Meal Planning and Prep

A couple of months ago, I began helping my sister and Jamison get their financial life in order…mostly just teaching them how to make a budget and (hopefully) how to stick to it.  It wasn’t too long ago that George and I had to really cut back and do the same thing.  It took a lot of work, but it was totally worth it and we are in such a better place now.  The largest expense for my sister’s family is food.  They both work full-time and with three kids in various activities, they often found themselves going through the drive-thru.  This was not only not the healthiest option, but it was also expensive.

Em was pretty overwhelmed with the idea of having to meal plan, shop and cook for her family every night so she asked me to help.  I don’t really know anything about cooking for a family.  I mean, sh*t, I don’t even cook for George.  Poor George.  I went to Pinterest to get some ideas.  Em wanted vegetarian dinners so I started there.  We’ve now prepped meals three times, the most recent time being the most successful.  And it’s really amazing how well it’s worked.

First, I look at a bunch of recipes on Pinterest.  I have a board set aside for my sister, it’s called Em’s Family.  I pin anything I think they might like.  I go through the options with Em and we decide what she wants to make.  I make a shopping list, go over the list with her and cross out anything she has already (rice, eggs, milk, pasta, etc.).   That’s about it as far as the planning goes.

I picked Em up yesterday at 8:00 am and we went to the store.


It’s important to wear the most ill-fitting clothes when grocery shopping.  George is a lucky guy!

Approximately an hour later, we were home and ready to start cooking.


Our menu was black bean burritos, baked ziti with ricotta, Sante Fe rice and beans, sweet potato and black bean veggie burgers, and roasted veggie and black bean burritos.  There isn’t a recipe for the black bean burritos because we just made it up.  We take a can of refried black beans, add in a can of tomatoes with diced green chilies and season with taco seasoning.  Heat all of that up, put in a tortilla, top with cheese and wrap it up.  Easy peasy.

Once we had all the food out, we started baking the sweet potatoes and rice (we probably should have started the quinoa at this point, but we didn’t).  Em always grates the cheese.


She is not as happy about it as she looks.  She also assembles all of the burritos.  Here’s the assembly line for the roasted veggie and black bean burritos:


We’ve made burritos every time.  They are easy for the kids to heat up and transportable too.  Win-win for that family.


Anyway, after three hours of cooking we had ALL OF THIS FOOD!

Sante Fe Rice and Beans:


These all ended up with cheese on top.  Oh and this was the second time we’ve made this recipe…her kids love it.

Baked Ziti with Ricotta:


Everything wrapped up with cooking instructions on the foil:


We ran out of time so we didn’t finish the sweet potato and black bean veggie burgers.  Fortunately, we baked the sweet potatoes when we first started everything so I just had to do a bit of work last night to finish them.


They look and smell delicious!


I individually wrapped them and Em picked them up this morning.  Here’s the final total (we doubled all the recipes): four 8×8 pans of Sante Fe rice and beans, two 9×13 pans of baked ziti with ricotta, 30 burritos and 17 burgers.  Em thinks this will feed her family for two weeks.  Not bad.  And her total grocery bill was only $84!  That amount includes spaghetti squash, bananas and a few other things she purchased that we didn’t need for the recipes.  Not too bad.

And now I’m ready to have my own family with 30 zero kids.

This entry was posted in Baking, Crafting, Eating, Family. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Meal Planning and Prep

  1. WOW!! That is great. I have recently started working…school is back in session and 4 kids are going in separate directions. Will she keep the burritos in the fridge or freezer? Or will she freeze have one week and take them out for the second week?


    • Okay, she says she puts anything she doesn’t think they’ll use within the next week in the freezer. So, most of the burritos will go in the freezer, but anything they’ll use this week goes in the fridge. She also said that one kid likes to heat the burritos up in the oven and another likes them in the microwave…so both work. Hope this helps and good luck!

  2. Erin says:

    For the freezer burritos, do you just wrap in tin foil and freeze or do you use something else to wrap them? My husband and I are total food whores and I need to get us on a budget. I’m pretty sure sans alcohol we are spending anywhere between $700-800 on food each month…for TWO people. WTF? I am totally on board with your awesome food plan but don’t want to freezer burn my burritos.

    • We just wrap them in tin foil. She keeps what she needs for the week in the fridge. And freezes the rest. If you’re worried about freezer burn, you could just make them once/week and not freeze any. Good luck!!

  3. Uncle Daniel says:

    I think you should add home economist to your resume

  4. Diane says:

    I love this! Do you have any tips on how to start a budget or a website that would be helpful?

    • I kind of made up my own budget and did the same for my sister. I basically list out all the fixed expenses (rent/mortgage, phone, internet, water, garbage, etc.) and debts (student loans, credit cards, car payments, etc.). I add all of that up and subtract it from my take-home income. Whatever is left over, I budget to food, gas, savings, etc. I do a budget every month. I should probably do a blog post about it. It’s pretty simple, but it’s made a big difference for us.

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