Tell me if this sounds familiar. You get home from a long day at work. The kids are going wild. You’ve got to rush out the door to get everyone to soccer practice. And, you haven’t given a second thought on how to prepare dinner.
I’ve written previously about how batching saves time and helps my family achieve more of what matters. Today I want to share one more example of how you can eat healthy, plan ahead, and save time.
The next month is going to be crazy for us. My wife graduates college in four weeks, the three older kids are all playing soccer, and the baby started crawling and getting into everything. Dinner is the last thing we want to worry about. We just don’t have that kind of time. We need something so simple we don’t have to think about it.
Our goal is to eat as healthy as possible, meaning fresh meats and produce while avoiding processed foods. Luckily, fresh food is actually less expensive. Recently my wife bought a make ahead Paleo book and we decided to go all in.
Make 26 freezer meals using only fresh and organic produce so dinner each night takes less than 15-20 minutes to prepare.
Since this was the first time we’d tried making a month’s worth of dinners we decided on 13 dinners and then doubled the recipes to speed up the process.
Here was our plan of attack:
- Have the kids pick meals they liked from the cook book. This is so we know they’ll actually eat what we make. (Note: most of the meals we decided on are slow cooker meals so they are ready when we get home from work and school. The less prep the better.)
- Make a list of all the food and materials we needed to buy.
- Buy everything in one shopping trip.
- Get lucky when grandma wants to take the kids out for a few hours.
- Get everything out and ready.
- Divide and conquer. Prepare meals simultaneously.
- Fill the freezer.
- Relish our success.
Here’s how it worked out:
For most part, everything went according to plan. Luckily we have technology on our side. The chop wizard and the food processor saved us hours of chopping and slicing.
We batched everything. We chopped the onions, peppers, and veggies for all the meals at one time. We cooked all the bacon at once. This saved us hours.
Once everything was initially prepped, we began filling freezer bags. I just started tossing things in, but I was gently reminded to fill the bags in reverse ingredient order so they would dump into the slow cooker correctly. I suggest you do the same.
We quickly got in a rhythm and even had the baby helping us. We were able to compete 20 meals that evening before grandma brought the kids home and it was time for bed. With only six meals to go, we had our mission for the next day.
After church, we came home and got the kids involved in the rest of the meal prep. They started making meatballs and even picked out a few breakfast items we could throw together for easier mornings.
We spent a total of 7-8 working hours in one weekend making everything for the entire month. It was a significant amount of time upfront. But, we worked together as a family and accomplished our mission.
The best part about this process is how we spent quality time together. The kids had a blast and I could see their sense of accomplishment. I’m guessing there will be more of that feeling when we sit down together to eat their creations.
Now that our freezer is full, evenings will be easier. Once a week we’ll move freezer meals into the fridge to thaw. I love that there’s one less thing to think about each day.
Here are my key takeaways:
- Get everyone involved from the beginning. The more buy-in everyone has from the beginning the easier it is to motivate everyone to help prepare dinner when the time comes.
- Planning ahead is mandatory. Double check that you have everything you’ll need. We ran out of a few items right in the middle of prepping and had to make a quick trip to the store. Make sure you know the quantity of each ingredient you need.
- Use every tool you have to your advantage. Not only the physical tools, but different people’s skills and abilities.
- Enjoy the sense of accomplishment once the mission is complete.
- BONUS: Fewer dishes each night! Enough said.
We’re totally prepared now. With the stress of the upcoming month we know there’s a few fewer things to worry about.
[reminder]Have you ever batched a months worth of meals? How did it work out for you?[/reminder]