One of the best things about learning to cook is that you can prepare so many meals ahead of time for the evenings when you really don’t feel like cooking. This week proved to be just a week like that, as we all have colds and we’re not feeling savvy enough to come up with decent meals each night. It could’ve been an expensive take-out week, but instead, we were ready for it.
Before the summer ended and we headed back to school, I prepped about five different meals to freeze:
Mac and Cheese Soup (One Pot Chef)
Black Bean Soup (Vitamix)
Lentil Soup (My own recipe)
Cathy’s Sherried Tomato Soup (Pioneer Woman)
Chicken Chili (Pinch of Yum)
I like to meal prep several meals at once because it means less time spent cleaning the kitchen. With this fall soups prep, I made about 8-10 meals worth of food, but only had to clean up the kitchen, pots, and pans once.
While you may think it took all day to create these delicious meals, it actually did not. I set up several pots and crock pots to start out. I set out all of my ingredients and prepared everything ahead of time by chopping or measuring into bowls and cups.
Then I just followed the recipes and made several items on the stove while the crockpots did their own work. All in all, it took about 2 hours, and that was interspersed with eating lunch, feeding the kids lunch, and putting everyone down for naps.
This week when we pulled these meals out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge, I saved a ton of time each night. They are so easy to reheat in a pot on the stove or in the microwave. Though, I tend to prefer reheating in a pot.
Here are my two crock pots setup ready to battle with chicken chili and lentil soup.
The black bean soup was the quickest to come together. I used the Vitamix recipe which actually heats up the soup while it’s blending it. We took a taste of it and it tasted great, so we’re looking forward to having this for dinner tonight after it was frozen and thawed.
Since the chicken chili needed extra ingredients after the chicken cooked for hours, I set that all up to the side of the crock pot ready for later. This way, I didn’t have to think about it when it came time to throw it all in, mix-up, and freeze. Mise en place they call it, and I sure love that method (thanks Worst Cooks in America for teaching me this!).
And while I finished all the other soups, I had tried out a new recipe from Cooking Light for a corn tamale cake. I brought them later to a pool outing, but we weren’t all that impressed. In the end, I made about 6 meals including this one, and probably a few more for lunches while in the midst of cooking.
When you cook at home, you save quite a bit of money. Each week we aren’t always in the mood for what we’ve listed on our weekly meal plan, so these extra meals that are easy to grab and reheat work wonders. Some days we’re planning to have chicken, but we really just want a grilled cheese and tomato soup. Instead of having to pull out the pots, check for ingredients, and cook a whole meal, we can pop out our “frozen dinner” and enjoy our meal.
Buying prepared foods has become a norm, but it’s much more costly especially when you consider buying prepared fresh foods over frozen meals. Spend a little time each week, or once per month, and make several meals to have on hand for later and you won’t be tempted to dial the phone for take-out.
This week, we’ve had mac and cheese soup, chicken chili, tomato soup, and tonight it’s black bean soup. Our fridge and our bellies are full and happy, and so are our wallets! Though, Monkey has been pressing to get Chinese take-out soon, so that might happen next week for a special treat.
Here’s a great post on making leftovers taste great by Trent Hamm, one of my favorite bloggers.
Do you meal plan? Do you meal prep? What are some of your favorites to make in advance?