Last month, as I talked about reviving tired old menu plans, a reader commented and asked for more: FAST and From-Scratch meals... but the challenge didn't stop there... she also requested minimal clean-up! She shared how she is a mama of two with one on the way and I completely understood her heart. When my kiddos were little I prized those fast, easy, from-scratch meals that didn't ask too much from me on the back end either!
I've actually thought for some time about putting together a cook book of meals which fit this M-O. I believe it is every busy mama's need! Whether you have littles with more on the way, or biggers with sports and piano lessons inching in on dinner prep time... fast easy meals are a necessity in everyone's recipe box.
I cook as 'from scratch' as I can - it's cheaper when cooking for a crew since prepackaged seasonings and meal packs often won't feed more then 2-3 normal appetites. It is also healthier, avoiding much of the preservatives pre-packaged meals contain. However, some corner-cutting on "from scratch" can save time and still be cost-effective as well. The recipes I am sharing can be modified to your heart's content!
As I collected content, I realized this really needed to be split up into a series or my articles would be a mile long! If you check back each Monday this month you will find recipes for more FAST From-scratch Meals with Minimal Clean-up! As for this installment, I plan to focus on some generals.
If you are looking for fast, from-scratch, minimal clean-up meals but you also have a free afternoon in the week or month, try freezer meals. Pinterest, as well as across the blogspehere, is bursting at the seams with ideas from families who spend an afternoon pre-cooking and packaging freezer meals. These are a GREAT option for simply pulling out and cooking up. Cleaning is as easy as 1-2-3! AND, you can get the family involved in helping... create an assembly line or have someone stir meat while another mixes a sauce.
If you don't want to spend an afternoon on a freezer full of food, another option is to cook doubles at dinner on a night you have more time. I like to do this with my ground beef, but other meats work well too. I'm already at the pan cooking, what's another dinner's worth more?! Once meat is browned I separate it out and set the extra to cool while I finish adding other ingredients to the night's dinner. After we are done eating and the meat has cooled down, I pull out some Ziploc freezer bags and load them up! This way, when you are in hurry and you need cooked meat for sauces, stews, soups and so on, all you need to do is pull your pre-cooked meat out and add it in. It saves a ton of time and dirty dishes.
Slow it down
Another GREAT resource is the slow cooker. Most recipes for this kitchen staple are quick and easy to throw into the pot. Clean up is often simple and by the time dinner is ready, your only dishes should be those you used to eat with and your cooking pot! I highly recommend the Fix-it and Forget it series.
I use my slow cooker so much for FAST From-scratch meals with minimal clean up that I am planning an entirely separate post for that one!
Subway continues to be all the rage. Why? Amazing combos of meat and veggies and bread. It is a complete meal, even for dinner, and completely filling for a great price! Why not try it at home? Buy your family's favorite lunch meat and cheese assortment. (If you want more homemade than store-bought lunch meat, thin-cut some roast chicken or ham or roast from a previous meal.)You can pre-cut veggies and store in the fridge earlier in the day when littles are napping. When dinner hits, you can either pre-make a few subs, cut and serve ... or... you can set-up a sandwich bar for building. You can also use your oven or toaster oven to toast up the meats and cheeses like Subway does, adding all the good veggies when toasting is done. When I do Subs I usually serve chips as a side since this quick and easy meal is usually for those crazy on-the-go nights!
Next week we will take a look at some quick fixes using beef! But for now, I pray all your cooking adventures are joyous ones!
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