Trying to get the kids out the door, off to school, on time to after school activities, and home in time to prep, cook and serve dinner, while keeping everyone happy and fed… how does a parent buy time for all of that? With all these responsibilities as a parent, some days, homemade meals just aren’t achievable. Freezing and prepping meals when you’re already making them makes it easy for another day when life is too hectic.
Whole Grain, Whole Wheat & Multigrain
Why are whole grains better for you? Whole grain means the outer nutritious coating of the grain has not been removed, thus leaving healthy vitamins and nutrients in the grain. Some of these nutrients include fiber, b vitamins, iron and zinc.
When shopping for whole grain products in the grocery store its important to look for labels that say, “100% whole grain” not “100% wheat”. When a label says “100% wheat”, it does not necessarily mean that the grain in the food is whole grain, thus lacking important healthy nutrients in your food.
What are the differences between whole grain, wheat and multigrain? When a food is listed as whole wheat, this mean that wheat and the entire wheat kernel were used to make that food product. Whole grain food products are made from just the grain of many different kernels; these could be something other than wheat such as oats or barley. Multigrain is food product, much like whole grain, that not only uses one grain but also uses many types of grains to make the food product. Something to be cautious of when buying “multigrain” foods, they are not always whole grain, many multigrain products contain several different grains but they could lack the nutritious outer coating.
Grilling Vs. Frying
Grilling is a less messy and healthier way to prepare foods at home! When meat is grilled instead of fried, the excess fat is melted off the meat and into grill, leaving you with leaner and healthier meat for your meal. When food is fried, the fat from the meat and the fat added to the pan soak the meat leaving the meat for your meal very fatty.
Another health benefit to grilling is the rewarding flavors that enhance your meat and food’s taste. Often times when frying food, added salt and seasonings are used in excess when they’re not needed. Large amounts of salt are bad for your health and is one of the commonly over used seasonings that contributes to conditions like hypertension.
The last and best benefit to grilling is the little mess it leaves in the kitchen! Big frying pots and pans wont need cleaning after grilling, making for a quicker clean up. Who likes doing dishes anyway?
Below are ideas to add to your recipes at home, for cook and freeze meals.
Fully cooked grilled chicken in the freezer makes meal preparing much easier during the week. When chicken is already cooked it is very efficient to just heat the chicken and add it to whatever meal you want to prepare. Next time you’re grilling chicken or steaks, throw a couple more chicken breasts on the grill and save them in the freezer for a tasty meal later in the week.
Some ideas for grilled chicken meals could be:
- Over a salad of fresh green lettuce and vegetables
- Added to whole grain pasta or rice dish
- Inside tacos or a quesadilla
- Inside a wrap or sandwich
Whole grain pasta is a great alternative to use instead of white pasta for many reasons when cooking and freezing foods ahead of time. Besides the better nutritional value, whole grain pasta does great when cooked and frozen; it keeps its shape and texture well, without becoming mushy after heating up. You can make these baked pasta meals in large amounts, such as making an additional batch/pan to store in the freezer for an easy heat and serve meal. (Quinoa)-?
- Lasagna (traditional meat sauce, vegetable or cheese)
- Baked macaroni and cheese
- Baked ziti or penne pasta with a red meat sauce or vegetarian sauce
Chili & Soup
Chili is a great cook and freeze meal because it can be double or tripled and it stores very nicely, until you are ready to heat and serve. Be creative when cooking chili, serve it as a vegetarian meal, or use ground chicken and turkey instead of red meat. Also by adding any nutritious vegetables that you would find tasteful makes the chili unique to you and your family’s favorite foods. Homemade soup is great to keep in mind as well; it is similar to chili and is useful, especially in fall and winter months.
- Vegetarian chili with beans, carrots, onion, corn, bell pepper, potato and zucchini
- Add ground turkey, chicken or beef
Just like grilled chicken, meatballs are very easy to add to many meals when cooked and frozen ahead of time. Meatballs are a great way to be creative as well; you can use any meat and many different flavorings. When mixing up the meatballs, add a little bit of sauce for flavoring different types of meatballs for different types of meals. Some suggestions for meatball flavorings and meals:
- Ground turkey, chicken or beef
- Barbeque meatball sliders
- Buffalo meatball sliders
- Teriyaki meatball with brown rice and broccoli
Calzone & Pasty (Bread Pocket)
A pasty is a bread pocket that you can essentially put anything in. Remember to use a whole grain bread for your calzone or pasty. It can be a meal or snack and served for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
- Pizza Calzone (pepperoni, cheese & red sauce)
- Vegetable Calzone (mushroom, spinach, cheese, bell pepper & zucchini)
- Cheese Calzone (3 cheese parmesan, mozzarella, ricotta)
- Turkey & ham with cheese pocket
- Beef & potato pasty
- Breakfast pasty (egg, bacon, potato, cheese)
Other freezer tips:
When fruits, vegetables are on sale or in season, buying extra and freezing them for later is always helpful when making snacks and meals. Smoothies and homemade yogurt popsicles are a great way to use frozen fruit. Quickly microwave frozen vegetables as an addition to any meal, this makes for a quick fix when you’re thinking of a delicious side for dinner.