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19 Make-Ahead Meals for Busy Parents
As fall fades away and winter looms ahead, things just get really busy for most parents. School is in full swing, the holidays are just around the corner, and it seems like it is just go-go-go most of the time.
Which is why I really love dinners that I can make ahead of time, whether it means prepping the whole thing and sticking it in the freezer for a later date or throwing a bunch of things in the crockpot first thing in the morning.
If you are looking for family-friendly meals that won’t have you scouring the pantry (or takeout menus) at 5:30 p.m., here are nineteen recipes to check out:
Sweet Potato Tinfoil Tacos
This is one of my all-time favorite recipes (I know it sounds a little weird- I’ve never met someone who didn’t love it, though). I like that I can prep them in advance and then stick them in the oven when I’m ready.
White Chicken Chili
I love how inexpensive and easy this meal is, and that there is no pre-cooking of anything before it goes in the crockpot. Just a quick chop of an onion and then throw everything else straight in.
Sweet and Sour Meatballs
This is one of my husband’s very favorite dishes. The meatballs freeze wonderfully and then you can just make some rice to serve with them when you are ready!
This is not your average tomato soup – it has an array of spices, coconut milk, and tons of suggestions for how to serve it (with a poached egg, over rice, with yogurt, etc). Freezes beautifully and, like your basic tomato soup, goes fantastically with a grilled cheese sandwich.
I love spinach pasta dishes and this is a sure-fire one with three kinds of cheeses!
Tex Mex Chicken and Beans
Another one of those fantastic crockpot meals where prepping it takes a total of five minutes. Even less, if you’re quick with a knife. And the final product is one of my favorite winter meals – thick, spicy, and delicious.
Winter Chicken Pot Pie
This gorgeous pot pie is exactly what you want to see when you’re an hour away from dinner time and desperately rummaging through your freezer.
Slow Cooker Mushroom Stroganoff
A great vegetarian alternative to traditional stroganoff, this is the kind of recipe that makes you happy to have a crockpot.
Instead of ground beef, these sloppy joes are made with lentils. When I make them, it’s hard for me to resist eating the filling with a spoon. Make them the morning of or freeze them, then reheat before dinner and slap on some hamburger buns.
I got this recipe from my mother-in-law and it is always a smash hit, with kids and adults alike. Undercook the noodles just a bit and freeze it before baking.
Chicken Tikka Masala
I love Indian food, but I’ve found very few recipes that I’m happy with when I make them at home. This one, though, is just about as good as our favorite local Indian take-out place.
Chicken Satay and Taquitos
How can you beat a recipe that not only uses the crockpot, but lets you use the leftovers in an entirely new recipe the next day?
Enchiladas are one of my favorite freezer meals because they seem to get even better after sitting in the freezer for a couple of weeks.
Broccoli and Rice Casserole
Hooray for a comfort food dinner that doesn’t include a bunch of fake ingredients!
Mushrooms and zucchini make this vegetarian lasagna plenty hearty – and you can’t get easier than sticking everything in the crockpot!
Vegetable Coconut Korma
This one can be either vegetarian with chickpeas or you can add some chicken if you’re so inclined. Either way, it’ll be delicious.
Parmesan Orzo with Broccoli and Chicken
I love a crockpot meal that isn’t entirely brown – the broccoli adds such a bright splash of color and a healthy vegetable.
Mediterranean Pork with Couscous
I love a recipe that requires nothing but throwing a piece of meat in the crockpot and some spices and liquid over the top.