Saturday, March 26, 2011

5 Time-Saving Meal Ideas for Busy Moms

1. Meatballs
Everyone loves them, and with a little work ahead of time, you can have a great dinner ready when you need it.
- On meatball making day, make a batch of MDP's Meatballs .
- For meatballs that day, make a batch of MDP's Chunky Marinara. The full batch of sauce is enough for a full batch of meatballs. You can either make it all and save for leftovers that week, make it all and freeze half the meatballs and sauce together in a gallon bag for a quick dinner another night, or only make half the marinara and meatballs for the current meal, and freeze the other half of the meatballs in a gallon bag, and other half of the sauce in a separate gallon bag of freezer container (then you can use the sauce and meatballs separately in the future if you want).
- You can use large meatballs for subs, spaghetti and meatballs, sliced on pizza or in calzones. If you make them half size, they are great for soups, teriyaki meatballs , and in spaghetti pie.

2. Black Bean Soup
Nothing like a big pot of soup to stock some healthy food in your fridge and save you some time later!
- Make a batch of Black Bean Soup. I would even suggest doubling the batch. If you are watch your sodium, use dried beans and reconstitute. If you don't have the time, just rinse the canned beans VERY well.
- Serve up black bean soup and make quesadillas for a quick dinner. I make them quick on our griddle. Spray with cooking spray and lay down  2 flour tortillas. Sprinkle each with shredded cheese, chopped onions and peppers, real bacon bits, chicken and/or other toppings of choice. Top with another tortilla. Once the bottom tortilla looks golden and crispy when lifted, spray the top tortilla with cooking spray and carefully flip. Cook until golden and crispy. Make 1 (2 tortilla quesadilla) for every 2-3 people.
- Make fajitas and serve soup on the side. Make either Shredded Beef , or ground chicken, turkey or beef OR thin strips of chicken, pork of beef with taco seasoning. Serve in corn or flour tortillas with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, cheese, and sauteed onions and peppers.
- Eat alone for lunch or a light dinner, Top soup with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped green onions.
- This sour freezes wonderfully for a rainy day, so when soup cools freeze some either in a gallon bag if for the whole family, quart bags if you want 2-3 servings, or in single serving portions. I liked to save 1 quart yogurt tubs for freezing soup!

3. Chicken
For a crock pot full of delicious, juicy chicken meat for other recipes with minimal issues, check out How I stretched a $3 whole chicken into 3 meals .
* Carve white meat and serve over salad.

* Make Buffalo chicken salad for lunches- Shred chicken. Mix with buffalo sauce, light mayo, and shredded carrot and chopped celery.
* Make Mexican Lasagna
* Make Chicken Soup- Heat stock, chicken, carrots, celery, onions, etc on medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook until vegetables are tender. Add rice or soup pasta and turn heat off. Let stand at least 20 minutes before serving.

4. Pork Loin
- Make a batch of Crock Pot Pulled Pork 3 ways
- BBQ pork is great for pulled pork sandwiches and stuffing loaded baked potatoes.

- Teriyaki pork is great for lettuce wraps with water chestnuts and some chopped almonds or peanuts.
- Taco pork is good for .... tacos, burritos, nachos, and quesadillas.

5. Casseroles
Making a casserole is a great way to cover dinner and at least another meal. For me, I like to take leftovers for lunch so it works well. We also have some busy nights, so its helpful to have homemade, wholesome food on hand for my family. I make more than enough for our 4, and then based on how much we eat or will eat, I freeze the rest. You can also make the casseroles ahead of time, pop them in the freezer, and defrost before baking.
Make some and bake/save for the week/freeze, or follow the steps up until cooking and freeze in a disposable aluminum pan, covered tightly.
Our freezer currently has:
Meat Pies
Quiche Bake
Mexican Lasagna
Mexican Beef and Bean
Hash Brown Casserole
Western Omelet Bake
Baked French Toast
Zucchini Squares (made single serving in muffin tins)
Green Eggs and Ham (ham and egg cups with spinach)
just to name a few.... a good meal is never more than 10 minutes out!

The bottom line, by freezing a little of your extra work products, you can have many get out of jail free cards when it comes to cooking!

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