A cooking plan is the first and most important step in your make ahead meal process. Sure, you could “wing-it”, but there is some truth to the saying “fail to plan, plan to fail”. And after all, we want to have a positive experience, don’t we?
A good cooking plan is detailed and well thought out. If you think about the steps you need to take in advance, you will save yourself a lot of grief in the later steps, such as on your Shopping Day or during your Preparation and Assembly Day.
How to Create a Cooking Plan
- Select Recipes
- Scale Recipes
- Determine Packaging
- Create Shopping List
- Create Work Plan for Preparation & Assembly Day
- Create & Print Labels
1. Select Recipes
It’s amazing what will freeze well. Have a look at your family favorites, any way they can be transformed into a make ahead meal? Need some inspiration? Check out our Recipes section and perhaps something will tempt your taste buds.
Where to start? If you are just starting out, you may want to start with simple marinade type recipes. In freezer cooking, marinades are also known as dump recipes (you just dump a bunch of ingredients together). Or try out some crockpot meals – dinner is ready when you walk in the door.
Think about the season you are going into and the cooking method. If you are preparing meals in the spring you may want to prepare BBQ or crockpot meals, so you don’t have to turn on a hot oven.
Try to pick several different types of recipes, with different flavours, so that you have a variety of meals to keep you and your family interested in eating your pre-made meals.
It’s also a good idea to start with a mini bulk cooking session of no more than two or three recipes at one time. A short session will help boost your confidence, fill your freezer fast and give you the satisfaction of success.
2. Scale Recipes
The next step is to scale up the recipe to double, triple (or more) the number of meals you wish to make for each recipe. A quick and easy way to do this is to print out the recipe and write the higher quantity beside each ingredient.
3. Determine Packaging
Think about the containers or food wrap that you will be using to package your meals. Will you use plastic freezeable bags that will take up less room in your freezer? Or perhaps you need some casserole dishes or plastic containers. Be sure to include any packaging you need to purchase in your shopping list.
4. Create Shopping List
MS Office Excel is a great program to create your shopping list. It’s super easy to sort and manipulate and will help quickly identify common ingredients for several recipes. Watch this video to get step-by-step instructions on how to create a shopping list in Excel.
Also remember to add the packaging that you will need to use for all your delicious meals.
5. Create Work Plan for Preparation & Assembly Day
Review your selected recipes and think about how you will prepare your ingredients. For example how much cheese do you need to shred, how many green peppers and onions need chopping, does the ground beef need browning? Determine the best work flow and document it step-by-step in order to be the most efficient on your preparation cooking day. You can also do this quickly by using MS Office Excel again. View this video to find out how to do this:
6. Create & Print Labels
Printing labels out in advance of the Preparation and Assembly Day, is one less thing you will need to do on that day. You may want to intentionally print out a couple more than you think you might need. It’s better to have a few more and throw them away, than not enough.