Every homemaker knows how challenging meal planning can be. It gets monotonous to plan meal after meal, day after day. But I suppose there is no getting out of it, we all have to eat.
I have been busy trying to simplify the process so I hope to be able to share what works for me. Hopefully it will help someone else.
Cook Once Eat Twice-Or more
Yesterday I made fried rice for supper, instead of making just enough I made enough for 4 meals. I cooked 6-7 large chicken breasts in a large dutch oven on the stove. I put 12 cups of water in the pot along with the chicken. One onion cut in quarters, 3 bay leaves, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1teaspoon of peppercorns. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through. About an hour or hour and a half. After the chicken was cooked, I kept the remaining liquid. I strained the liquid and poured it into jars to use as broth for soup.
I then placed the cooked chicken into the bowl of my kitchen aid stand mixer with the paddle attachment to shred the chicken. I put 2 cups of cooked chicken into 4 large Ziploc bags, then I put 3 cups of cooked and cooled rice into each bag along with 3 cups of frozen mixed vegetables.
Three of the four bags went into the freezer, one I left in the fridge until supper time. When it came time to make supper I heated some oil in a large skillet and dumped the rice mixture in and stir-fried it until it was heated through. While it was cooking I made a sauce with 1/2 cup of soy sauce, 1/4 cup of sesame oil, 2-3 minced cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon of fresh grated ginger and a squirt of sriracha sauce.
Once the mixture is heated push all the rice to one side of the pan, add so oil to the pan and crack an egg or 2 into the pan. Using a wooden spoon stir the eggs up until they are cooked and then stir it all together. Add the sauce and stir it up until it is all mixed together. To serve it I add some chopped green onions and sesame seeds. When you want to use the packages that are in the freezer you just need to defrost a package and heat it up the same as described above.
Make Ahead Breakfasts
I have fallen in love with baked eggs. They are easy and delicious. Recently I made pizza sauce so that I could make some mini pizzas for lunch. I had a pile of pizza sauce left over so I needed to do something with it. I placed a slice of deli ham in each cup of jumbo muffin pans.
Next I put in a mixture of frozen diced onion and pepper mix. Then I put some small pieces of pepperoni, (alternatively you can use a large slice of pepperoni on top of the ham) then a tablespoon or so of pizza sauce. Crack an egg into each and sprinkle on some Italian seasoning, add some grated mozzarella cheese. Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees for 10-13 minutes. You can eat them as is or put them on English muffins for a breakfast sandwich.
To use up the pizza sauce from the above recipe. I placed English muffin halves on a large cookie sheet and then layered on pizza sauce, grated cheese, frozen diced red peppers and pepperoni. I baked them in the oven at 425 degrees for ten minutes.
We ate some for lunch and the remaining ones I layered in between sheets of waxed paper in a large square bowl with a lid to place in the freezer. These are so customizable, use your favourite pizza toppings.
Repeat A Rotation Of Favourites
We eat chicken fried rice almost every Tuesday because the kids have swimming lessons and we don’t get home until 5:30 or later and it is so quick to make when it is already prepped. Most Fridays we like to have “fun food” so we usually have chicken wings and fries, sometimes cheese fries which we all love.
I like to make something quick and easy on Monday night because the kids have karate at 5:45. Soup and sandwiches are a go to. Stir fry made with strips of beef or chicken and frozen mixed stir fry vegetables is another quick and easy meal idea. I am planning to do some more batch cooking recipes in the future I will write about what works once I have done it.
Change It Up Seasonally
Now that summer is approaching I will be making different meals. Burgers, sausages or hot dogs are easy on the BBQ. I love grilled chicken Caesar salad so that will be on the menu rotation as well. I love salads of any kind in the summer as well. Fall and winter are good for soups, roasts, stews and chilies.
Be sure to check your calendar so that you don’t plan something time-consuming when you’re busy. Make a list of your families favourites and use that to make your meal plans. Try not to over plan when you make a menu, consider things like date night, dinner out with friends and leftovers.
Another thing to consider when grocery shopping is quick and easy items for times when the meal plan doesn’t work out or for times when you forget to defrost what you had planned to make. I try to keep chicken pot pies in the freezer because I don’t need to defrost them I just have to bake them for 45 minutes from frozen.
If you have bread and sandwich fixings and some canned soup that can become dinner really fast if needed. Slow cookers and instant pots can be useful meal planning tools as well. There are also many meals that can be made in a large skillet with only a few ingredients for busy days. American goulash and one pot macaroni and cheese are both quick and easy.
The best meal plans are the ones that you can stick to so try not to over complicate things.