So I have been really big on food prep over the past year and a half or so, ever since my husband left for deployment. Going from cooking for 2 with 1 of us having a MASSIVE appetite (guess who!) to only cooking for myself was a BIG adjustment. It’s been highly beneficial since he got home as well though. We save money on groceries and it makes cooking faster/more efficient.
Even before Devin left, I had started portioning and freezing some items in ziplock freezer bags. I finally invested in a Food Saver (pictured above). I found it on Amazon for about $75 with shipping. This has been the biggest help in my food prep, especially with meat. I tend to buy meat in bulk and this way I can portion everything out into single or double servings. I use it for a lot of vegetable as well, though there are some (onions and mushrooms mainly) that I still put in ziplock resealable bags. I should probably invest in the resealable bags from food saver at some point but these are cheaper and they work for what I need.
With all my food prep, I have started doing some meal planning as well. Before moving back to Virginia, I had a dry erase board on the side of our fridge. On Sundays, I would list off what meat I was using and vegetables, sometimes an entire meal depending on how motivated I was. It helped me remember to pull out meat and helped Devin help me if I forgot or was coming home late.
The other way my meal planning helped was with my grocery shopping. There are certain items I keep on hand as much as I can. When I ran out, those were noted on my other white board for my shopping lists. Knowing what I wanted to eat, I knew what I needed to buy. I SAVED so much not buying crap all the time that didn’t get eaten. I do buy some items when they are on sale even if I don’t need them, but those I will freeze if necessary or just store until needed. The main items I keep on hand are:
- Spices (mainly salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, and chili powder)
- Baking supplies (flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, honey, and cocoa powder for the days I want something sweet)
- Sauces (cooking wine, soy sauce, fish sauce, worcestershire, and vinegars–apple cider, white, balsamic, red wine, and rice)
- Dairy Products (milk, heavy cream, parmesan cheese, other shredded cheese, sour cream, plain greek yogurt, and cream cheese)
- Can/Jar/Boxed items (corn, diced tomatoes, green beans, pasta, pasta sauce, rice, quinoa, and bread crumbs–regular & panko)
- Pre-minced garlic (category of it’s own because i pretty much put garlic on EVERYTHING and we buy the bulk size of the preminced garlic because I hate cutting that stuff)
(Now these aren’t mine since I’m living with my mom right now, but mine looks about the same)
Having those items on hand make HUGE difference. You can make a wide variety of dishes from each other those categories and they will all taste different. Fish sauce isn’t a necessity unless you’re a huge Asian food fan and that stuff goes in EVERYTHING. Once you keep all these on hand, you can basically buy meat, veggies, fruit, bread, and frozen stuff.
Now you really have to take into account what works for you and your family with what you keep on hand. Some people aren’t comfortable making their sauces like I am, so stocking up on different sauces might work for you. You may be off gluten or dairy, so substitutes may be what you need to keep on hand. You may not like canned items (and trust me, I limit these because of the sodium levels) so you might want frozen corn or to make your own diced tomato sauce. Always do what works for you and what you like.
Stay tuned for more on what exactly I do for my prepping. 🙂