As I lay in bed and try to enjoy what is left of this three day weekend I find myself surfing the internet not only to avoid doing all of the homework that I have put off until today, but also to find ideas to make for dinner in the coming week. That dreaded question of "what's for dinner?" sneaks up on me every night, and the hardest time to answer it is at 7:30 when you are starving, have nothing in the fridge, and have already had cereal for dinner twice this week. Normally I would just go ahead and have cereal for the third night in a row and hope that I am smarter in coming weeks, but this year I have decided to be proactive about this situation. I have started preparing meals in bulk when I have the time, so I can have delicious home cooked meals all week long without the prep work involved on those nights that I lack time and motivation to cook. Doing this has not only saved me a lot of stress, but it has also decreased my grocery bill and allowed me to eat healthier meals.
Preparing your meals at home can save a lot of money in your food budget every month. As an intern this is fantastic news because I am living on a limited annual income of $0. Prime example: Maybe instead of having cereal three times a week when you have nothing else, you choose to order a pizza. A small pepperoni pizza is almost $8.00, plus an added tip if you get it delivered. Eight dollars doesn't seem like a lot, but when you find out that you can make your own pizza from scratch for around $4.00 why would you pay double the price? The reason is because nobody has time to wait for pizza dough to rise on the average Tuesday night. You do however; have the time on Martin Luther King Jr. Day when you are sitting in bed writing a blog. My favorite is making chicken pesto calzones and freezing them individually. When it is time to eat I just pop them in the oven and I have homemade pizza in 20 minutes and no need to tip a high school delivery boy! For this recipe I make a whole-wheat crust, make my own pesto from my basil plant, and add sun dried tomatoes for a little extra flavor!
Find the recipe below! http://www.mykitchenaddiction.com/2010/08/chicken-pesto-calzones-stocking-the-freezer-wfmw/
Another fantastic benefit to preparing meals at home is knowing exactly what goes into your food and having the ability to add or take away what you want. This is a great time to get creative with your recipes and find ways to make them even healthier! Premade or frozen meals at the grocery store can often be extremely high in fat and sodium, or they end up tasting like cardboard. Instead of falling into this trap, you can make your own freezer meals and be able to control the exact amount of salt and fat that you put into it. Making chili in your crockpot for dinner? Try substituting lean ground turkey in the recipe instead of beef to cut down on the fat content. You can also buy canned beans with no salt added to decrease the amount of sodium in the recipe. And while you are at it, why not add a few more veggies to the pot that weren't in the original recipe? Now you have a low fat, low sodium, heavy on the veggie chili and the best part is you can make a large batch and freeze the leftovers! You are aware of exactly what ingredients went into your chili, and you are able to enjoy this healthy meal more than just once! This is a great way to incorporate more fresh vegetables into your cooking and use them up before they go bad sitting in the refrigerator. Take advantage of seasonal vegetables that are on sale and pack your meals with nutrients!
The only things that need to be taken into consideration when you are freezing meals are: 1) Will this meal actually hold up in the freezer? Not all foods are meant to be frozen, so make sure your recipe is freezer friendly or you might end up with inedible mush on your hands. 2) Do I have enough space to fit all of this? For me, the answer is no! But the fantastic news if your freezer is already full it must mean you already have a lot of meals in there to tide you over until the next day you have the time to make some delicious recipes! Happy cooking!
Below are some of the recipes that I have tried and am currently enjoying!
Thai curry -if you don't want to add the chicken you can freeze the soup base and add chicken, shrimp, or tofu when you are ready to eat it!
Crock pot chicken taco chili
Spinach and artichoke stuffed shells