Ducks 'n a Row: Make Ahead Meals

28 September 2012

Make Ahead Meals

5 Dinners in 1 Hour is a popular blog that provides detailed guidelines on how to do just that: prepare 5 main meals for the week in just one hour’s time. This brilliant idea saves so much time for those who do it. 

June, a friend of mine, did a similar thing. She used to have a 30-day calendar mapped out for meals. Everyone in the family knew that the first Monday of the month was Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup. The first Tuesday was Tuna Noodle Casserole. Wednesday would be meatloaf with mashed potatoes, corn and gravy, Thursday was leftovers (it was a busy night in their household) and Friday was pizza!  
If it's Friday, it's pizza!

The whole month was planned and the grocery list was pre-written. June, or her husband Ed, would shop. They’d buy for a month and any other shopping trips were limited to the items that cannot stay fresh for 30 days-namely eggs and fresh produce. Bread can be frozen.

That was it. Talk about a time saver! It assured that everyone ate well in their household. June or Ed would use Saturday or Sunday afternoons to cook, cook, cook and freeze, freeze, freeze.  It worked beautifully.

So, how about you? What kind of plan would help you put a little more time in your week?

Try a week and see how it goes! Make a menu based on your family’s schedule.
  • What nights is it impossible to be together?
  • What nights call for fast food (delivery preferred)?
  • How about the times you can all sit around the table?
  • Select those days of the week and build your menu plan around it.
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Here’s a sample of what it might look like:
Saturday – chili con carne
Sunday – Family Night - baked ham, yams, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes
Monday – chili dogs
Tuesday – ham casserole or ham & eggs
Wednesday - spaghetti and meatballs with salad and Italian bread.
Thursday – meatball subs
Friday – take out (fish fry, pizza, KFC or burgers) 

Now that you have the week mapped out, decide how you will get it done. 
Let’s make Saturday shopping and cooking day. (The goal eventually would be to do this for more than one week so not every Saturday would be taken up.) 

Cooking Day
This week's meal plan includes two days of ground beef dishes. Divide out what will go into the chili and set aside what should be reserved for meatballs. 

Meatballs can be baking on a sheet in the oven while you fry up the ground beef  for the chili, so form the meatballs first. After that, start the chili.  

Chili will be served that very night with a small portion saved for chili-dogs, two nights later. 

If space in your refrigerator allows, get the ham ready so that you can just pop it in the oven the next afternoon. Score the exterior, apply any sauce or marinade you use, cover with aluminum foil and store in the frig.
Two-ingredient sauce for a delicious baked ham:
  • Brown Sugar
  • Prepared Mustard

Score the exterior of your ham in lattice style crisscrosses. Apply the sauce thickly. Stick a few toothpicks into the ham to prop up the foil, which will keep the sauce from sticking to it. Refrigerate for use the next day.

Now, take the meatballs out of the oven and drain the juices off the baking sheet.  Loosen the meatballs and  stick the sheet in the freezer for about 60 minutes.  (Set a timer so that you don’t forget them.) When nearly frozen, gently remove them from the sheet and place in a freezer bag. Place the bag in the freezer for storage.

Depending on your ham casserole recipe, some of the ingredients probably can be set up for easy assembly on the day you’ll be making it.  

Here’s a ham casserole recipe you might want to try: Tommy's Ham Casserole  Cube leftover ham from Sunday's dinner and add cream of mushroom soup, milk, pasta and cheese. Bake. Top with bread crumbs and you have a tasty, warm meal with almost no effort! Serve with a green veggie or salad on the side.

Do you have any make ahead recipes or tips? We’d love to hear from you.
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Photo Credit:
Ground Meat by Suat Eman  
Eat Pizza by Ambro 
Ham Dinner by kimberlykv on Flickr Creative Commons
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