How to Get Your Meals to Plan Themselves
Part 4: The Master Guide to Freezer Meals
This is Part 4 of a series of posts that explain in detail how I stock my deep freeze every 3 months. Here are links to other posts in this series:
So after you’ve taken an inventory of your entire house, it’s now time to figure out what you would like to eat for the next 90 days (or however long you would like!) This process starts by looking at the inventory of your deep freeze, freezer (attached to fridge) and pantry. The first goal of planning meals is to use up as much of the stuff you currently have while limiting what you need to buy.
Before I take you through this process, I should probably let you know a little about meals at our house. Our daycare serves our boys breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack. Because our boys are always
hungry starving when they wake up, we feed them something light while we are getting our breakfasts, coffee, and lunches packed. Micah and I almost always eat breakfast at the house (or perhaps, a better description would be while we are running out the door). Micah and I typically make our own lunches, but roughly once a week we each have a seminar or meeting where lunches are provided. When it comes to dinners, it’s usually all 4 of us. I’d like to say that it’s the 4 of us eating together, but our kids are young and a lot of the time, it’s Jack and Henry eating first and then Micah and I eating after they go to sleep; but that’s a different subject all together, one that perhaps we can discuss at a later date.
To make this process a little more streamlined, I typically juggle 3 pieces of paper:
- My food inventory
- A page with 5 categories (Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners, Snacks, and Sides)
- A blank page for my Grocery List
This method allows me to easily list the meals I’m going to make, assign them to either breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, or side and then quickly jot down things I need to buy. As I decide what meals I’m going to make, I also approximate how many servings those ingredients should yield. For example, the first thing on my list under “Deep Freeze” is Jamaican Jerk Chicken. This Jamaican Jerk Chicken comes as a kit, so when I make this, I’ll use up the chicken in the deep freeze and the kit in the pantry. Therefore on my inventory I will highlight both of these items so I know they are accounted for. Next, I approximate that this kit will feed my family of four 2 meals, which is 8 servings. So I will add “8-Jamaican Jerk Chicken” under the dinners column.
- The back of the French toast sticks says it contains 20 sticks, my boys usually eat 2, so this box will serve them 10 breakfasts.
- I’m going to skip assigning the mozzarella cheese to a meal, because it has a variety of uses. Who doesn’t need a little cheese in their life? I’m sure it will randomly get used!
- The loaf of white bread can be used to make sandwiches for Micah and I’s lunches. I’ll need to add lunch meat and cheese to a grocery list. This loaf has 24 slices, which means we should get 12 sandwiches; 1 pound of lunch meat and a half a pound of cheese should be adequate. (This amount probably seems a little random, but I’ll explain why I say 1 pound of lunch meat and a half a pound of cheese in the next part of the series.)
- The hamburger buns can be used to make more sandwiches at lunch and apple turkey burgers. I will add another pound of lunch meat and half a pound of cheese to my grocery list and 12 more sandwiches to my lunch tally. This will leave me with 4 hamburger buns, which can be used for apple turkey burgers. I’m going to add 8 meals with turkey burgers (because my boys don’t eat buns).
- For the frozen or canned veggies, I usually just tally up how many in total I have. I figure one bag or can serves our family 1-2 meals. I’ll add them under the Sides category.
- We will use the hoagie buns for French Dips. I will just have to buy a beef chuck roast and a packet of Au Jus (and we could use the mozzarella cheese as a topping).
- When it comes to hotdog buns, we probably won’t use them for hotdogs. I do buy the Johnsonville turkey cheddar hotdogs, but usually I feed them to my kids without a bun. I therefore plan to use the hotdog buns for meatball subs, which will use up some of the pasta sauce in my pantry and some of the mozzarella cheese from the freezer. I will have to add the meatball supplies to my grocery list.
- The bag of diced chicken will be great for salads, stir fry, and quesadillas. The salad kits come from Sam’s Club and a handful of chicken on top makes it an easy lunch. Sam’s Club also has a stir fry kit that we use this chicken for and we also put it into quesadillas.
- The Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup can be added to the lunch menu.
- Cool whip – not really a food to plan a meal around. We will just leave that off the schedule, I’m sure it will randomly get used up.
- In total, there are 6 steaks (2 marinated, 4 not marinated). We will put those on the dinner menu.
- 1 package Split Chicken Breast – This will serve our family 8 meals and we will add it to the dinner menu.
- 1 pie crust – I don’t have any meal plan for this, but I will save it for the next time I decide to make pie.
I basically continue on in the same fashion until I’ve used up nearly all of our food inventory. Then I start adding staple meals our family loves to fill in the rest of the menu, like meatballs, meatloaf, taco meat, breakfast burritos, breakfast sandwiches, Eggo waffles, etc. I add all the necessary items to the grocery list.
I keep adding meals until I have the desired count of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. At the end of this exercise, you should have list that tells you all the different types of meals you will have and all all the supplies you need to buy from the store. If you add up my number of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners here it isn’t perfectly 3 months worth of food. One reason is that I tend to underestimate how many servings I will get out of a meal. The other reason is that my freezer only holds so much (and I hate to overfill it), so I can always pick up a few additional items when I go shopping (roughly every 3 weeks) for milk and produce. In all honesty though, I usually don’t have to pick up too many additional items up and I can’t remember a time where I had to prep additional food for my freezer during the 3 month time frame.
The next step is optional, but probably a good exercise when you are starting to do this for the first time. You can take a calendar and schedule all your meals listed on your sheet. If certain meals involve fresh produce (that you can’t freeze), you should schedule them within the first week (or maybe two) of your calendar. For example, I typically schedule that Micah and I will eat salads for lunches the first week following my shopping trip because they only last a week or two. Then the next week I will schedule lunch meat sandwiches, because all of those supplies are in the freezer and won’t go bad. Here is an example of our “Meal Planning Calendar” for 1 month. A blank copy of this calendar can be found on the SUPER SECRET page that only subscriber’s have access to. If you would like a FREE copy of this calendar subscribe to Super Savvy Sarah!
So at the end of this part of the series, you should have a calendar with all your meals scheduled and a grocery list (don’t forget that we will have to add the household stuff you need from Part 2). In Part 5, I will tell you where I personally buy each of the items on my list and why.
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Did you enjoy this article? Here are links to the other posts in this series!