It’s September. I love the crispness in the air, the changing colors of the leaves, and the start of a new season. I have always LOVED Fall. LOVE IT!
Growing up, Fall signaled school beginning, piano lessons resuming, cheerleading at football jamborees, and Saturdays spent cutting firewood with my dad, in order to stay warm during the winter. (Contrary to popular belief, it does get cold in Louisiana, and it’s a wet cold!)
Now, Fall signals new family routines, new school/work schedules and new dinnertime plans. Evenings are a bit more full, as compared to the summertime. Instead of leisurely preparing a meal, I will be relying on my slow cooker, pressure cooker and delay timer on my oven, as well as trying my hand at freezer cooking! I have been in the habit of doubling recipes, eating one freezing the other; however, not full-fledged freezer cooking.
Right now, I am in the midst of creating our menu plans for the next several weeks, as it just makes my life easier and a bit less stressful with home schooling, working, as well as entertaining several times a month. Usually, I just create meal plans for my family’s dinners. However, I am hoping to create meal plans for breakfast, too, as well as doing a bit of freezer cooking for breakfast (whole grain pancakes and waffles, a variety of muffins, breakfast burritos, etc.), along with stirring up a variety of mixes to ease breakfast preparations.
My kids are big breakfast eaters. Sadly, cold cereal doesn’t fill them up. They’ll eat it, but are hungry an hour later. I am hoping to create some filling, go-to breakfast options, which the kids can grab, heat and eat. Even though they are young (5.5 and 7 years), they enjoy “making” their own breakfast and it allows me a few moments in the morning to get ready.
Here are some of the breakfast options:
As time permits, I am hoping to make ahead some breakfast mixes. Here are a few links to check out, if you are interested:
Pancakes and Waffles (Use your favorite pancake or waffle recipe. Cook, cool and freeze on a cookie sheet; then, bag into plastic freezer bags. Take out and pop into the toaster! How easy is that?)
As well, I plan on pre-cooking some of our meals for dinner, specifically for the nights where one, or both, of us work. Usually, I like to brown ground meat (turkey or beef), seasoning some with Italian seasonings, others with All-purpose seasonings. It is so easy to just grab a bag of pre-cooked meat and toss into spaghetti sauce, to use as a pizza topping, as a taco filling, or even in soup or chili.
I, also, like to cook a few whole chickens in my crock pot. Did you know that if you layer your crock pot with four balls of aluminum foil, place the seasoned chicken on top and cook as usual. It will cook similarly to a rotisserie chicken? After cooking, allow to cool; then, bag into freezer bags for enchiladas, soups, curry, pizza, and pasta dishes. Oh, don’t forget to use the bones to make an amazing chicken stock for soup. Just toss the bones back into the Crock pot, add water and seasonings and cook for another 8-10 hours. Wonderful, luscious chicken stock that is a snap to make and tastes is so rich and good!
Now that I have an electric pressure cooker, I have come to love being able to cook several meals worth of beans in about 35 minutes. After cooking a variety of beans (pinto, red, black and garbanzo), I allow them to cool, bag them and freeze. On crazy days, I pull a bag from the freezer to use in a variety of meals, such as Red Beans and Rice, chili, hummus, burritos, and soups.
For lunches, usually, we eat leftovers. However, I plan on making a couple of batches of soup, as my husband like to take soups to work. The kids and I enjoy soup for lunch, especially on cold days. Vegetable soup, Turkey Gumbo, as well as Lentil Chili and Pork Green Chili (using the hatch-roasted chilies I brought from Colorado. They are AMAZING!) are on the menu. Typically, I cook the soup, allow to cool and freeze flat in quart and/or gallon sized zip top bags. Freezing flat saves tons of space in your freezer. Make sure to mark your bags. Often, I forget. Then, it’s “Mystery Meal”.
It will be a bit of work, but it will be worth it. Every night is not crazy-busy, so I will still have time to go into my “creative cave” (aka my kitchen) and cook away, cutting and chopping, tossing and tasting, creating nutritious meals for my family to enjoy. However, on those crazy-busy days, at least I’ll have a plan, so we won’t be tempted to go out to eat, or get stressed out wondering what to cook.
What do meals look like for your family during the school year? Do you meal plan? Freezer Cook?
Have tips, tricks or recipes you’d like to share?