Ahh…meal prep. The holy grail of all moms. I just can’t figure out how to do it and still eat “fresh” food. There are so many reasons why it doesn’t work (and I think I’ve tried them all!); fruits and veggies nutrients after they have been cut (no cut and stored veggies for the week for me) or trying to find safe containers that are reusable for storing prepped meals in (call me picky but my food sitting around in plastic just defeats the whole point of wholesome, from scratch, homemade meals), or finding meals that actually taste good once they are thawed and re-heated (am I the only one that has dealt with soggy thawed meals?). Yea…it just hasn’t worked out, obviously.
What is Working!
HOWEVER, I am not one to dwell on negatives…let’s talk about what has worked out, shall we? Sourdough. I have been baking, freezing, and thawing sourdough bread and rolls for some time, and they always come out from the freezer and thaw perfectly. Just as fresh and delicious as if they had just come from the oven. With my husband packing a lunch every day and my kids eating toast for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch, the occasional french toast breakfast, we go through at least 2 loaves of bread a week! When I was buying sourdough bread, I paid roughly $4-$5 a loaf, we figured out that making it at home cost about $1 a loaf. That’s a $24-$32 a month savings, or $288-$384 a year, just in bread! Not to mention how much better homemade bread tastes and the fact that I have total control over ingredients. I am able to use unbleached, non enriched, organic flour, high quality organic olive oil, mineral rich Real Salt, raw unprocessed honey, and my own purified water with targeted minerals added back in. The result is an extremely nutrient dense, good for the gut, fermented bread product for my family. Nothing in the stores come close in comparison, the fact that it cost 1/4 the price is just an added bonus.
KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid
In an effort to keep every meal homemade and as close to “from scratch” as possible, in a world of boxed and canned foods, I have been purposing at working our weekly menu plan around homemade, homegrown, nutrient dense, delicious foods. Sourdough products have made this much more attainable as they hold up so well to freezing and thawing. The homegrown portion will increase over time, as my greenhouse garden, Summer pasture, and winter pasture garden grow and develop.
Keeping some spice and variety is another important part of being my families personal chef. It means I have to work a little harder at being creative and unfortunately “meat and potatoes” every. single. night. isn’t going to cut it. Not with my oldest child around anyways…you know the one…the scenario goes something like this;
Oldest child at dinner: “Oh my gosh this is my favorite food ever!!!”
Me, fist pumping and thinking to myself: YES! I will make enough for left overs for lunch tomorrow, because…favorite food ever! How can I lose?!
Oldest child, next day at lunch: “Oh man….this again?? Is there any other choice?
Me: Silent screaming with my face in a pillow and rocking in the corner.
Sound familiar? Yea. So anyways, bringing variety on strong over here. There are a million and one ideas about how to menu plan out there. A million and one ways that have yet to work for me and my fam bam. And isn’t that just the way it goes? Since I have given up the idea of “huge, weekly, make every single thing you will eat that week on Saturday and freeze it” idea. And the “prepare and eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day this week” idea. And can’t afford the “just eat out when you have no plan” idea. I have come up with a few things that are actually working. And these are a great guide and reminder for what is actually practical when I am homeschooling all day, and running kids around for activities every afternoon, and exhausted with a fussy, whinny, clingy 18 month old by dinner time. Here they are:
Rules That Make The Dream Work
*Dinner has less than 5 ingredients and is ready on the table in 30-40 minutes. Prep time has to be so super duper short and reasonable. Like 5-10 minutes, at the most, people, come on! How much time can one person spend in the kitchen without losing her ever lovin’ mind?
*I write my meal plan ON THE FRIDGE. Did you get that? On the fridge. Like directly on the fridge. Not on paper that can get lost, or a whiteboard that can get erased, or a pad of paper or messy chalkboard, etc. I just use an expo pen and it goes right on the fridge door. Not in any kind of order either! Oh no!! Simple “Sunday through Saturday” labels would be far too “rigid” and “structured” for me. I decide day to day which meal I feel up to making that night and whip it up…then cross that one off the list. Totally works. And keeps the “free spirit” in me alive. Barely.
*I only meal plan dinners. That’s. Right. If you are meal planning breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks….ugh. Just stop it. Unless you are sick and twisted and enjoy that sort of thing. Then, carry on. I prefer to apply the philosophy of KISS (keep it simple stupid) to my weekly Breakfasts and Lunches. Here’ s how it goes;
Weekday Breakfast is literally a choice between 3 things; eggs, bacon, and toast, fermented oatmeal, or pancakes. Of course, always granola Friday’s which I don’t count in my 3 choices because 4 choices is just too many choices and pushes me over the edge.
Lunch? Left overs or sandwiches has been what works for lunch. And everyone gets a grass fed yogurt for snack before our afternoon activities. Another option we have done (especially in the busy Summer months) is something my friend has dubbed “snack lunch”. Basically your kids eat an array of “snacks” for lunch. Examples we have done would be: sliced meats, pre-cut up melon, fruit, soaked nuts and seeds, yogurts, left overs, toast, etc.
There you go, you are forever free from the horrid complication and time sucking activity of planning every single meal. You’re welcome (said in your best Moana voice).
Unfortunately, some meal prep is in order for weeks to run smoothly using the above criteria. Because I don’t buy ready made breads, tortillas, rolls, pizza doughs, hamburger buns, etc. and we only eat sourdough breads, those all have to be made ahead of time if they are on the menu. Here’s an outline of what I have found vital to have on hand to make meals quick, nutritious, and simple during the week:
*Bread – I currently can only make 12 loaves of bread at a time, due to glass loaf pan constraints (let me know if you have any lying around to donate to my cause) which lasts us anywhere from 5-6 weeks. This makes sandwiches for lunch super quick, and also do-able for my kids to make themselves (which basically makes it magic). I freeze 2 loaves of my sourdough bread in extra large, two gallon, ziplock bags . That way I just grab one bag, with two loaves inside, which typically lasts the week. Easy. Peasy.
*Pizza Dough – We eat pizza once a week and I make enough for 8 weeks worth at a time. That’s ONE dinner a week down…no planning necessary other than purchasing the toppings during my weekly grocery shopping trip.
*Rolls – When we have soups and stews, we have rolls. I make about 50 at a time and freeze them in bags of 10. These last roughly the same amount of time as our bread 5-6 weeks (the recipe I use for my rolls is the same recipe I use for my sourdough bread. It’s just easier that way, and easy is worth it’s weight in gold) I make one soup/stew a week…TWO dinners down.
*Hamburger buns – this is something I am just starting to make (we have just been using rolls up to this point). The recipes I’ve tried so far are just not share-worthy. We have burgers once a week so, once I find a worthy recipe, I plan to make 36 at a time to last 5-6 weeks, like our bread. THREE dinners a week done – boom.
*Tortilla’s – Tortillas are so darn versatile and useful to have around! This is on of those things that can literally be used for any meal; breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and the hubs won’t complain about a “breakfast” food being eaten past breakfast or a “lunch” food being eaten at dinner, etc. I would like to have a continuous supply of them on hand. I am starting with 32 and will see how long those last us. Typically a burrito night once a week (FOUR dinners done! Without even trying!) and breakfast burritos for breakfast Saturday morning makes these totally worth having in the freezer!
I freeze these in large zip lock bags with parchment paper between each one. That makes is super easy to just grab the number of tortillas I need without the hassle of having to thaw out an entire bag and risk them going bad.
*Pancakes – Some people make huge batches of pancakes and freeze them. Not me. I prefer to mix up a lot of batter and freeze the batter in batches…because the making of the pancake is not the time sucker…it’s the mixing of the batter and cleaning of the dishes that takes time and makes a mess. Right? This also allows more flexibility in our daily pancakes; want blueberry pancakes? No problem! Raspberry? Sounds delicious! Chocolate chip? Can I get an amen!? Instead of being confined by the preferred pancake of last week, we get to make new choices every time we whip up a new batch! Heavenly.
I freeze the batter in these super duper handy meat freezer bags. We are also planning on using these to scramble and freeze the abundant excess of eggs we are planning on getting in the Spring, when all 30 of my chickens and 2 of my turkeys are laying eggs! You can get them on amazon pretty darn cheap and they are not as prone to frost bite as things frozen in zip lock baggies.
*Beans – I have been keeping a big bowl of soaked and slow cooked beans in the fridge and they have been a wonderful addition to our meals; on salads, in burritos, with rice and stir-fried veggies, with eggs in the mornings, etc. Versatile and nutritious when properly prepared.
*Homemade Broth – this is another staple. I slow cook a half chicken with onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and chicken feet (for added gelatin), in the crock pot, every weekend, for 24 hours This provides an entire gallon of broth for daily drinking and enough for a large soup or stew. I do a stew or soup toward the end of the week, when I am tired of being in the kitchen. Added bonus is having left overs for lunch on the weekends.
*Shredded Chicken – the half a chicken from the crock pot is shredded and the white and dark meat separated (I prefer dark meat for my soups and stews, white meat for salads and burritos). The meat goes into separate glass containers and into the fridge.
Here is a typical week of eating around here. Items with a * next to them were prepped ahead of time in one way or another and the prepped portion is in italics for each day;
||Bacon, Eggs & *Toast
Pre-made pancake mix
||Bacon Eggs & *Toast
Sourdough Tortillas, Black Beans
||*Sandwich or left overs
|*Sandwich or left overs
|*Sandwich or left overs
|*Sandwich or left overs
|*Sandwich or left overs
|*Sandwich or left overs
|*Sandwich or left overs
||*Burgers with Homemade French Fries
Sourdough Bun or roll
|*Chicken or Ground Beef Burritos
|Taco Salad (minus the taco. Lol!)
||*Soup or Stew with rolls
|Steak and Potatoes
||*Pizza Night with fresh salad
Sourdough Pizza Dough
|Roast Beef and Veggies (potatoes and carrots work well here)
The menu stays pretty simple around here and, though we do staple dinners every week (Burgers, Burritos, Salad, Stew, Pizza) it’s easy to mix it up by changing the type, flavors, or side dishes that accompany these main meals. It’s definitely helpful to have the kids involved! Each kid gets to take turns picking the pizza toppings for that week, or the soup/stew/chili for the week, etc.
My kids typically get a snack in the afternoon. Lately it has been a grass fed yogurt, but here are some other nutrient dense snack ideas we have used personally:
- grass fed yogurt
- thinly sliced meat rolled up with raw cheese
- soaked and dried nuts
- smoothies with coconut oil, berries, raw milk, and raw honey
- sliced veggies with avocado dip
- carrots sauted in butter (actually one of my oldest daughters fav’s)
I hope you were able to garnish one or two new nutritious ideas to incorporate into your weekly meal plan! Bon Appetit!