Organization 101 ~ Meals

by Merissa on July 14, 2011

in Organization 101

I've been on a quest to become more organized lately. With both me and the hubby working full time and starting our foster family and our family very soon I had to come up with a new plan.

I'm sure you've all been where I was at. It would get to 5 pm, the hubby would be on his way home, I'd been working all day and barely had time to jump in the shower before he got here let alone prepared supper. I wanted to follow my meal plans very much but the days when I did, I would end up cooking until much too late and then I was exhausted by the time supper was finished. My house seemed to be a mess all the time and I just couldn't keep up with it! Sound like you? Well, I hope the ideas I have and the charts to print over the next few days will be helpful!

The first place I started to organize was the meal plan. I loved meal planning but it wasn't working for us. So I decided to start Make-Ahead Meal Planning. Not freezer cooking, not once a month cooking, but my own little version of all those things put together. I just call it Make-Ahead cooking. :) It's a mixture or cooking from scratch, freezer cooking, on day cooking, meal planning, and more.

Since this is fairly new for me, I plan on expanding more ideas for this on the site soon. Right now, if you need Make-Ahead meal ideas you can find them all listed HERE and don't forget about the Mixes recipes HERE. You can also follow along with my Meal Plans.

The idea behind combining several different things is to have space. Freezer cooking takes up alot of space, and even though we have spare freezers we use them to store bulk meat so I don't have alot of extra space there. Nor do I have alot of extra space in the pantry. I've seen books and ideas on how to dry alot of your food and store it together that way.

So Make-Ahead meal planning is a nice combo of all those things and if you watch the meal plans that I put up on Monday's you can see this plan at work. Every 2 weeks I will post my meal plans. I feel like planning meals every 2 weeks is much easier to handle that having to come up with a whole month all at once. It also breaks your grocery shopping into 2 times per month, which can coincide with paychecks. Also, instead of having to cook for a full day (which seems exhausting to me!) if only takes a few hours to make up all the things you need for 2 weeks.

To help you with this meal planning, I made up this cute little chart that looks just like the one I use! It has just 3 simple categories: Date, Main Meal, and Extras. I've seen some incredibly complicated meal plan charts and I just don't think they are necessary! You can save this chart and print it off whenever you need it:

Meal Planning Chart

See? Simple and cute, and so easy to write up your plans and stick right on the fridge! So how do I make my meal plans? Here's a step by step list:

  1. Look thought cookbooks and write down recipes you want to make. Make sure you have at least 6-7 different recipes.
  2. If you can, pull out all the recipes, or write them all down on one sheet so you have them all together in one place.
  3. Look through the recipes and see what you need to add to your grocery list.
  4. Make a list of the easiest way to complete the meal plans. For example, last week I started on the pizza dough first because that goes in the bread machine and needs 1.5 hours so I knew if I got that in first I would have 1.5 hours to get other recipes worked on and that time to make the chicken filling I needed for the chicken calzones I was going to make to fill pizza dough pockets.
  5. Pick your meal making day and stick with it. Make sure you leave at least a few hours to get it all done.
  6. When making your meal plans and when you are packing things up for the freezer or pantry don't forget to think about snacks, lunches, take-along lunches, and breakfasts.
  7. On your Make-Ahead day, when you take out an ingredient, leave it out until you are all done. That way it's right in front of you and you don't have to keep running back and forth to the cupboard or pantry.
  8. Plan leftover days in your meal plan. It will happen!

Try and plan a good combo of freezer foods and pantry mixes. And it's ok to still have to bake some from scratch, but having a mix for it will make your life so much easier!

If you need extra help with meal planning make sure to check out my ebook, Meal Planning Made Simple!

What do you think about Make-Ahead cooking? Do you do any or part of it right now?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lana July 14, 2011 at 7:26 pm

When all five kids were still home I did do some freezer cooking for really busy days or to cover meals if I got sick. With just the two of us now I really only cook start to finish about 3 times a week. We end up with enough leftovers to cover a few days each week and usually go out one night. I have made menus for many years on a wall calendar. Part of the reason for this was to put a stop to the “mom, what’s for supper question’! It was right there on the wall! My 20 and 21 yr olds that still come home for college breaks check the calendar everyday. All of my old menus are right there to flip back to for ideas. If I am going to make a new recipe I write where to find it on the square. If I don’t use a menu I circle it and then I know that when I am planning menus next time I can just move that one forward. I don’t have trouble getting a meal together if I know what I am cooking. BUT if I don’t have my menus planned then I end up not cooking and sometimes going out. I try to remember to look ahead and get things into the fridge to thaw, on Fridays I usually get out the meat for Sun dinner because those items usually take a few days to thaw. It has gotten to be a habit after so many years of being the cook! When I was younger I used to leave meals up to chance and that did not go well!

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2 Barbara Lee April 12, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Several years ago, I got to quit work and become a stay home wife and mom! The first several months I worked myself crazy… I decided that I would organize myself. I started by charting out my daily chores…. stared making out monthly menus and shopping for only things that I had planned for. Saved $! I started once a month cooking, for that menu…. Saved lots of $$$. I buy what I can in bulk, Anything I can, I cook in advance, wrap it, mark it and freeze it. If the kids have ballgames, I can still come home take out pre-cooked meat, pre-made spagetti sauce, boil some noodles and have a home cooked meal. I walk thru the freezer isle of the grocery store and look at all the “dinner in a bag meals”, and make a list of ingreds to make my own. I make gravy in bulk, freeze it in ice cube trays then transfer it over to freezer bags… use it in soups, stews, etc. Hamburger…. cook several pounds seperate, each seasoned for Italian or Mexican etc., wrap, mark, freeze and ready to go! Works for me! I love it. I can spend extra time with my boys or in the garden and not wonder what I am making tonight for dinner… it’s already planned and sometimes pre-cooked!

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