Backup meals in other words, easy dinner ideas, is exactly what it says. You have a backup for when something falls through. Let’s say you worked late and you JUST. DON’T. FEEL. LIKE. COOKING.
I get it! There will be those days.
But you gotta be prepared for them. If you aren’t then you will find yourself spending at least 30 bucks in the fast food lane. Instead if you have a backup meal and about 10 minutes then you could spend less than 4 bucks by having beef stew and crackers.
If the family fusses just remind them of what the end goal is. End Goal??
Well, hopefully if you are sacrificing by going home to throw something together instead of taking the super easy but expensive route then there must an end goal.
Trying to pay off debt so you can get that swimming pool setup with a big ole deck around it? Maybe saving for a family vacation? Whatever it is remind them of it. Usually that will nip it in the bud real quick.
Alright you’ve convinced me… I need a backup meal so what are they?
Backup meals are meals that take not a whole lot of effort and some don’t even take very much time.
It just depends on the purpose of your backup meal and the types of backup meals you have planned for. We will touch on types just a little later.
The most desired backup meals are those that take the least amount of time and effort.
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They are the ones that will make our health nutty friends gasp that they are even mentioned.
They may not be the most tasty you’ve put together and probably won’t get raving reviews from the family but that is not their purpose.
Their purpose is to keep you from hitting the drive thru and spending practically half your grocery budget in one trip.
Their purpose is to keep you on track for saving your dollars.
It also doesn’t hurt that when you are meal planning and you have one of those days then having a backup meal lets you feel like you are still keeping the plan. Afterall, if you’ve read the Ultimate Meal Plan Guide then having at least two backup meals on hand at all times is part of the plan. Right?
Alright Ms. Smarty Pants what kind of foods do I need on my backup meal plan?
I thought you’d never ask!
There are three types of backup meals that work really well for this. I will explain each in just a little bit but for now they are:
- Packaged Heat and Serve: these are foods that you bought from the store and all you have to do is heat them up and serve.
- Prepped and Cooked to Heat: these are meals that you cooked ahead of time and put them in the freezer so all you have to do is pull them out and reheat.
- Prepped and Raw to Cook: these are meals that you already cut up and combined the ingredients so that you are ready to cook. These meals are meant for those days when you have the time and energy but something changes and you need something different or something that takes less time and/or effort.
Depending on what you are shooting for then that will determine the type of backup meal you want to plan for.
How do you know?
Well, do you typically find that you don’t feel like cooking at all? Or is it that even though you have planned your meals you still like to fly by the seat of your pants sometimes? Or is it that you need that “feel good” feeling that you get when you know you’re family loves what you are fixing?
This really depends on you and your personality.
So that you better understand the types let’s talk about what kind of foods would fall under each one.
Packaged Heat and Serve
These backup meals are the ones you want to cook if you just don’t like cooking and you want to get through it as painless as possible.
These are also the meals you will want to cook if you are so tired and you just don’t want to deal with it.
Your family may not find these to be the best tasting because it is all from the package instead of home cooked. Unless your bunch is like my youngest son. Processed food is ALL he wants to eat. He doesn’t like care for home cooked.
Packaged heat and serve are the ones you have purchased in the package from the store and all you have to do is throw it in a pan on the stove, put it in the oven, or even in the microwave for a little bit and call it done.
These will be things like the canned beef stew we talked about earlier. You will also pair these up with super easy backup sides. We will also list some of those in just a few. For now, let’s list some super easy packaged heat and serve foods:
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Canned Foods Like:
- Beef stew
- Chicken noodle soup, other soups
Frozen Foods Like:
- Frozen chicken nuggets
- Butterfly shrimp
- Breaded fish
- Frozen burritos
- Pizza rolls
- Hot dogs
Frozen Meals Like:
- Beef flavored pasta skillet dinner
- Birds Eye Viola Meals and Entrees
- Stouffer’s Classic Frozen Meals
- There are several varieties of frozen complete meals. Check the cooking instructions to make sure you can fix it quick. Most of the time this will be by the microwave.
- Canned veggies like corn, green beans, pork n beans, asparagus… what ever vegetables are n a can
- Frozen veggies like the ones above but frozen
- Salad in a bag
- Pre-Made in the Store items like potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw, and egg salad
- Instant mashed potatoes
- Refried beans
- Ready Rice
Prepped and Cooked to Heat
These meals are a little more involved but they can actually be just as quick when it comes time to use them as a backup meal.
What you would do is cook the meal or part of the meal and then put it in the freezer until it’s time to put it to use.
These could also be good for those days when you are just not feeling it but you want to put something better on the table to eat. They could also be for when you want to mix things up a little bit or if you are not feeling what you originally planned.
One good way to build up these type of meals is to cook once, eat twice. Meaning when you cook a meal plan to double the meal and freeze one. Or you could even just cook a partial of another meal.
For instance, if you are browning hamburger for tonight’s dinner then just add another pound of hamburger to the skillet. Let that additional pound of hamburger cool and then put it in a ziploc bag for the freezer. Don’t forget to label the bag with what the food is and the date you put it in the freezer.
When you need a backup meal then pull out the pound of hamburger from the freezer and a can of sloppy joe sauce from the pantry. Mix it together on the stove and within minutes you will be ready for sloppy joe sandwiches. Grab you some chips and call it a meal.
Cook once, Eat twice is also convenient with chicken, especially chicken strips or shredded chicken. If you are putting some chicken breast in the crockpot to make bbq shredded chicken go ahead and double the batch. Split it in half. Have half for dinner and the other half cools down for the freezer.
The next time you have to work late don’t stop through the drive thru just come home and throw your bbq chicken bag in some warm water and let it thaw enough to remove from the bag then let it finish heating up on the stove. Easy peasy and you really didn’t have to do any extra work.
Let’s see if we can come up with a few Prepped and Cooked to Heat meals to give you an idea:
- Brown hamburger for sloppy joes
- Brown hamburger for tacos
- Bbq shredded chicken
- Vegetable soup, Potato soup or about any kind of soup
- Chicken strips for tacos or burritos
- Pork chops / Tenderloin
Prepped and Raw to Cook
These meals are prepped either while you are already prepping for dinner or a planned meal prep session.
You would use these backup meals if you’re not feeling what you planned and would like to make something different. This type of meal is not going to be your fastest choice but it would be faster than if you were starting a meal from scratch.
Like when you are prepping chicken breast go ahead and prep another batch by cutting it in strips. Freeze the strips. Or if you want your chicken to marinade then you can prep the chicken breast and put it in a sauce to marinade in the freezer.
If you are fixing pork chops one night go ahead and plan to prep another batch. This one would be easy all the way around since all you would have to do to prep is double the spices and bag up one batch of pork chops and spice to marinade. When it’s time to cook you won’t have to mix the spice mix. It’s already done and ready to cook.
So each time you plan your meals think about if you can double the recipe for a faster meal later. Or if you find in the sales paper that there is a really good sale then maybe you want to purchase more to prep for savings.
When I buy chicken breasts a lot of the time I buy it in the 2 ½ – 3 pound bags. So doing this you could cook your one pound for dinner and then prep the other two for later meals.
In other words just be prepared at all times
Yep. You should always have at least two backup meals ready. Why not one? Because then you don’t have choices. We like choices so if you only have one backup meal and you have to resort to that meal what do you think is going to happen if you are not in the mood for that meal?
Exactly! Fast food and at least 30 bucks here you come.
Why take chances… just be prepared at all times.
Until next time…
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