New Year, New Habits: Taking Meal Planning to a New Level

Just like last year, we decided to start the new year off on a healthier kick and quit fast food for the month of January. This is a big deal for us because we definitely enjoy the convenience of fast food. In order to ensure our success, I decided to do a better job of meal planning, leaning heavily on use of the Crockpot. I love using the Crockpot in general, especially on colder winter days. If I get home at the end of a work day and dinner’s in the Crockpot all ready to eat, we’re much less likely to decide to pick up dinner from somewhere more convenient – because what’s more convenient than the dinner that’s ALREADY READY? Nothing!

We’ve kept a spreadsheet of our favorite meal recipes for several years now. It’s divided by what we refer to as food genre, but I suppose it’s mostly main ingredients:

  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Pasta
  • Other (where we put things like breakfast for dinner that don’t quite fit the other categories)
  • Sides (because we often plan for the entree and forget to pick out sides ahead of time)

Any time we try a new recipe and enjoy it, we go add it to our meal list so that we don’t forget about it. Since joining Pinterest, I also created a Recipes We’ve Made board to pin recipes I’ve found online and liked so they’re easy to find again. I don’t always remember to repin to this board, but I periodically go through and add a few we’ve tried.

So our weekend system, on Saturday or Sunday before I go to the store:

  • Check the prior week’s meal list for any meals we didn’t get around to making that can be carried forward (sometimes we include an alternate in the weekly list in case we want to have a little flexibility or the option to order pizza one night).
  • Check the freezer for any meats that we haven’t used yet.
  • Check my store of choice’s online ad to see which meats are on sale and build meals around those to save a little money.
  • Open up my Dinners or Crockpot boards on Pinterest if we want to try something new.
  • Check our calendar for the week to see if we have any evening activities that could change our dinner plans.
  • Either sit with my husband to come up with at least 5 choices for the week or decide on a few choices and email them to him to get his thoughts. We generally try to have one from each of our categories or at least spread out repeats.
  • Use my wonderful All Out Of pad to create a store list from the recipes we’ve chosen for the week and everything else we need from the store.
  • Check through my coupons to see if I have any useful for the current week (I don’t do a great job of couponing, but I try to remember!)

This has basically been our normal system for a long time. The biggest recent change has been planning to use the Crockpot at least three days of the week. I love the convenience of the Crockpot and we all love the way any meat falls apart after cooking in the Crockpot for several hours. I’m also actually prepping for those meals on the weekend. Last week I was so proud of myself for this:

meal bags


I came straight back from the grocery store and prepared these meals. I bought one of those giant packages of chicken that I always say I’m going to break up and freeze in portions appropriate for single meals – and actually broke it up into smaller packages. The bags above were: Honey Parmesan Pork Roast, Cilantro Lime Chicken, and Barbecue Brisket. I prepared them on Sunday, labeled the bags, and put them in the freezer. Each evening I asked everyone which meal they wanted the next day and moved the bag from the freezer to refrigerator and then dumped the contents of the bag into the Crockpot before leaving for work in the morning. Couldn’t be easier! And the results? Delicious. I didn’t take pictures of all three, but how good do these two look?

honey pork

cilantro chicken

I haven’t done quite as well with the prep work this week, but we are still planning four Crockpot meals. This week’s menu:

The spaghetti and pepper steak require browning the meat before placing it in the Crockpot, and I haven’t decided yet if it would be good if I browned the meat and then froze everything, so that’s the main reason I didn’t prepare everything already. I’m at least doing prep work the previous night for the following morning. So last night I browned ground beef and put it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator to make this morning a little easier! I’m already in week two with this new good habit, which is longer than I usually last, so I think it may stick. Especially since the elimination of fast food and addition of a new exercise program has resulted in 8 pounds of weight loss for my husband and 4 pounds of weight loss for me in a week!

I use Pinterest to find new recipes, and you may notice I’ve found several great Crockpot recipes on Six Sisters’ Stuff. Do you have any other great Crockpot recipes to recommend? Or any other recipes that can be prepared ahead of time?


9 thoughts on “New Year, New Habits: Taking Meal Planning to a New Level

  1. Look at you! I love the idea of crockpot meals. We meal plan similarly to you–we have a master list and I use that list for inspiration. I also have a “Keepers” board on pinterest too. Lately meal planning has been such a CHORE for me though. You know why. 😉
    Rach (DonutsMama) recently posted..TwoMy Profile

  2. I have wanted to try the weekly Crockpot meal preps, but I just haven’t gotten around to it…kind of ironic! Don’t have time to save time! Haha!

    I have a great recipe for you to try…Place 4 chicken breasts in CP, cover with a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce and cook on low for 3-4 hours. You can also add in 2-3 peeled and cubed sweet potatoes for added vitamins! When Chicken is done, shred with fork and you have a great Chicken BBQ! We use it for sandwiches, pizza, nachos..etc.

    Another favorite is Crockpot Mac n’ Cheese! Yum!!

    Stopping by from SITS Sharefest! :)
    Kelly recently posted..The Perfect Roast ChickenMy Profile

    • Not having time to save time is definitely what holds me back! But now that I experienced it, I’m going to try again. And that chicken recipe sounds simple and tasty – thanks for sharing!

    • No, they weren’t pre-cooked at all. I’ve been debating whether or not to try the bags with items that are cooked – like for crockpot recipes that call for browning of the meat first, but I can’t decide if it would be as good or not!

  3. Pingback: Freezer to Slow Cooker Cooking | Your Girls & Boys

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