When we first got married, I thought life was pretty perfect. I was teaching full time and Mike was back in school. I would get home around 3pm and take a nap. I would get back up between 4:30-5pm to start working on dinner. Nearly every single night, dinner was ready to go by 6pm - just in time for Mike to get home and have a few minutes to relax. That "perfect" homemaker was working inside me. I loved being a wife. Cooking each night. Laundry every Saturday (or Sunday if we had plans on Saturday). Everything was all nice and put away - ALL the time.
That lasted about 6 months.
Cooking wasn't the same anymore and I loathed laundry! Before long, we found ourselves eating out quite a bit or making the most of cereal or whatever else was always in the fridge. We have tried meal planning each Sunday afternoon. We always felt like it took away from a day of rest and then we had to figure out when we were going to the grocery store to get everything for the week. A meeting or something would come up and we would swap out the gourmet meal for a run to Chipotle. We would end up throwing stuff away because it would go bad before we ate it and felt like a lot of our time together was being spent on business planning.
Several months ago, a lovely friend introduced me to onceamonthmeals.com. I had seen all the freezer meals on Pinterest, but really felt like that was too much to handle. You factor in sorting through the recipes and which ones 1) I would want to eat 2) Mike would eat and 3) I could eat with Celiac Disease. Seemed like way too much trouble. With onceamonthmeals.com, everything is done for you! They even have a gluten free menu to choose from. Other menu options are Paleo, Whole Foods, Diet (includes WW points), etc. They give you a shopping list and you change the number of servings you want and everything recalculates. They give you labels for each item with cooking instructions. And they give you a prep sheet - what should be done first. (For example, chopping all your veggies first so you do not have to wash the knife and cutting board a million times with cutting raw meat.)
We bought a subscription for them and went through their menus. We found several we liked and actually doubled them. This was back in September, and we STILL have stuff in our freezer from then! Obviously that means we didn't eat at home every day, but we have eaten healthier and wiser. This time I went through and picked some recipes that I knew we liked (some from the previous time cooking) and others that are just staples for us. It took a little longer to come up with a shopping list, but it was much better the second time around and because I wasn't using unknown recipes, I didn't have to go back and forth to the computer for recipes.
This is about halfway through and the burritos were already in the freezer.
Let me say this, if you have never done freezer cooking before, I highly recommend using onceamonthmeals.com your first time. You can cancel your subscription at anytime. The $10/month is worth the time it takes to plan it all out and learn how it works. After that firs time, decide if it something worth the the convenience, new recipes, time savings, and excessive options. Feel free to try it on your own.
OK - here is the breakdown. We spent just under $150 on groceries. We buy as much as we can from Costco. Then Aldi, then Publix. If we need a specialty item, we usually hit up Whole Foods. So far we haven't had to do that. I cooked about 4 lbs of chicken in the crockpot as soon as we got home. Once cooked, I throw it in my trusty KitchenAid mixer and shred it. Stick it in the refrigerator until the next day - cooking day. You will also want to chop any veggies up to make it easier for the next day. We use a lot of frozen stuff so we eliminated this step. You could also brown beef on the shopping day, but we held off. That meant it took us a little longer the next day because we couldn't assemble some meals until the beef was ready.
Keep in mind, the $150 does not include some stuff we already had on hand. We already had rice, beans, marinara sauce, and lasagna noodles.Once you find the meals you like, you will probably have a lot of the ingredients on hand.
As promised, here are some of our favorite recipes! This does not include some of the staples for us: Chicken Pot Pie, Shepherd's Pie, Lasagna, and Tacos. Oh, I also made 12 chicken-bean burritos for last minute lunches. The chicken-bacon bites are AMAZING!!!
OK - so here's what we got for the $150:
3 Lasagnas (12 servings total)
2 Shepherd Pies (8 servings total)
2 Chicken Pot Pies (8 servings total)
12 Burritos (12 servings total)
1 Taco (4 servings total)
9 Chicken Broccoli Casseroles (25 servings total)
2 Cashew Chickens (8 servings total)
2 Teriyaki Chickens (8 servings total)
~30 Meatballs (10 servings total)
~40 Chicken-Bacon Bites (20 servings total)
(I still need to make the Granola bites.) Most of the casseroles or main dishes are prepped for 4 servings. We just eat two and then have two servings for leftovers the next day.
115 servings for $150! That is not including the breakfast bites. $1.15 per meal per person is not bad! Granted, you still need to add some side dishes to many of these meals. This is also a a GREAT way to take a meal to a family that just had a new baby or other families who are in need. You can take it out of the freezer to thaw and give them cooking/reheating directions so they can make it when they are ready. Let me know if you try it and some of your favorites!