idea of prepping and freezing meals, have any tips for me?



Comments

  1. One of your goals, “Preparing and possibly freezing meals for later use that will still taste good when thawed and align with our desire to have fresh, unprocessed meals” is something I’ve worked on for the past couple of years. I’ve had to accept that my family just doesn’t like the taste of frozen then thawed ground beef, which is a big bummer as it is an inexpensive meat and I’m frequently tempted to stock up on it. I’ve found that pork freezes beautifully, however. I freeze it in brine, mixing some warm water and kosher salt, putting the meat in, and squeezing out as much of the air as I can. I put the packages on a cookie sheet or something flat so they freeze flat, then I can stand them up. We grill year round, so I just pull them out and thaw them, season, then toss on the grill.

  2. I feel like it’s the hardest part for us. Having eaten fresh and mostly paleo for two years, it’s really hard to find something that satisfies when reconstituted after being frozen. I think the key for us may be (and we’re obviously still in the process of feeling our way through this) freezing PARTS of things to be combined with fresh ingredients to complete the meal when we’re ready to eat it.

    It’s all a process isn’t it!? :)

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