Meal planning...Why prep ahead?
With so little time and the pressures of being pulled in so many directions people nowadays hardly give homemade cooking a second thought! Would it be nice-Yes, ideal-No. Most days it takes so much energy to just run to the store for a quick pre-cooked meal- and sometimes in a pinch that can be a good solution when your moving, getting ready for a trip or simply don't have time to cook. Their are a good amount of quality, organic, low sodium choices in the freezer sections for a quick meal that trumps any fast food drive thru and I recommend the freezer section over Mc Donald's any day- the added stresses these days from late meetings, conferences, lessons, activities, games, theater, or help with homework, run a load of laundry that cooking often takes a back seat and is most times a dilemma of what to cook or do I even want to cook!.
Who has time to prepare and cook every single meal? Not me...But I do love home cooking and don't compromise that much-But I have created a great deal of shortcuts to ensure that my cooking time is pleasant, quick and with low maintenance during the week. Saying that, I DO LOVE COOKING and get I am a rare breed, but when my husband, son or I need a quick meal that takes less time then a rather complicated recipe or not enough time with growling belly's awaiting for your creation- I always have a few frozen cooked meats, pastas, rice or semi-homemade favorites!
Although, I have discovered that meal prepping truly lives does up to the pintrest hype, but its not something that works well for our family because we are mood eaters and although Sunday an enchilada casserole sounded fantastic but by Thursday none of us desired that- I know it has a great deal of benefits and it truly can save money and time...I found a way that works perfect for for us- I call it semi-ready cooking! It's changed the way I cook and intentionally set aside the time every few weeks (NOT WEEKLY) to semi-cook prep. There are several benefits that might just make you (accidentally/or intentionally) turn into a semi-cooking person as did I- not to mention the difference it'll have on your schedule, life, health and your budget.
Benefits of freezing, cooking, or semi-prepping ready made items
Cuts down on cooking time ▪ No more “What For Dinner Dilemmas” ▪ You'll be Confident and have a sense of satisfaction knowing everything your eating is up to your standards ▪ Your able to take advantage of seasonal items ▪ You can choose what to buy organic ▪ No need to scramble or rush home to an over exhausting cooking task ▪ Cooking a couple big meals or several meat batches at once is a huge benefit later▪ Having a few frozen items ready is one of my favorite ways to cook and keeps from becoming overwhelmed
Heating your own cooked meals helps in avoiding Questionable Ingredients ▪ Quality ▪ Oils ▪ Saturated Fats ▪ Preservatives ▪ Unnecessary Salt ▪ Sugars ▪ Not having to read through labels to ensure dietary/allergy your family might have
Eat meals you feel like-Not pre-made
Eating foods you can say doesn’t mean your meats or dishes have to be boring or tasteless- quite the contrary-I think once you learn how to season with herbs and spices, you'll discover your savory pallet that works best to your liking and the pre-cooked items you discover that make your life easier. Below are a few examples of my blends for meats I cook and season for later use or as I like to call them semi-cooked stock pile. My focus is not necessarily on meal prepping, although I do believe in having a casserole or two in my freezer- my focus is more on having meats on hand that are pre-cooked and ready for use, because this cut down on my time and we can eat what were in the mood for rather then a freezer full of meals we don't feel like, especially since we are mood eaters in my household.
Which reminds me -
I'll never forget when my husband said doesn't a carne asada burrito sound good? Yes. Lets do it-We stopped at the store for avocados, got home grabbed a bag of frozen carne asada cooked (grilled) meat, it was pre-chopped and ready for use. I tossed that in a pan to heat (added a touch of water to the pan so the meat would not dry out while heating) and while that warmed up we made fresh guacamole, warmed up tortillas and withing 20 minutes we were having our craving without compromising the quality of meat we would of gotten at a local Mexican eatery! The benefits are endless...Egg Rolls in pinch (see below), Korean tacos, or enchiladas to name a few!
Meats are my absolute favorite items to cook in larger batches and freeze
Meats: Versatility is key (I cook and season the meats that can easily be used with multiple dishes)
Ground beef ( If I am cooking up ground beef, I take advantage and season and brown 2-3 pounds rather then just the 1. For example if we are having spaghetti with meat I brown & season 3 pounds and only use 1 pound and divide the remaining in 2 pounds in small freezer bags, let the air out, flatten and freeze for later use. This is a way to avoid setting semi-cooking days aside, you can stock pile extra meats as your cooking regular meals.
Ground beef versatile seasoning mix works well for stews, stroganoff, spaghetti, tacos, nachos, tostadas, burritos, enchiladas, egg rolls, sloppy Joe's, quick chow mein, pitas, mac with meat, stuffed peppers, etc. Its a flavorful seasoning that is natural without the use of taco seasoning, chili, spaghetti or sloppy Joe spice packets-These are loaded with unnecessary salts; and additives- However; if you want to cook up specific ground beefs solely for tacos, sloppy Joe's, spaghetti I included the spice blends below that we use specifically for those items.