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Make Ahead Meal Plan Challenge: Week One

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We’re honored that so many of you have chosen to join us for the first ever Plan to Eat Make Ahead Meal Plan Challenge! It’s time to get started planning, shopping and prepping for week one!

We’ve put together a quick 5:00 video that walks you through how to use Plan to Eat for week one:

Click here if you are unable to see the above video

Planning

If you’re new to the concept of freezer cooking (or “batch cooking” as it’s sometimes called) here’s the gist: One recipe is multiplied several times, so that you make a huge batch. One can be eaten right away, and the others go into the freezer. This can make for a really efficient kitchen because you can use one day a week to do all your cooking, and then eat from the freezer throughout the week. That’s what the Make Ahead Meal Plan Challenge is all about!

We chose to make 4 different meals for our first week: Basic Red Sauce, Classic Chili, Classic Lasagna, and Tex Mex Chicken Fingers. All of these are taken from one of our favorite books Fix, Freeze, Feast, which is a must-have cookbook for any batch cook! 

You can cook directly from these 4 meals or customize your plan to fit your preferences. We chose only 4 recipes, not only because we have limited freezer space, but also because we know that there will be nights that we will need to make a menu change, have guests over, or eat out with friends. The great thing about freezer meals is that if you don’t eat them, you have them for another busy night! 

 We followed a few simple ideas for choosing these recipes:

  • These recipes have similar ingredients, or base ingredients, but also provide variety of flavors.
  • These meals are very simple to prepare.
  • These are “safe” meals that most families will enjoy (who doesn’t like a cheesy lasagna?!).

If you’ve joined the challenge, you can access these recipes by clicking on the Plan button at the top of your Plan to Eat account, then click on Menus tab on the left. Choose Make Ahead Meal Plan Challenge from the Your Friends Menus drop down list (if you don’t see it, you need to join the challenge at this link):

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Drag Challenge Week 1 onto the day that you want to prep the meals: 

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After adding the recipes to your Planner, make sure they will make the correct number of servings. Click on the recipe to view the recipe details:

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Next, add the recipes to your Plan to Eat Freezer. This will automatically update the recipe servings size that you want to freeze and the amount of ingredients that you need to purchase at the store. Press the Add to Freezer button on the recipe details to view the Add To Freezer details:

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Select the number of meals and servings that you want to make. Your Plan to Eat Freezer will now keep track of of that recipe and how many servings of it that you have available: 

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Drag those recipes from the Freezer onto your Planner for the nights that you would like to eat them.

Shopping

Navigate over to the Shop tab of your account and set your date range to include the prep day you have scheduled. Go over your list and remove any items that you already have and add any extra items that you need. You are now set to go shopping for your Prep day! Remember that you are shopping for a large quantity of meals and the ingredients on your shopping list will reflect that. 

Prepping Week 1

  1. We began by organizing our ingredients by meal so they were easier to find when we were ready for them. Make sure to refrigerate any items that need to remain cold. The cooking day does take a few hours and you don’t want anything to spoil.
  2. We prepped for our first meal by chopping garlic and onions and opening all of the cans required. We also prepared our storage containers and labeling items for easy access after the meal was complete. 
  3. For each of our recipes, we prepped and measured everything before beginning the recipe. This helped us stay organized and more efficient in the kitchen. After each recipe was complete, we cleaned up a bit and started on the next recipe. (We saved all of the dreaded dishwashing for last!)
  4. The first recipe we made was the Basic Red Sauce because we use it in two other recipes. It’s a simple recipe that can be mixed together in minutes and requires no cooking. The list of ingredients and instructions can be found in your Plan to Eat account and is taken from the book Fix, Freeze, Feast. Any unused sauce can go into ziplock bags and into the freezer to be used like spaghetti sauce.
  5. Next we made Classic Chili, which is also taken from Fix, Freeze, Feast, and is available directly in your Plan to Eat account. This recipe uses the Basic Red Sauce that we just made. Apart from browning the ground beef, this recipe is also not cooked on the day you are doing the prepping. Follow the instructions in the recipe, spoon it into Ziplock bags, and put them into your freezer. When you are ready to eat, pull it out of the freezer, let it thaw, and heat it for 1 hour on low on your stovetop.
  6. After that, we made Fix, Freeze, Feast’s Classic Lasagna. These layered lasagnas went directly into the freezer and can be pulled out, thawed, and baked for about 1 hour whenever we need them.
  7. We rounded out the menu with Tex Mex Chicken Fingers, also from the book Fix, Freeze, Feast. This simple recipe was made by dipping strips of chicken in breading to go directly into a bag and into the freezer. Simply thaw and bake for 30 minutes when you are ready for them!
  8. Make sure to label each recipe before placing it in your Freezer. We labeled our meals with these key facts: recipe name, date, and cooking instructions. If you are using glass dishes, you can use masking tape and a pen to label. If you are using tinfoil pans or ziplock bags, you can write this information directly on your containers.

Each of these recipes made two or more meals, which means that in 3 hours we made 6 to 10 entrees that can be pulled out of the freezer and cooked whenever we need them! Now our stressful weeknight dinners are easy, all thanks to meal planning and a little make ahead prepping!

Join us!

If creating and following a meal plan feels impossible to you, this the perfect opportunity to make 2017 the year that meal planning becomes a part of your life! Click here to join us for Plan to Eat’s Make Ahead Meal Plan Challenge.

The Make Ahead Meal Plan Challenge is Plan to Eat’s 30-day challenge to help you start your own meal planning routine, and it’s completely free.

You can also join our Make Ahead Meal Plan Challenge Facebook Group to connect with other challengers, exchange recipes, and get freezer cooking tips! 

What’s a challenge without a $400 prize package at the end?!

Everyone who joins the challenge by friending Make Ahead Meal Plan Challenge in your Plan to Eat account will be entered into a huge giveaway with a $400 prize package! The drawing will be held on January 31st and the winner will receive:

    1. ($200) KitchenAid 13 Cup Metal Food Processor (your choice of color!)
    2. ($39) 1 free year of Plan to Eat
    3. ($19) a Plan to Eat canvas shopping bag
    4. ($15) a copy of the book Fix, Freeze, Feast
    5. ($23) Komax Oven Safe Glass Food Containers
    6. And over $100 of other tools to get your kitchen set up and running efficiently!

FAQ’s

  1. How do I add the challenge as a friend? You can add the challenge as a friend by following this link. Following that link will automatically connect you with the challenge menus and recipes!
  2. Do I have to use the meals Plan to Eat chose? No, you do not have to use the recipes we have chosen. You can use any recipes that you prefer and that suit your eating preferences and needs. This challenge has been put together to help you and motivate you to get started meal prepping and planning. Please customize the challenge to fit your needs! 
  3. How do I see the Menus? Navigate to your Plan tab and click on the Menu‘s button in the left hand column. Choose Make Ahead Meal Plan Challenge from the Your Friends Menu’s drop down list. You will then be able to see the list of our saved menus. If you do not see the challenge on the drop down menu, you will need to add the challenge as your friend. (See FAQ #1)
  4. How do I enter the giveaway? If you have connected as “Friends” on Plant o Eat with Make Ahead Meal Plan Challenge, you are entered! That’s it!

Great freezer cooking tips from other blogs

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Plan to Eat is an online menu planner that uses your recipes, scheduled for the days you want them. It automatically makes your grocery list, organized the way you like to shop, using the recipes you’ve selected. Plan to Eat makes it easier to eat real food, prepared at home, with your family gathered around your own table.

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