With today’s non-stop lifestyles, it’s become increasingly difficult to make meals when you actually need them. Instead, many people end up eating less than healthy fast foods, or perhaps nothing at all.
However, with a little bit of planning ahead, you can have nutritious and delicious lunches and dinners waiting for you when you get home (or to take to work). Here are seven ideas for foods that you can easily make and then freeze or refrigerate, without much additional prep needed come mealtime…
1. Sliced Chicken Breasts
Chicken is a lean and mean meat, packing a great dose of protein without being too “heavy”. It also responds well to being stored in the fridge or freezer, and can easily be brought to room temperature by microwave (defrost setting) or leaving it out on the counter for a couple of hours – so it may be ready in time for dinner if you leave it out when you get home from work.
Throw it on medium-high heat and get it nice and cooked through, flipping often on the barbecue or stovetop pan. Boneless chicken breasts work well, and usually take 20 minutes or less to be fully cooked. It’s also easy to cut up a boneless breast and fit it nicely into a lunch container with fruit and veggies.
2. Toasty Mac and Cheese
This recipe comes from RealSimple.com, and it’s sure to satisfy the appetite of both parents and kids. While it doesn’t take long to prepare, you have the option of covering and freezing it (for up to 3-months) once it’s put together, or cook and eat it right away.
You can make a large quantity of this meal and pack it away for a rainy day, or when you just don’t have the energy to prepare a big meal after a hard day at the office. All you have to do is pop a 6-ounce portion in the oven for as little as 20-minutes and voila! Dinner is served! (An 8-inch square baking dish full of this mac and cheese takes about 50 minutes to heat through).
3. Saucy Pulled Pork
Not only do you end up with tender pulled pork with these instructions, you’ll also get the sauce to go with. The site says this pork and sauce holds up well when reheated, and goes great in whole-wheat hamburger buns. If you’re not a barbecue fan, you can also make pulled pork in the slow cooker using this recipe from Good Housekeeping magazine.
4. Pot Pie
We didn’t specify one in particular for a reason – because there are so many different and delicious pot pies you can make ahead of time, just waiting to be popped in the oven and enjoyed. Your current self will high-five your week-ago self when you have these ready to go on a busy weeknight!
Chowhound has a variety of pot pie ideas from using pizza ingredients to a traditional chicken pot pie. Once you’ve put the recipe together, pop it into the freezer and bake when you’re ready to chow down. The baking instructions vary for each pie, so be sure to click on the related links on the Chowhound page.
5. Shepherd’s Pie
Once prepared, you can have it baked in 20-minutes or so, or throw the unbaked concoction into the freezer. When you’re ready to serve it from frozen, it will only take about an hour or so to be ready, according to the BBC site. It should be very hot in the center, with 5-minutes or so standing time to ensure you don’t burn your mouth (food shouldn’t be painful!).
6. Easy Chicken Parmesan
Most chicken parm recipes require breading and frying (not the healthiest or most calorie-conscious), but not this particular recipe from AllRecipes.com. This cheesy chicken bake is done casserole-style, with all the flavor of a richer meal.
It only takes 15-minutes to prepare and 35-minutes to bake, although the recipe doesn’t specify how long to cook it from frozen. However, cooking advice from around the web suggests adding about 40-minutes to an hour in cooking time to the unfrozen casserole cooking time (so an hour and 35-minutes in this case).
7. Bean Soups
Not all soups freeze well, according to TheKitchn.com. However, one of the best types to make ahead of time is bean and lentil soups, adds the foodie site. While some take a bit of work to prepare, it’ll be worth it for days or weeks to come.
The site offers a variety of healthy bean soup recipes including red lentil soup, split pea soup, and even butternut squash soup with some bacon thrown in for good measure. These meals are all protein-packed and can be broth-based or pureed, adds the site.