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My 28 day food challenge

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We all have different stresses in life. One of many for me is meal prep. This might seem trivial for some, but for me it is a great stress. My Hubby and I work full time and it’s easier to order in then to plan a meal, this needs to change. Why I posted in this forum.

 

I would like to share my 28 day plan.

 

Today I have visited 3 grocery stores and Costco and spent a total of 411.86 for one month supply. This includes food for all three meals, cat/dog/bird food and toiletries. I ordered and received my stand up freezer today. I have started cooking meals and freezing them, I should be done tonight. I also plan to create a 28 day calendar that states the meal of the day.

 

There are already a few snags in my plan. What we will be short on is lettuce, grapes and bananas, I’m sure there’s going to be other items. Then other problem is when I shop I usually buy a few extras things for my pantry.

 

There are a few items that I have already missed, I have refused to go out and buy any more. We will just have to make due.

 

My hope is to reduce the stress level in grocery shopping and meal planning. Cut out on the last minute ordering in, save money. I have memories of a proper meal on the table when I was growing up, I hope my boys will also have the same memory.

 

I have never done this before, would like to hear other people suggestion that do this.

 

Bd.

 

 

 

 

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I'm sorry to hear about your stress. I have similar issues. Meals are really draining for me. I don't mind cooking, I actually used to enjoy it. But doing so on a daily basis, 2-3 times a day, especially on work days is challenging.

 

One thing I'd suggest is having your husband share in the responsibilities. I requested this of my partner when I noticed that at the end of his day he would just go sit down and relax online or with games -- while at the end of my workday I was supposed to start in with yet more work: cleaning for, planning, preparing and cleaning up after meals. Because if I didn't do this we'd either not eat or have to order in.

 

So yeah, that wasn't flying with me. ;) And it was an extremely unfair situation that viewed his free time as valuable and sacred, but assumed mine was somehow automatically forfeit to responsibilities. We're still working on this in general, but it's getting better. It requires slow change to set habits. But it's making a difference. For example, on the days I'm really run down he'll ask if I'd like him to handle dinner, or I'll say it's a "fend for yourself night". I print out recipes and clip them on the fridge so he can just follow the directions instead of feeling he just doesn't know what to do.

 

Right now I handle the cooking and he handles the cleaning. The whole idea of regular grocery shopping or actually cooking a proper meal, let alone planning meals, was totally foreign to my bf before we were involved. I swear, I honestly have no idea how the boy managed to sustain himself at all before we met. His cabinet looked like he lost a bet. :P So it made sense for me to be in charge of meal planning and him to be in charge of clean up. In your case you may find the reverse works, since you mentioned meals stress you out. I also set the rule that we both go grocery shopping, it's not a "me" thing. Or if only one of us goes it's for a good reason (he's sick or I'm on a deadline).

 

Whatever you decide, the division of labor may help you.

 

The second thing I've found is to have a rotation of easy recipes that utilize a lot of the same ingredients. That prevents you from having to keep going out for some special ingredient or guessing what you can make with the random stuff left. I have these big magnetic metal clips that I use to hold the recipe printouts, as I mentioned above. This eliminates a lot of the stress and decision making. I just flip through, pick something (sometimes at random, sometimes based on leftover base ingredients) and follow the steps. I keep a pen nearby to note changes, since often I need to tweak amounts of times. I've found http://allrecipes.com and http://cooks.com to be helpful sources. You can search by ingredients or type of food.

 

The third thing I've found is to set aside one day (or a few hours over a whole weekend) to make batches of sauces. Then put them in plastic containers in single-meal servings (2 people) and freeze the containers. I use dry erase markers to write the date on each because the "ink" wipes off when I've emptied the container. I take out one or two containers a week and put them in the fridge to thaw so they're ready for dinner at some point later. That turns a 60min+ pasta dinner into a 15-20 minute dinner.

 

For example, many of the meals are a base (rice, pasta, or couscous) with a topping (marinara sauce, beans & spices, etc.). It takes a good 30 minutes just to prepare the marinara (chopping, measuring, blending) and another 20-30 to simmer. That's a lot to do every single time. But making 3 batches takes about the same amount of time as making 1 batch. So I try to have an afternoon where I'll do several batches of sauce, enough to cover a few weeks. That makes the individual work days much easier for me.

 

A final thought is that using frozen vegetables (like spinach and carrots) and canned vegetables (like tomatoes) makes it much easier on yourself. It's not as nutritious as fresh and I prefer fresh, but I simply can't use fresh veggies before they go bad. I'd have to go shopping 3 times a week for that, or be revolving my week's schedule around a specific vegetable, neither of which are realistic for me. So putting half a bag of frozen spinach into a pan and sauteing it is easier and quicker than scheduling to use a fresh bundle, washing it, sorting the leaves from the stems, then chopping it first.

 

Also keep in mind that loaves of bread freeze well, which saves you trips to the store. I like to have some sandwich stuff on hand for "fend for yourself night". Or some kind of frozen food for the same reason: burgers, chicken, little sausage rolls, small pizzas. Anything that can be wrapped in foil or stuck on the Foreman grill and left alone for 15-20 minutes.

 

hope that helps. :)

 

edited to add links

Edited by Y.T.

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Overall, I think you have a terrific plan. I just have one word of caution...don't plan your meals too strictly too far in advance. For example, say you planned on Chicken next Monday with Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli as a veggie. By the time Monday rolls around, you may not want Chicken, or Mashed Potatoes, or Broccoli. But Beef with Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli may sound good. Or maybe you want the Chicken and Broccoli but not Mashed Potatoes. Maybe Rice instead.

 

If you're going the Freezer route, cook and freeze in individual containers/baggies so you can mix and match for the Long Run. And, by doing it this way, even if you don't want idividual servings of this and that, you can always come up with a casserole of some sorts by adding a little of this baggie and a little of that baggie to a sauce or noodles or crust or whatever.

 

When planning long term, keep flexibility in mind so you don't feel so restricted in your options. I say great start and congrats on the new freezer! :)

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one thing that i have been doing lately that is working out great for me is to cook the hamburger as soon as i get it home form the store--i usually shop at sams and buy a ton of it at a time for the freezer--well, having it browned allready has taken a lot of prep time so nothing--i found a bunch of those plastic freezer containers that hold about 2 pounds precooked--when i am ready to make something i just have to grab one and put the casserole togeather or throw it all in the crock pot--it has been the biggest timesaver i could have ever done!!!

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I went to the ladies group at church last night. They were talking about this. One lady had the book Freezer cooking manual the 30 day gourment. 3 of us are going to get it and try it togeter. She did say it was a lot easier to do it with a friend. You take one day to cook and freeze things,and she said you need one night to plan. I work and sometimes there is a lot of overtime.I have a problem with DH he thinks he can cook. He gets to creative and the kids will not eat what he makes. I like to cook but not after working 9 to 12 hours. and then there is the kids and house work. Just making sure that everyone is doing there part makes me :tapfoot::wacko:

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A thought or two :)

 

I at one time did the once a month cooking. It was a huge step for me at the time and a big investment of time to gain the knowledge, the ingredients and then to actually do it. It was great! Wonderful!

 

However, that's not my way of doing things now. Now, I use my freezer differently and only put things in there temporarily until I can process and preserve them otherwise, like with pressure canning. I decided that I didn't want to put too much stock in my freezer, just in case of power outages. So, that's just a thought to consider.

 

backdoor, I commend you for trying to bring some order to meal times. It is a challenge and you're going to do great. Don't be too overly strict on yourself...babysteps at first and then as already mentioned, flexibility.

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I decided that I didn't want to put too much stock in my freezer, just in case of power outages. So, that's just a thought to consider.
aside from the energy involved in cooking that many meals at once, that's my concern as well. If we lose power for a few days or more I've then just lost a month's worth of meals along with the energy it took to make them.

 

There aren't that many options for refrigeration here. I can't use a generator and I'm renting so I can't set up an alternate power source inside. We're pretty much limited to ice and a cooler. With dry ice or block ice, a good sealing cooler and some discipline I can make a small amount of food last about 3 days. But there's no way I could preserve even half a freezer's worth with that method.

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good point I am just thinking about the weeks that kill me. We do have backup power. My job is not family friendly. With DH only doing 20 hours I have to work there.I'm trying to teach kids to cook. They need so much suppervison it going to take a while. I don't think we will do a hole month.We really just want adult time. My friends just wanted to try a few things.

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I have challenges as well, with my husband working nights, and my kids in after-school sports (they have practices everyday from 3-5, my husband leaves for work at 4), so we typically eat our dinner at 1 P.M.

 

What I do is plan three days in advance. I utilize the crockpot often-but actually have to do this the day before we eat it since we eat so early. I also make a larger quantity than needed, then freeze the leftovers. When I pull them out of the freezer a month or two later, they are not considered leftovers! And there was no extra work involved.

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I have a problem with DH he thinks he can cook. He gets to creative and the kids will not eat what he makes. I like to cook but not after working 9 to 12 hours. and then there is the kids and house work. Just making sure that everyone is doing there part makes me :tapfoot::wacko:

what about printing out or writing up a list of 5-10 recipes that you usually make that you know the kids like, and giving them to your husband? tell him he can save his creative experiments for nice adult meals between the two of you. ;) or lunches you can each take to work.

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Just as an illustration of how I have redefined convenience foods. ;)

 

Rainy day, husband's ball team losing, one of the kids under the weather, and I'm busy as a bee trying to do a million things.

 

I had this thought, "What a great day for chicken and dumplings." This can be a time consuming meal normally, but not today.

 

I grabbed a quart of my home canned chicken breast, poured the broth in my heavy dutch oven, sat the extremely tender and tasty meat aside for when I was ready.

 

I grabbed a bit of chicken base from my pantry because I wanted more broth than what I had. Adding water, sprinkled in dehydrated bell pepper and onions.

 

While that was going I mixed selfrising flour with butter flavored crisco until crumbly, poured in butter milk, and dropped by the spoonfuls into the hot bubbling broth.

 

Let that simmer a bit and added the chicken.

 

I was done...done !! My family had a absolutely divine, home-cooked, filling, warm meal in way less than 30 minutes.

 

I am so glad, so very glad that I started home canning my meat and discovered dehydrated foods. Lovely, absolutely lovely.

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I was done...done !! My family had a absolutely divine, home-cooked, filling, warm meal in way less than 30 minutes.

 

I am so glad, so very glad that I started home canning my meat and discovered dehydrated foods. Lovely, absolutely lovely.

this is exactly why I'd like to get into canning at some point. so I can store the elements for meals that I regularly use or that take a long time to prepare. giving me the option to do something as you've just described. :) I figure that also will help the "you mean food doesn't come from a window?" bf with the cooking. ;)

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Thank you for the ideas, suggestion and sites to visit. Off to investigate everything to see if I can make the 28 days easier.

I'll update after my 28 day experience.

 

Just like to wish everyone a Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

 

bd.

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Backdoor I told my friend from Canadia Happy Thanksgiving. She moved me to her very favorite person list. I have a canner but until we rearange the kitchen I do not have counter space. I loved my MIL and miss her very much, but she did everything for her boys so getting help is hard,to cook Dh has to

have everything out and prep for him. We have lived here 17 years I have not moved things in the kitchen and he still cant find enything. He is a great guy but homemaking skills are not his strong point.

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I loved my MIL and miss her very much, but she did everything for her boys so getting help is hard,to cook Dh has to

have everything out and prep for him. We have lived here 17 years I have not moved things in the kitchen and he still cant find enything. He is a great guy but homemaking skills are not his strong point.

 

I say that in the name of preparedness, there's no time like the present for him to learn. ;)

 

I actually labeled all the cabinet shelves in the kitchen with what goes where (big plates, little plates, glasses, bowls... large pots, small pots, strainers... pasta, rice, canned goods, spices). I just used post-it notes as labels, cutting off the excess paper and put them across the edge of each shelf to indicate each area. Men (and kids) can read, so they can figure it out. ;) Taking 20 minutes to do that now saves you hours of "I have to do that for him" later. He may not put things back where they should be, but he can't claim he doesn't know where to find something.

 

I give up on the fridge though. My guy apparently feels that the top shelf is the place to put everything back, no matter where else it came from: the crisper area, the door, the bottom shelf. :lol: I'm constantly rearranging it and putting things back on the door to make room for leftovers or groceries. But one step at a time, I figure. ;)

 

Another thing: print or write out directions so there's no excuse not to know how to do something. Again, time invested to do that now saves hours of your time wasted doing it for him later. If he complains he doesn't know how to do it or it's too complicated to follow there's always the response of "so what you're saying is that I'm very much smarter than you, since I manage to do this everyday by myself?" -- or -- "so you're saying that as a grown man you can operate complex electronics like the TV or computer just fine, but something as simple as following directions for rice is too challenging for you?" Said in a loving, teasing way with a smile and a wink of course, not in a nasty way.

 

The first several attempts (or even weeks) of this may not go so well and may require a lot of patience your part or enduring not-so-great meals. But everyone has to learn at some point, everyone is a beginner at some element of preps. :)

 

...not to get off-topic. but as I see it, on the subject of preparedness if you're trying to plan meals for more than yourself then your partner (or kids, if they're old enough) should be part of that plan, to some degree. Especially if you're finding meals difficult. It's important not only for your sanity and respect for your time, but also so they are able to feed themselves (a basic life function) should you become injured, ill, or otherwise unavailable.

 

They need to know where supplies are, where recipes are, how to operate the appliances, how to avoid getting sick through undercooking or improper cleaning, how to shop, how to make a meal. And it's best for them to figure that stuff out now, in a safe crisis-free environment than when SHTF. :)

 

edit: spelling

Edited by Y.T.

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During the summer hubby's hours are moved back to 7-4 from 8-5 but with classes back in session he is back on 8-5. By the time we get home and I regroup and get dinner started it is 7:30-8:00 before we eat and I can not handle that. So what I have done is plan out my menus for the month. I used to by specials and plan around them not any more I buys according to my menus. I still pick up the specials and put then in next month's menus.

 

Like Deerslayer I brown my ground beef when I get him and divide it into 2 cup portions in ziplock bags and freeze it. I have made up biscuits and froze them so that all I have to do is stick them in the oven and let them cook. I have sliced onions and froze them. I cooked a huge ham and divided it into 3 portions, one was sliced, one was cubed and then I left lots of meat on the bone and will add it to beans. Chicken was cooked and divded in 3 portions. Wings and back were used to make dressing. Leg quarters were used to make chicken and rice, once breast was used to make chicken salad and the other breast was used make quesadillas. I shredded the chicken, added green chiles, onions and cheese mixed together in gallon zip lock and froze. When it was time to made the quesadillas I got out the flour tortillas and butter them put then on a cookie sheet added the frozen chicken mix topped with a second flour tortilla and stick them in the oven. Cook time included they were on the table in less than 20 mins.

 

I also cook dry beans and freeze them in portions for baked beans, chili, refried beans etc. I will set them down out of the freeze the night before that way they have had time to thaw before I start cooking.

 

I have made up corn bread mix and have it ready just to add eggs and water (i used powdered milk) and what ever else I decided to add like green chilies and creamed corn to make mexi-corn muffins. Or add cheese for cheesey muffins.

 

Just having the meat cooked and divided in the portions in the freezer has cut mega time off my prep time. It even allows me to rearrange my menus with no be headache.

 

 

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A final thought is that using frozen vegetables (like spinach and carrots) and canned vegetables (like tomatoes) makes it much easier on yourself. It's not as nutritious as fresh and I prefer fresh, but I simply can't use fresh veggies before they go bad. I'd have to go shopping 3 times a week for that, or be revolving my week's schedule around a specific vegetable, neither of which are realistic for me.

 

 

 

VT:

 

Try the green bags. They work GREAT!!!! Fresh brocolli can last a month in the fridge before turning yellow...

 

We LOVE them!!!

 

https://www.greenbags.com/

 

They can be found in many stores now.

Edited by CoM

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VT:

 

Try the green bags. They work GREAT!!!! Fresh brocolli can last a month in the fridge before turning yellow...

 

We LOVE them!!!

 

https://www.greenbags.com/

 

They can be found in many stores now.

thank you! I had not heard of them before. you find that they actually work?

 

my method has been to put some paper towels at the bottom of a plastic bag to absorb moisture that could otherwise encourage rotting, and roll the top down to leave the bag open so air and gasses can escape. but that usually only gives me a week and a half.

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I wonder what the mineral that makes them effective is?

 

EDIT: It is zeolite. You can buy that in the pet store.

Edited by GirlNextDoor

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I dont have the room to shop a month at a time anymore - so even prepping is a challenge. But for many years I shopped once a month. My biggest issues were perishables. I made sure that I got the containers from Tupperware that keeps veges better. I made a point of paying a little more for better quality perishables.

 

But it is not that hard to change your shopping habits. For a few weeks I bought extras. So that my pantry now had a months supply. I kept lists, and saw what I used in a month, from that I could fine tune my regular shop. If I ran out then I changed my meals to suit. The key was not to go looking for one more ingredient at the local shop. You cannot buy one thing! It simply doesn't work.

 

If you know what ingredients you normally use, then your pantry can be useful. It is the beginning of successful prepping, knowing what you use and how often. If you have a one month supply, it doesn't take much to extend the non perishables to 2 months, then 3 months. If you combine those principles with the other suggestions that have been made, you will simplify meal times. The hard work is setting it up, once that happens, it will be easier.

 

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This is a REALLY good thread. I think meals are a challenge for many of us. Whenever I identify a problem, such as "I never know what to make for dinner," my first priority is to ask myself some questions. In this case, the first is: Would a meal plan help me? From experience, I know that the answer to that is "It depends." Next, would cooking ahead help me? That's a resounding YES! I keep asking questions until I've gotten to the root of the problem. In my home, it's complicated by two picky eaters.

 

Like Stephanie, I try to use home canned goods to make "easy" meals. My favorite is a pint jar of hamburger. I toss it - along with its liquid into a saute pan and add taco seasoning. I open a can of refried beans (if I planned ahead, I'd pull homemade beans from the freezer), slice some onion, grate some cheese and - if I have some - slice some lettuce. We either have nachos, on purchased corn chips, or I make tortillas. I keep a homemade dry tortilla mix on hand - just add water. I can make two tortillas for EACH member of the family by the time the meat is done.

 

Y.T., you have made a lot of excellent suggestions; thank you for your input!

 

 

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Sounds like you got alot of good advice here. The 2 things that I would add,,

1- google Dump chicken recipes.... basically you line up gallon sized baggies with enough chicken for your family meal, then you dump in other ingredients (Often including preserves or salad dressings) seal baggies and freze. Then on the day you want that meal, you take it out of the freezer, dump into a crockpot and let it go all day long. You come home to an easy great meal, just add instant rice and a veggie.

2- The easiest way to make meatloaf, even my kids can do it by themselves, (got the recipe from the stove top stuffing site) is basically adding a box of stuffing mix, eggs and ketchup or BBQ sauce to ground meats and cooking. Any stuffing mix works. You can make them up in advance, then freeze wrapped in Aluminum foil, write on it at what temp to preheat the oven then who ever is home can pop it in the oven and cook. It also can be baked in a muffin tin then individually wrapped and frozen for fend for yourself night...

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I forgot something I wanted to say. I think some of the pressure we feel about meals is societal. We feel that it is expected that we make "new" and "interesting" things everyday. We've been told that "leftovers" are not okay. We've been told that it's not okay to make chicken salad one day and tuna salad the next. I've been re-reading the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I'm noticing that they often ate the same thing day after day. I also noticed that there weren't separate "breakfast" and "dinner" foods. In one book, they had prairie chicken for supper (because "dinner" is at noon) and the leftovers for breakfast the next morning. A wise choice in an era without refrigeration, to be sure. Why can't we do that? My dh takes the exact same lunch EVERY SINGLE DAY. Why do I have to make up new stuff every night for dinner (cuz we eat "lunch" at noon ;) )?

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well, last night we had a cottage pie for dinner, my picky DS loved it. So he had another slice for Breakfast and wanted more for lunch. I love it when that happens because other times I have left overs that become science experiments because nobody would eat them after the first serving.

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