Make Ahead Dinners - Casseroles

Our family is always on the go. In addition to school and work, during the week we have soccer practice for Cadence and Gabriel and voice and piano lessons for Cadence. I am also training six days per week for a half marathon in November. We have very limited time to spend together in the evening so we make the most of that time. In order to maximize the time that we have together, we try to plan ahead as much as possible when it comes to dinner time.

The first thing I do is plan my menu for the week. I have a dry erase board on my refrigerator where I write each day's meal along with my training schedule and any other events that are coming up that week (soccer practice, school project deadlines, etc.). It is a great tool! The kids can look at the board and figure out what we are having for dinner each night. This keeps that constant "What are we having for dinner?" question from coming up 438298490384 times during the week. Also, I've found that if the kids are prepared for what will be served they are less likely to say "I don't want that!" 38395 times during the week.

Now for the actual meals. There are so many types of make ahead dinners - too many to fit into one post, so today I will focus on casseroles. I try to focus my meals around my couponing. I do not like to have to go to the store to pick something up that I didn't pay for with a coupon and/or find on a really great sale, so our menu always varies greatly depending on what it is in the freezer.

This week I have pork chops, so one of the dishes that I will be pre-making is a pork chop casserole recipe that I found on I'll still need to heat up a veggie and make some rice, but that takes no time so I don't mind. When pre-making a casserole, I line my bake ware with a sheet of aluminum foil, assemble my casserole and pop it in the freezer. Once it is frozen, I remove it from the freezer and pop it and the aluminum foil out of the casserole dish. Then, on an index card or piece of paper, I write the reheating instructions as well as which casserole dish I used when I froze the dinner. I wrap the casserole up in plastic wrap and attach the card for easy reference later.

Each morning I check my menu board. If that night's dinner was a frozen pre-made dinner, I remove it from the freezer and unwrap it. I find the casserole dish that I have listed on the card, pop the frozen casserole back into the dish, cover it lightly and leave it out to thaw. After work the casserole is thawed enough to bake. I follow the baking instructions on my card and viola! dinner is served.

The aluminum foil method is especially helpful if you do not have a lot of bake ware and can't stand the thought of throwing away money on those disposable pans. The cleanup is fairly simple as the majority of the mess stays on the foil.

When planning your dinners, I definitely recommend using the ingredient search on I can't begin to tell you how many times I've looked in my kitchen and thought I had nothing for dinner and wound up making a delicious meal out of things I already had.

Here are some links to a few great casseroles that I would suggest as make ahead dinners for your family:

Chicken Florentine Casserole
Pizza Pasta - Great for picky kids. We used turkey pepperoni
Baked Spaghetti - This one is a bit different than traditional baked spaghetti. It was a tad bland to me when it came out of the oven, but some red pepper flake spiced it right up and it was quite tasty.
Delicious Chicken Casserole - Cadence loves this one!
Baked Ziti

Next time, we will discuss crock pot dinners.


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