Friday Favorites – Make-Ahead Meals for Busy Days

two children sitting at a table and eating sandwiches
photo courtesy of Council for a Strong America
This article may contain affiliate links. By clicking on these links and purchasing products, the owners of The Military Mom Collective may be compensated, at no cost to you. Thank you!

We were busy this summer. Baseball, swimming, soccer clinics, science camp, vacation bible school, camping…it flew by. Now that fall and school are starting, we will not be slowing down.

Our schedule changes week by week, but one thing is for sure – my family gets hungry every single night.

Many evenings are quick meals, sandwiches, or charcuterie boards (I love that word!). But sometimes my people need a full supper, but I don’t always have the time or energy to make one. We could pick up something from a drive-through, but my family’s stomachs usually don’t react well to fast-food. We learned that the hard way a few years ago.

So here are some of our favorite recipes that I’ve converted into make-ahead meals for busy days.

white plate with pita bread filled with grilled chicken and lettuce
photo via 100 Days of Real Food website

Yogurt Marinated Grilled Chicken

This recipe from 100 Days of Real Food is delicious whether done on the grill as it indicates, baked in the oven, or in the slow-cooker (my preferred method for hectic days). If I’m really planning ahead, I like to toss all the ingredients with the un-cooked chicken into a gallon Zip Lock bag and freeze it for later in the month. It takes a full 24-hours for the chicken to defrost in the fridge before cooking, but that gives the yogurt and lemon juice time to marinate the meat.

We serve it with pasta, rice, or salad. Leftovers are great for the next day’s lunch or when I make a double batch, I slice the chicken and put it right back into the freezer for a full-cooked, super-easy meal.

Meat and Potato Burritos

From a fellow-Nebraskan comes this hearty recipe that can be supper OR lunch OR breakfast. Anyone driving to weekend ball tournaments at odd hours and need to feed people in the car on the way there? These are great to make ahead, freeze, and grab on the go. They are incredibly filling with the meat, potatoes, and beans as well as a great way to use leftover potatoes, which we seem to have often in our house. Two of my kids could live on potatoes. I try to make a double batch of these burritos so they take a bit of prep work and time, but they are a great make-ahead meal.

burrito cut in half on a plate
photo from Faith Farming and Beef website
bun with sloppy Joe meat on a white plate
Philly cheesesteak sloppy Joe's from Six Sisters' Stuff website

Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes

The Six Sisters really do know their stuff. Most of their recipes are fast, easy, and affordable. They even have an entire section devoted to freezer meal recipes.

This recipe can be assembled quickly and is very filling. It can also be turned into a freezer meal with either putting all the ingredients in a Zip Lock bag or precooking the meat then adding the veggies, beef stock, steak sauce, salt, and pepper when you’re ready to eat. We typically have extra buns and bread in our deep freezer – a trick I learned from my mom growing up – so it only takes a minute or two to thaw and broil the buns and cheese.

The Best Lasagna

As proclaimed in the title of this recipe, the Pioneer Woman’s lasagna is simply the best. Don’t let the cottage cheese worry you; even my kids who are sensitive to different food textures love this recipe. She updated the photographs and link last winter, but it’s the same tried and true lasagna I’ve been making for several years. She states in step #5, “Either freeze, refrigerate for up to two days, or bake immediately.”

This meal does requires some pre-planning and time to assemble everything, so I try to make one of two of these for the freezer before my kids are done with the school year. 

yellow and white tablecloth with a pan of lasagna, plate, 2 forks, and napkin
Photo via The Pioneer Woman
pink and blue flowered tablecloth with tall glass filled with iced coffee, creamer being added to it
Photo via The Pioneer Woman website

The Most Perfect Iced Coffee

This is certainly not a make-ahead meal, but definitely a staple for me. The Pioneer Woman’s perfect iced coffee takes a day or two, with the patience to strain the coffee grounds (I just use regular coffee filters over a sieve), but it is well worth the effort. I’ve done both the full recipe and half size when our fridge space was limited. I’ve also made ice cubes from this recipe, which I highly recommend.