20 Sep Step-by-Step: Make Ahead Meals
Start saving time on cooking and eat home-cooked meals more often. Sound too good to be true? It’s possible! It’s all about planning ahead, picking the right recipe, and making extras. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to get it done.
Making meals ahead of time can help reduce the amount of unhealthy snacking which usually happens while the kiddos are waiting for dinner to be ready. It can also decrease the number of take-out meals ordered during the week, which can cost a pretty penny. Make-ahead meals can also help make sure your family always has something wholesome and healthy to eat.
Three Simple Steps
#1: Pick a day to cook
Look at your schedule and decide which day or days of the week is easiest for you to cook. You can decide to cook enough food on Sunday to get through the first half of the week and then cook again on Wednesday to stock up for the latter half of the week. You can also turn a leisurely Sunday into a family cooking day and have everyone pitch in so you have several dishes ready for the upcoming week. This is also a great way to have the kids learn and practice basic cooking skills!
If there’s no time for cooking in the evenings, think about tossing ingredients into a crock pot in the morning before work. Let it simmer all day and it’ll be ready by the time everyone gets home for dinner.
To make life even easier, cook a double batch for this week and freeze the rest for later.
#2: Choose your recipes
One pot dishes like soups, stews, casseroles, lasagnas, and chili are perfect to last through the week. They also tend to freeze well.
You can also make a separate protein and a few sides to go with it. They can be stored separately and reheated quickly.
Here are some of my favorite places to find healthy recipes:
- FoodNetwork.com’s Healthy Eating Blog (I’m a contributor!)
- Meal Makeover Mom’s
- Ellie Krieger
#3: Determine portions
One you know how much you want to make be sure to adjust the recipe accordingly.
Remember Food Safety
When it comes to freezing extra food, remember these simple food safety rules for cooling and reheating.
- Don’t allow cooked food to sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
- Divide cooked food into small, meal-size portions before storing. Date and label the food before placing in the fridge or freezer.
- Use leftover refrigerated food within 5 days. Frozen leftover can be stored for up to 2 months.
- Defrost frozen food in the refrigerator or in the microwave. Don’t leave food sitting out on the counter as it can allow dangerous food bugs to flourish.
- Reheat all defrosted food to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a food thermometer to check that the appropriate temperature has been reached.
Let’s Discuss: What’s your favorite make-ahead recipe?