You’re rushing home from work and you don’t have anything planned for supper. You had hoped to run to the store, but the kids took a long nap – for once! Or, you’re just trying to get through the next hour and can’t even think ahead to supper. I know the feeling, so I’m here to help you with meal hacks that are guaranteed to help when you’re feeling unorganized, rushed, or tired.
1. Shredded Chicken
If you take anything away from this post, please let it be this. I’ll sleep better at night knowing that you’ve got some shredded chicken in the freezer that can be used in gobs of recipes: sandwiches, wraps, quesadillas, enchiladas, casseroles, nachos (mmm, nachos!), homemade pizzas, salads, and much more. It’s easy and worth it.
Buy some boneless, skinless chicken breasts or a bag of frozen chicken breasts as you stroll by the freezer section. (I get mine at Aldi when the family pack goes on sale for $1.49/lb. Score!!) It doesn’t matter how many pounds you use, but in this instance, mine was 5+ pounds. Season liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic powder on both sides and throw them in the crock pot with a cup of chicken broth (or even water if you don’t have broth). Let those puppies cook until they crumble apart with a gentle twist of a fork. Store in quart size freezer bags in 2-3 cup portions. (Don’t forget to freeze flat so they’ll thaw in a jiffy!)
2. Freezer “Meals”
There’s a reason why “meals” is in quotations. We all know our weeks go smoother when we have real meals like soups and casseroles in the freezer ready to go. But let’s be honest, that takes a lot of preparation, organization, and energy (emphasis on energy). These aren’t full-on meals, but are great to have on hand in the freezer and can be reheated in a snap. These three go-to items are for when:
- A babysitter needs to serve supper.
- Lunch or supper is just you and the kids.
- You need something substantial to accompany the mac-and-cheese.
BBQ Chicken Crescents
The first freezer “meal” is from my lovely friends at Pillsbury. Remember that shredded chicken from earlier? Before you put it into freezer bags, steal some to make these BBQ Chicken Crescents. Mix shredded chicken, shredded cheese, and BBQ sauce and roll up in a delicious crescent roll. Bake and throw them into a freezer bag for later. Boom!
Personal note: I mix the cheese right in, skip the egg wash, and use more like 3 Tablespoons of the mixture on the crescent before rolling.
Sausage Hors d’Oeuvres
Next up is the lovely Trisha Yearwood’s Sausage Hors d’Oeuvres. Three ingredients: 1 pound pork sausage, 2+ cups shredded cheese, and 3 cups of baking mix (Bisquick). Let the mixer do the work (add a tiny splash of water if needed), form into balls, bake, and freeze, then dip in BBQ sauce after reheating.
Personal note: These are divine when paired with white cheddar mac and cheese. It just may be my guilty pleasure!
Quinoa Pizza Bites
Last, is our local gal over at Iowa Girl Eats. Her rendition of Quinoa Pizza Bites can be altered in many ways, but this is our fave! Cooked quinoa, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses, pizza toppings of your choice, seasonings, and eggs to bind everyone together. Bake, freeze, and microwave with marinara for dipping. Yummy!!
Personal note: My quinoa calls for 1 cup of uncooked quinoa and 2 cups water, which is what I use (her recipe calls for ½ cup uncooked quinoa). I also go a little heavy on my toppings, so usually throw in an extra egg if needed. Finally, PLEASE top the mixture with some extra mozzarella cheese before baking. It’s heavenly.
3. Muffin Tin Lunches
Surely you’ve heard of this phenomenon before. I enjoy following along with The Natural Nurturer on Instagram and she has this concept mastered. I’m not an all organic, non-GMO, gluten-dairy-nut free type of nurturer. But, I do believe in filling each of the 6 compartments with fruits, vegetables, protein, grain, and [gasp!] ranch or hummus for dipping.
There are so many beautiful things about this concept:
- It forces me to think outside of the box. I’ve got 6 sections to fill and strive to make the tray colorful, healthy, and enticing.
- It gives me a break! Sometimes I don’t have a well thought out lunch plan. This allows me to make bits and pieces of my fridge into a meal.
- Kids can be challenging, especially around the table. I am not the mom that makes food into grandiose sculptures to encourage eating, but good for you if you enjoy that sort of thing. This tray offers 6 choices of what to eat and you have to be okay with any of those that they choose. Yep, it might not be their vegetables, but you can’t force feed. (Don’t ask me how I know that.) My rule is that you can’t have seconds of anything until you’ve eaten the whole tray. That typically does the trick for me, but feel free to set your own rules.
- It encourages trying new foods. You can put a bite or two of a new food in a section and you might be surprised how tempted they are to try it.
- Let’s face it: it’s just more fun to eat out of a muffin tin than on a plate!
What are your go-to meal hacks that save your sanity?
Make sure you never miss out on a parenting or community-related blog post: sign up to receive CRMB posts in your inbox. While you’re at it, join our VIP List to ensure you’re one of the first to know about upcoming Cedar Rapids Moms Blog events and promotions!!