Welcome to the fourth and final post in my meal planning series! Make sure you check out the other posts in the series as well! Today we’re going to talk about meal prep. Meal planning is a great thing to do, it will save you time, energy, and money, but where the real savings come from is preparation! You can have a great menu and a kitchen full of groceries, but in order to really make it work for you you’ve got to do a little meal prep! What does that look like at my house? I’m so glad you asked! Read on, sister!
After I go to the store, the real work begins. Preparing everything for the next month is a lot of work, I won’t sugar-coat it! But it is so, so worth it and it will save your family so much money!
I buy all my meat at Sam’s Club. They have the best prices and quality in my area, though I’m looking forward to our Aldi expanding it’s meat offerings in the next few months! When I get home I open up each package of chicken and trim off all the fat from each breast. I then put each one in it’s own ziplock bag. If I’m going to make something the requires the chicken to be cut up into nuggets or strips I go ahead and cut it now. I’ve already got the knife and cutting board out and dirty, and it really doesn’t take that much more time! The nuggets for each meal go in their own bag, same for the strips. While it’s a lot of work up front, when I go to cook my meals it is so much easier because the meat prep is already done! I can just thaw what I need and start cooking!
The same goes for the beef. I buy a large package (usually about 5 pounds) of ground beef and portion out what I will need for the next five weeks. I put each portion into freezer bags and flatten each bag out as much as I can. That saves space in my freezer and helps the meat to thaw more quickly when I’m ready for it. I usually portion out two portions of beef for tacos (1 pound each), two bags each holding half a pound for spaghetti or ziti, and the remainder I portion out for cheeseburgers.
This is where personal preference comes in- you have two options here. Freeze all your ground beef raw or cook it and then freeze it. I have done both, and found it very easy to use my cooked ground beef for tacos and spaghetti sauce. I wouldn’t pre-cook my burgers though, they would dry out too much for my taste. When I have more time I try to cook my beef because it does save so much time when I’m cooking later. I’ll cook all the taco meat together and then separate it into multiple bags. Same goes for the beef (unseasoned) that I’ll use for pasta dishes.
In a perfect world I would buy all my seafood fresh- but I live in West Virginia. Fresh seafood is hard to come by and if you do find it, it’s outrageously expensive. So I buy all my seafood (shrimp, salmon, and tilapia) frozen. When I lived in Florida, however, I would buy fresh seafood when possible and put each piece in individual baggies just like with the chicken.
When I go to use my meat I start thawing it the night before I’m going to need it. So for example, if tomorrow night I’m making cheeseburgers I’ll take out a bag of 1/2 a pound of beef from the freezer and move it to the fridge. By tomorrow night it’s thawed and ready to be used.
Other things you’ll find in my freezer are sandwich bread and hamburger buns(bought on sale and frozen), butter, lunch meat, and vegetables (broccoli, peas, and carrots usually).
By buying my meet in bulk and preparing it for cooking all at once I save both time and money every month. This is especially noticeable on days where I just don’t want to cook. Because everything is ready to be cooked it’s easier to buck myself up and get in the kitchen despite how I feel. And after I do I’m always so glad!
Do you do any sort of meal prep after grocery shopping? Share your ideas below!