10/19 thru 10/25 #mealplanning - stocking the freezer with made-ahead meals: my three favorite recipes inside! #cooking #motherhood

Brand new to Meal Planning?

Start by reading all about Meal Planning (Link at the topin order to familiarize yourself with the steps! There, you will find a link to a detailed example of my own weekly meal planning where I walk you through step-by-step.

The first thing I do each week is look back over the week to see if we did indeed eat everything on my meal plan (I write down each night's meal on our family calendar) and adjust my inventory, reducing it by what we ate and increasing it by anything I purchased and/or made-ahead. 99% of the time if a meal that was planned for wasn't eaten it's automatically added to the next week's plan.
I stocked up at the store this week and spent 6 hours on Sunday making meals to freeze for the future. I made meatballs, spinach stuffed shells, and calzones!

8 portions ground turkey breast

5 portions boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 portions pre-formed turkey patties for burgers
3 portions Brats

4 portions plain pork sausage
2 portions Italian sausage
1 portion chuck roast
4 portions made-ahead meatballs
3 portions made-ahead spinach stuffed shells
1 portion made-ahead meatloaf
1 portion made-ahead enchiladas Verdes
2 portion made-ahead calzones

"Portions" for my family typically mean 1/2lb to 3/4lb of meat and it feeds all four of us at one meal. To keep my freezers organized and make things easier on myself, I divide up my bulk purchases into portions and label everything before freezing it. For example: meatloaf requires 1lb of ground beef where Goulash only requires 1/2lb so, I package 1lb of ground beef and write "meatloaf" on the outside of the bag to ensure I don't accidentally thaw out an entire pound of meat for a recipe where I only need half. You could also write "1lb" on the bag. 

Next, I shop my pantry, freezer and fridge for ingredients to come up with some meals off our Master Meal List. As I mentioned above, I write down each night's meal on our calendar so, I look at it first to sort of rule out meals we've recently eaten to cut down on monotony. Then, I read the weekly ad and look through the coupons and Just4U deals from Safeway via the iPhone app to see what is on sale that might complement and/or substitute for what I came up with. I also jot down the price of things I plan to buy that I can frequently find cheaper at my local farmer's market (Dan's) or at Trader Joe's. On shopping day, I stop at Dan's first and buy whatever is cheaper than Safeway; next, I stop at Trader Joe's; and then, I purchase everything left on my list at Safeway. Lastly, I determine how I can stretch ingredients, specifically fresh produce and expensive items over enough meals to use them up to prevent waste. 

Weekly Meal Plan

Italian sausage calzones with marinara dipping sauce
I think these calzones have replaced Pad Thai as my husbands favorite meal. He asks me to make them at least twice every week! I purchase already made 1lb pizza dough from Safeway (typically 2@$3), divide them into three equal balls, and flatten them into 8-10" circles. I combine browned Italian sausage with the cheese mixture from my turkey lasagne recipe (I only need half the mixture so I use the other half to make stuffed shells later in the week!), fold the dough over and crimp it together with a fork. I bake them on parchments paper at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. I let them cool for 10 minutes before cutting into 5-6 strips and serving them with warmed marinara sauce. I purchased twice as much dough today so I could have a batch to freeze for a future meal. The Johnsonville sausage I love was on sale $3.99 and I had a $1.00 coupon for purchasing two. 

Barbacoa tacos 
Last week, I received a free jar of Herdez simmering sauce. I saw that chuck roast was on sale ($1.99/lb) so I purchased a little over a pound and plan to put it in my Crockpot with this sauce all day before shredding it and serving it in taco shells. I needed to purchase Cojita cheese ($2.49), organic cherry tomatoes ($3.99), soft tortillas (20ct. $1.99), and organic Romaine lettuce ($2.99). I'll use the remaining lettuce and tomatoes in a side salad later in the week. 


Orange chicken and snow peas over brown rice
I don't think I can express how much I love this meal, it's just that good and so easy to make yourself. All I needed to purchase was an orange ($1.49/lb), green onions ($0.49), and a 1/2 cup of fresh snow peas ($3.99/lb) as I had everything else I needed on hand. You can find this recipe HERE.

Spinach stuffed shells and salad with herb vinaigrette
Talk about an easy, hearty, delicious meal, you have to put this one in your recipe box! I use the same cheese mixture from my turkey lasagne (the other half of what I used earlier in the week) and mix it with a pound of cooled, browned beef (purchased on sale today $1.99/lb) that I sauteed with 1/2 cup minced onions, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tablespoon dried oregano and 2 teaspoons dried marjoram, and 4 cups chopped, fresh spinach that I wilted into the meat mixture in the last 5 minutes of cooking. I spoon the mixture into precooked, rinsed, and cooled jumbo shells ($0.99) and place in an 8x8 glass baking dish that has a layer of my home-made sauce (same as the turkey lasagna recipe!) on the bottom. I laddle the sauce ontop of each shell and top with freshly grated mozzarella cheese ($2.99). I cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes, if thawed first. I'll use the remaining lettuce and tomato and my home made herb vinaigrette as a side salad. 

Enchiladas Verdes
I'm using my last made-ahead portion of this meal on one of our busier nights this week.

Chicken Parmesan with grilled asparagus
I have everything on hand that I need to make this meal but decided to purchase fresh asparagus (on sale $1.49/lb) to grill and serve with it. 

What did I purchase this week?

I spent just over $200 this week, all at Safeway as I was able to get everything I needed at the lowest price in one place. I love when that happens! :)

This was a huge, stock the fridge/freezer/pantry trip for me - I took advantage of several excellent discounts, sales, and coupons including:
  • (4) Johnsonville, $3.99 ea plus $1.00 off when you purchase 2 or more  
  • (2) 2lb pkg of ground turkey, $5
  •  Ground pork, $3.49 ea
  • 4lbs ground beef, $1.99/lb
  • 1.5lbs chuck roast stew meat, $1.00/lb
  • Farmland bacon, $3.99 ea
  • Steamfresh 10-12oz frozen vegetables, Buy 2 Get 2 Free
  • (4) Cheerios, $1.50 when you buy 4 or more
  • Progresso soups, $0.99 when you buy 4 or more
  • Bush's beans, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Crescent rolls, 2@$3
  • Jimmy Dean pork sausage, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Safeway brand stuffing, Buy 2 Get 2 Free
  • Francisco's french bread rolls, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • La Costena chipotle peppers in adobo, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Oscar Mayer turkey meat franks, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
I'm giving the Cheerios (2 of the boxes), Progresso soups, Bush's beans, and stuffing mix to Emily's Elementary school Food Bank drive.

We were out of the following:
  • Deli hamd, $5/lb
  • Tillamook cheddar cheese, $2.99/block
  • Eggs, 18ct $2.49
  • Milk, $2.49
  • Half & Half, $1.99
  • Frozen power grain waffles, $2.99
  • Corn tortillas, 30ct $1.49
  • Pears, $1.49/lb
  • Organic honeycrisp apples, $1.99/lb
  • Seedless green and purple grapes, $1.99/lb
To make my made-ahead stuffed shells and calzones, I had to purchase:
  • Goat cheese, $4.99
  • Ricotta cheese, $2.99 plus $0.50 coupon
  • Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese, $4.99 plus $1.00 off coupon
And I got the following COMPLETELY FREE just for using the Just4U Safeway app:
  • Pasta Prima organic spinach ravioli
  • Pasta Prima organic pappardelli pasta
  • La Victoria medium taco sauce
  • El Pato tomato sauce with jalapenos 


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