Mini Mission: Backup Meals

The past few weeks here have been a little rough. I have been battling a sinus infection that just won't go away (I'm on my second course of antibiotics) and the stomach flu, and my husband broke his finger over the weekend (which, apparently, means that he can not do the dishes for the next three weeks). But even though we're both sort of out of commission, we still need to eat. And while ordering a pizza or Chinese food is yummy, it gets really expensive (and really unhealthy) quick. So today's mini mission, in conjuction with Works for Me Wednesday, is to have a backup plan for meals. Thankfully, this is something that I already do, and it has truly been a lifesaver. But I'll share with you how I do it so you can have some backup meals ready to go as well. Hopefully you'll use them because you're feeling lazy, not because you need them!

There are a few ways to go with backup meals. One way is to buy pre-made meals for your freezer. I have a friend who always keeps a Stouffer's lasagna in her freezer. There are also companies that are coming out with ready-made meals to keep in the freezer. Even though they can be pricey, they are still cheaper than ordering take-out. Another way is my grandmother's method. She would make her own "tv dinners" - you know, frozen plates with a piece of meatloaf, some potatoes, and some green veggies - and all she had to do was stick them in the oven. She would make an extra batch of meals when she cooked and freeze fully-cooked dinners that could be heated up at a moment's notice. My mom follows in this tradition, and always has containers of spaghetti sauce, chicken soup, and turkey in the freezer. If you want to cook ahead, there are phenomenal cookbooks that are specifically designed for freezer cooking - browse through a few at your local library, and freeze a few backup meals for the cold and flu season.

My backup meals fall somewhere in the middle. I go to a local meal prep chain where I make 8 or 12 meals that go in my freezer to be cooked at a later date. For those of you who don't have a meal prep chain in your area, they are amazing. Everything is chopped and sliced - you just follow the recipe and put everything into large ziploc bags to cook at home. I love it because I can control what I put in (we are sort-of health conscious around here) and I go with my friends so it's also a social night out. There are many chains - Let's Dish, Super Suppers, Dinner Done, etc. - and they all work on a similar principle. Look at the menus before you sign up, especially if you have more than one chain in your area. I go to Let's Dish, not just because the dinners are tasty, but because the meal selections are fancier than I would make on my own but not too fancy that we wouldn't eat it on a Tuesday night. Some chains are pretty fancy; others have ham and cheese sandwiches on their menu (which I don't need to go to a meal prep place to make). Call before you go and ask if you can take a tour and make a sample dish. That way you'll have a better sense of flavors, portion sizes, and cost before you sign up. If you are in the Virginia-Maryland-DC area, I can't recommend Let's Dish enough. (and if you are in the area for Let's Dish, drop me an email or leave me a note in the comments and I'll be happy to send you a referral email with a coupon code)

Having a freezer full of dinners has been a lifesaver for us this week. And it's really helpful for my regular weekly menu planning as well to have some variety without much work (there is a certain joy of knowing that even though both of us are working late we will be able to have a nice dinner that no one has to make).


Anonymous said...

I am trying to load my freezer with backup meals as well, so I just got the book, Can I Freeze It. It's loaded with supposedly very freezeable homemade meals. I have yet to try it, but hopefully it really works.

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