1. Have a few recipes organized and shop for ingredients for those recipes.
2. Utilize recipes with ingredients you might already have on hand. I had ground frozen beef and frozen chicken breasts on hand. I found recipes using those meats.
3. Cook up “mass amounts” at once. Literally, I baked 15 chicken breasts at once and currently have a ham in the oven, a beef roast in the oven and corned beef in the slow cooker. Then I’ll organize them into meals to freeze. I’ll also cook up potatoes, whole wheat pasta, brown rice to mix up with the meats. I have a few different veggies to mix in also.
4. Don’t be afraid to modify. I had extra cheeses from the holidays I added to lasagna. I was out of pimentos and added green olives to another recipe. My family liked both recipes more than the originals.
5. Invest in disposable pans with covers. I buy them at Sam’s Club with covers. 30 at a time. They stack easily in a deep freeze and make for easy clean up which is essential on a busy night.
6. Make multiple pans of the same recipe. It doesn’t mean you need to eat lasagna every week night but having them on hand means you can eat it once a week or once a month or…share one with a friend or neighbor. I just gave a frozen lasagna to my friend who had a baby this week. Home cooked family food make great gifts!
7. Cook with cans. Cans of beans. Cans of vegetables. Cans of cooked wild rice. Cans of food can be bought in bulk and purchased on sale. Most important when making ahead meals, cans save time!
8. Label the pans with simple directions for reheating or baking. Then your spouse, child or someone else other than you are capable of getting the meal into the oven if you aren’t home to do it. Feel a great sense of pride as your pans start to stack up knowing that your life is about to become a lot easier on wild weeknights. You won’t have to be constantly running to get take out or eating frozen pizza.
9. Don’t be fancy. My family is happy with meat, potatoes and I require vegetables and fruit. We drink milk every meal. Fancy recipes are fun. I do make them when time allows but the basics meet requirements. The core requirement is my family is fed. My other requirements are that we sat down together for a family meal and everyone is seemingly happy with what is served, minus Miss E vocally complaining about me “sneaking” vegetables into casseroles. She’ll learn her dad and brother just quietly pick them out. Thankfully Miss A eats them.
10. Buy what is on sale. The 7.5 lb. ham that is currently in the oven was a post holiday sale item. I’ll be finding numerous ham recipes to use this sale item ham with tonight.
11. Season heavily and add liquid. I add apple juice, beef or chicken broth, Coke or water into meats and most dishes to prevent meals from getting dried out when they are reheated. Seasonings add flavor and avoid foods from tasting…boring or…too healthy as my kids would say.