Plant Shutdown Survival Guide - KITCHEN / FOOD PREP

Part 3 in a series.

As previously discussed, plant shutdown is a "vacation from your life".  You have to plan the logistics as though you were leaving town, but you're going to be living at work. 

Really my kitchen, after a thorough scrubbing, haha.

Let's move to the heart of the home - the kitchen.  You're going to be packing breakfast, lunch, and dinner, your family has to eat, and your critters have to eat.  That's a lot of logistics to consider, and we haven't even opened the fridge yet. 

Start this prep list at least T-4 weeks from shutdown.  You don't want to go into shutdown burned out already. This is supposed to save sanity, not take it from you. 

  • CALENDAR.  How long is preparation, shutdown, and wrap-up?  A week?  Two weeks?  A month? More? (wow, I'm sorry - been there, done that, it's not fun.)  So you need X days of meals for Y people, with some flexibility.  And X days of critter food.
  • CLEAN THE KITCHEN.  You need workspace, and sanity.  A clean kitchen does both.  Doesn't have to be stem-to-stern spring cleaning variety of clean - just enough to start clearing your head as you formulate your plans.  At least wash all of the dishes in the sink and wipe the counters for crying out loud.
  • INVENTORY THE PANTRY.  What kind of staples do you have in there?  How much can be used in the slow cooker?  How much can be used in a fast meal that your other half can prepare? What are you out of? Make an inventory list and start the shopping list.

Need a basic form for inventory? Here you go (covers fridge, freezer, and bathroom too).

  • CLEAN OUT / INVENTORY THE FREEZER.  What kind of meats do you have in there?  How much? Veggies?  Breads?  Do you have any premade meals (or meal parts) that you can fall back on?  What needs to be pulled out and thawed, and when? 
  • CLEAN OUT / INVENTORY THE FRIDGE.  Clean out the fridge first.  Just do it.  This includes the condiments in the door, and it's an excuse to drink all of the open wine (because you're not going to be drinking for a while).  What's left? 
  • MEAL PLANNING. Looking at your inventory, what favorite meals can you prepare? What can you prepare in advance?  You need no-brainer meals that practically make themselves.  Add those to your meal planning wish list.

There are TONS of meal planning templates out on the web.  I really like this one from The Proverbial Homemaker. 

Next, figure out how you're going to handle the meal prep.  Once a Month Cooking? Once a Week Cooking?  Slow cooker?  Infrared oven?  Tailgate grill?  Forget Pinterest, you don't have time for all of that!  Inspiration for bulk do-ahead meals:
Recipe Index from 100 Days of Real Food (no processed food - great for dietary restrictions, but some require major prep work)
Trim Healthy Mama slow cooker recipes from Mixing With Michelle (follows Trim Healthy Mama diet plan)
Slow Cooker Site from Kalyn's Kitchen (low carb / South Beach Diet)
100 Days of No Processed Meals - Crock Pot Style from Stacy Makes Cents (frugal recipes without processed foods) A side note - one of my college friends uses this site constantly to feed her busy family.
20 Slow Cooker Meals for under $150 at Aldi from I Am That Lady (frugal, time saving. These recipes involve dumping all ingredients in labeled zipper bag and throwing in freezer. For a nominal fee, she even provides a printable shopping list and a matrix of amount of ingredient to go in which bag.)

Eight or so servings of Bolognese, ready to go!
One for the fridge, three for the freezer.

  • STORAGE CONTAINERS.  Wash them all, match them all up. Invest in some cheapie disposables if necessary. 
  • SHOPPING LIST. Based on meal planning and inventory, make a list of what you need.  Gather your coupons, mark up your sales, and go.

Organization geek, do you need a shopping list form? Check this out.

  • CALENDAR OF MEALS.  Post on the fridge (and another on the chest freezer and another on the pantry door, because you know how melted your brain will be) to keep you and your family on track.  Have some flexibility in case your family calls an audible and switches dinners around.
  • COOK AHEAD (if needed). Do whatever it takes to get out the door in the morning and feed the family every day.  Whether you make freezer meals or just cut up the produce and grill up meats for the week, and play mix and match, do what works for you.  Bag up breakfasts (like bagged oatmeal and small containers of frozen fruit) and lunch/dinner components. Everything should be grab-and-go.
Overwhelmed by my brain dump?  Don't be.  It just takes planning and practice.  As I am frequently reminded that I'm an old fart, doing everything on paper, I am open to recommendations of meal planning and shopping list apps for iOS and Android. 

I don't intend to sound preachy or anything.  This is just what works for me and my family.  I'm always interested in new ideas and information, so please, don't hesitate to make suggestions via email or comments thread! xoxo


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