A few people have asked me about some of my meal planning tips and so here are a few for easier meals without sacrificing a lot of time and without using a lot of pre-processed foods.
1. Meat. You don't have to plan months of meals in advance to take advantage of OAMC (once a month cooking) tactics, you can start off small with just one meat that can be used in a bunch of different recipes.
I have a ground beef mix I make and use for 12 different recipes. I throw all the ingredients into a crockpot, cook it until it's still somewhat pink (and the chunks can be worked out with a fork), then just distribute the mix between 12 ziplock bags, it takes about 12 lbs, which I can JUST fit in my crockpot, to make enough for all 12 recipes.
Or, I get a turkey at post-holiday sale prices, roast it like you would your holiday turkey and you can get about 1 meal (for 2 people) per pound. I have about 14 recipes I can use leftover turkey in, I just pre-divide and package the meat into 15 ziplock bags. Not to mention, you can have a traditional turkey dinner anytime, I add stuffing to my turkey, then freeze it with the drumsticks/wings, freeze some baked potatoes, package it all together and I include this as one of my planned meals. Mmmm, turkey dinner in July :)
Both of those options are just one day of work which would do most of the work ahead of time for about 2 weeks worth of meals. As you get more experienced you could probably fit them both into one day since you basically don't do much as the meat's cooking. You could start cooking one and then just before it's done, start cooking the other, then you can package the meat that's finished while the other one cooks.
2. Easy & Healthy - You may have a lot of easy recipes, but they are easy because they have you dump pre-processed soups,dressings, and sauces, preservatives, etc. into your dish. I wanted easy but healthy so I searched for substitutions for my previous go-to ingredients. Most are made with ingredients I typically have in my pantry anyway but to save time I have pre-mixed a lot of these as dry ingredients (stored as mixes) and then when I need them I only have to mix in the wet ingredients to get my sauce, and I only need to make as much as I need, so less wasted food! And I can pronounce and know exactly what is in every one of these.
Condensed Soup substitute - this would replace the base, if you want the flavor (cream of ....chicken, mushroom, asparagus, cheese, etc.) then you could add that actual ingredient into the powder/water mix. I found this one courtesy of Pinterest of course :)
Tomato Condensed Soup substitute - this one is just for my mom, who upon hearing about the above sub immediately wanted to know, 'but what about tomato soup'. here you go! I haven't tried it yet but it had a lot of good reviews.
Dry Onion Soup Mix substitute - when I mix this to get a soup or a wet base I mix it with my homemade broth.
Boullion Cube substitute - I only use this when it calls for dry boullion, otherwise I just use my own homemade broth.
Evaporated/Condensed Milk - because I usually have these ingredients on hand and then I can make the quantity I need rather than buy a whole container.
Apricot Jam (or any jam) - apricots (soaked in water until soft) or can of apricots (stored in water, no sugar/syrup), 1 tbsp honey, puree in blender. I pour these into an ice cube tray and then once frozen I pop them out and store them in a ziplock bag and use 1 cube as 1 tbsp.
Salad Dressings substitute - again, easier to have these ingredients on hand than a bunch of bottles of dressing, and I can control how much sugar I want to add. These of course are just my staple dressings that I use in the most recipes....not typically dressings I add to my salads.
Hope this makes some of your lives easier and healthier!