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Meal Planning-Home Cooked Meals & Reduced Food Budget

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
So I'm transitioning from a SAHM to a full-time working mama temporarily and I wanted to know what is the best way to meal plan home cooked meals while still working full time? I've been coming home and cooking and am not out of the kitchen till 8pm and it's too exhausting. I may look into using a crock pot.

Any other good ideas? Also my food budget will be reduced so I need budget friendly meal ideas also?

Thanks so much
post #2 of 7

CROCK POT!!! If you don't have one, get one. They are often cheap at garage sales and thrift stores (where i got mine!). 

They are awesome because you can put everything in it before you leave for work, and then when you come home its ready to go. & if you want to plan even more in advance, you can make "freezer meals." I am just starting to get into the habit of doing this and it has made my life SO much easier. In one afternoon, you prepare multiple meals and put them into a zip-top bag in the freezer. Then, the day you plan to eat that meal, you dump everything into the crock pot and theres no work to be done that day!

 I have been feeding our family of 6 on a food stamps budget, which is very low. By shopping the sales i have been able to do this organically (woo-hoo!). we eat meat-free a lot of nights, and i don't buy any snack foods at all, which saved my food budget. Every once and a while i make crackers or apple chips to snack on through the week but mostly we got out of the habit of having processed snack foods. the kids are learning carrot sticks, cucumbers, pears, nuts, and a bowl of beans to be a snack. And we are all healthier too!

 

Here are some links to recipes.

 

http://bustedbutton.com/2012/09/22/slow-cooker-freezer-meal-prep-day/

 

http://thesweatybetties.com/crock-pot-recipes/

post #3 of 7

I'm learning to play with dried beans in my crockpot. We recently had to buy a new vehicle for our family that is expanding in February. Since our income is recently went down due to our health insurance increase I have had to start finding ways to make food cheaper and not consider picking something up as an option for when I'm tired.

 

I've done black beans, pinto beans, and a bean chili successfully in my crockpot. I make a large pot of chili then the next night make backed potatoes that get topped by the chili.

 

Salsa chicken is also easy to do in the crockpot. I don't even thaw the chicken first.

 

If I get a good deal on whole chicken I do that with veggies for the first day, return the carcass to the pot with water overnight, strain sometime the next day and add veggies for soup.

post #4 of 7

I've got so much sympathy for this.  It's hard to cook good healthy whole foods... even recipes that are seemingly simple... with all the chopping, prepping and then clean-up, it truly is exhausting.  Meal planning will definitely help.  it helps to keep you organized and will mean that you can prep the night before or morning of, making it so that  not everything needs to be done at once during the hectic evening hours.  It also prevents that... "oh no, i don't have any beans soaked" thing that can happen when you dont plan ahead.

 

The crockpot is a great idea.  They're inexpensive and it really is nice to cook everything in one pot.  

 

mojoraven, tell us more about dried beans in the crockpot.  I've made split pea soup, but haven't really done other dried beans.  That sounds like a great idea.  Bean soups?  that would be so simple.

 

another idea is to think about prepping food during times of the week when you have more time free.  I went through a phase for a while of coming home from the grocery store (usually on the weekend) and immediately washing and chopping vegetables, ie always having diced onions and peeled garlic cloves and kale all cut up.  It really makes dinner easier when the majority of the prep is already done.

 

Eager to hear more of people's ideas

post #5 of 7

Beans in a crockpot are really easy. I soak the beans overnight, and if I'm ambitious I sprout them over the next few days, then I add liquid and cook them all day. I follow the black bean recipe from Stacy Makes Sense, with a few alterations for my preferences. For the pinto beans I just add onion and garlic, sauteed first if I have the time.

post #6 of 7

Ah, i thought you meant dried beans right into the crockpot.  Sorry, my ears just perk up any time I hear of something with the fewest steps possible!  Although I suppose one could put all ingredients into the pot overnight (that being the soak step) and then start the crockpot in the morning.... 

post #7 of 7

I do soak them in the crockpot overnight. Then drain in the morning. If I'm ambitious I'll sprout them over the next couple of days. Normally I just add the other ingredients and go. But it does taste better if the onions are sauteed first. I just don't always have the time or inclination to do that. :-)

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