August is here, and for some of you, your kids have already gone back to school (EEEEEKKKK!). Mine go back the day after Labor Day and I’ll be sending them with mixed emotions. I’ll be super happy to have some routine and structure in our house, however, with that routine and structure comes the need to be more organized. Enter Back to School Make Ahead Meals. And I know you’re feeling me with this one. Busy mamas unite…
So my family’s big news this school year is that we are going to have a student teacher, “an intern”, from El Salvador living with us for the first semester of school. Her name is Gaby, she’s super fun, and we’re so excited to be her American family. But this just makes me more anxious to get organized-there will be another person to keep nourished, even when I’m at work. I’ve slotted time this last 2 weeks of August to work on Make Ahead Meals for my freezer and I’ll share my list with you! (some of these recipes are our recipes, some of these recipes are other bloggers’ recipes-all are delicious!)
Make Ahead Meals- Breakfast
I don’t usually eat breakfast so this one has always been hard for me. But I need to send the kids (and now Gaby) out the door with something to keep them full until lunch. Of course we’ll have our normal cereal, toast, fruit and bagels available, but all of those carbs make me shudder a litte, so I want to be able to mix it up. These are the breakfasts I plan on making ahead and storing in my freezer for easy, breezy mornings.
Zucchini Muffins/Mini Loaves These gorgeous little treats use up the zucchini from our garden, yet taste like dessert. I use our Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread recipe, but instead of doing loaves of bread, I bake them in muffin tins or mini loaf pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes and allow to cool fully before freezing.
Breakfast Burritos I love breakfast burritos. And this recipe contains beans, eggs, sausage and tater tots! I plan on making half of these without the cheese, for my non cheese eating children, but I think these will make great protein filled hand held breakfast treats! Make sure you read the freezer directions on this on, these get assembled first and then frozen.
Pumpkin Waffles I love making extra waffles and freezing them, because they are so darn easy to heat up. I have a square waffle iron and it makes waffles that fit perfectly into my toaster. Top with some fruit compote, nut butter, or a little maple syrup and it feels like Sunday brunch on a school day.
Cheddar Egg Cups I haven’t made these yet, but when they are described as tasting like Starbucks’ sous vide eggs, I’m in. Again, I’ll have to leave the cheddar out of half of them, but I can replace that with extra bacon, or sausage, or even a little spinach.
Healthy Egg White Breakfast Muffins This is what I’ll be keeping in the freezer for myself. I plan on filling them with spinach and veggies as well as little bit of cheese. Perfect for after a workout. Or on my way to work.
Make Ahead Meals- Dinners
Sure I’ll have my normal spaghetti with jarred sauce (I have extra jars of roasted pureed veggies in my freezer that I add to the jarred sauce to doctor it up and make it just a touch more nutritious), Potstickers from Costco (to serve with rice and frozen broccoli florets), and ground beef to make into quick tacos, but we need more than just those three things to eat! Here is what is going into my freezer for this September.
Beef Stew This has been one of my family’s favorites. I usually add potatoes (they freeze just fine), and if I have the time the additional oven time to get the top a little crusty is well worth it. I like to serve this with gnocchi-but it would also be great with mashed potatoes, noodles, or just on it’s own served with a simple salad and loaf of crusty bread. This meal gets assembled but not cooked before freezing. The Instant Pot makes quick work of cooking it from frozen when you are ready.
Instant Pot Butternut Squash Soup This soup makes a ton, freezes beautifully, and is loved by everyone in my family. Add a salad and a few croutons or some cumin sour cream and dinner is served.
Easy Vegetarian Chili When the cold weather comes (as it always does way too soon in Minneapolis), it seems harder to get veggies into my kids. We all feel better when we’re eating lots of fruits and veggies, so what better way than this veggie packed chili? I may also throw in a little bit of sweet potato or butternut squash, depending on what I have around when I make it! This recipe will also be perfect for using up the zucchini from my garden!
Instant Pot Korean Pulled Pork I love this one. It makes plenty to freeze, and is perfect for making rice bowls (add rice and roasted vegetables), tacos (add cabbage, cilantro, peanuts, sriracha mayo and tortillas), sandwiches (add a bun), you name it. We almost always have a container of this in our freezer, and decide last minute how we are going to use it, depending on what we have in our house.
Instant Pot Wild Rice Soup This soup screams fall to me. I like to add chicken since my kids prefer that, but certainly you could add chickpeas to keep it vegetarian, or ham if you prefer that as a protein. This meal gets assembled before cooking, so make sure you have the after thawing ingredients on hand.
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Pro Tips and Make Ahead Meals Must Haves
Instant Pot: The Instant Pot is the best tool for Make Ahead Meals or Freezer Meals. You can put your frozen meal in the pot and it cooks without thawing first! Win! Pro-Tip: If using an Instant Pot, make sure your meals are frozen in a shape that will fit in the Instant Pot. I put my plastic ziplock bags and freeze it in the Pot portion of my Instant Pot for 24 hours to ensure that the food can be easily dumped into the pot without thawing first.
Slow Cooker: If you are more organized than me, and can remember to thaw out your frozen meals the night, this can be a great tool for cooking the Beef Stew, the Wild Rice Soup or reheating the Butternut Squash Soup!
Wide Mouth Quart Jars: These jars are perfect for freezing soups or chilis. Pro Tip: remember to leave an inch of room at the top when freezing so the glass won’t break when the food freezes and expands.
Ziplock Gallon Freezer Bags: These are my go to bags for freezing things. Pro Tip: I wrap breakfast burritos with foil individually and then freeze in these bags. I also freeze Beef Stew and Korean Pulled Pork in these bags-first remove all of the air, and then you can freeze flat to maximize space.