So you have heard great things about freezer cooking from your sister, your co worker and the man at the supermarket and want to give it a try? The first workshop that I hosted was over 5 hours and we only prepped 10 family sized meals! There wasn’t even any cooking required! haha (Not to mention, how high the grocery bill was!) I have learned so much this past year hosting whole food meal prep workshops, so please allow me to help you with your learning curve.
Organization and planning are ESSENTIAL for a stress-free prep day. Imagine having to make two extra trips to the store for forgotten ingredients or getting to the checkout at the store, only to find you went WAY over your budget. Neither of those things, would make freezer cooking worth the effort. In fact, they may send you running for the hills (or the nearest drive-thru)! To make things go smoothly, it is imperative for you to invest an hour or two into the planning stage. I promise it will be worth it!
1. Buy In Bulk Buying in bulk can save you tons of money and that is never a bad thing! There are two ways I achieve this with my freezer meal prep.
The first is to at least double all of the recipes I am making. There are times I make up to five bags of each recipe.
The second is to overlap ingredients when possible. For example, if I am using hamburger for recipe, I may try to find a second recipe with hamburger in order to get the hamburger cheaper per pound.
2. Stay Budget Friendly Aside from buying in bulk, there are a few other ways to keep the sticker shock a little lower for your prep day:
-Look at how many higher priced items you have on your list. If you are gluten-free or Paleo, you really need to keep an eye on things like coconut aminos, honey, maple syrup, fish sauce, almond flour, etc. as these can add up very quickly.
-Protein is always a large part of the bill, so always keep a close eye on this. Things like ground beef, ground pork, chicken legs or beef brisket are going to be less expensive than something like filet mignon, center cut pork loin, chicken breasts or a porterhouse steak. Making breakfast casseroles, using only eggs, also helps to cut down on the overall bill.
-Planning your meals around in-season vegetables and fruits can really save you some money as well. And in a perfect world, you would always purchase organic; however, many of my clients, as well as myself, use the dirty dozen verses the clean fifteen when deciding what we will purchase organic and what we won’t.
-When planning your meals, try to use up any rare ingredients that you may not use otherwise, so that they do not go to waste.
3. Cooking VS Easy Assemble Prep Some meals and entrees need to be cooked before you freeze them and some can be assembled without any cooking at all. If you plan for at least half of your choices to be easy assembly, your prep day will go much smoother! There are also some recipes which only need some cooking. For example, some casseroles will have you brown the meat, but not bake the casserole itself.
4. Variety If you are like most people, you will want to ensure that you have a variety of different types of meals. It is possible to overlap many of your ingredients and still have a variety of meals. It is all about the spices! Also, it can be helpful to have a variety of cooking types in your freezer as well, such as slow cooker, stove, oven, grill, etc. Often times I will prep one type each weekend for a month. The end result is a full variety in my freezer! It definitely helps to keep my family interested in healthier meals.
5. Check Out Your Pantry Building your meals around items that you already have on hand will allow you to use up old ingredients before they expire, as well as cut down your bill at the grocery store or farmer’s market.
6. Double Check Your Math Ensure you doubled, tripled or quadrupled the recipes correctly. If there are overlapped ingredients, ensure that you included all of them from each recipe and added the ingredients together correctly. Ensure that you converted your measurements correctly as well. Don’t forget about the storage bags or containers!
7. Triple Check Your Shopping List Needed to make extra trips to the store will not save you time in the long run. It may even cost you more money, if you are like most people, because you will pick up a few extra items while you are there, that you would not have otherwise purchased. To avoid this, simply triple check your shopping list to your recipes!
I know it is tempting to skip the planning stage, but if you just put a little effort into it, your prep day will go so much smoother (and be cheaper too)! If you would like for me to do your planning for you, check out a meal prep workshop if you are around Columbia, Missouri or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for help via email/skype.
Are there any extra planning tips you would add to this list? Do you have any funny stories about results of NOT planning a meal prep day? I would love to hear about it below! Good luck and Happy Prepping!