I have talked before about how I try to prepare meals, fully or partially, ahead of time. Honestly, I don’t know how people manage without doing this. I try to prepare nice meals almost every night. I do not get home from work until about 5:30 and by then I do not have the patience to spend one to two hours cooking. At the same time, there are only so many nights in a week that I can get away with serving frozen pizza.
If you are wondering what that number is, it is two. After two, I get a nasty look, so two pizza nights is the limit in our house.
I am going to outline how I prepare meals in advance. To some of you, this may be obvious, but I know there are people that do not do this. Every Sunday I make something that can be frozen. If I am really ambitious, I might make two things.
I am not much of a casserole person, so I do not make a bunch of casseroles and freeze them to be eaten during the week. It is just not me. Instead, I’ll usually make some kind of pasta sauce. Occasionally I might make lasagna or stuffed shells, which I suppose could be considered casseroles. Here are some of the sauces I routinely make:
I separate them into smaller containers and freeze them. In the evening I will put a container of sauce in the fridge and the next day I just have to make some pasta and a salad. It’s easy.
Sometimes I will prepare meat. I usually make some kind of shredded meat for tacos or sandwiches, such as these:
In the evening I will pull out a container from the freezer and move it to the fridge. The next day I will make a vegetable and heat the meat on the stovetop. No microwave, yuck! I hate microwaved meat.
The one other thing that I make in advance for dinners is pizza dough, which I always have in my freezer.
I also have a system for lunches. Every Sunday, in addition to making a sauce, meat or pizza dough, I also make four or five of Cliff’s lunches. I sometimes make him roast beef sandwiches, with the layers in this order: bread, roast beef, cheese, mustard, salt and pepper, more roast beef, bread. If I make Italian sub sandwiches, I do not add the giardiniera. Cliff keeps a jar at work and adds it each day. I wrap the sandwiches in either plastic wrap or foil, and I have never had a problem with the bread getting soggy.
On Sunday nights our refrigerator is packed! Here is our rotation of lunch items:
Italian sub sandwiches
French onion soup
Macaroni and cheese
Pasta with chicken and artichokes
Cavatelli with roasted vegetables and ricotta cheese (recipe below)
So, you might be thinking that I spend my whole day in the kitchen on Sundays, but that is not the case at all. Most of those items only take one to two hours, and I do not need to stand over the stove the whole time. I can stir once in a while and clean or put away laundry or sit on the couch. This system works for us for a number of reasons:
- We save money by not eating out everyday.
- We are not running around like crazy people in the morning trying to find something for lunch.
- I can buy large amounts of meat and portion it out.
- We can eat dinner at a reasonable hour and still have time to go for a bike ride or walk or whatever.
- I have a little more control over what we are eating. It is easy to pick up a pizza on my way home but I feel better about having home-cooked meals. Even if it is still pizza!
This is one of our new favorite meals. I love to put vegetables in pasta dishes. We love to eat pasta but sometimes it can lack nutrients. Pasta + garlic bread + meatballs = where are the vegetables? Now, I just throw them right in there. Also, I don’t know if I can eat pasta without a scoop of ricotta cheese ever again. It makes it so nice and creamy. You really have to try it. So good!!
- 2 cups homemade or store bought tomato sauce
- 1 pound cavatelli
- ½ pound broccolini
- 8 ounces mushrooms
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- sprinkle of salt and pepper
- Start the water boiling for your pasta. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Slice the mushrooms and transfer them to the baking sheet. Cut the broccolini into bite sized pieces. Add them to the baking sheet.
- Add the olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper to the baking sheet. Give it all a stir and roast for 12 minutes.
- Cook the cavatelli according to the directions on the package. Heat the sauce if it is cold.
- Drain the pasta and toss with the tomato sauce. Add in the vegetables and mix. You can either fold in the ricotta cheese now or everyone can add a scoop to their bowl.