Meal Planning & The BEST Crock Pot Beans

Although the weather today definitely doesn’t feel like Spring and we are a good three weeks behind schedule, it’s garden time. Long days lie ahead full of digging in the dirt, aching bodies, and sweating. Lots of sweating. It also means rising before the sun comes up and arriving home after it sets. During garden season, it’s difficult to make sure we’re eating healthy and keeping up energy for the next day.

I love meal planning. I like its structure and I enjoy getting exactly what I need at the grocery store and garden. Matt, on the other hand, does not like meal planning. For all the reasons I love it, he dislikes it equally. When I meal plan the way I want, I end up cooking all the meals. When we’re dirty and tired, it’s so much nicer to take turns making dinner.

So, this season we’re trying a little something different. We’re going to combine my love of meal planning with his love of making dinner with what we have on hand. Instead of Monday is tacos, Tuesday is roast beef, etc….we’re going to prep some items on Sunday and then have options for meals during the week. And, all of the options come together with ease. Essentially planned yet unplanned and structure with freedom.

One aspect of meal planning I see going around on social media includes using prepared food all in one freezer bag. Taking Cream of Mushroom soup, mixing it with canned vegetables, rice, and chicken, and then freezing for later is not what I’m looking for. If it works for you…awesome! Keep doing it. Our menu prep is a little different. This is what we did last week.

My Sunday prep included:

  • Crock pot beans – These are delicious! It’s a recipe (see below) we came up with a couple years ago and variations are super easy!
  • Cilantro lime rice – So many recipes online. I simply picked one.
  • Hard boiled eggs – If you have fresh farm eggs, I highly recommend boiling them this way. It works every time.
  • Bake bacon – A quick warm in the pan for breakfast, added to a chicken sandwich for lunch, or chopped for a salad. We have luck with our oven at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, depending on bacon thickness.
  • Bake chicken breasts – Usually, we would bake a chicken and then use the legs and thighs for dinner, sliced the breasts for sandwiches, and then make chicken stock. It’s a great way to really get the most bang for your buck. Because I had other things going on, I just went for the chicken breasts and we rubbed them with a Cajun seasoning.
  • Charred salsa – Essentially this is just broiling tomatoes, jalapeno, and onion and then pulsing it in your food processor with one garlic clove, cilantro, salt, and pepper.
  • Cut, wash, and store lettuce

The prep really didn’t take too long. Once in the crock pot, the beans are good to go. Bacon and chicken can bake at the same time. Rice takes about 30 minutes. Hard boiled eggs are a cinch. Salsa, easy. Lettuce…5 minutes.

So, then what are our meals for the week? I make a “Possible Dinners” list and put it on the fridge. We briefly discuss it in the morning, just in case I need to pull anything from the freezer and then we’re off for the day.

Possible Dinners list from last week:

  • Crock pot beans, cilantro lime rice, charred salsa, and avocado bowls
    • Take the leftover beans, wrap them in tortillas with some cheese and then freeze them for easy weeknight meals. I wrap ours first in parchment and then in foil to prevent sticking. From frozen, they take about 45-60 minutes in a 375 degree oven.
  • Cobb salad
    • Leftover chicken and bacon make amazing sandwiches for lunch!
  • Fried rice and pot stickers
    • Cilantro lime rice works great for fried rice! And, the pot stickers cook in a matter of minutes straight from your freezer!
  • Bangers and mash with a side salad
    • We put frozen homemade sausages in the fridge in the morning and they are thawed by the time we get home. Mashed potatoes come together pretty quickly. You can definitely meal prep them on Sunday, but I love fresh mashed potatoes. Try stirring in some chopped scallions to make Champ or some sliced cabbage for Colcannon!
  • Eggplant Parmesan with a side salad
    • During the height of eggplant season, I bread, fry, and freeze eggplant. It works amazingly well (recipe coming later this season)!! For this meal, I pull the needed slices of eggplant out in the morning and let them thaw in the fridge. When we get home, I layer eggplant, mozzarella, and homemade tomato sauce. It bakes for an hour or so while we shower and decompress from the day.

Now…the coveted Crock Pot Beans. Let us know what you think and enjoy your flexible meal prepping!!

Crock Pot Beans

Ingredients:
– 12 oz dry beans, rinsed — pinto, black, or other variety that holds well when cooked
– 4 garlic cloves, smashed & minced
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– Pork — we have used bacon (cooked), a couple short ribs (browned), ham, and part of a pork roast (browned) — generally up to 6 oz is good — you can also omit the pork if you’d like
– 4 cups liquid — the last time I made this, I used 2 cups homemade ham stock and 2 cups water — just water will be fine, but we like using at least 2 cups stock — if you don’t have ham stock, use vegetable or chicken stock
– 3 Tablespoons Mexican seasoning

Directions:
– Place all ingredients in a crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours. If the beans are small, it may only take 6 hours. We have tried cooking on high for 4 hours and didn’t like the texture of the beans nearly as much. Season, if needed, and enjoy!

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