At the end of a busy day, do you find yourself gazing into your refrigerator, wondering what to make for dinner? Even if you put meat in the fridge to thaw in the morning, or have some staples in your cupboard, it can be a chore to pull everything together.
Here's one solution to take the stress out of planning and making meals. Think about cooking on the weekend when you might have more time to spend in the kitchen. Take advantage of that time, and do some big-batch cooking on Saturday or Sunday. Then freeze lunch or dinner portions that can be pulled out at the last minute for heating and eating.
We’ve pulled together some tips to help you with cooking on the weekend:
- First, select the recipes you want to make. Look for recipes that will make a quantity large enough for several lunches and dinners, or choose recipes that you can easily double. A favorite recipe is Spicy Black Bean & Chicken Enchiladas. The recipe makes 8 servings; pack the enchiladas into dinner-sized portions or individual portions so they can be eaten for lunch.
- Cooking on the weekend doesn’t necessarily mean you have to work in the kitchen all day. Take advantage of the slow cooker and treat your weekend guests to Slow Cooker Reuben Sliders. The leftover corned beef can be packaged in plastic containers, frozen, and served as a weeknight hot sandwich meal.
- Include recipes that freeze well. Hearty soups, stews, pot roast with vegetables, meatloaf, spaghetti and meatballs, anything with chicken or shredded pork, or even barbeque ribs are just a few suggestions. And while we’re on the topic of freezing foods, make sure you have resealable containers for freezing family-size or individual portions. Take inventory of what you have, and purchase what you need. I like to have a variety of sizes on hand, some for dinner-sized portions and small ones for the single lunch portions.
Vegetarian 15 Bean Chili
Once you’ve chosen your recipes, make a shopping list and head to the grocery store. There’s nothing more frustrating than beginning the food preparation, only to find you’re missing some key ingredients. Don’t forget to add containers to your list if you need them.
Now it’s cooking day. Once I have the recipe made, I serve it for a meal that day and freeze the remainder. Or, I prepare a recipe and pack it into individual serving containers, so it’s ready to pack for a lunch. Label the food packages with the contents and the date you put them into the freezer.
That's all there is to a stress-free mealtime! In the morning before school or work, simply take a meal out of the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator for a simple dinnertime solution. For lunches, just take the individual portion out of the freezer and place it into your lunch bag. It will be nearly thawed out by lunchtime. Then, let the microwave do the heating and enjoy!