When you were single and didn’t have any children, you had the luxury of being able to eat out when you wanted and as often as you wanted. When you actually did cook, you could cook for just yourself… those were the good old days, right? But once you got married and started a family, cooking for a party of one just wasn’t feasible anymore.
As your family expands and appetites get bigger, you have to get a little more creative with your meals. Well, not so much creative but you definitely have to change your way of thinking when it comes to cooking for your family. It can e quite an adjustment… you have to think… you went from cooking for yourself to cooking for multiple mouths and appetites. So what does that mean? That means that you have to prepare meals that stretch; in other words, your ideal meals to make are meals that will leave leftovers.
Preparing meals that give you leftovers is what’s going to keep you out of the kitchen for a few days… nobody wants to spend their free time in the kitchen all day or evening cooking… not unless it’s Thanksgiving! As a matter of fact, Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, so what does that mean for you and your family? It means that there are so many meals you can create with Thanksgiving leftovers that your meal prep time will be cut in half for at least a week or so, depending on how much food you have left over.
So, the holidays are an obvious time when you’ll more than likely have leftovers to hold your family over for a while but what about when the holidays have passed? You’re then left to rack your brain on what type of meals to prepare that will stretch for your family. It’s really not something to rack your brain over, per se… the thing that’s hard to figure out is making your meals unique and not so redundant.
Falafel is a great meal that you can make in batches and freeze half of it, allowing you to pull out what you need from the freezer as you need it. Sometimes cooking big batches and freezing those batches can be your saving grace when it comes to making meals stretch. Ideally, these meals need to be as quick and easy as they are delicious. If you’re needing help on figuring out what meals to make that stretch and freeze well, take a look at these top dinner ideas that will definitely last you and your family for quite a while.
The biggest thing about leftovers is making sure you store it properly. According to the USDA, when you have leftovers, you want to refrigerate or freeze them immediately to prevent food poisoning.
Big Batch of Chili
Chili is one of those “dump” meals where you can literally dump everything in a crockpot, give it a quick stir, and let it cook all day… it’ll be ready by dinner time, just let it simmer on low. The great thing about chili is that it’s not only easy to make but you can also create a ton of other meals from it!
With chili, you can make chili cheese dogs and chili cheese fries; You can make baked potatoes and top them off with chili and all your favorite baked potato toppings like chives and sour cream; You can also make stuffed bell peppers with chili too! Keep in mind that chili is also perfect for freezing so make a big batch of chili and put the leftovers you’re not going to eat into freezer bags so that you can easily pull it out for your next meal with chili.
Notice that for this category, it’s simply labeled as spaghetti sauce… that’s because you can make so many things out of a spaghetti sauce. From lasagna and spaghetti to homemade pizza and stuffed rigatoni shells. By simply making a big batch of your favorite spaghetti sauce, you’re able to create a meal with it and freeze the rest for another Italian meal.
The great thing about spaghetti is that it’s a favorite among many families and you can get as creative with it as you like. Some people will chop up hot dogs to put in it for the kids while others prefer pepperoni and sausage in theirs… it’s all about preference. Whether you make your spaghetti sauce from scratch or if if comes from a jar and you just add your own personal touches to it, there’s really no wrong way to make spaghetti sauce… just when you make it, remember to make a lot of it so you won’t have to be in the kitchen as long.
Soups and Stews
Whether you’re making beef stew or chicken noodle soup, this is a dinner tie staple that’s filling no matter what time of year it is. Some people would say that soups and stews are typically for fall and winter months but if you’re a true foodie, there’s not a single food you’re “supposed” to only eat at certain times of the year, and if a big batch of beef stew is what will get your family fed and full, then so be it.
Depending on the type of soup you make, it can either be very light and refreshing or it can be very hearty and filling…vegetable beef soups tend to be hearty and filling. Now, beef stew is a meal that is strictly hearty and filling and will always be that way. The great thing about both soups and stews is that these are also meals that you can easily make big batches of and freeze the rest for a later date. These meals come in handy on the days you don’t feel like cooking!