Today’s holiday tip is one that I actually rely on quite a bit all year round. We inevitably run into nights (especially at the end of a busy week) where I have zero time or energy left to cook something from scratch. On such nights, I happily dive into my stash of frozen homemade meals, make a quick side salad, and in 30-40 minutes we have a nutritious, hot dinner that only took me five minutes to assemble. Any time I make something like a big pot of soup, a batch of Bolognese sauce, chili, or a casserole, I always add some of it to my collection – in pre-portioned freezer bags, dated and labelled.
At this busy time of the year, it is all too easy to let nutritional standards slide. Avoid falling into the seasonal trap of substituting proper, healthy meals with fast food or frequent restaurant visits by trying a few (or all) of the following:
- Freeze “emergency” entrées ahead of time, such as a pan of lasagne.
- Cook a double-portion of the main ingredient (usually a protein) for two of your family’s favourite recipes. That way, you have some to use now — plus tomorrow night’s menu is already planned and half made.
- Batch cook and trade delicious, pre-prepared dinners with another family, such as your in-laws, friends or neighbours.
- Invest in a slow cooker – most recipes allow for a slow setting cook time of 8-10 hours. Prepare the ingredients the night before and add them to the slow cooker in the morning. Just turn it on before you head out the door, and a hot, freshly prepared meal will be waiting for you and your family at the end of the day.
- Hit up the grocery store! Many stores now offer fresh-made (and clean!) soups and salads, as well as fresh roasted meats, including whole rotisserie chickens. Places like Whole Foods even offer a hot buffet and cold salad bar full of vegetarian and clean-eating options.
- Try using a meal assembly service (if you have one available in your area). For a few hours work, you can easily walk away with up to 12 freezable family-sized entrées (each serving 4-6 people). A friend of ours here in the GTA often goes to SupperWorks and finds it to be a tasty, economical, and convenient time-saver.