Five Tips for Easy Meal Planning with Shopkick

My social media feeds are currently filled with families celebrating the first few days of school for their kids. It seems almost everyone embraces the harmony this season brings! One of the common fall rhythms that is back once again is new requests for meal planning tips to enjoy after busy school and activity days. Whether you are a fellow parent celebrating the school year or a young professional cooking for one, I thought now would be a great time to explore five easy ways to meal plan with Shopkick.

1. Check Pinterest:

Pinterest always feels like a treasure trove of some of the best recipes. There are plenty of recipes for food sensitive family members, quick and easy one pan, pot, or sheet options, or new ideas to try for lunch. Bon Appetit, Cookie & Kate, Food Network, and SkinnyTaste are a few of my go-to accounts to review whenever I’m searching for something new. Plus, Shopkick has three boards filled with recipes – healthy recipes, easy cooking, and sweet treats – that are definitely worth a follow!

2. Explore the Discover Tab:

As you’re searching for new ideas or planning your grocery list, check the Discover Tab in the Shopkick app! Some of the most well-loved brands share simple step-by-step recipe ideas and easy to find ingredients. Plus, the Discover Tab is also a great spot to learn about recently released products. You can’t mix up your meal routine more than when you introduce a new find!

3. Plan It Out:

I love the ease of searching digitally, but once I’ve found my what I want to try I turn to paper. I find writing each day’s meal idea into my planner is my best bet because it’s a tool I use daily, and I like viewing a full week of plans at a glance rather than a single day. Typically, I’ll try 1-2 new recipes each week, reserve a night for pizza and another to eat out, and then add in tried and true favorites for all other days. That schedule helps to broaden my meal horizons while also keeping my realistic availability in check. Once you have a plan, make your grocery list!

4. Try Ordering Groceries Online:

Once your grocery list is ready to go, the most obvious step is to shop in person. However, if you’re short on time, try ordering groceries online from a store like Walmart Grocery. You can still purchase all of the brands and ingredients you buy every week, and you can add to your cart from the comfort of your house or even your car via your phone.

5. Save Your Favorites:

After you try a new-to-you recipe, decide whether or not you and your family enjoyed it. Then take things one step further, and pin it onto a Pinterest board noting the recipes you and your family enjoy. You can also create a second board of recipes you didn’t like to help to ensure you don’t make them again even if they pop up in the future. By doing this, you will collect a great variety of options over time, which will allow meal planning to become quicker and easier!

How do you and your family plan your meals? Chime in on Facebook and let us know!

Freezer Meals: A Busy Parent’s Saving Grace

The 6:00 Scramble

We’ve all been there: it’s 6 pm, you’ve just walked in the door and are greeted with the dreaded question, “What’s for dinner?”  Whether you work full-time, part-time, or stay at home, life as a parent is hectic at best. It’s amazing how quickly the day slips away and before you know it, tummies are growling and you’re searching the fridge for enough leftovers to piece together a meal. All too often, we throw our hands up and declare, “We’re going out for dinner!” For a family on any kind of budget, this option is not sustainable. Not only is eating out less nutritious than a home-cooked meal, it can cost a small fortune over time.

How can you avoid this seemingly inevitable scenario? Two words: freezer meals. Freezer meals are a cost-effective, time-efficient way to provide your family with a home-cooked, nutritious meal on busy weekday evenings.

When to Prepare Freezer Meals

There are two ways to prepare freezer meals that can easily fit into most busy schedules and tight budgets.

  1. Clear a day to spend a couple of hours in the kitchen cooking and prepping meals you can pop in freezer.
  2. As you cook a meal you’ve already planned to cook, double the recipe. Eat one and freeze one.

Depending on how busy your week is and how long your attention span is, option 1 might be the best choice for you. It’s a great way to get a large amount of meals done at once and stocked in your freezer. Sundays are usually a popular day to clear the afternoon and prep some meals for the week ahead. It also helps to enlist the help of a partner or little people. Kids can be a big help in the kitchen — it can be easier than you think to find things for them to do. Washing vegetables, stirring, measuring, and pouring are great for little hands, and best of all they’ll be learning a skill instead of killing time in front of a screen.

Choose about 4-6 recipes to make and plan the order in which you will cook them. Ideally, you would choose at least 2 recipes that have the same main ingredient. Cook the meat or main ingredient in bulk and use it for both recipes. Also, choose a couple of recipes that you don’t have to cook completely, but can prep the ingredients, freeze, and cook later. Crock pot recipes are great for this. Nothing is more satisfying than looking at a freezer full of ready-to-go meals.

Option 2 is a great way to make freezer meals when you don’t have the time or energy to devote an afternoon to cooking and prepping meals. Simply double a recipe you’re already cooking. Portion half of the cooked recipe into a freezer-safe container. Eat half and freeze half!

5 Freezer-Friendly Recipes

Favorite Freezer Meals from our community of moms!

Spicy Turkey Tacos – from Taste of Home  

Don’t let the name fool you. The only thing that really makes these tacos spicy is the Pepper Jack cheese on top. Regardless, these are deeelicious! To freeze these bad boys, complete step 2 from the recipe instructions and freeze the amount you want to save for later. When you’re ready to eat, place in the refrigerator the night before. Heat the already prepared taco meat in a skillet and assemble according to the recipe. For a healthier version, these also work great with whole wheat tortillas.


Tomato Bisque – from 100 Days of Real Food

I’m not a huge soup fan, but this tomato bisque is out-of-this-world delicious. I could bathe in it. I like to cook this in the summer when tomatoes are in season and freeze a few batches for the colder months. Our family loves to make this with grilled cheese sandwiches. Yum! This can easily be adapted for vegetarians: just omit the bacon or prosciutto.


Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole – from Money Saving Mom

This is a great go-to freezer recipe. It’s incredibly easy to throw together and tastes great. The recipe is for four casseroles and can be easily reduced if you don’t want to make that much.


Shepherd’s Pie – from Four Generations Under One Roof

I grew up eating my dad’s Shepherd’s Pie and it’s a comfort food I regularly make for my family — my dad never used a recipe and neither do I. However, this is a yummy version that freezes great. This is also a great recipe to eat half, freeze half. To freeze, double the recipe and freeze the desired portion in a freezer-safe container. To use, thaw in the refrigerator the night before and pop in the oven according to the recipe.

To make my version of this recipe, replace the canned and frozen corn with shredded carrots and sliced celery. Sautee onion, celery and carrots in 1 tbsp. of butter. Layer the vegetables on the bottom of your dish, ground beef in the middle, and mashed potatoes on top. I top it off with a generous layer of shredded cheese. Cheese makes everything better!

Slow Cooker Stuffed Bell Peppers – from the Recipe Critic

Making this recipe will lead to your most productive day ever. There’s nothing like having dinner done by 8am that makes you feel like you can conquer the world. You’ll take one look at those yummy stuffed peppers and proudly declare, “Bring it on world!”  When looking to save time while cooking, the crock pot is your best friend.  To make this recipe as a freezer meal, mix all ingredients minus the peppers together. Put it in a large Ziploc bag and pop it in the freezer. To use, thaw in the refrigerator the night before. Prepare the peppers according to the recipe and stuff with the thawed ingredients.


Freezer Meals Tips and Tricks:

  1. Choose recipes that have simple ingredient lists and use ingredients you already have on hand to save time and money.
  2. Use disposable containers such as aluminum bakeware so you don’t monopolize your everyday dishes. Gallon-size Ziploc bags are a great space saver. Fill with your freezer meal, lay flat until it freezes, then store vertically. If using glass containers, make sure you leave enough room for the food to expand.
  3. When cooking meat such as chicken or ground beef, cook an extra pound and store it in the freezer. Having already cooked meat is an easy way to throw together a quick meal in a hurry.
  4. Having packs of slow-cooker meals ready to go in the freezer is a great way to maximize your time. Simply put the prepped ingredients in a bag and pop it in the freezer: no cooking required. That way it’s ready to dump in the crock pot.
  5. Remember to label every container that goes in the freezer with the prep date and the contents. Avoid mystery-meal and strange-smell incidents — masking tape and markers are your friends!