Fast food and takeout may save you time, but they can cost you where it really hurts: your health. Convenience foods, which can be high in fat and sodium, just don’t measure up to the nutritional benefits of homemade meals that use fresh ingredients. With a little planning, you can easily fix a few meals and freeze them for those busy days when you’re just too exhausted to cook. Make ahead meals can save you time, while still giving your family a good, nutritious meal.
“Besides knowing what’s going into your food, you can make a dinner to your family’s liking,” says Stephanie Firchau, co-founder of the Dream Dinners franchise, where you can make a dozen dinners in just two hours using fresh, pre-prepped ingredients. Create your own “fast” meals with these 10 recipes that take the guesswork out of cooking from scratch:
Make-Ahead Sloppy Joes
Who knew you could freeze sandwiches? Enjoy this hearty classic any night of the week.
Miniature Meat Pies
You can have these flaky, flavorful bites ready in just half an hour. You may have to whip up an extra batch so that some make it into the freezer!
Flavorful Swedish Meatballs
Make large batches of this versatile dish for a wide range of possibilities. You could serve these as a hot appetizer or over noodles for a main meal.
Meat Sauce for Pasta
Why buy generic sauce when you can easily make one that suits your tastes? You can make multiple pasta dinners with this chunky tomato sauce in reserve.
Chicken or Pork
Green Bean Chicken Casserole
After a long, grueling day, this tasty comfort food should cheer you up.
Jalapeno Chicken Enchiladas
This dish is perfect when you’re in the mood for Mexican.
Ham ‘n’ Cheese Crepes
These delicate crepes can be frozen for up to three months after you stack them between layers of wax paper.
Vegetarian or Seafood
This pizza shop favorite is made easy with frozen bread dough.
Stephanie’s Essentials for Fixing and Freezing
- Heavy-duty freezer bags and foil: With these freezer essentials, you can easily store your meals until you’re ready to reheat. And just to be on the safe side, double the bags for chowders and soups.
- Ingredients bought in bulk: “Buying two 10-pound cans of tomatoes saves you from opening 25 15-ounce cans,” says Firchau.
- Large pots and mixing bowls: When doubling or even tripling recipes, upgrading to a bigger size is a must.
- Food processor: This appliance is a timesaver when you have large amounts of ingredients to chop, shred, or mince.
- Dried herbs and onion flakes: Herbs such as oregano, basil, and dried cilantro add a nice texture, while thyme and onion flakes enhances flavor, says Firchau.
- Minced garlic in a jar: This must-have ingredient has the same flavor as fresh garlic, and buying it pre-prepped in jars at the supermarket saves a lot of time.