To make sure we don't eat at restaurants, I have found it's really helpful to prepare meals and freeze them. It's rewarding, too!
A few weeks back on a Sunday afternoon, after I went to the store, I made a bunch of different meals and ingredients and froze them. Since then I have been making other things and freezing them. It's so easy to just spend a couple hours one day making a bunch of stuff. It saves so much time during the work week!
Currently, in the freezer:
Spaghetti sauce with meat
A whole chicken, deboned and shredded
A pack of boneless skinless chicken breasts, shredded
Veggie lasagna filler (leftover filling from when I made some veggie lasagna roll-ups)
White chicken chili (this was made before the project and the rest was frozen)
Vegetarian soup (gluten free; this was made before the project and the rest was frozen)
Chicken-pepper lasagna filler (leftover filling from some chicken-pepper lasagna cups I made)
Blueberries (individually frozen and then bagged, will use for pancakes or parfaits)
I know I am forgetting some other meals I prepared ahead of time and froze..but I think this is what's in the freezer right now. I did make some french bread pizzas. I bought some french bread that was on sale for .79 cents, because the sell by date was the next day (I already had sauce, cheese, and toppings at home). The bread was perfectly fine, and I sliced it up and made french bread pizza out of it, and then froze it before baking. They came out perfectly when I baked them for about 20 minutes (from the frozen state). I also made half of a dozen of pantry burritos, and some fresh gazpacho, and froze those, too.
Anyway, it's very handy having stuff made ahead of time and frozen. Just the morning of or night before, place the frozen meal in the fridge and it's ready to be heated up in time for dinner. The burritos were really convenient. I only made a half dozen of them, but next time I will double the batch and make more to freeze. You can just heat them up in the microwave straight out of the freezer, no thawing needed. They are the perfect portion to take to lunch at work.
After doing this, I realized these items are staples for us:
green bell peppers
canned tomatoes (any kind-crushed, whole, diced, sauce)
It's helpful to know this now, too. Now when the stores have these items on sale, I can get more of them at once, instead of getting just one of whatever the item is at regular price. Also, I have been scoping out the butcher area to see what's on sale or marked down. Same with the bread section.
My inspiration comes from these blogs:
Joelen's blog has a ton of great recipes for freezer meals.
Natalie's blog here is very helpful and she gives lots of tips and ideas for freezer meals.
This link on The Kitchn is also about freezer meals, with more recipes/tips.
Anne's Eats blog has a good post about freezer meals. I love her pizza dough idea. We buy pizza dough from Fresh Market and make our own, but with Anne's recipe/instructions, we could totally make it at home and freeze a few balls of dough to have on the ready when we want to make our own pizza.
I have a great recipe from Sunday Baker for chicken pot pies. I could make individually sized pies and freeze those, too. And our favorite chicken enchiladas, made by The Pioneer Woman! The possibilities are endless.