Introduction: Prepare 20+ Meals in Advance
Recently several of my friends have had babies. One in particular was struggling; her baby had been in and out of hospital and her husband was often sent away last minute with work and so she was living off of cereal! I realised in this time of need, what she needed most were easy, nutritious meals which she could take out of the freezer and reheat on a daily basis. So I decided to do some meal prep to make her life easier.
I had several considerations when deciding which meals to cook. I had a specific friend with specific needs, however this would also work with the elderly, those less able or just if you have a busy week coming up.
- Allergies, intolerances and preferences - my friend is allergic to peanuts.
- Foods that freeze well - chips and salad do not freeze well!
- The food needs to be easily reheated in the microwave - e.g. it is recommended not to reheat rice.
- The food should be nutritious - The meals should contain protein, carbohydrates and vegetables so nothing else needs to be cooked/cut up/prepared.
- The food needed to be easily eaten - meals that can be eaten one handed for those with a new baby.
- Storage - What would be the best way to transport, store and re-heat the food.
- Budget - I didn't want this to cost a huge amount, so I made sure I bought reasonably priced items, and bulk bought where possible.
- Variety - I didn't want the same food with each meal to prevent it feeling repetitive and becoming dull.
The meals I decided upon were -
- Bean chilli
- Chicken tagine
- Beef cottage pie
- Salmon pasta
Each meal would contain a minimum of two vegetables. I also supplied some easy heat couscous and rice for two of the meals which could also be heated in the microwave or with boiling water.
Note. All these meals are created from adapting recipes through past experience. Some ingredients could have been made from scratch e.g. tagine paste or white sauce. However, balancing the cost and time, it made sense to buy it pre-made.
- 1kg Sweet Potato
- 2x Onion
- 3x Carrot
- 1 head of Broccoli
- 2x Peppers
- 300g Mushroom
- 1 medium Courgette (Zucchini)
- 1 clove of Garlic
- 290g Tinned Peas
- 3x 400g Tinned Tomatoes
- 2x 110g Vegetable Couscous
- 130g Tagine Paste
- 100g Dried Apricots
- 400g Tinned Chickpeas
- 400g Pasta
- 430g White Sauce
- 3x 400g Tins Beans e.g. kidney, haricot & butter beans
- 2x 250g Easy Heat Rice Pouches
- 2x 200ml Stock
- Hot Chilli Powder
- Cooking oil
- 500g Beef Mince
- 200g Cheddar Cheese
- 500g Chicken Breasts
- 500g Salmon
- Oven proof dish
- A selection of dishwasher and microwave proof tupperware
- Several saucepans, utensils, cheese grater, knife, chopping board
- A glass of your favourite drink and some good music to make the process more fun and relaxed!
Step 1: Buying Ingredients
Make a shopping list and organise by area of the store, this will make the trip to the supermarket much quicker and you are less likely to forget something.
Tip: You’ll find you will need several items of the same e.g. onions, tinned tomatoes etc which you can buy in multipacks to save money.
Step 2: Organise Your Ingredients by Meals
For each meal, group the ingredients so none are forgotten...
Cottage Pie - 2 cloves of Garlic, 1kg Sweet potato, 2/3 Onion, 300g Mushroom, 2x400g Tinned Tomatoes, 290g Tinned Peas, 100g Cheese, 500g Beef mince, 200ml Stock
Bean Chilli - 3x 400g Beans, 1x400g Tinned Tomatoes, 2/3 Onion, 2 x Peppers, 2 x Rice Pouches
Salmon Pasta - 1 x head of Broccoli, 1x Courgette, 430g White Sauce, 100g Cheese, 500g Salmon
- Chicken Tagine - 2/3 Onion, 3 Carrots, 200ml Stock, 100g Dried Apricots, 1x 400g Chickpeas, 500g Chicken breasts, 2 x 110g Vegetable Couscous
Step 3: Start With the Easy Wins
- Put the salmon in the oven for the required cooking time
- Cook the pasta until al dente and drain.
- Peel, cut and boil the sweet potato until soft, drain and mash.
- Cut up the chicken breast meat and marinate in the tagine paste. Cover and leave to one side.
Once 1-3 have all cooked, put them to one side to cool. Make sure you set timers for them, and whilst cooking, continue with step 4.
Tip: I have an Amazon Show, which is great for multiple timers and keeping track of them!
Step 4: Cut Up the Veg
Cut all the veg into small pieces
Tip: Coarsely grate the courgette. It's a good way of 'hiding' vegetables in meals
Step 5: Cook Your First Meal
As the cottage pie needs to be oven cooked once constructed, I recommend cooking this one first.
Tip: Start with the meal that will take the longest, or needs time to simmer/bake.
In a pan, add a dash of oil and cook the onion and garlic until the onion is soft. Add the meat, mushrooms, peas, tomatoes and stock. If you have some in the cupboard also add a dash of tomato ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Season to taste. Let it simmer, before taking it off the hob.
Step 6: Construct Your First Meal
Serve the mince mixture into an oven proof dish, and top with the sweet potato and grated cheese. Put it in the oven for around 20minutes before taking it out to cool. Whilst it is in the oven, set a timer and continue with step 7.
Step 7: Cook Your Second Dish
Put a pan on medium heat with a dash of oil and start by adding the onion and hot chilli powder. Once the onion is soft, add the beans and tomatoes. Let this simmer for around 20 minutes before removing from the heat and allowing to cool.
Tip: Consider how 'hot' they will like this meal. If you make it too spicy, consider picking up some yogurt or sour cream to accompany it.
Step 8: Time for the Third Dish!
Another quick win... by this point you may be feeling a little tired, so a quick one is motivating!
Steam your broccoli and courgette, before mixing it with your pre-cooked pasta, salmon, cheese and the white sauce.
Step 9: The Final Meal!
Cook the remaining onion, and add your marinated meat. Once browned all over, add stock, carrots, chickpeas and dried apricots. Let it simmer until the carrot is soft.
Step 10: Portion Up Your Meals
Divide your meals into tuppaware, considering portion sizes; don't feel the need to 'fill' your container every time.
Use a permanent pen to write on each box the date and what the meal is. If the meals are for someone you don't know so well, also list the ingredients.
Tip: If you have any leftovers, or run out of tuppawear, consider using plastic sealable freezer food bags for meals such as the chilli or tagine.
Step 11: Think About Any Nice Accompaniments
When I visited my friend, I also took an apple cake and bottle of wine! If you have time, bake a cake, slice it and freeze, with small pieces of greaseproof between each slice so they can de-frost a slice at a time.
Make sure you transport your meals in a cool bag, and that they remain upright. Meals will need to be frozen within the first 48 hours, and eaten within 3 months. Ensure that all food is re-heated to a high temperature before consumed.
Second Prize in the
Meal Prep Challenge