Warning WORDY post!
My two little girls began preschool this Fall and although their school days are short, a few hours here and there, I get asked all the time about how I will spend the extra free time. I chuckle because my list is long but my number one goal for this Fall is to be a better, healthier meal planner.
We have food issues in our family. I have food issues myself. My kids won’t eat. I eat horribly. I have been known to run through a drive thru here and there. Gasp! I know, I know…don’t lecture me. I am conscious of it. Honey-Do is the only one who eats normal and semi-healthy, he could afford some changes too. When 5 pm or even as close to 6 pm rolls around I start scrambling on what to do for dinner. And my kids could be perfect little angels all day long but the minute mama hits the kitchen all hell breaks loose. Something takes over their bodies and I am left frustrated and rushing to the phone to order a pizza. Even during better days when I plan ahead and I am more organized, my two little girls make kitchen life….. oh so not fun!
I will say that since my children were born, I have tried to be more diet conscious and I watch what they eat very closely. I have slowly been switching to organic foods, growing fresh vegetables in my garden, and switching to BPA free products. I want my kids to be healthy little foodies. However, getting a two and three y.o. to cooperate is not an easy task and when they begin to mimic my bad eating habits, it makes life even more difficult.
Enter my inspiration—Gina Rau’s Change Becomes Change and Feed our Families Blogs. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I have been inspired by her posts and her philosophies. We seem to have so much in common (I will touch on that in another post one day) but she really takes nutrition to a higher level-a natural and healthy level. A level that I want my kids to reach. I want them to understand why eating healthy is important and I want them to maintain a lifetime of healthy eating habits. It should begin now.
So what can I do to make that happen? Well for one, I need to get real food on the table. But how do I do that with two toddlers who seem to need to be near mommy the most at the exact time she wants to cook? For starters I am going to start planning the week’s meals ahead of time, I am going to add more crock pot recipes, and most importantly—“Make Ahead Freezer Meals.”–inspired by Feed our Families post here.
However, in my enthusiasm for my freezer meals, I decided I was going to make 10 + meals in one weekend. This is typical of my kind of behavior, I like to take on the world and I get way too ambitious. I think it could have been done, but it was too much to take on, I don’t recommend it. Here is what NOT to do when you are planning your make ahead meal strategies.
Do NOT attempt to cook 10 + meals if you have 2 very energetic toddlers who need lots of attention, all the time.
Do NOT attempt to cook 10+ meals when you are trying the recipes for the first time.
Do NOT attempt to cook 10+ meals when you decide that is the weekend you are going Apple picking. Oh and you pick 3 bushels of apples. Oh and you plan on using them to make apple butter, apple cake, apple muffins, and apple pie!!! Oh yeah, so now you have more than 10 + meals.
Do NOT attempt to cook 10 + meals at the same time you decide that your entire kitchen needs to be reorganized and all of your pantry cleaned out. I told you I was ambitious.
Do NOT attempt to cook 10+ meals on the same weekend that you decided you also want to switch your entire pantry out from plastic to glass.
Have I made my point?
But I think you SHOULD Make Ahead and Freeze Meals. I think it’s a no brainer, I think it will make your life easier. So what do you need to make that happen? This is what you SHOULD do:
You SHOULD invest in good glass. I like the pyrex (as recommended by Feed Our Families) because it doesn’t stain easily. I personally think it tastes better than freezer bags. It’s not plastic. You can see what’s inside. And you can go from freezer to oven. Done. Make the investment. Amazon has really good prices and if you use coupons, Bed Bath and Beyond is cheap as well. I have yet to find a good set at Costco, although I am always on the lookout.
You SHOULD use tried and true recipes. Start out with things that you love and have been making for a while, regular staples on the menu. You can google them and find out if they will freeze well. And as you get more organized and better at it, try out some new recipes. A staple in our house is homemade mac and cheese.
You SHOULD plan your meals better and freeze as you go. Meaning…..my friend gave me a tip on how she plans out her meals. She plans out her menu for the week on Sat, shops on Sunday, and starts cooking as the week goes on. My added advice to this is simple. Plan out your meals on Sat, shop on Sunday but double one or 2 recipes for the week. Make a double batch and freeze half. Bingo. You are already taking the time to make the meals just a few minutes more and you are good to go. Most of the meals that you will freeze are just prepped and not fully cooked so it’s easy peasy. My sister Jaime is already putting this to good use, she says it’s working well. DO NOT attempt 10+ meals in one weekend. Trust me, it will only frustrate you.
You SHOULD recycle all empty cardboard boxes and plastic as a result of your freezer adventures.
You SHOULD try to compost your leftover vegetable and fruit scraps from your make ahead madness. Oh and your chickens might like a little of it too.
You SHOULD break up your meals into different sizes. The great thing about the pyrex sets is they come in various sizes. Then you have meals for family, for 2, or just for you when you are all alone. Does that ever happen?
How will these freezer meals help you? Well on those nights where you get busy and are scrambling for dinner, no need to order pizza, just pop a meal in the oven. You know it’s healthy and you know it’s good. Or use it for busy nights when one or 2 of you are not home and the Grandma and Baba need a quick meal for the kiddos.
Now if someone could just tell me how to get my 2 tots to actually eat, I would be most appreciative!
Oh and you should recruit your husband to help you clean up the mess!
And don’t worry, I will be sharing a ton of make ahead recipes that I have tried soon!