Cook Then Plan – A new twist on meal planning

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So there was this girl. And she recently had her fourth baby. And she really wanted to still be able to feed her family, while adjusting to life with a newborn and life with 4 boys.

Oh wait, that's me.

So how is it that I was able to survive the first 6 weeks without my older boys going hungry, and my husband being able to "grab n pack" both his lunchbox, as well as the boys' lunchboxes?! I cooked ahead.

For the weeks leading up to the baby's birth, I loaded the freezer. I stocked "my nest" with all kinds of pantry staples. I baked. I froze. I packaged up slow cooker meals. I froze. (Well, I didn't freeze…the food froze.) You get the idea. I stocked my freezer with a bunch of meals and items for lunchboxes. 
I didn't do a "big freezer cooking day," as that would have been overwhelming and too hard on my pregnant belly and body. I just did it little by little. And you know what. It worked. It worked wonders. Some days, it feels like miracles. To have food on the table, without too much fuss…or thought! 

Here are the simple steps:

  1. Make a list of the items you want in your freezer.
  2. Start working on the list and filling your freezer, all at once or little by little.
  3. Plan your weekly meals around what's in the freezer and pantry, also filling in with fresh fruits and veggies.
  4. Repeat, as needed, to keep a nice stock of meal options in the freezer for quick planning and getting dinner on the table. And here's the kicker…I'm still doing it. Just baked a double batch of muffins today for lunchboxes. This "cook then plan" plan is working out for this busy mama of four.

What about you? How do you make meal planning work for you?

Erin Chase is the founder of $5 and author of The $5 Dinner Mom's One-Dish Dinners Cookbook.


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