My 10 Favorite Make-Ahead Recipes for Easy Weeknights
Anyone who knows me knows I am the queen of meal-prep. When I think about the stress of each workweek, one of the things that I KNOW makes me feel better, more prepared, more in-control, is having a fridge full of partially or fully cooked meals that can be heated up for a quick dinner each night after work.
As much as I dislike the meal planning part of this process, and I do dislike it, it’s worth it to me to power through that process each weekend so I don’t have to make a decision about what we’re going to eat at 5:30pm when I’m already tired and drained from working all day. To me, that extra effort on the weekends is worth it.
There are lots of methods out there for how to meal plan, how to meal prep, and so on, and I believe you have to do what works for you. I am also the first to throw meal-prep out the window when life is really busy - you’re starting a new job, have work travel, moving houses, going through a renovation project. During those periods, you have to do whatever you have to do to feed your family. If that’s take-out, frozen meals, or a meal-delivery service, there is no shame in that.
But for those of you ready to focus a little more on getting your family meals prepared in advance, I want to offer up some ideas on a meal-planning platter.
Fall is a great time of year to do lots of make-ahead meals. Stews, casseroles, soups, etc. are appealing as the weather gets colder and those are also meals that keep really well to be reheated later in the week.
For me, as I try new recipes (about 1 every other week), I add the “winners” to my list of favorites and note whether they can be made in advance or whether they need to be saved for a Saturday/Sunday when I have the time to cook. Then I pull from that running list each week as I make my meal plan.
I promised you a list of make-ahead recipes, so here they are all wrapped up in a shiny bow, just for you:
One of our favorites. Using a rotisserie chicken makes this super simple, but we also sometimes cook chicken breasts in the bottom of the dutch oven before making the rest of the soup and it does add a lot to the flavor. Do what you have time for!
Serve with bread of some kind and a salad.
The perfect fall food and those pre-chopped, ready-to-make mashed potatoes you find in the freezer section make this super simple!
Serve with a salad.
This one is a no-brainer, and while a little messy in the kitchen while cooking, warms up super easily in the oven night-of. We often have trouble eating the full dish even with lunch leftovers so this would be the perfect dish to share or split with friends!
We love this homemade tomato soup that warms up easily and then the only thing you have to do is make your grilled cheese sandwiches the night-of. Doesn’t get much easier.
Serve with a salad for something green!
Disclaimer - this one isn’t fully make-ahead, but it’s so easy I categorize it that way. I pre-chop my peppers and onions (or you could buy these already chopped and frozen). Then all you have to do is boil the pasta, brown the sausage, add the peppers and onions, and assemble.
This one is super easy and I love the addition of chickpeas. We serve this with frozen french fries and a vegetable.
Pre-chop all ingredients so all you have to do is slice your avocado and assemble the night-of. My kids eat all of the toppings minus the lettuce!
This is a delicious fall dish that can be fully made ahead and warmed up for a nice weeknight meal.
Serve with bread and a salad if needed.
An ode to our time spent in New Orleans, this one heats up nicely, especially if you can make the rice the night-of, then all you have to do is warm up the rest and serve. No sides needed in my opinion!
10. Breakfast for Dinner
Ok, ok - not completely make-ahead, but I want to remind you that easy dinners like breakfast for dinner, spaghetti and sauce from a jar or anything else your family loves are totally ok and still considered homemade. We’ll cook sausage links ahead of time, either make pancakes or toast waffles and serve with eggs any style and call it DELICIOUS! :)
Note - you see me mention ‘serve with salad’ a lot. I like to pre-wash enough lettuce for the week and store in a large glass bowl so all I have to do is toss it with a few veggies, cheese, craisins, or whatever, and my go-to dressing of the moment and we have something green on the table for dinner.
Regardless of what your meal-planning and meal-prepping habits have been to-date, if getting food on the table is a big stressor for you during the work week, try a few of these and see how it goes. Sure, it means giving up some time on your weekend, but as I’ve said before, that is worth it in my book. Maybe it’s not worth it for you, but you won’t know unless you try.
What are your favorite meal-prep tips or recipes? I would love to hear! Send me a DM on Instagram @lovemothernurture.