[The views expressed in this post are my opinion.]
My husband and I are getting ready to leave on our first kid-free trip, in what feels like eternity!! & the troops are making their way to our home to help watch our three perfectly behaved angels...hahahaha! You didn't fall for that one did you?? I love my children dearly and they sure have some sweet moments, but right now they are in the mini a-hole stage, so needless to say this trip is much needed! Case in point...
In the hustle and bustle of packing for our trip and trying to get our house in a livable state again, I've also put together make-ahead-meals for the ease of those coming to help hold down the fort while we are galavanting across the Atlantic.
I'd like to share some of these make-ahead-meal options for any busy parent out there looking for some simple shortcuts and quick cooking options for family dinners. Ingredient choices are up to you in terms of organic versus non-organic. In our house we strike a healthy balance of both. Sometimes we pinch pennies and buy store brand products and other times we splurge for organic options, with some staple organics like milk and produce.
1. My 8-great lasagna. 8 ingredients & my kids eat this up!
1 lb of ground beef ** 12 lasagna noodle sheets ** 16oz tomato sauce (reserve some for bottom & top layers) **ricotta cheese ~1 1/2 cups **parmesan cheese **mozzarella cheese **fresh basil ~10 leaves **garlic powder 1 1/2 tsp
(salt & pepper to taste)
Directions (see pictures below) - 1. Cook ground beef (drain if extra greasy), then add tomato sauce to heat through - set aside. 2. Cook noodles according to package directions. 3. Make ricotta mixture: add ricotta, chopped basil, garlic powder, (and salt and pepper to taste), stir ingredients until mixed. 4. Begin layering: bottom layer coat of sauce (not meat mixture), layer of noodles, layer of meat mixture, layer of ricotta mixture, layer of shredded cheeses (I don't measure, just add as little or as much as you want), and then repeat. I get about three layers. 5. Top the last set of noodles with sauce (no meat) and shredded cheeses to your liking. 6. Cover and freeze for later with instructions noted OR cook immediately.
*Bake in 375 oven for 30-35 min, covered with foil. Last 10 minutes uncovered for top cheese layer to melt (if cooking from freezer, thaw before baking for best results or cook frozen for 1 hour, or until heated through).
There are fancier lasagnas out there and you can make your own tomato sauce if you have that kind of time - but this one is simple, tasty, and freezes great for a ready made meal for the whole family.
2. Make Ahead Pancakes & the EASIEST pancake recipe hands down!!
Box of pancake mix (JUST ADD WATER) &
You guessed it! - WATER
Now look, I know pancakes from scratch aren't that hard to make & every now and again I take the time to get the flour, sugar, vanilla, blah blah blah...but then there are times when these pancake mix boxes are my favorite! I have had countless compliments on my pancakes - the fluffiness, the taste, etc. and people are shocked when I tell them it's a mix that you just add water to :P
So don't knock it until you've tried it.
The make ahead part - even simpler (see photos). Make the pancakes as directed on the box, pop them in freezer bags, labeled, and stick them in your freezer for ready made pancakes. Thaw and serve! Great for busy school mornings or if you have family/friends watching your kids and want to save them some time on breakfast prep! We also use these for nights when it's breakfast for dinner!
Make any variety you wish, adding in your favorite additional ingredients like blueberries, bananas, chocolate chips, and so forth!
3. Meatloaf! (Yep, I said it, meatloaf). Meatloaf is sooo easy for a freezer meal, and there are a million ways to make a mean meatloaf. Do a search on Pinterest and the world of meatloaf will unfold right before your eyes. *Serve with ketchup and most kids will go to town!
I recently made the following recipe from OneHundredDollarsaMonth.com with some adaptations of my own - see photos below for a look!
*Adaptions I made were: Half an onion instead of a whole (my kids prefer less onion), I used 1 Tbs of dijon mustard instead of ground mustard (it's the only mustard I had), and I used 1 lb of ground turkey instead of beef.
(I cut back on the milk a little bit so the mixture wasn't too wet since I had less meat than the original recipe called for. If you find your meat mixture too wet, you can add some more bread crumbs).
Full recipe can be found here: http://www.onehundreddollarsamonth.com/easy-freezer-meals-simple-meat-loaf-recipe/
4. Chicken Noodle Casserole.
I stumbled upon this recipe at life-in-the-lofthouse.com, and found it to be pretty darn freezer friendly, plus my kids love it! It has egg noddles in it - so enough said, right?!
When soup is too messy and hard to eat for your kiddos, this recipe is a great alternative & super family friendly!
Lastly, any recipe that says you can use a rotisserie chicken ends up on one my Pinterest recipe boards - because our family has a rotisserie chicken in our home at least once a week!
Without further ado, here's the link to the recipe: https://life-in-the-lofthouse.com/chicken-noodle-casserole/
I did make some minor adaptions including not using carrots (we have a child, who shall not be named, with an aversion to carrots...
I also used a half an onion finely chopped since it was leftover from my meatloaf recipe (see above) & I didn't have dried minced onion.
I was able to make two casseroles using 8x8 pans.
If you make this, just pop in the freezer and when you wish to have it for dinner thaw ahead of time, and then bake as directed (350 for 30 min).
I hope you have enjoyed this post and feel inspired to create some make-ahead-meals; one's that are easy, don't require a million ingredients, and kid-friendly! Those are my favorite kind of recipes!
Happy cooking, happy freezing, and happy eating!
*Affiliated links are included in this post for which I receive compensation for from any sales.