Meal Planning for the Keith's

I feel almost kind of silly sitting down to write a new post. It's been quite a while since I've kept up with this little ole' blog of mine...I do wish I had more time to write, but more important things call these days...

I did want to take a minute to share how I've been planning meals for my family lately. It's really nothing genius...just something that needed to be done for several reasons...
1. We have a grocery budget and we need to stick to it.
2. We have a restaurant budget and we can't be lazy with it...if I don't plan meals, it's easier to come home on those days that are rough and just not feel like figuring out what to eat for dinner...then Matt feels bad for me, and we end up at our favorite Mexican restaurant. Before we know it, we've spent way too much money eating out. Plus, I'd much rather feed my family a home cooked meal than go through the drive through or take my 3 and 4 year olds out for dinner.
3. I really wanted to make sure that I'm feeding my family healthy meals...

So last school year I dappled with the idea of doing freezer meals at the beginning of the month, and I did do it a few months, but was never super successful with it. I'm certainly not a "pro" at it, but I successfully plan and make 14 crockpot freezer meals for August. I actually took it a step further and planned all of our dinner meals for the month. Yep...I used my planner and planned out our menu for the week.

Then each week when I went to the grocery store, I only had to buy a few things (breakfast items, fresh veggies & fruits, etc.) And the best part...I was able to stick to our $400 grocery budget!

So many people have asked what I do...and it's really not that hard. I sat down and made a list of things my family likes to eat, plus I searched Pinterest for ideas. Then, I packaged all of the ingredients in labeled ziplock bags. On the day we are going to have the meal, I take it out of the freezer, empty the frozen ingredients into my crockpot, and set the timer (generally for about 8 hours on low).  I'm still tweaking a few meals and the times that they need to cook... When I get home from work,  if there are any sides that need to be fixed, I make them (and my kids help me...maybe I'll write a post about that later).

Here's a list of the freezer meals I made for August and a couple of the recipes I used:

1. Jumbalya
2. Creamy Italian Chicken
3. Homemade Spaghetti Sauce (Not a crockpot meal, but I freeze it and set it out the day we're going to eat it to unthaw and warm it up on the stove in less than 5 minutes while the noodles boil.)
4. Italian Chicken
5. Teriakyi Chicken
6. Beef Stroganoff
7. BBQ Chicken
8. Hamburgers (Not a crockpot meal, but Matt can throw them on the grill and cook them quickly.)
9. Cilantro Lime Chicken
10. Chicken Tacos (I just freeze the chicken, tacos seasoning & water...then I just put it in the crockpot for 8 hours on low.)
11. Salmon (Not a crockpot meal, but again, another easy thing to throw on the grill.)
12. Southwest Chicken Wraps (I make the chicken and stuff the wraps before we eat.)

We eat a lot of Mexican...at least once a week, and obviously a lot of chicken. There are other meals I make (Roast, Soups, Chili, Stuffed Potatoes...I'll post those recipes another time.)

It takes me about 2 hours to prep everything, an hour and a half if Laney & Ben aren't running around. Once I've prepped the meals, I sit down with my calendar and plan out when we are going to eat the crockpot meals (usually nights when we have something going on or if I know Matt has to get the kids because I have to work late at school). Then, I fill in the other days with meals that are easy to prep on school nights and save the longer prep meals for the weekends. I also make 1 night a week "leftovers night," because Matt has band rehearsal on Thursday nights. The kids and I enjoy a movie and eat leftovers on Thursday...it also helps us clean out the fridge without wasting food.

Anyways, there ya go...my little "secret" to cooking for my family every night while working a crazy teaching job. This also allows me the ability to spend some time with my kids because I'm not slaving away in the kitchen every afternoon.

I also make mason jar salads and do some other food prep...more on that another time. For now, it's time to go play bouncy ball with Laney! :)

Happy Sunday friends!

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