“Make Ahead” Meals for Busy Moms
6 mins read

“Make Ahead” Meals for Busy Moms

The following is a guest post from Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE and Mom, www.MomDishesItOut.com

The Modern Mom – is there anything she can’t do? From shopping for healthy groceries to shuttling the kids to soccer practice, sometimes, it can be hard to imagine maintaining a career while also putting a wholesome, home-cooked meal on the table (at least three times a week at that!); and yet many of us do.

One of my favorite tricks to save time, energy, and of course, sanity is preparing meals in advance. These three ready-made recipes aren’t just healthy, but they can be easily cooked on a Sunday and stored for a future family meal. Best of all, they’re perfect for preparing with your little ones by your side.

Just remember, when whipping up a pre-made meal, you’ll want to transfer your dish from freezer to refrigerator the morning you plan on serving it so it’s defrosted and even easier to plate by the time you get home. Enjoy!

Bobby’s Turkey Meat Loaf

The Story: I call this recipe Bobby’s Turkey Meat Loaf since this is the only one I can get my son to eat. It’s adapted from Whole Foods’ recipe, which was one of the first he actually agreed to try. Hopefully, your tots enjoy it as much as Bobby does!


  • Canola cooking spray
  • 1 cup quinoa flakes cereal crushed or replace with 2 slices whole-grain bread torn into tiny pieces
  • 2 lbs ground 90% lean turkey breast
  • 1 cup sliced scallions
  • 1 stalk celery finely chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper



Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat 2 8-inch loaf pans with canola oil-based cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, gently combine cereal, turkey, green onions, celery, yellow onion, garlic, tomato paste, egg, thyme, marjoram, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Halve the turkey mixture and transfer to prepared pans. Bake for about 60 minutes, until internal temperature of meatloaf reaches 165°F.

Set aside to cool. Freeze whole or portioned. Remember, smaller portions thaw more quickly.

Quick Tips:

  • Take your meatloaf out the morning you plan on serving it to allow ample time for thawing.
  • Create quick, healthy sides by serving your turkey meatloaf with a sweet potato (cooked in the microwave for 5 minutes) and a salad of arugula with grated pecorino.


Grab and Go Goulash

The Story: As a child, I typically didn’t care for family meals since, unlike my parents, I’m not a “meat and potatoes” kind of person. But there was one dish, Goulash, that I did enjoy. Today, I make it for my family – with many modifications, of course. This Grab and Go Goulash is
perfect for your little athletes. Serve out of a funky thermos on the way to a sporting event, or even to your little ones sitting on the bleachers during their sibling’s games.


  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 pound ground lean turkey, bison or beef
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 can no added salt garbanzo beans
  • 1 can no added salt kidney beans
  • 1 small bag organic frozen corn or mixed peas, corn and carrots
  • 1 ½ jars no added sugar tomato sauce
  • 1-2 tsp oregano



In a non-stick sauté pan, sauté the canola oil and garlic over low heat. When the garlic starts to turn light brown, add the turkey and brown thoroughly. Mix in the sauce, beans, veggies, and oregano. When the veggies are cooked through, you are done.

Let cool and then portion into Pyrex dishes. Freeze until the night before or morning of the day you plan on serving to your family. Heat and serve alone or with whole-wheat orzo.

Quick Tips:

  • Depending on the size of your family, you can double the recipe by simply doubling the ingredients.
  • Cook with canola oil rather than olive oil if you are heating the sauté pan at a high temperature. Olive oil will reach its smoke point quickly, so canola is the better option.
  • Use a garlic press. I have one I love from Pampered Chef.
  • Get creative and add any leftover vegetables or varieties of beans. I make this recipe when I have a bunch of veggies I need to use before they spoil.


Pesto in a Pinch

The Story: For the vegetarians with bold palates, serve up a serious punch of heart-healthy flavor with pesto. This is my husband’s recipe, and as always, I encourage all you moms to get your partners in on the cooking process too. After all, what better way is there to check another meal off your to-do list than by having your spouse make it with the kids?

Ingredients (Makes 1 ¼ cups)

  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 4 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ oz) grated pecorino or Parmesan (or blend both)



Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and cook until aromatic and golden brown for 8 to 10 minutes. Stir the nuts frequently to ensure even cooking. Remove from oven and let cool.

Combine the basil, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, and kosher salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until the ingredients are well incorporated, or for about 15 seconds.

Shut off the motor and scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the motor running, slowly add the ½ cup of olive oil through the feed tube. Shut off the motor and scrape the sides of the bowl.

Freeze this base mixture for up to 2 months. Add the cheese after defrosting and mix well on the day you intend to use. If you plan to use the pesto within the next few days, go ahead and add the cheese by pulsing the mixture together until you have a thick paste.

Add to whole-wheat pasta, layer on fish or use as a condiment on a sandwich. Refrigerate the leftovers, in a Pyrex dish with a tight lid.

Quick Tips:

  • Always use whole grains such as whole-wheat pasta rather than white pasta.
  • Frozen vegetables are just as healthy as fresh, if not more.


What are your favorite “make ahead” meals?

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