Friday, October 10, 2014

day 10: meal prep...

Happy Friday!  This is day 10 in my ongoing series on 31 days to more order.  Click this link to go to the post with all my posts and topics.

I wasn't really sure what to call this, so I'm calling it meal prep.  As I discussed yesterday, I do try and follow a meal planning system so I'm not caught unaware at 4:30 and can't answer 'what's for dinner?'.  But sometimes plans fail, days and schedules change and I really don't know what I'm going to feed my family.  That is where meal prep comes in and saves the day.

I make sure that I always have the ingredients for 3 meals on hand and can make the meal in 20-30 minutes.  But not only are those ingredients on hand, some of them are already cooked and in my freezer.  So all I have to do is pull them out at the last minute, defrost them and 15 minutes later dinner is served.

To do this, requires some planning and making extra purchases when things are on sale but in the end saves me time, money and stress.  My go to / back up meals are tacos, chicken tortellini soup and chicken quesadillas.  When I am meal planning for the week, I always make sure I know if I have these ingredients in my pantry.  If not, then they go on my grocery list.  Also, if I'm at the store and the ingredients are on sale, I stock up.  So for example, a few week ago the ground beef I buy was on sale.  I try to only buy either pasture raised, or organic or humanely raised meats and chicken.  So I stocked up on it and adjusted my weekly meal plan to include tacos.

As an aside, whenever we have tacos now my kids yell 'it's taco Tuesday!' even if it isn't Tuesday.  If you have young children or lego obsessed children you will get that movie reference.  Also, when meal planning I try and schedule tacos for Tuesday just for fun.

When I got home I began my meal prep.  I cooked the ground beef and added my homemade taco seasoning (recipe below).  When the meal mixture cooled, I froze 1.5 pound portions for a future meal and kept one out for dinner.  I also will brown my ground beef without seasonings and freeze it to use in a future meal.  Having already browned ground beef saves me so much time when cooking and it really not much work at all.  I also will cook chicken ahead and freeze it in 1 1/2 cup portions for future use in soups, casseroles or quesadillas.  Having part or all of your meal prepped ahead of time saves time and you can use this food in the event you haven't meal planned.

I encourage you to find a few recipes that you can go to in a pinch and buy and then prep the ingredients so you have the makings of a meal on hand for those nights that don't go as planned.  

Taco Seasoning:

1 T onion powder
1T garlic powder
1T chili powder
1 t salt
1 1/2 t chipotle pepper (optional, but I like the heat it adds)

Combine the spices in a small bowl and stir to combine.  I store mine in a glass jar and use it on ground beef and chicken.  Since it is homemade it may clump in the jar when stored, I just hit the jar against my hand or use a spoon to shake it loose.  I buy all my spices in bulk from a local health food store, so this is not only healthier since I know all the ingredients but cheaper too.

To make the tacos, just brown ground beef, turkey bison or chicken.  Drain off the grease and add back to the pan.  Add as much taco seasoning as you want, stir in a 1/2 cup of water and heat.  I always taste my taco mixture and add more seasoning as needed.

I also use this seasoning on chicken breasts.  I coat boneless chicken breasts with the seasoning and then bake at 350 on cookie sheet for 25-30 minutes until cooked all the way through.  I then either serve it like that with a side and salad for a meal.  Or I shred to use in quesadillas or soups.  I always freeze some of this chicken shredded to have on hand too.

What are your go to meals in a pinch? 


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