In my last post, I shared with you how we planned, shopped, and prepped over 26 freezer meals in one afternoon. It's pretty unbelievable to me still. If you do a quick search on Pinterest, you'll find out that I'm not first one to stumble upon this genius. So it's not a new idea, but if you're new to it, you might appreciate some of the things we've learned as we enter the world of not-worrying-about-what's-for-dinner bliss!
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No. 1 - Start with a Clean Kitchen
If you're going to be shopping and prepping for 26+ meals in one day, you're going to need counter space, and lots of it. Starting with a clean kitchen will free you up to dive right into prepping when you make it home. Let's face it, this job is going to be tough enough on it's own, so there's no need to add an extra task to your list. Better yet, clean up the night before, and then you'll be excited to be in the kitchen!
No. 2 - Then Clean Your Freezer
When you're making a bunch of meals, it won't help if you don't have room in your freezer to store them! This is also a great job to do the day before. I forgot, so I assigned the task to my teenage son. We have an extra refrigerator in our garage, so that helps for storage space. Make sure you don't over prepare for your space!
No. 3 - Have Your 1st Dinner Planned
I realized pretty early on that while I was prepping 26+ dinners, I would need to have something easy to eat that night. Thankfully, the night before, I had made Verde Chicken with some rice. I grabbed an extra box of chicken broth and a can of black beans to transform last night's dinner together into a chicken soup.
No. 4 - Double Up Some Recipes
Not only does doubling up on some meals make for simpler planning, but it makes prepping easier too. Each of my girls manned a bag during the prep. When we were doubling a meal, they could do the same things, and it made our process super streamlined.
No. 5 - Leave Buffer Space for Leftovers
I was concerned that the meals I was making would not feed my family of six. While some meals didn't have anything left, others like Cilantro Lime Chicken fed us for days! You won't need to run your crock pot every single day! I've had to bump my calendar a couple of times to make sure we eat what's in the fridge before we pull something else out of the freezer! That means my meals and money go farther, and I love when both of those things happen!
No. 6 - Make a List and Buy in Bulk
Another beautiful thing about planning meals like this is that most of the meals use similar ingredients. If you buy in bulk, you're saving money, and if you make sure that you're not buying too much of an ingredient, then you'll save in the long run by using up all that you buy! Several of the recipes called for apple juice, but the total combined juice required was less than one bottle. (I just totally started seeing an algebraic formula for that 1/2 cup < x < 1 bottle. I've been doing a lot of math with my son lately!)
No. 7 - Don't Freezer Meal Prep Alone
This is one of the most IMPORTANT tips for success. My girls are finally at the age where they are really helpful in the kitchen. Even then, we called the boys in for back-up. Let's be honest, when you've got 48 cloves of garlic that need to go through the garlic press, you're going to need the big muscles! Thankfully I have some of those around. They were even helpful in-between squeezing garlic by helping keep our work area clean. With everyone involved in the process of making the food, everyone is excited to eat it. I even have a helper that wants to get it out of the freezer and get it started in the morning! Bonus!
No. 8 - Put Freezer Dinners in Fridge the Night Before
If you can remember to move your next meal down to the fridge while you're cleaning up dinner, you won't even have to worry about defrosting your freezer meal. It makes morning prep a breeze. Anything that cuts extra work out of my meal prep is a bonus for me!
No. 9 - Invest in Slow Cooker Liners
Have you tried Slow Cooker Liners? They are amazing! Not every crock-pot is dishwasher safe, and if you're using it as much as we do, you're probably not going to want to scrub it every night to be ready for the next day's meal. These simple little treasures allow for easy clean up which makes everyone happier!
No. 10 - Don't Save the Potato Soup For Last
The only meal we didn't end up making on our day of prep was the Potato Soup...and for good reason - after 2 1/2 hours of prepping meals, we were not interested in peeling and chopping potatoes! Next time, we'll make a plan for what order to prep our meals in, so we don't save the hardest prep for the end!