Friday, January 11, 2008

Any make ahead meal people out there?

I am frustrated with the whole cooking thing. Every weekend I have the greatest intentions and plan a menu for the week. I even buy the food. But most of the time, after working all day I am EXHAUSTED! So this weekend, I am planning to cook ahead for the week. I must admit, I am a cook ahead virgin. I've NEVER cooked ahead before. NEVER! How do you do it? Is it hard? I am fully prepared for it to be time consuming, but HOW much time are we talking? All day? 2 days?

So I've been searching the internet for some tips. I've found a few, but that's it. I am scared. I hate the thought of another week of "what's for dinner?" and my reply being "whatever you can find." I've come up with 2 meals that I can freeze ahead of time--meatloaf and lasagna, but I need more. Before this baby comes, I want to have some HOMEMADE meals in the freezer that we can pull out if there is no one staying with us (i.e, mom) to cook for us.

I am in a soup mood this week so I am going to make Roni's lentil soup again for the week and vegetarian chili. That should cover at least 2 nights, if not 3. But I know DH won't want to eat soup all week and DS won't even try it. ARGH!!!!!!! I think I only need 5 nights, so just have to come up with 2 more. But I am just struggling. This mom thing can really stink sometimes. When it was just me and the hub, I didn't always plan meals--it was just whatever we had on hand (usually a helper meal, which we no longer eat) but now, I want to eat nutritious meals that I have made. It's just so difficult!!

So, I am asking--any of you out there that read this--even the lurkers--come out and give me some ideas! I'll take any and all suggestions/tips you can give me. This is so new to me. Cooking ahead. Who would've thunk it?!? :)

I hope you have a great weekend!! I'm off to do some more research and see what I can find.


Meighan said...

Hi - I am a "lurker" but any stew you can make ahead and freeze. While you are making the other two entrees, whip out the slow cooker and make a beef stew. Or poach some chicken breasts (bone in), when cooked throw in pot with low sodium chicken broth, carrots, and celery. (add in whatever spices you like). When you go to re-heat warm up and add in egg noodles or rice!

Swizzlepop said...

I've never done it but always wanted to try. One of these days...
I have heard that enchiladas freeze well. I also have a Lentil and ground turkey stew in my blog ( that was inspired by Roni's lentil soup, since mine has ground turkey I think it may be a little heartier or just different.
This recipe should freeze well
You could also do turkey patties and freeze them and just pop them in the microwave later for burgers.
Good luck, can't wait to hear what you come up with.

Anonymous said...

well, pretty much any casserole will freeze well -- I have a great chicken casserole that is fairly low point -- I'll find it (and maybe another one) and email it to you! I don't usually do the cook ahead thing, but I love my crockpot!

No Where to Run ... said...

okay, sorry, i'm a lurker but i got nothin. i tend to do really easy things like tonight--
sir fry-->teriyaki chicken with frozen veggies and jasmine rice...easy on the rice-it's my weakness. load up on the veggies!
or i have a really yummy marinara sauce that i freeze and put on everything.
1/2 C chopped onion browned with 2 cloves garlic in EVOO until translucent
2 C chopped carrots
2 C chopped celery
simmered for 10 minutes
add 1 large can diced tomatoes
and 1 large can crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp pepper

simmer for 10 more minutes

i use it over whole wheat pasta or in lasagna or over my chicken parmesana (baked, not breaded and fried)

Jynell said...

Hey there!! Sorry it's been so long since I've been in touch! Life's just been crazier than usual lately! Anyway... a few suggestions... I've never done a week of meals ahead, I've never had the time or energy to do it. But, several weeks before volleyball season started, I decided to cook a double batch of one meal each week & to freeze that & save for the nights when practice went late or a game night or whatever. By the time the season started, I had a decent stack of extra meals in my freezer & it only took me a few extra minutes & not much extra money. Also, one of my favorites to freeze is stuffed shells. You can't even tell that they weren't made the same day! Veggie lasagna freezes well too(or I'm sure regular works well also!) Enchiladas are great too! I'll let you know if I remember any more... Have a great day!! :D

Colette said...

Remember the recipe Steph gave us where you put several balls of aluminan foil in the bottom of a crock pot and then place a whole chicken you have seasoned on top. Cook all day to come home to a wonderful rotissere chicken. Just make sure you use enough foil so the chicken is not sitting in juices all day and you end up with "stewed chicken"...
And with the chicken you can make all kinds of things!!!
Just an idea!
Glad you and the baby is doing well. You will be holding him or her soon.

Steph said...

This is the easiest recipe ever and hubby/son LOVE it.

It is a breakfast casserole and is great with toast and fruit or I put it in whole wheat tortillas for breakfast burritos. It is 4 ingredients and can be easily adapted.

Layer in 8x8 pan

2 cups frozen hashbrown potatoes (I like mine with the onion/bellpepper added)
1 to 2 cups chopped ham (you could use sausage too)
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese (I use 2% and the family never knows the difference)
6 eggs beaten (I've used eggbeaters and it's good too)

Cover with foil and bake at 375 for about 40-45 minutes.......until the casserole is firm and knife inserted comes out clean.

P.S. I've also added veggies like brocolli or spinach with or in place of the ham.

This freezes GREAT!

Steph said...

Oh yeah - chicken tetrazzini is really good too and can be frozen.

1 large can of chicken or 2 breasts boiled and shredded
12 oz. spaghetti noodles (boiled)
1 can FF cream of mushroom soup
1 jar sliced mushrooms
6 oz reduced fat velveeta cheese
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can chicken broth
1 jar pimentos (optional)

Boil the noodles and then combine them with soup, chicken, salt/pepper, mushrooms, pimentos. Heat and add velveeta - stirring to melt the velveeta (you can make this in the crockpot or microwave too). I add tomatoes at this point to cut the richness but you don't have to......if you don't add tomatoes then start adding a little chicken broth to the mixture to help thin it (just a little)...if you use the tomatoes then their juice normally will thin it pretty well. Heat through (until cheese melts). At this point, I freeze for later or pop it in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes - sometimes I'll sprinkle a little cheddar cheese on top and let it bubble up.

This is great with a salad and bread........mmmmmmmmm-getting hungry!

Courtney said...

I like to cook meat (steak, chicken, pork) ahead of time, and then freeze it in individual portions. The new glad press and seal works great. Then I just take them out of the fridge and microwave for a few minutes. Add some quick veggies, rice, etc. and you've got a meal in under 5 minutes.

Tina said...

Ooooh, a cook-ahead virgin. :)) I LOVE to cook on the weekends and actually usually spend Saturday from around noon till 4 or 5 to finish.... seriously, not a long time for a week's worth of food. Shepherd's pie (you know, mashed potatoes, meat, corn or peas - baked) freezes really well as well as a broccoli/chicken casserole. Those are my two staples that I usually make. Other ideas are meatballs, making pasta only takes 5-10 minutes... um, what else... meatloaf which actually will keep well in the fridge, soup, like chicken noodle or a vegetable and then you could throw together some sandwiches to go with it. Hope this helps!

Alan said...

I freeze a lot of stuff. I usually make twice of what I need and freeze half. I have 3 kids 5 and under and I can no longer cook a real meal on the weekdays. So I thaw and heat. I bought six pounds of ground beef and two flank steaks this weekend at Costco. I froze each of the steaks in different marinades. I made one Mexican Meatloaf great recipe, one mozerella meatloaf from Homemade Gourmet mix ( and one batch of chili. I gave away one meatloaf to a friend who is ill and I have the rest for later in the week or the month. I also like meatballs ahead, baked and frozen which I can either thaw in sweet and sour sauce or spaghetti sauce. "Don't Panic Dinners In the Freezer" is an awesome book, as is the "Super Suppers' cookbook. Both are on Amazon for less than 15 bucks each. Cooked, shredded chicken is great to have on hand to throw in soup or in a casserole. Same with cooked seasoned ground beef.