In the world of food, I have found a few shortcuts that have worked their way into our meal rotation because they are easy, cheap and well-loved by all. When I take a couple of hours at the beginning of the week to do some prep work, I am rewarded with days worth of stress-free meals.
Here are my favorite, tried-and-true prep-ahead foods that have helped me save dinner time and feed my hungry crowd without making me a slave to the kitchen.
Meatballs freeze nicely, without the loss of flavor or texture that comes with some frozen foods. We especially love them slow cooked with pasta sauce, or thrown in our favorite soup. For more ideas, check out my post: 30 Ways to Use Meatballs.
Shredded Chicken and Chicken Stock
Grab a whole chicken from Whole Foods, throw it in the slow cooker with some veggies & purified water, and let it go on low overnight. In the morning, you’ll awaken to a deep, rich stock, and a delicious fall-off-the-bone chicken. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
I love that shredded chicken is so versatile. We use it in soups, stews, casseroles, sandwiches, wraps & nachos. You can find my 40 Favorite Shredded Chicken Recipes HERE.
Hard Boiled Eggs
Easy to prepare, and useful in salads, sandwiches and as snacks. Boil up a few, store in the refrigerator, then peel and eat as needed.
Diced Onion, Green Pepper and Ham
Having diced onions, green peppers and ham in the freezer saves me a little extra time and mess in the morning. If you’re a breakfast lover, you’ll love this shortcut! Chop them up on grocery day, then pull them from the freezer and use as needed.
Making your own sausage takes literally seconds, and allows you to skip the preservatives. Love that. As an added bonus, it is far more tasty than the brand names. We love to whip up a batch of THIS recipe, then freeze it raw in meal size portions. Thaw and cook as needed for instant smiles. **Works great with ground turkey too.**
I form the patties as soon as I arrive home from the grocery store. Then freeze them in one flat layer, to ensure a quick thaw!
Who needs microwave popcorn, when the homemade version is so quick and delicious! You can make it a little healthier by popping kernels in olive oil, then drizzling them with coconut oil instead of butter. Keeps nicely for a few days in a storage bag.
So far, I haven’t found a make-ahead pancake or french toast recipe I’m crazy about. But waffles are another story. This recipe freezes beautifully, and satisfies even my pickiest eater. Best of all, there is no thawing required – they go directly from freezer to toaster (or oven)!
Cookies or Cookie Dough
We all know homemade cookies are so much better than their preservative-ridden counterparts. But who has the time? Am I right?
My solution is to whip up a triple-batch of dough, freeze it into individual cookie-sized balls, then pull them out and bake a dozen at a time. I have home baked goodness at my fingertips whenever we have a hankering.
I only get around to making homemade bread about once a month, but when I do, I am greeted with applause and smiles from my entire peanut gallery. As long as I’m at it, I generally make at least two loaves and throw the extras in the freezer for future praise. The folks over at The Kitchn have some good tips for getting the best results from frozen bread.
Par Baked Pizza Crust
THIS is our #1 family favorite freezer food. I am drooling right now just looking at the picture. Best crust. Best sauce. Best. Pizza. Ever.
Muffins & Quick Breads
My kids devour all baked goods. But on the rare occasion when I have had some leftovers, I just pop them in the freezer and pull out a few every now and then for a special treat. Our favorite freezer-friendly recipes: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip and Banana Nut. They come out even more moist and delicious than the day they came out of the oven.
A kid-friendly refreshing treat for the summer that you can feel good about. Wash, dry and freeze, then pull them out and eat them straight from the bag!
What are your favorite foods to prep ahead for the week? Please share in the comments!