It’s taken me some time but I’m back for what I hope to be a helpful post. With my due date fast approaching..
39 weeks on Friday!
.. I’ve taken some time to do some freezer prep, as well as create a list of some of our favorite easy go-to meals.
I’m planning to detail the freezer meals in a follow-up post, and today I’m going to let you in on our favorite easy meals that require little to no thinking to prepare but are still a healthy option over take-out. It is a HUGE plus to have these meals on the back burner for busy days. Some weeks, we pull mostly from this list, other weeks I get creative with fun recipes I find from other great bloggers! With baby arriving, I compiled our families favorites and asked close friends to chime in on theirs as well. I’m excited with what I’ll have to choose from when cooking time is limited! Ok, let’s dive in..
Weekly meal-prep to make life easier:
I try to start the week with the following things prepared and ready to go, it just makes the week flow easier. There is a lot more meal prep you can do then this, but if I can at least get this accomplished with a new baby I will be happy!
- A large chopped salad- This is going to go a long way, and can be used as sides for most dinners. A typical salad consists of any or all of these ingredients, depending on what I have: mixed greens, matchstick carrots (which I buy already prepared this way), diced tomato, diced cucumber, diced bell pepper, sundried tomato (I buy these in a ziploc type bag from trader joe’s, not packed in oil), green onion, chickpeas, croutons, sliced almonds, avocado, hardboiled egg.
- Hardboiled eggs- I usually hardboil about 4-5 to have on hand for salads or snacks. I struggle with getting enough protein, and this helps. I’ve found the best way to do this is put the 4 eggs in a pot, fill with water, bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat off, cover for 12 minutes, drain. Store in the fridge with shells on (it just helps them keep longer), and peel the shells under running water ( a helpful trick!) before eating each day.
- Chop meat or veggies as needed for recipes- If I have time, I try to do this as soon as I get home from the grocery store. There have been times where I literally don’t feel like chopping up chicken so much that I’ll order take out just to avoid it. Ridiculous, but it really helps how positive I feel about cooking dinner if I know some of the chopping has been pre-done for me! I tend to buy big club packs of meat to save money, so I have to prep/portion it out when I get home to save fridge space anyway. What I need for the week gets prepped and the rest gets cleaned and popped in freezer bags for the future.
- Ground Turkey Pasta “Scramble”- for this I boil some whole wheat pasta shells. In a separate pan, I add 1/2 lb lean ground turkey, and saute until browned with an assortment of vegetables (you can use a frozen package of stir-fry veggies- super easy! or dice up some bell pepper, zucchini, carrots, green onion, mushrooms, etc. Whatever you have/want, really), a jar of tomato sauce, and top with low-fat shredded cheese.
- Spaghetti & Turkey Meatballs-For this I just make a standard meatball (turkey, breadcrumb, egg, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, some parmesan cheese) and bake them in the oven on a cookie sheet. While they bake, I’ll cook the pasta and heat up a jar of sauce. I often serve this with a side salad (see salad prep tip above).
- Crockpot shredded BBQ chicken or pork sliders served on whole grain buns or inside a baked sweet potato. I also serve this with a salad. This is as simple as throwing the meat in the crockpot in the morning with a tiny bit of bbq sauce (you’ll want to add most of the bbq sauce in the last 30 minutes of cooking so it warms up but doesn’t get liquidy sitting in the crockpot all day) and some chopped red onion. Both chicken or pork takes about 6 hours on LOW. Crockpot= life saver.
- Chicken Cesar Pizza with big cesar salad- I buy pre-cooked whole wheat pizza dough crust from Wegmans (feel free to make your own if you’re into that), top with a thin layer of cesar dressing (this is your “sauce”), next add a shredded rotisserie chicken that you’ve tossed with more cesar dressing, and top with a mixture of shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese. The rotisserie chicken makes this so easy, but if you have leftover shredded chicken you can just as easily use that. Bake 12-15 min at 400F until the cheese is melted and bubbly. While it bakes, I toss together the salad which consists of romaine lettuce (I like the crunch for this over mixed greens), chopped tomato, matchstick carrots (which I buy this way), some more parmesan cheese and some croutons. Served with cesar dressing again. Simple but one of our favorites!
- Regular pizza with red sauce and top with all the veggies you like- I also use the whole wheat pre-made crust for this.
- Frozen cheese ravioli (we aren’t talking the healthiest thing here but great for a stressful night.. everything in moderation!) with red sauce or mix it up with a garlic-oil sauce and add in some shrimp and spinach (both cook in a pan really fast).
- Chicken Fajitas with a side of rice & beans- For the fajitas I just dice up a chicken breast, toss it with a spice mixture of smoked paprika, chili powder and cumin (to your taste preference), and saute on the stove with some bell pepper and onion. Then we toss the chicken into tortilla shells and top with salsa, plain greek yogurt (or sour cream), and avocado. For the rice and beans I often cheat and buy the Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice and cook it in the microwave. While that warms up, I rinse a can of black or pinto beans. Toss the beans in a bowl with some chili powder, heat up a minute or so in the microwave, add the cooked rice, and a small pat of butter. Easy, quick complete protein!
- Grilled Cheese + Soup- You can make this feel more “fancy” by adding tomato or avocado to your grilled cheese. Sometimes I make a soup from scratch, but I have a feeling i’ll be using the pre-made soups from Wegmans or a low-sodium canned soup for the time being. Another option is to cook up a soup and freeze it for nights like this.. see my freezer meal post for more details on this, coming soon!
- Pesto Pasta with Veggies- You can figure this out from the title, but just boil up some pasta of your choosing, toss with a jarred pesto (making it in the summer is ideal but not always feasible in the winter with the cost of basil. Another idea is to make a spinach/basil pesto, which is equally good!). Just take it easy on the pesto, it’s a high fat sauce. Then I add a little bit of parm cheese, and some frozen stir-fry veggies.
- Cranberry Turkey Paninis- For these I typically buy a turkey breast and cook it in the oven on a day that I’m home (this might sound intense but it’s as easy as throwing the breast in a pyrex dish, drizzling on some olive oil, salt and pepper, and tossing it in the oven for an hour), but now that I won’t be pregnant anymore I’m sure there will be nights we grab the nitrate- free turkey breast from the deli counter and use that instead. For the panini’s I just use any sliced cheese of choice, a low-sugar cranberry spread (wegmans makes a yummy one but use whatever you like), and some spinach. You can pop it in a panini press or sometimes I just toss it in the oven on a baking sheet for a few minutes to toast the bread and warm the turkey/cheese. Other ideas include pesto, hummus, roasted red peppers, etc. I usually serve this with chips and a salad.
- Veggie Nachos- Nachos as a meal sounds terribly unhealthy but I love that these actually ARE pretty healthy! I buy whole grain tortilla chips and spread them on a foil lined baking sheet. In a sauce pan, saute chopped bell pepper, onion, and a jalapeno (if you’re feeling it) with some fajita seasoning or homemade taco type seasoning. I am dying to try this one from real mom nutrition. Add in a can of pinto beans towards the end of the veggies cooking. I also throw in a few spoonful’s of salsa to moisten it up. After the veggies are cooked I spread the mixture evenly over the chips, top with some shredded cheese and bake in the oven for a few minutes until the cheese melts.
Combo Meals (the only reason these are “combo” meals are because Dan doesn’t eat fish and I don’t eat beef. These don’t have to be combo meals if you don’t have this problem):
- Beef Tacos + Lentil Taco Salad- The beef tacos are just your standard taco recipe- beef, cheese, seasonings, tomato, lettuce, and taco shells. For the salad I use the salad I prepped earlier in the week as a base, and just add lentils. If we’re going the lazy route, I buy the pre-cooked lentils from the fridge section of trader joes. Don’t be afraid of lentils, they look kind of gross but they are an AWESOME source of nutrition. Since the package serves about 6 people, I portion out two servings and freeze the rest in little Ziploc freezer bags for future lentil taco salads.
- Beef Tacos + Corny Salmon Cakes (also served with salad)- I use wild canned salmon from Trader Joe’s for the salmon cakes, which makes it SO easy. I really LOVE these little cakes and how easy they are to prepare.
- Salmon + Steak + 2 sides- The steak I cook on the stove and the salmon I throw in the oven at 400F for 12-15 minutes. Usually I top the salmon with some Dijon mustard and sprinkle on some breadcrumbs/parm cheese. Another option is a little olive oil and a spice mixture of smoked paprika, chili powder, brown sugar, etc. Lazy side options include Annies Mac & Cheese, frozen French fries (yes, we eat these on occasion), salad (pre-prepped as discussed above), etc. I’m personally not big on fruit with dinner because I eat it all day, but you could totally do that too.
Actual recipes that we love and are still very easy:
- Crockpot Chicken Enchiladas– I use all the toppings for this to make it super yummy.
- Tortellini, chicken and arugula salad– note: doesn’t make enough for my hungry husband, will double in the future.
- Chicken ramen stir-fry– again, ramen is not the healthiest, but everything in moderation! Since we ditch the seasoning packet, it could be worse.
- Spiralized sweet potato & black bean quesadillas– I skipped the salsa verde to make it easier and instead topped them with diced avocado, salsa, and greek yogurt. For some reason I always get scared when I see it’s a spiralizezr recipe, and then every time I make it I have no idea why because it only takes a few minutes and is really so easy to do.
- Chicken Piccata– we skip the crispy garlic, it was too much for our tastes.
- Quick & Easy Cashew Chicken
I hope these help you!! Please leave behind your favorites if you have any to share :)