I am NOT affiliated with anything I'm talking about here. I just stumbled upon this Meal Prepping plan and the related digital cookbooks, tried one out, liked the results very much, Instagrammed my cooked dinners, and had requests to share (both the recipes and the actual dinners! Hah!). So here I am. Sharing.
Meals above, left to right, top to bottom (which is the reverse order that I cooked them):
- Sweet & Spicy Pineapple Chicken
- Pork Loin in a Creamy Basil Sauce
- Barbecue Paprika Chicken
- White Chicken Chili
- Cilantro Lime Chicken
- Asian Fusion BBQ Chicken
- Korean Beef Tacos
- Thai Peanut Chicken
The recipes/meal planning stuff Lauren sells fits into her "frugal living" lifestyle but you'll mostly see other stuff, and not these recipes, on her website pages until you start digging. I make no judgment on the financial info and associated planners, etc. she markets. I just know that I think her recipe booklets are well worth the $5.97 each they cost. And here's why.
Lauren estimates in her booklets that she spends about $150-$165 for the 20 meals. But she shops at Aldi (famously inexpensive U.S. grocery store); I don't. Her pricing is from years ago; mine is from August 2019. She also didn't include some "pantry items" (those things you usually have on hand); I had to since I had just moved and had been not keeping stocked up in anticipation of the move. Finally, she made 20 meals; I made 18, because I just didn't think I needed to crockpot-cook spaghetti and meatballs, so that was the one meal from the booklet that I didn't make or eat . I still feel spaghetti/meatballs as a crockpot meal is kind of pointless but the other meals and the methods overcome any imaginary points deductions for that one. And hey, I guess *she* likes spaghetti/meatballs in the crockpot and it's her book, so …. :-)
I didn't track every last dime because I went to one regular grocery store and also the local farmer's market and I also bought a few other things not intended for the crockpot (drinks, toiletries, dog food, useless junk, etc.) and I wasn't doing this to save money. I spent about $220 total, so deducting for non-dinner items, that's still pretty good for 18 dinners and many take-to-work lunches. But it's not really the cost that has me sold—it's the method of putting together the meals and the daily time savings and mental space freedom from NOT needing to decide what's for dinner every night and then making it. That, to me, is nearly priceless.
The method is essentially one big assembly line of adding ingredients to freezer bags. Once I got home from the store(s), the whole process took me about 2-3 hours. But I haven't cooked a dinner from scratch since and we've been eating some delicious meals. There is some "side" prep work, such as cooking rice or noodles, or adding an ingredient or two the morning of or when it's nearly cooked, but that's it. Those "side" preps take maybe 15 minutes.
The booklets include complete shopping lists that you can re-print as needed. And they include the "one touch" assembly line cheat sheets for assembling the freezer bags. This is the genius part because you deal with each ingredient just one time and then move on to the next. You do not assemble each meal separately. Instead, you create an assembly line of freezer bags and add ingredients to the bags as you move through the cheat sheets (which are grouped into categories such as Meats, Spices, Liquids, etc. to make it even more organized and easy). When done, each bag contains a full meal (2 of each meal). And surprisingly, my kitchen wasn't even that messy once I was done. I just had to wipe down a cutting board, put away the remainder of the dry/pantry ingredients, and load the bags into my freezer. If you have helpers (spouse, partner, kids), it would go even faster than the 2-3 hours it took me alone.
|Photo credit: www.laurengreutman.com|
After the cheat sheets/assembly line pages, each meal has its own page with a photo and instructions specific to that meal (crock times, any "side" prep, etc.). The booklet also includes a regular (non-assembly line) recipe for each meal should you want to make it by itself at a later time.
As I write this, it's been a little over 2 weeks since I made the freezer meals (August 4) and this past Sunday we started getting into the repeats. I usually take leftovers for lunch at work and some meals have been enough for 2 nights *and* my work lunch, plus we ate out (sushi!) and opted for pizza for 2 Friday nights. I figure I'll need to go "big" grocery shopping again this coming Saturday morning and do the prepping after. So, from August 4 to August 24, I will not have thought "What's for dinner?"and instead, it will have been ready to go when I get home from work. I love that.
I started out with Lauren's Meal Plan 3 booklet because when I was deciding to do this, I thought it had a good mix of recipes. I've now purchased the other booklets because I didn't want to take any chance of not being able to. Again, I am not affiliated. I do not benefit from anything I've written here in any way. I just really, really like the way Lauren's method is organized, how much time it saves, how tasty the meals are, and even that I'm saving money—although that was not my main goal for doing this. Just having good dinners ready to go after work was my desire. The other benefits are a bonus.
It seems as though Lauren has been doing this a while, going by references I've seen on her website to other booklets beyond the 1-4 currently for sale and the way the PDFs I bought are named. I don't know why those others aren't available any more. I would definitely have bought those too. Hah.
Let me know if you have any more questions and definitely let me know if you try this and what you think. I'm obviously a fan!