Raise your hands. How many of you struggle to get reasonably healthy meals on the table each night? Who is hurriedly trying to get in and out of the kitchen each day? How many of you are always rushing in and out of the grocery store, hoping you remembered everything you need for dinner?
I’d bet money that most of you raised your hands to each of those.
And how many of you don’t have to give any thought to how much you spend on groceries? How many have time to leisurely try new recipes and enjoy the process of creating new meals? How many of you could easily help a friend in need out with meal, without worry about your OWN family’s meal and budget?
Now I’d bet most of you did NOT raise your hands.
I’m so excited to make mealtimes sane for you in this three part series about freezer cooking. I’ve got some realistic, attainable steps to help you reduce your meal time rush, while also reducing your grocery budget.
Step 1 :: Menu Planning
The first step is one you already know, but please do keep reading! Yes, it’s menu planning. Did I hear a collective sigh? Don’t hate me. I’m only telling you this because I love you–you NEED to meal plan. Now, a meal plan does NOT have to be crazy detailed. But even a general meal plan will free you of stress and reduce your daily mental load considerably.
If you currently don’t meal plan at all, check out the gateway meal plan strategy. C’mon, all the cool moms are doing it! It’s the nightly themed plan. You know, you take each night and assign it a basic theme: Monday is red meat, Tuesday is tacos, Wednesday is chicken, Thursday is beans, Friday is meatless, Saturday is soup, Sunday is leftovers. Or whatever works for you.
If you already do some basic meal planning, take it up a notch! Perhaps you can plan your meals around sales? Maybe try a new recipe or two. Or start adding in breakfast and lunch into your planning? Consider adding your meals and planning to your current paper or online digital planner/calendar. If you’re ready for a small step, go grab my Flexible Menu Planner!
If you’re REALLY ready to rocket your meal planning, try out Plan To Eat, an online menu planner. I truly love this thing. I can no longer live without its features, such as drag and drop meals and automatically populating my grocery list. It’s changed my meal planning world.
Step 2 :: Use Technology
The next step to cutting your cooking time in half is making intelligent use of technology. I love that we can make use of old world wisdom with modern conveniences. For instance, the slow cooker. You can slow cook your beans or roast all day and come home to dinner that’s ready. Instead of rushing around after work to cook dinner, rush around a little BEFORE work, and then leisurely serve up the dinner waiting in the crockpot. Electric pressure cookers are another great example.
They can cook your frozen meals or meats quickly or you can set the timer so they start cooking dinner before you’re home.
The freezer is another modern tool many moms don’t fully use to their advantage. Most families can fit the ingredients they need for a week in their refrigerator. Even if you don’t have a large freezer, average sized families could certainly store an additional week’s worth of meal staples in theirs. Doing so eliminates those midweek trips to the store (which add hours to your week, if you’re honest. Factor in travel time, actual shopping time and unloading time.) The more you go to the store, the more you spend. If you need to replenish fresh fruit and produce, do so and STAY AWAY from any other grocery store aisles. You save time AND money this way.
Stay tuned for the second installment when I show you more ways your freezer can you help you reduce your cooking time and your grocery budget, as well as reveal a MAJOR kitchen time-saving strategy too many parents forget to use!
Amylee Udell is a happy wife, a mom of three girls, and has called the Duke City home since 1997. She is the Productive Mama and the author and creator of the Freezer Meal Club Success Ebook and course. She has taught classes in childbirth and parenting, fermenting, culturing, and sourdough bread baking. Amylee spends a lot of time at church and homeschooling and loves skiing with her family, reading, trying new foods, and working with other moms to navigate the challenges of motherhood.