Cooking for Family but Don't Have Much Time - Meal Ideas

Updated on July 19, 2012
A.S. asks from Dallas, TX
13 answers

I would love to cook something much more substantial for my family than stuff thrown together from a box or freezer bag. I have toyed with the idea of cooking everything on Sunday evening for the week and either refrigerating it or freezing it so all we have to do is heat it up but I need some idesa. I can think of a few ideas but I am not one to eat leftovers so I not thrilled with eating food precooked and frozen/refrigerated. I'm looking for food ideas that will take sane if not better 2-5 days after making it (especially if it has been frozen) Also looking for ideas for crock pot meals. Any ideas to make my families dinner seem more substantial. What are some of your favorites?

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answers from Missoula on

This link goes to a site where you prepare several raw meals in advance for the crock pot... then when you are ready to eat them you just pull out the meal you want that day and dump it in... so pre-made, but eaten fresh-cooked. :)

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answers from Chicago on

not sure if this will help with your meals lol but it is something I do once a month and might help you out.

get a large package of ground been (3 to 5 lbs) bring it home and brown it and then drain. after it cools separate it into 1 lb bunches and freeze it I use gladware containers.

chicken breasts can be boiled and chopped or baked and chopped and the same thing done. as the beef.

beef stew meat can be browned and then boiled till it is tender.

All those things can be precooked and then just pulled out and "finished"
hamburger can make sloppy joes, spaghetti, tacos, chili, casseroles etc at the drop of a hat.

chicken can be used for salads, kabobs, casseroles etc.

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answers from Dallas on

I don't do leftovers either. I don't use a crock pot unless I'm making pulled pork.

Starters... I have homemade marinara sauce that is very popular ( Itakian hubby). I keep at least 1 quart in the fridge ready to go for pasta, etc.

Chicken or pork cutlets are fast and easy

Noodles with chicken piccata

Salmon marinated in Italian dressing then grilled. Serve with rice. also has great ideas.


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answers from Dallas on

Get a beef chuck roast (size depends on your family, honestly) and throw it in the crockpot. Get a packet of Ranch dressing mix and a packet of brown gravy mix, mix both packets in a half cup of cold water and dump it on top of the meat. Cook it for 8 hours on low, or about 5 hours on high. It comes out very well every time. If you're available, throw some coarsely chopped carrots and some thickly sliced potatoes in with the skin on about an hour before you plan to serve the roast. Totally easy. Another one for beef chuck that we like is even easier. mix about a 1/4 cup of water with a packet of onion soup mix and throw it on top of the roast, cook until the meat is tender enough to shred and add your fave bbq sauce to the meat. BBQ beef sandwiches :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I just did this yesterday! It took me 1.5 hours to do 8 freezer to crockpot meals! I have a word doc that I can email you, or anyone else, just message me your email address and I'll send it. I'm going to be doing other recipes as well but this was my first time and it was so easy! You just take the bags out of the freezer the night before then throw it in your crockpot the next morning. Good luck!

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answers from Austin on

For your crock pot, hit the salad dressing aisle. Anything with a vinaigrette will make a wonderful addition to chicken, or check out the barbecue-style marinades in the condiment aisle - just toss the chicken (still frozen, even) in the crock pot, add about a half bottle of your "sauce" (we've found a pear vinaigrette we enjoy), and put it on low all day. Do you have a microwave steamer? You can steam some veggies in about 5 minutes in the microwave, or just use the veggies in the steamer bags in the frozen section.

I know you mentioned getting away from boxes, but boxed jambalaya mix works really well in the crock pot. Follow the directions for adding water, but don't follow the cooking directions, just toss it in the crock pot on low all day. Add frozen cocktail shrimp, sausage, or shredded chicken, and you are good to go.

As for chicken, I buy large quantities and boil it at the beginning of the week, shred it, and put it in freezer baggies with a little of the broth, a little more than a handful per bag. I use this frozen chicken for chicken tacos (warm in a saucepan with a packet of taco seasoning mix), jambalaya, chicken/rice casserole (add one can of cream-of-something soup, 3/4 cup rice, 1/4 cup water, black pepper, bake 45 minutes at 350, add cheese), chicken salad, barbecue chicken sandwiches (toss in crock pot w/ bbq sauce)...anything you might want to do with shredded chicken.

Finding new recipes the family likes is always very rewarding for me. Happy exploring!

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answers from Los Angeles on

-lasagna (make ahead & freeze or Stouffer's brand is good)
-shepherd's pie (make ahead & freeze)
-tacos (quick & easy)
-beef stew (make ahead & freeze)
-pork chops
-steak on the grill, mashed potatoes
-bbq chicken breast on the grill
-when it's too hot to cook: taco salad, grilled chicken breast on spinach leaves w/red onion rings/croutons/corn
-grilled chicken pizza on the bbq

-crock pot ideas-
stew w/carrots & potatoes, chicken breast & bbq sauce

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answers from Los Angeles on

Rachael Ray is good for having a week's worth of meals you can prepare in an afternoon, here's the link to her cooking show, "Week in a Day" with different episodes:

And my fave crock pot recipe is for Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork, couldn't be easier ツ

1 (2 pound) pork tenderloin, pork shoulder or butt (which I use)
1 (12 ounce) can of Dr Pepper
1 (18 ounce) bottle of barbecue sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray's)
8 hamburger buns

1) Place the pork in a slow cooker and pour the can of Dr Pepper over the meat. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or until pork shreds easily with a fork.
2) After pork has cooked, drain and discard the Dr. Pepper. Shred the pork and place it back in the slow cooker. Pour the barbecue sauce over the pork and stir to combine. Serve immediately or keep warm in slow cooker until ready to serve. Serve on hamburger buns.

*You can also make this with 2 lbs chicken thighs and a light soda, 7 up or orange type, and cook for about 4 hours, shred and add barbecue sauce.

Add a salad and fruit for dessert and it's about the easiest meal you can prepare ツ


answers from Dallas on

Making a meal plan is your best bet. Make it before you shop to make sure that you have what you need. I'm new to this as well, but I've been looking on Pinterest for ideas, making notes and today, with my meal plan, I saved $62 on my grocery bill. This week so far, I'm making 2 pasta meals (alfredo and spaghetti), potato soup and breakfast for dinner including eggs, bacon, pancakes and hashbrowns. For apps, we're having baked cheese sticks, fried green tomatoes, lettuce wedges with blue cheese, and for dessert, we have strawberry muffins, banana ice cream, and brownies.



answers from Los Angeles on

If you can eat the junk in a box or a frozen bag why don't you like frozen left overs? Is it just eating the same thing for a few days that bothers you? Generally if you freeze something and reheat it it tastes great and doesn't contain the preservatives and chemicals that prepared food does. I definitely don't like to eat the same thing several nights in a row though. I used to prepare several things on one day (sat or sun) and divide it up and freeze it at the beginning of the month. I would do a soup, a chili, spaghetti sauce and maybe a curry, stew or potroast. It gave me several options for "frozen dinners" throughout the next few weeks and they freeze and reheat well. Also I would season hamburger or ground turkey and make it into patties and freeze them (raw) in vacuum bags. It saves time - just thaw and you are ready to cook! I also made a lot of use of my crock pot. Lots of easy recipes you can throw together in the morning and eat when you get home. One of my favorite crockpot recipes is to do a whole chicken with some white wine, lemon slices and lots of garlic cloves. Don't overcook - use a crockpot with a timer if possible. Cook time will vary depending on how hot your pot is. Also works with bone-in chicken pieces cut up but I think it comes out better with a whole chicken. There is also a lady on food network who preps several dinners one night. Then you cook one meals and prep the next night's to save you time or use leftovers to make something diffferent. When I need quick meal I just cook something very simple and fast too. I use the thin cut chicken filets or fish and cook very quickly in the pan with salt, pepper and lemon and heat a steamer bag of vegetables and make an easy side like cous cous that cooks in 5 min or less. Dinner done in 15 min! And its healthy and quick to clean up. Good luck!



answers from Dallas on

I use my crock pot 2-3 times during the week - it SAVES us. Check out for some great ideas. Our favorites are the ranch pork chops, angel chicken and salsa chicken (this one makes great as leftovers for tacos, enchaladas and tortilla soup)! Good Luck, dinner is hard.



answers from Dallas on

My focus in on healthy, easy, family size meals. Please see my fitness/healthy eating blog:
Hope it helps!



answers from Sacramento on

A friend of mine maintains a blog called very The focus is to be able to make healthy, tasty meals for your family that take less than 30 minutes. Check it out! Hope it helps!

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