My first husband was a chef, and I got married when I was 23, so I really never had to spend my time cooking much. I love to eat, but I hate slaving away at something that is going to be gone in 10 minutes, if I’m lucky.
But now that I have 3 kids and not a lot of time on my hands, I’ve had to really get focused and intentional on our meals so that we don’t end up with mac and cheese or pizza for dinner 5 nights a week. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes they get mac and cheese for lunch 5 days a week, but not dinner. And probably only because I don’t like it.
So when I was preparing to go back to work after my maternity leave last year, I decided I wanted to try my hand at meal prepping. I found some great recipes on Pinterest for crock pot meals (the only “cooking” I really do), and I headed to Costco to load up on beef and chicken to make a dozen meals.
Let me tell you now, if you’re just starting out with meal prep, don’t try to do 12 meals at once. I’m pretty sure it took me 4 hours and my entire Sunday of free time. But, you could get away with doing 6 meals—making two recipes and making each one three times! I do that often with taco meat when I have ground beef that needs to be used up. I stick it all in a pan and brown it up and separate it into freezer bags.
TIP: Get brand name freezer bags, preferably ones with a zipper so you don’t end up with leaks.
I have several go-to meals that are always a hit with my family to help kickstart your meal prep
This one is a family favorite, and it’s completely flexible based on the ingredients you have. I almost always forget to add cheese (since it gets added day of), and sometimes I don’t have any peppers or onions. In fact, I usually just throw in some onion flakes. The one trick with this recipe is that you need to allow ONE HOUR at the end of the day to finish this recipe since you cook cornbread on top and set the timer to HIGH for one hour. It’s so good though, and everyone in our family loves it!
There are a ton of recipes out there for this one, which is again what I love about crock pot meals—it’s hard to mess up! I throw in a package of chicken breasts (of the 3 pack you get at Costco), about a cup of honey, a cup or two of ketchup, and some soy sauce. I’ve never even had sesame seeds on hand to add them at the end!
This isn’t one I’ve ever made as a freezer meal, but it’s super simple and one a non-cook could easily wow their family with. This is what I made for my husband the first time I cooked for him when we were first dating! You’ll need chicken, Yellow Rice, corn, a can of cream of chicken, and some shredded cheddar cheese. You could easily freeze the chicken, corn, and cream of chicken and then just cook the rice and add the cheese day of. I also save a few calories by making this with fat free cream of chicken, and I usually cook the rice the night before so it’s one less thing to do for dinner prep on the day of.
And so we don’t forget dessert…
4. Marshmallow peanut butter balls
My cousin introduced me to these heavenly bites years ago, and I make them for parties, holidays, and pretty much any event I can get away with.
1 package white chocolate chips (or melting chocolate)
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups rice krispies
2 cups mini marshmallows
*wax paper and baking sheets
- Melt Chocolate (I’m lazy and just microwave, stirring occasionally)
- Add peanut butter, stir until smooth
- Mix in rice krispies and marshmallows
- Drop by the tablespoon onto wax paper in a baking sheet
- Chill in refrigerator (not freezer) until firm
After I drop them on the baking sheet, I add sprinkles based on the holiday or event (red and green for Christmas, for example).
One time I ran out of peanut butter in the middle of making these, and it still turned out great with only a half cup.
So there you go. Just a few of my favorites that are staples at my house. I usually mix these in with fresh fish (salmon in the oven literally requires NOTHING added to it), spaghetti or gnocchi, tacos, and one night of pizza or other take out. And whenever I can, I take others up on their willingness to invite us over for a meal… and bring the peanut butter marshmallow dessert!