First I'll post some of the information I gathered to help begin the planning process.
What can be frozen and how to freeze:
Design Mom - Living Well: 11 Secrets To Properly Freezing Produce
Can You Freeze This?
How To Blanch
Storage life of fruits and vegetables:
Meat handling and storage:
Food Safety - Storage Times
Little B's Healthy Habits - My personal favorite to reference
The Gracious Pantry
Now that I was armed with some of this basic food knowledge I was able to plan my menu filled with healthy foods! I created a spreadsheet with a basic layout for a 2 week period with columns for breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinners. Dinners is the hardest and most important to our menu so I generally plan those out first and fill the others in after. Some things to keep in mind when planning your menu are:
*have meals with ingredients that go bad first
*choose easier meals/snacks for when you will be busier or out of the house
Now don't judge on my meals yet.....this was the very first one I made when we were easing into healthier eating. I am learning a lot as I go and tons of new recipes and snacks to make it healthier and more interesting while sticking to a budget :)
After you have planned out all your meals create your grocery list using your menu.
I have a shopping/prep weekend every other week and usually begin the menu planning mid week anywhere from Wednesday to Friday depending on my schedule.We get paid on Fridays therefore, I plan my shopping trip for Saturdays not only since it was payday but also so that the best Nana in the whole world can babysit the little ones leaving me to focus on my job. That leaves Sunday for our prep day. In general this in an entire day thing for us. Marty and I spend the day in the kitchen prepping meals for the next 2 weeks but we absolutely love the time together chatting and prepping! Even better after our one day of hard work we get 2 wonderful weeks of ease!
While Marty was beginning chicken I was beginning my own little preps. I am not huge on water and never have been but we all know it is super important so in order to help me drink more I like to make flavored water by simply adding lemon slices, orange slices, mint leaves and any other fruit or natural juice you prefer. I tried orange water this time and while it was good my favorite is still lemon water.
I didn't need all the orange for my water so I cut up the rest of the orange in slices and removed the rind. I then broke it into triangles and used it in a fruit salad for our lunch for the day. We like to make simple foods on prep day since we barely have time between prep to make our meals. The dressing for this fruit salad is greek yogurt and we like to top it off with sliced almonds. The great thing about fruit salad is you can use whatever combo of fruit you desire or have on hand! This one in particular was:
After we are done with the chicken for our dinners we move on to our summer oatmeal. I discovered THIS recipe on Pintrest and we have fallen in LOVE! At first we weren't sure we would love it as I can be very picky about trying new things and Marty is picky about dairy and well we were both worried it might just be a jar of mush! We were pleasantly surprised that it was not a jar of mush at all and when you use the sturdier steel cut oats there is quite a nice texture to it. This is a recipe that is open to personal preference big time.....we are constantly changing the ingredients until we find how we love it. Also Marty needs tons of calories while I need less so when making his we use whole milk and in mine we use unsweetened almond milk. We line up all our jars and fill them with the base ingredients which are the same no matter the flavor and then we go through and add the flavors we want. I thought I had a great idea for labeling them with these little tags on a string I had but to be honest it didn't end up being the best as the fell off to easily so I am still searching for a better method to label where it can be changed often but not as wasteful as the dissolving labels. We leave about 3 per person in the fridge at a time and freeze the rest until we need them.
Once I was done with our breakfasts I moved on to the vegetables. Again I referenced my little list under the menu telling me what meals had what in them and how they needed to be prepped. For example carrots were to be used in stir fry and as snacks so I cut them in tiny cubes for stir fry and then also bite size chunks for snacking. Now I'm not too big on carrots so I knew we were not going to get through these before they went bad and didn't want to waste like the previous week so I got over my fear of freezing/blanching and realized it was super duper easy! I blanched 2-3 meals worth of small cubes to be frozen and taken out for stir fry over the next month. I also blanched and froze the broccoli, not because I don't love them but because it was planned for one of the last meals and I knew it wouldn't last the entire 2 weeks and since it is for stir fry frozen broccoli works great! I like to cut up the other veggies I know can withstand being sliced and still last the 2 weeks. Then all throughout the next 2 weeks when we use them in our meals all we do is grab the container and toss 'em in! We use tons of bell pepper and onion for instance so I pre cut quite a bit for all the meals......I can't believe how much time this has saved throughout the week!
Our fridge was super filled with everything more so than usual this time because I was able to get a bunch of squash and other veggies from Schnepf Farms gleaning day so with this in mind I simply looked in the fridge to see what we had and what I could prep to save room now and time later. I plucked all the grapes and rinsed them and put them in a container for quick grab and go snacks. I also prepped some cilantro and green onion bulbs for roasting later. I have found squash doesn't do the best when peeled or cut ahead of time or cabbage so I leave those as they are.
Lastly I wasn't too sure if our fruit was going to last real long as it was from the market and looked iffy. I decided to prep most of the fruit for fruit salad with the hopes of lasting longer in a sugar syrup. I used the strawberries, blueberries, peaches, grapes, raspberries and Marty added the blackberries and mango to his. We then mixed it with the dressing and put in jars or containers for lunches and snacks. Here is the recipe for the dressing we used:
1 Tablespoon of agave nectar
1 Tablespoon of honey
2 Tablespoons of lime juice
You can use 2 Tablespoons of either just honey or agave nectar as well but I liked half and half. It's that simple and goes a long way!
Well there you have it! A day in the life of the Barefoot Momma Tess food prepping! I'll aim for a shorter post next time and feel free to ask any questions you may have ;)