I often get comments and questions about how I manage to make “real dinners” and even lunches most days of the week. I like to think I have magic but the truth is, we do a lot of food prep on Saturdays or Sundays to try and make this process a whole lot easier. I am terrible at meal prepping because I am a very “emotional” eater. What I mean is, if I don’t “feel” like eating on Tuesday what I planned on Sunday, it will be rough. It’s one of my quirks that drives Ethan crazy. So I have managed to develop some kind of middle ground.
First- I will often spend an afternoon here and there prepping a bunch of components to put in the freezer. Gnocchi and biscuits are two of my favs. A few weeks ago I mixed up what was essentially homemade Bisquick biscuits with flour, baking powder, some seasoning, and water. I used my cookie scoop to pre-scoop them on to wax paper and froze them. I’ve tossed them on top of casseroles, on top of a pot of soup with the lid on, and just straight in the oven with some cheese on top. Gnocchi and biscuits are both extremely versatile and can be used along with just about any meat. I have recipes for neither. I “Holy Spirit” make those. Ravioli and tortellini are other sides that I like to have on hand (it’s ok if they’re store bought). We eat these with red sauce, Alfredo, or even just butter for a more neutral side with meat.
Second- we try to bulk buy meat as often as possible since it’s usually more cost efficient. We come home and break down flats of chicken, ground beef, pork loins/shoulders, into meal-sized portions for our family. Sometimes we premix hamburgers or throw chicken in a freezer bag with marinade.
Third- Along with prepped food (see #1), we make sure to have some key ingredients stocked in the pantry and freezer. Chicken and Beef bone broth are all stars for soups, or crock pot recipes. When I do not have it homemade, we get the organic brand from Giant. We are also able to get a number of organic flavor and gravy packets in our organic section as well! It makes spur of the moment meals a lot easier. Matzah Ball Soup has become a whole family favorite. I keep a box of mix on hand at all times. Even if I’m not cooking a whole chicken with it for the schmaltz, I’ll use my rendered bacon fat instead of using vegetable oil. Cheeses and butter are always waiting in our freezer. Nothing is worse than wanting to make quesadillas and realizing there is no cheese! We have found it is more cost effective to purchase blocks of cheese shred it ourselves, and freeze, than to buy pre-shredded bags. Potatoes, onions, and garlic, are givens.
The actual planning- Pinterest came out when I was in college and I never looked back. I usually take a gander through Pinterest for some for some pin-spiration. I write out a list of things I want to make and go from there. Other times, I literally tell Ethan to pull out whatever meats he wants and I’ll come up with something.
Sundays we are typically home from church around 11, well before the rest of family is home from their church. We use this time to cook up our meats for the week. It usually ends up being chicken breast and/or legs in the oven, ground beef in a pot on the stove, and some kind of pork in the crock pot. Once in a while Ethan will specifically cook up some hamburgers. Otherwise, unless pre-marinated, we cook everything plain with just a bit of salt. This allows us full flexibility through the week. We also usually cook up a big batch of plain rice. I am able to mix and match and pull meats to pair with whatever we want. It also makes it easy enough for us to have a hot lunch and dinner. With all four of us being home all day, having the food COOKED makes it that much easier.
Some quick/easy meals through the week-
Chicken Gnocchi Soup- In a pot, bring chicken bone broth to a boil with seasonings of your choice. Add some shredded chicken and your frozen gnocchi. When your gnocchi floats, it’s ready to eat!
Chicken & Rice with Biscuits– In a pot, add in chicken bone broth with seasonings of your choice along with some shredded chicken and your rice. Add your pre-made biscuits on top and cover with a lid. Bring to a boil and cook until the biscuits are fluffy and cooked through.
Chicken Stroganoff- In a pot or crock pot, add chicken bone broth, greek yogurt (or sour cream) shredded chicken, paprika, parsley, salt/pepper, sautéed onion, chopped bacon. Once it’s heated through it’s done!
Mini Bread-Pizzas- slice whatever loaf of bread you have. We had challah, you could use brioche or even a baguette. Layer on tomato sauce with seasonings and ground beef. Add your toppings. Toss in the oven or under the broiler until cheese is melted.
Scarborough Fair Pork- In a crock pot or roasting pan, liberally sprinkle your cut of pork with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, salt/pepper. We prefer to pair pork with beef bone broth, but it can work with chicken as well. This pairs beautifully with roasted potatoes.
Chicken Pot Pie- the “pie version”– mix a packet of chicken gravy per directions but use chicken bone broth instead of water. Pre-chop and boil your potatoes if you’re using them. Combine with shredded chicken, gravy, and vegetables of your choice in a dish. Top with a store bought/pre-made phyllo dough. Bake until dough is cooked through.
Spaghetti & Meat Sauce– I feel like this one needs no explanation. We use all types of pasta shapes, ravioli, or tortellini. You can also always throw it in a baking dish and make a cheat-baked ziti/pasta!
Tacos– I heat up pre-cooked ground beef with a bit of water and taco seasonings. Then we just add on whatever toppings- salsa, cheese, sour cream, etc.