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Make Ahead Meals on a Budget

#sponsored With a busy work week ahead and several hungry, and often whiny, mouths to feed, many parents can feel overwhelmed by the idea of whipping up dinner every night. Take advantage of those rare energetic moments by cooking up cheap and delicious meals that you can store in bulk, ready and waiting for those exhausted moments when the last thing you want to do is cook. You’ll never have to scrape a ready meal out of the back of the fridge in desperation again.

Casserole is the perfect make ahead meal; it can be packed with nutritious goodness, filled with your leftovers and made in big portions ready to be stored in the freezer. Simply mix up your leftovers: meat, starch, plenty of vegetables, seasonings and sauce, bake and serve up. Once the remaining extra casserole has fully cooled, pour it into zip loc bags or Tupperware and label it all clearly so that you know what the dish is and when it was cooked.

Lasagne is another great dish for cooking in huge amounts and then freezing, and is a popular option for families thanks to its delicious, hearty taste. There’s no reason to buy lasagna ready meals and need to take out loans; for instance, from Koala Payday Loans; to cover the cost – instead save money by making a big batch at home. It can be made with minced beef or veggies depending on your family’s preferences. To save a little cash, try bulking out your beef lasagne with vegetarian ingredients: tomatoes, mushrooms, beans, aubergine and other vegetables can all take the place of some of your beef to make your meat go further, while adding an extra punch of flavour and nutrients for your money. This bulking strategy can also work really well for shepherd’s pie. Cook the lasagne and then leave to cool, covered, for about an hour before freezing. You can re-heat your portions quickly and easily at any time in the microwave, but cover it in foil to keep the moisture in. When you re-heat it, be sure that it’s piping hot before serving up!

Soup is a good choice for quick lunchtime meals, sick days in bed and winter evenings. You can always make plenty of varieties and freeze in separate portions so that you have lots of options to choose from on different days. Throw together whatever you like, cook, and store in individual containers to freeze, not forgetting to label your soups with their ingredients and date. When you’re ready to eat then simply leave in the fridge overnight to defrost and then heat up on the hob. For non-cream based soups you can also re-heat in the microwave to save time.

Everybody loves pasta bakes, and what’s more, they’re really cheap and easy to make. Simply cook up a load of pasta with a tasty sauce when you have time, adding in whatever meat or extras you have left over in the kitchen and some extra cheese on top for good measure, dish up, and freeze the extra. You can freeze it in individual portions or as a whole dish, depending on your space availability. Plan ahead so that you know when you’ll be eating your bake, and take it out that morning to defrost by dinnertime. Microwave until properly heated through and watch the whole family enjoy this dish all over again!

It doesn’t have to be full dishes that are pre-made and frozen for your cooking ahead meal plan. Sometimes having just one component of a meal ready-made can be a great way of saving time and money. Don’t waste cash on expensive jars of sauces from the supermarket; make your own in big batches and save them up for when you need them. These sauces can be as simple or as complicated as you like; from tomato-based pasta sauces to creamy cheese sauces, they’ll all come in handy at some point. Cook as much as you can on a rainy Sunday afternoon and watch as your energy levels and bank balance are restored.