is used to be the typical scene in our house when benji helps with dinner. yikes. (i love that innocent little face, as if he were just a spectator of this kitchen disaster area. do you see that he's standing on top of the griddle?!) he empties his 'unbreakables cupboard' with gusto while i hurry and fix something for supper. this particular day he wildly emptied out our collection of cookie cutters too. most days i roll with it because i'm attempting to frost sugar cookies, shape sticky bread dough, deal with raw meats or chop vegetables. we sing some tunes and make our messes simultneously. he's happily entertained and i'm providing a meal for the family. it's a survival technique.
i was chatting with another young mom the other day and we both agreed that our husbands are either greeted with a clean house or a hot meal at the end of the day; never both.
then i got to thinking, there must be a better way. (a better way that doesn't involve sitting benji in front of the tv.) i browsed some blogs and found this article by the sister's cafe. that's when i decided to take a whole new lease on my meal making, to take most of the work out of my five o'clock hour. there are so many wonderful foodie websites, i don't know why i haven't been doing this all along!
i made a list of completely new and fun recipes to try (most of them freezer friendly) and marched to the grocery store for the ingredients. a lot of freezer meals are heavy on cheese, sour cream and pasta, so i loaded up on fresh produce for salads, soups and smoothies to help balance out our months's entrees (and calorie intake)! i purchased a handful of extra square pans for freezing meals too. the next two days while my little boy had his nap, i devoted my time to prepping meals. it took some effort, but was well worth it. i got a whole slew of delicious dinners made for the weeks ahead!
a few freezer friendly recipes
spinach stuffed pasta shells
buttermilk whole wheat bread
creamy chicken noodle soup
pioneer woman's baked mac & cheese
pancakes / baked french toast
breadsticks and lasagna
here are a few tips i learned while preparing freezer meals
start with a clean kitchen; plenty of space, an empty sink and dishwasher.
pull your hair up, put on an apron and some music and make it fun!
unload your freezer and make sure you have plenty of space.
stock your fridge beforehand with all the ingredients you'll need.
choose meals with similar ingredients, so you can get the most out of your mozarella.
start boiling your water for lasagna noodles while you unload the groceries.
(if you're making lasagna for square pans, break noodles in half before boiling!)
make sure your spice rack is stocked and ready for use. benji recently helped me re-organize mine!
have a wooden spoon, cutting boards, knives, a can opener and garbage can readily available.
have two towels handy; one for wiping hands and one for wiping up spills.
make sure you have a sharpie pen, tinfoil, ziplock freezer bags, labels and pans on hand.
chop all the vegetables for your recipes at once to save time.
these days i simply let the meal thaw and toss it in the oven. when five o'clock hits, benji and i put our aprons on and toss a salad or slice some fruit. i know this is not a revolutionary idea by any means, but it has helped me feed my family and keep a cheerful attitude and a somewhat tidy house. nowadays i can read him stories before dad comes home and we usually have leftovers for lunches too. hip hooray for planning ahead and ending disaster-cleanup-kitchen efforts at mealtime! i hope i can keep this up.
what are your favorite prep-ahead meals? crockpot favorites?