When I was pregnant with my first child, the one thing I did really well to prepare for motherhood was to cook freezer meals for after the baby was born. It was so helpful during that season of transition that I've continued this gift-giving to my future self at the start of each school year. It takes me about a month to find our school year dinner groove when summer ends and my husband goes back to teaching and coaching. I kind of forget how to juggle it all alone again after having him home to help all summer. On those crazy days when I just can't seem to get it together, I like to know I have a backup dinner plan just in case.
Before summer ends, try to cook up a few meals to keep in your freezer. Your future school-year self will be so grateful to you.
Note: Don't forget when planning your grocery list to think about freezer containers, like small disposable tin pans and quart-size freezer baggies. (Or shop resale shops for cheap Pyrex pans.)
Jacquelyn, the Gourmet Housewife, is a friend of mine, an amazing cook and a full-time working mom of two. She says this about her freezer-friendly lasagna recipe: "This lasagna will knock your socks off. I promise. It is by far one of the best lasagna recipes I have ever tasted." I believe her. It serves 12, so she usually makes two smaller pans and freezes one of them.
Don't forget to think about sides. You can freeze homemade pinto beans and cooked rice to pair with enchiladas (or pick up a few sides from a restaurant on your way home). Here's my freezable Crock-Pot Pinto Beans recipe, which makes enough for several portions.
In September or October, when the air starts to cool just a bit, can you think of anything more comforting to come home to after a long day of work than a bowl of thick, creamy potato soup with a hunk of french bread for dipping? I love that this recipe combines two of my favorite things: the Crock-Pot and the freezer.
Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers
These are tastier and cheaper than store-bought veggie burgers. Reheat them in the oven or on the stovetop. Serve on buns with sliced avocado and a side of chips, steamed veggies or a quick salad. No-go on the veggie burgers in your house? Try this highly rated turkey burger recipe.
Easy Cheesy Mexican Chicken
Chicken, cheese, cream cheese, brown rice, corn and salsa. How can that go wrong? Go ahead and mix in the optional cup of pureed squash. In a month's time, you'll forget you hid such a healthy ingredient into the delicious mix. I'd probably toss in some fresh baby spinach as I'm reheating it, because I like to sneak in greens anywhere I can. And in a rich dish like this, you won't even taste the spinach.
Enjoy these last few summer days, my teacher friends!
Rachel Randolph is a mom to a busy toddler boy and a wife to an even busier high school football and baseball coach. She is co-author of "We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook," a food memoir written with her mom, and their upcoming book "Nourished: A Search for Health, Happiness, and a Full Night's Sleep" (Zondervan, January 2015). She also blogs at www.TheNourishedMama.com and www.laughcrycook.com.