We busy moms need to give ourselves a break—and one of the best ways I’ve found to do this is to make meals (or parts of meals) ahead of time. If I’m going to do the work of opening the cans, whisking the eggs, mincing the garlic, and taking out all the spices, and then cleaning all the tools, I might as well make a big ol’ batch of whatever I’m making and see how far it takes me. Here are some of my favorites to make in massive quantities and keep on hand for later:
Waffles or pancakes: I typically take Martha Stewart’s basic pancake recipe and triple it. Then I freeze the cooled pancakes in single layers on a cookie tray separated by parchment paper. Once frozen, I store the frozen pancakes in freezer bags. I do this with muffins too!
Spinach and beans: About once a week, my husband or I make a big batch of spinach and beans that we then eat for several mornings topped with Siracha and freshly fried eggs. We chop and cook the onion, add three boxes of thawed spinach, three drained and rinsed cans of black beans, some salt and pepper, and some garam masala. I think Joe adds minced garlic and cinnamon too—his version is always way better than mine. (You can read more about our family’s Life at Sunrise here!)
Sandwiches: Super easy. Take those frozen pancakes or waffles, slather some peanut butter and honey or jam on them, and stick them in baggies. Details on how to do that here. If your kids’ school is nut-free like mine, you can substitute cream cheese or sunbutter for the nut butter.
Chilled salad: Ok. So in my dream world, I’d have a healthy lunch ready to go every day so all I have to do is scoop out some deliciousness and know that I’m getting the nutrients and energy I need to make afternoons run smoothly. However, like most moms, I tend to put my needs on the back burner. I confess that I’ve only made this salad once—but it was heavenly, and I happily ate several helpings at lunch all week. Cathy’s California Quinoa Salad took me about 40 minutes to make (hint: double or triple the recipe), and it was definitely worth it.
Make a double batch of something– one to start in the slow cooker now and freeze one for later: The folks at Once a Month Mom have a system for prepping meals in one day and then just cooking/reheating them over the month. I’ve tried it a couple of times and have found the ‘Day of Prepping’ to be a little too ambitious for me. However, they have some great recipes, and I love the concept. Today I made Pumpkin Coconut Black Beans in my slower cooker and prepped a second version of it to go in my freezer for another day. To make the recipe freezer ready but not too bulky, I just added everything except the water. When you’re ready to enjoy the frozen batch, just remember to pull it out of the freezer the night before to thaw, then dump it in the slow cooker with any missing ingredients and you’re all set to go!