As we were getting ready this summer for Jason to start PA school, I really wanted to figure out some kind of meal plan for our family. In California, we were just kind of winging it on a daily basis. We'd look around our kitchen at dinnertime, pick something to cook, and make it. It meant that we had a lot of the same stuff over and over and over, because we just had to work with what we had and it was hard thinking up new stuff on the spot.
Now, we're having different, good food every night. Our current plan is based off two principles: theme nights, and freezer meals.
The theme idea comes from "The Food Nanny." Her blog is down right now, so I can't link to it, but basically she says that each night of the week should have a set theme. Some of her ideas are "Comfort Food Night," "Mexican Night," "Pizza Night," etc. Our theme nights are:
Sunday: Beef or Pork Night
Monday: Chicken Night
Tuesday: Pasta Night
Wednesday: Fish Night
Thursday: Mexican Night
Friday: Chicken Night
Saturday: Soup Night
(Also, you know have you say a word over and over and over it starts not to seem like a real word? Well, all the sudden "night" doesn't look like a real word to me. It's a real word, right?)
The freezer meal part of our plan comes from a conversation I had with my sister Alyse. A little while ago we were talking on the phone, and she mentioned that she'd tried out a cookbook called "Once a Month Cooking." The idea is that you buy all the groceries for a month's worth of dinners all at one time, cook up all the dinners at the same time, freeze them into daily-sized portions in your freezer, and then pull them out when needed. She'd tried it out with two week's worth of meals, and she liked it.
I really liked the sound of that, so I looked up the book on Amazon. The reviews were just okay, so I looked around on Amazon some more, and found "Don't Panic - Dinner's in the Freezer." It was based on the same idea, and had hundreds of great reviews. I really wanted to try it, so I bought it (and as much as I love books, I rarely buy them - I usually get them from the library, or as gifts. If I bought as many books as I read, I'd go broke!) and that's saying something! It came in just a couple days.
As soon as it arrived, I went through it with Jason and we marked all the recipes we thought sounded good. I read the first couple chapters that explain the benefits to freezing meals ahead of time, how to plan multiple meals at once, how to shop, what to do on the "cooking day," how to freeze everything, and what to do on the "serving day."
I've done three (I think?) cooking days since then, and made about two months of dinners in those three cooking sessions. They're all frozen and stored away, in one-dinner-sized portions. Our dinners are now written out and planned until the end of September, based on our theme nights, and all in our freezer ready to go. All we have to do is pull them out of the freezer the night before and put them in our fridge, and then put them in the oven or on the george foreman when it's time to eat!
I really really like how it's working. We've been eating our frozen dinners for weeks now, and they're really yummy and so easy to prepare on the day of. This is a great system, and I'd highly recommend the book "Don't Panic - Dinner's in the Freezer" to anyone who'd want to try the same idea.