Why Meal Plan?
I LOVE meal planning! When my husband and I were newlyweds, I remember having $35 a week for groceries. We were both working minimum wage and going to college. The budget was TIGHT! Although our budget has grown, I learned how valuable it is to plan meals, then make my grocery list, and try my best to stick to the plan. It saves time and money. It’s so much better for you and your family than grabbing something out. There is soooo much sodium and sugar added to most restaurants food. Not to mention all the deep fried foods because it’s cheap and fast. Don’t get me wrong, I do love to eat out- to be served and not have to clean up the kitchen. That’s a real treat! I’m going to teach you how to make this as easy as I possibly know how. Let’s get started!
Keep it Simple
The first thing you need to do is make a list of all the meals you usually make and new meals you want to make. It’s that simple. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate, typed, fancy menu. I do have some of those I will share with you. I worked hours planning, typing, and then putting them all into page protectors in a binder several years ago. And then I hated them. I found it really difficult to follow the plan EXACTLY the way I designed it. Yep, it was a failure. Let’s pretend I plan to have Chicken Parmesan on Wednesday. When Wednesday rolls around I really want Tacos, not Chicken Parmesan. So of course I make Tacos and save the Chicken Parmesan for Thursday or Friday. But now my fancy meal plan is a failure because it said I was making Chicken Parmesan on Wednesday. See? So keep it simple, friends! Make a list of things you like to make or like to eat for dinner and choose 8-10 of those to start with.
Meal Ideas We Love!
- Air fried Pork Tenderloin with honey mustard glaze
- Grilled BBQ Chicken
- Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken
- Grilled Chicken with Jerk or Blackened Rub
- Chicken Parmesan
- Chicken Marsala
- Smoked BBQ Pork Butt
- Italian Beef or Pot Roast
- Beef Tacos
- Homemade Chili
- Meatballs with Cheesy garlic rice, pineapple, broccoli and bbq sauce
- Meatball Subs
- Pinto Beans and Cornbread
- Spiral sliced Ham with Pineapple Salsa
- Breakfast for Dinner!
- Broccoli Soup
- Potato Soup
- Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
- Corn Chowder
- Italian Wedding Soup
- Chicken Gnocci
- White Chili
- Chicken and Dumplin’s
- Southwestern Chicken Spaghetti
- Poppyseed Chicken
- Homemade Chicken Pot Pies
- Sausage with onions, peppers, and potatoes
- Homemade Pizzas
- Grilled Chicken Fajitas with homemade salsa and black beans with garlic/cilantro
- Chicken Enchiladas
- Chicken Lettuce Wraps
- Waldorf Chicken Salad
- Avocado Chicken Salad
- Original Chicken Salad
That’s 36 meals! Some of these recipes will have enough leftovers to freeze or have the next day. Thats over a month of ideas without repeating a meal or eating out ONE time! I’ll post most of these recipes at some point. If you want a recipe before then, just message me! My list is always growing! I’m sure you have some favorites that are not on my list too!
Next you need to decide on the sides you will have with each meal. This is merely for the purpose of the grocery list. When I lived on Signal Mountain, our home was a full 30-45 minutes to get groceries. I had to make sure I had all the things needed for the meals. We are in a situation now with Coronavirus, where we need to limit our trips to the store. So, the first list is the meal ideas, the second list is the sides. Just choose your family favorites!
Your final list is the grocery list. If you are using a specific recipe, you may want to have that handy to make sure you have the ingredients. Obviously, if you have an ingredient on hand, you don’t need to put it on the grocery list. (I usually buy 2 big packs of Chicken Breasts and 1 large pack of ground beef every 2-3 weeks. These are the core ingredients for so many recipes.) We use an app called OurGroceries. It saves the items and makes it so easy to add them back when you are preparing the same meal in a month or two. When you are finished with the list, you are ready to go shopping! The next step is my favorite…
Prep Like a Pro
After putting most of my groceries away, I begin the meal prep. Two packs of 4 boneless chicken breasts. The first pack, I wash and place the chicken with 2 cups of water in my Instant Pot Pressure Cooker set to high, with the vent closed for 40 minutes. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, just place the chicken in a large pot and fill the pot with water until the chicken is completely submerged. Cook on high until it boils, then lower the heat to medium low until the chicken is falling apart. While that is cooking, I will prepare the other chicken breast to grill, air fry, or use in a variety of other recipes. Wash the chicken and then place 2 chicken breasts in a gallon size ziplock bag, try to get all the air out and seal the bag. Now its time to take all the days frustrations out on the chicken breast. Using the meat tenderizer mallet, on the SMOOTH side, pound the chicken breasts in the ziplock bag until they are both 1/2 inch thick. This will make the chicken breast cook consistently and tenderize the chicken. The ziplock bags keep the mess locked inside so you aren’t splattering chicken germs in your kitchen. Now remove the chicken breast from the bag and place them on a cutting board. I cut mine in half because the chicken breast are usually huge at this point. Each one is equal to 2 servings so cut them in half and now place these in a new gallon size freezer bag. Repeat the process until all the chicken is prepared for the freezer. I have a family of five, but only four live at home. If you have more, just prepare for your family. If you have less, only place the amount you would need to grill in the freezer bags. This eliminates the need to thaw more than you will use for your recipe. While the chicken breast is finishing in the Instant Pot (or on the stove), move on to preparing the beef.
Homemade meatballs go a long way in meal planning. Meatball subs, spaghetti and meatballs, or my favorite- meatballs with cheesy garlic rice, pineapples, broccoli and bbq sauce.
I recently discovered that you can cook ground beef by the whole package in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker. What a time saver! Just place the meat in the Instant Pot, add 1 cup of water, and cook on high pressure with the vent closed for 25 minutes. Open it only after the steam release valve has opened. Refer to the owner’s manual for safety information. Always follow safety protocol with the Instant Pot! When it is ready to open, just use a large spoon to move the meat to your stand mixer. It will look like this:
Let the stand mixer break up the cooked ground beef. After it cools, place the portions you will need for your recipe in freezer bags and label them. Use the stand mixer to “shred” your cooked/boiled chicken breasts in the same way. Then measure the portions of shredded chicken you will need for your recipe and place in freezer ziplock bags. Label them- it makes it easier to remember what the meal plan is. You can always change your mind about the use since it isn’t seasoned yet!
Work Smarter, Not Harder!
I take one day, every two weeks to prepare chicken and ground beef. It’s worth it to me. I can grab a bag of pre-cooked and shredded chicken out of the freezer and throw a big pot of Mom’s Chicken Noodle Soup https://sanctuary-ridge.com/2020/03/25/sanctuary-ridge-family-recipes-moms-chicken-noodle-soup/(opens in a new tab) or Wonderful Waldorf Chicken Salad https://sanctuary-ridge.com/2020/03/29/sanctuary-ridge-family-recipes-wonderful-waldorf-chicken-salad/(opens in a new tab) together in 30 minutes or less. It cuts down on the actual meal preparation time without sacrificing any flavor.
Follow my blog for more recipes or follow Sanctuary Ridge on Facebook for more updates. Happy Meal Planning Friends!
- John 6:35 (KJV)And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
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3 thoughts on “How to Meal Plan like a Pro”
Chicken gnocchi? What’s that?
An Italian chicken soup with gnocchi (potato based noodles) instead of regular noodles. It reminds me of Chicken and Dumplings! So good!