To begin this meal prep challenge, I downloaded a template that looked interesting for meal planning and started brainstorming with recipes ideas.
My meal prep plan involved freezer meals that would be delivered to my daughter and her busy family of 5. This included freezer meals for dinner, breakfast, and snacks. I included an instruction sheet to go home with the meals, so they would know how to cook each one.
This is the list of supplies I used for the my freezer meals and snacks:
- Freezer Ziplock Bags
- Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
- Aluminum Foil Casserole Pans
- Sharpie Permanent Pen
- Small 4 oz Mason Jars (for cookie butter and nut butters)
- Vitamix or Food Processor to make nut butters
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Step 1: Steps for Meal Planning
This is how I began:
- Print template for Meal Plan brainstorming (I used the Notability app, downloaded a template, and used my iPad)
- Gather recipe options for Freezer Meals (aka Pinterest and Google). I chose from an array of breakfasts, dinners, finger foods, snacks, and smoothies.
- Write down a "practice" meal plan using some of the recipes you've collected, to see where you need more of some and less of others (i.e. more dinner options, less breakfast)
- Review recipes, toss the "no go's", and prioritize the "yes do's". Plan to double recipes.
- Set the food budget
- Notebook to keep printed recipes organized
- Organize recipes with common main ingredients (i.e. ground beef recipes, chicken recipes, ...). Keep these together to make food prepping easier
- Make shopping list - look for sales, coupons, buy proteins in bulk
- Start prepping food
- Freezer safe containers (Ziploc Freezer bags, heavy duty aluminum foil)
- Freeze your food
Step 2: Recipes Used for Meal Planning
The priorities for my daughter's meal plan was mainly dinners, a few snacks, and some on-the-go breakfasts.
Dinners (double recipes)
- Creamy White Chicken Chili
- Chicken Enchilada Bake
- Cilantro Lime Chicken w/ Corn and Black Bean Tacos
- Easy Crock-pot Meatloaf
- Slow Cooker Chili
- Baked Ziti
- Chicken Spaghetti
- Cookie Butter (dip apples)
- Espresso Chocolate Almond Cashew Butter (great dip for bananas)
- Mini Corn Dog Muffins
- Fruit Smoothie Packs
There were more recipe contenders that can easily be added, but this is a great start to see what works, what doesn't, and any changes needed to be made.
Step 3: Freezer Safety Tips for Food
Air is the enemy for frozen food. Following are some tips for keeping food in your freezer:
- Freezer temperature should be set at 0 F
- Write your cooking instructions directly on the Ziploc freezer bag, using a permanent marker BEFORE you put your food items inside.
- For more solid food, such as fruits, breads, and proteins, press out as much air as possible from the Ziploc freezer bag, seal the bag up to a straw inserted partially in bag, draw out as much air as possible with straw, remove straw while still sucking air and zip the bag completely.
- For liquids, such as stews and soups, hold your Ziploc freezer bag with both hands, allow the heavy liquid portion to hang over the edge of counter (use you hip if necessary), press air from bag and zip the bag completely
- For casseroles, such as Baked Ziti, lightly spray casserole pan with Pam (or other spray), layer your casserole, cover with aluminum foil, and "flash freeze" for 2 hours. Remove casseroles from freezer, lay a layer of Saran Wrap (or other plastic wrap) directly on top of casserole covering completely, cover again using heavy duty aluminum foil or a double layer of regular aluminum foil. Make sure the edges a crimped securely around the casserole pan
Step 4: Delivery Day
Here is the final step, delivery day! Thank you Instructables for a great challenge!