I have to let you guys in on a secret about me. Every single week, I manage to grocery shop within our pre-determined budget, I never forget about the strawberries I buy for a healthy snack until they have a noticeable green fuzz growing on them in the back of the refrigerator, and I NEVER (I repeat, N-E-V-E-R) stop to pick up fast food on the way home because some nights its easier and faster than cooking. I am truly the ultimate working wife/Iron Chef wrapped in one.
Okay, so if you bought any of that at all, I’m sorry you’re so naïve. I am the worst when it comes to setting/sticking to budgets and especially horrible at not giving in to fast food cravings on the ride home from work (It really would be easy for me to blame this one on the baby…but I can’t even lie, I was guilty of this way before ever being pregnant). My job really is stressful and hectic and unpredictable and some days I find myself at the office an hour or two after I was supposed to be home. I don’t know about you, but spending an hour cooking a meal after not getting home until 7 o’clock is one of my personal circles of hell.
I think I’ve mentioned on here before that I’m the kind of person that wants so badly to implement better practices in my life that I often try to rearrange my entire way of living, stick to it for a couple days, and then just burn out. Recently, what I’ve started trying to do, and what I think works really well for me, is implementing little, gradual changes into our routine that are easier to hold to. When I started trying to think of ways to stretch our grocery budget further, while minimizing eating out, I started at the most obvious place: Pinterest. I started searching “make ahead meals” in an attempt to find some things I could “meal-prep” (I know that’s a trigger word for some people, but don’t worry, I’m not planning on starting a health blog anytime soon).
Another secret about me? I really don’t like leftovers. I’m not sure if I had a run-in with some moldy, stinky tupperware that had week-old roast in it when I was little or what, but I really, really do not like leftovers…unless the recipe is that good and reheats to its original state. Unfortunately, when you live in a two person household, most recipes make WAY too much, so you either A.) have to guestimate how to halve the recipe, which can be tricky, B.) spend a ton of money on a recipe that was meant for 4 or 6 people, only to feed 2, or C.) have leftovers that no one wants/will eat and that go to waste anyway.
So my goal was two-fold: find meals that required little effort, or were made ahead of time, and/or find meals that I could spend time making one night, but that stretched for the next couple of days. It took some trial and error, and like I said, NO these are not all “healthy” recipes. When implanting these meals into our weekly routine, we end up saving money, wasting less food, and woah, they have cut down on my cooking time and given me more time to just pop something in the oven or microwave to reheat and spend more time with my family, and that is priceless.
1.) Make Ahead Lasagna Roll-Ups by the Pioneer Woman: This recipe is ranked number one on here because it is also #1 in my heart. First of all, Ree can do no wrong. Her recipes are some of the most delicious things I have ever put in my mouth. When I make this recipe for me and Zach I have enough for almost 5(!!!) meals, and BELIEVE ME, when you reheat these from frozen, they taste just as good as they do fresh. I have also brought them to a friend after she had a baby, and to my brother and dad for a nice homemade meal. I am constantly worried that people are only nice to me to avoid hurting my feelings, but I’ve only ever gotten compliments on this recipe. Find it here.
**Note: this recipe does require some legwork to prep, but it is so worth it. To cut down on my prep time, I have Zach help. It takes half the time when he helps me assemble the roll ups and we have plenty of meals to just pop in the oven for those “lazy nights” (every night at our house).
2.) Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Chili: I was never a big fan of Chili growing up, but I have come to really like it, especially with pulled pork. I follow this recipe pretty closely, save for the fact that sometimes we will make this Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork (another Heaven-sent Pioneer Woman recipe) and use the leftovers in the chili, which means it needs to only sit in the crockpot for about 4 total hours, and you can just put it all in together instead of cooking the pork separately. With this recipe we usually have enough for dinner, two lunches, and another dinner. So flavorful and great for cold nights.
3.) Chicken Pasta Salad: Okay so this one is more of a “family recipe,” though it is super simple. My Grammy started making this and now my brother requests that she make it when we go over to her house. She usually sends him home with a tupperware of leftovers and my Grammy will make a batch of this for herself sometimes and eat it throughout the week. I’ll type the recipe here:
– 1 lb of your favorite shaped pasta, cooked al dente.
– 1 rotisserie chicken shredded (use light meat, dark meat, or both if that’s what you like!
You can also cook your own chicken breast, but I love the flavor of the rotisserie chicken
for this dish!)
– 1/2 to 1 sweet onion (your preference), finely chopped
– 2 stalks of celery finely chopped
– 4-6 sweet peppers, finely chopped
– Any other veggies you prefer (olives, broccoli florets, totally up to you!)
– Salt, Pepper and Original Mrs. Dash to taste
– Equal parts your favorite ranch and mayo
Once the pasta is cooked, drained and cooled, add it to the chicken and veggies and mix together. Mix in equal parts ranch and mayo until it is as saucy as you like it. Season with salt, pepper, and Mrs. Dash to taste. Cool at least an hour before serving for best taste. Divide into Tupperware and store for 4-6 days in the fridge. You can add cheese into this recipe (though I suggest doing that just before you eat it rather than when storing it so that it keeps longer), croutons, pepperonis, really whatever you want. It’s very versatile and so filling.
When all else fails and you really just need something easy and fool-proof:
4.) Pizza. Always pizza.
I said 4ish, right?!
It seriously makes such a difference to even have one or two nights during the week where dinner is already planned and prepped and simply needs to be reheated. We value our time together in our house and hello, Netflix isn’t going to watch itself.
What are some of your favorite make-ahead/leftover meals? I’d love to try more! Comment below, e-mail me or write on my social media posts and let me know! Also, you can pin this post to reference later!