Weekly Menu: Freezer Favorites Round 2

standard September 11, 2017 1 response

Before having my first baby earlier this year, I spent a few weekends stocking up my freezer with breakfasts, entrees, snacks, and smoothies to get me through the 4th trimester with as little cooking as I could. And I am back to report that it was the BEST. DECISION. EVER. If you’re pregnant and reading this, carve out a weekend and cook and freeze all the things you can! Especially things other people can heat up for you. No cooking. No dishes. And no greasy takeout. (YES, takeout has a much-needed place in this season, but especially with breastfeeding, all the nutritious, filling foods you can get are so needed to keep everyone healthy and happy).

Now that my freezer is empty again, I am back to share how I’ve gotten even more efficient at this process, with prep instructions to help anyone tackle this seemingly daunting task in just one weekend. I got almost 2 months of meals made in under 8 hours and for less than $150. And now I’m ready to get through a super busy work and holiday season.

Recipes

Pick 2 breakfast dishes. Add 2 smoothies. Throw in a sweet treat. And then 7-8 entrees that work for lunches, dinners, singles, or a crowd. The more versatile the better. Here is what I made this past weekend:

  1. Blueberry Buckwheat Muffins
  2. Baked Oatmeal Cups (whip up your favorite oatmeal recipe and bake in muffin tins vs the stove for easy single servings to reheat)
  3. Pumpkin Berry Smoothie Bowl
  4. Autumn Glow Milkshake
  5. Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
  6. Vegan Enchiladas Verde
  7. Spanish Quinoa & Chickpeas
  8. Cannellini Bean & Broccoli Rabe Meatballs
  9. Peanutty Stewed Blackeyed Peas & Collard Greens
  10. Back Pocket Stir Fry with Noodles
  11. Cauliflower Walnut Taco Meat
  12. 1 Pot Lentil Dal
  13. Tofu & Broccoli Curry

Prep 

  1. Make a grocery list. Take stock of what you already have in the pantry and fridge. Shop for all the ingredients you need.
  2. Divide the list in half.  Set aside 3 hours over 2 days or one giant 6 hour day to cook.
  3. Read all the instructions. Soak beans, chop veggies, marinate, freeze, thaw, etc according to recipes. You don’t want to be stuck with dried beans that need soaking overnight when you’re about to cook the recipe.

Plan

If you’re tackling everything in one day, write out an order of operations sheet. Which things get dumped into a pot and left to simmer, allowing you to work on something else in a similar time frame? Which items can cook at same temperature and go in the oven together? What takes the longest and should be started first? What gets put in the slow cooker first thing in the day? If you write out a list and make things one by one, it will make everything go faster and run more smoothly.

Make sure you have freezer containers ready to go. I like to store everything in single serve containers, because most recipes I eat alone when the husband is traveling. Or he wants a separate meat dish, and we can just thaw what we both want without having a whole casserole dish of something sitting in the fridge going to waste. These containers stack great, fit in tight spaces to maximize your freezer, and are super cheap, so if they break or get lost or stained, you don’t feel bad about tossing them. Freezer bags are also a great option for smoothies, baked goods, breakfast burritos, etc.

Most of the dishes I made work well served over a grain, so I also cooked up giant batches of rice and quinoa and froze in single servings. Quinoa cooks rather quickly, but the last thing I want to deal with on a busy night is 45 minutes of brown rice simmering on the stove. You can buy precooked frozen rice, but a bag of dried rice is so cheap, I just add it to my batch cooking list and make my own.

Follow Up

You can either label each dish or make a list of what you’ve made and keep it near the freezer so you can check items off as you eat them. I find this makes it easier to always know whats left without digging through everything.

Now you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your evenings again!

 

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Weekly Menu: Semi-Homemade (+ 4 fast 5 ingredient meal ideas!)

standard July 10, 2017 Leave a response

New recipes may not be happening much in my kitchen with a new baby, but I am still always brainstorming new meals, especially ones that are easy to put together. Taking advantage of store bought items can help with the time, ease, and flavor, whether you have a new baby at home or are tired from a long workday.  For me, this means actually getting lunch together and eaten with a clingy baby strapped to my body. It also means few ingredients to buy when making meals while on vacation or travelling. And it also makes meals customizable to multiple picky palates. So don’t think meal planning and prep has to be all from scratch! Semi-homemade can be just as healthy and nutritious.

Here are a few of my go-to semi-homemade meals for those busy nights.

Avocado Kale Salad

Take a bag of sweet kale chopped salad mix (the one with shredded Brussels sprouts, dried cranberries, and pepitas) and toss the salad dressing. Add in some extra fresh chopped kale or spinach for bulk. Slice a small avocado and add to greens along with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a shake of salt and pepper. Massage kale with hands to rub the avocado in and soften leaves. Leave some avocado chunks for texture in the salad. Add a cup of chickpeas or tofu for protein, and any random produce you want to use up from the fridge (celery, apples, green onions, or broccoli all work great). Divide into two portions and serve.

Veggie Stir Fry

Grab a bag of raw or frozen stir fry veggies. Toss in skillet over high heat until heated through and slightly browned. Add in a protein of choice plus a cup of your favorite stir fry sauce (or make your own with equal parts soy sauce, hoisen sauce, and water plus a drizzle of lime juice, agave nectar, and sriracha for kick).  Serve over rice (I usually keep frozen brown rice on hand for quick meal nights).

Blueberry Steel Cut Oatmeal

Did you know you can buy precooked, frozen, steel cut oats? No more standing over the stove stirring while they cook forever! I’ve seen flavored varieties but you can also get plain oats cooked with water. And when ready to eat, just thaw and heat up.  Add a swirl of almond butter, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a handful of fresh blueberries, and you’ve got a filling and satisfying breakfast in a flash.

Pumped Up Pasta

Clean out the fridge by taking any random veggies you have, steam them, and puree them with a little water or vegetable stock in a blender or food processor. You can also puree some cooked white beans for a protein punch. Add to a jar of spaghetti sauce and heat together on the stove. Serve over your favorite pasta. Hidden veggies for picky eaters is a bonus! All the extra fiber and protein will give staying power and a homemade taste to the standard jarred sauce and spaghetti.

Happy Semi-Homemade Cooking!

 

Weekly Menu: A New Flow

standard June 12, 2017 Leave a response

I love cooking. Creating. Serving. Eating. Stirring a big pot of risotto is calming to me, and having a prepped and stocked fridge makes me insanely happy. However, some seasons are just not easy for finding time to mix and stir and simmer and bake. My child’s bedtime routine takes up most of the time I used to use to make dinner. And we now eat at 9 pm after she is in bed. Cooking at that point is out of the question. This mama is hungry! So how to make meals easy without getting takeout all the time?

1. Stock that freezer!

As we started depleting the freezer reserves once we got home from the hospital, I started taking a few hours one day a month to make 3-4 more meals to restock for the coming weeks. Having an ever stocked freezer makes last-minute meals super easy, and any dinner can be freshened up with a quick side salad.

Looking for fresh and easy freezer meal ideas and planning tips? Check out these posts:

2. Get a meal delivery service.

We get a vegetarian Hello Fresh box almost every week. I can easily add an extra protein for the husband and omit any cheese for me. Meals are simple enough they can be made in 30 minutes or less, and if I’ve prepped everything before bedtime, dinner takes even less time to get on the table after baby is asleep.

Want to try Hello Fresh for yourself? Use this link to get $40 off your first box. And let me know what you think! (Disclaimer: This is an affiliate link).

3. Use prepared grocery items.

The best time saver for easy, healthy lunches? Bagged salad kits from the grocery store. I usually ditch the dressing and make my own simple vinaigrette with oil and vinegar or swap in salsa or tahini. Toss some precooked lentils or beans in, and a hearty, filling, and fresh meal is ready in 5 minutes. Most grocery stores have a ton of prepared convenience foods in the produce section that can be taken advantage of. Yes, it costs a little more for someone else to chop and season and assemble, but sometimes the time savings may weigh out the winner.