You know when you’re really tired, you don’t feel like cooking anything and you just want to give up on deciding what to cook for dinner? I remember nagging my mom with the question “What are we having for dinner?” everyday as she didn’t even have her coat off and as she was getting home from work when I was a kid. I don’t have kids yet but boy that must have been somewhat annoying. You know those days when even though you see things in your fridge or pantry, no ideas come to you as for what to put together to eat? Sometimes the only thing you want to do is call that pizza place even though you know it’s more expensive and less healthy than a home cooked meal. You just don’t have any energy or ideas or time to come up with something but you stomach is clear about letting you know that it needs food. Sometimes, you need something quick and easy to do but who says it has to be transformed and filled with stuff you don’t need or want?
I know a frozen pizza, a rotisserie chicken, chicken nuggets or mac and cheese in the blue box are really easy but just look at the nutritional facts or ingredients it contains and it sometimes surprising what is in there. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s the easiest thing and it’s convenient. That’s the important word here, convenient! But what if you had options to save you from those nights? If you think it’s long or complicated, here are tips to help you.
For those kinds of days, I do meatballs ahead of time. Ok, it needs a little planning ahead of time but really it’s simple I promise!
I usually wait until ground beef is on sale at the grocery store or, because I really prefer their meat, at the butcher shop. They are so funny and friendly there and my fruits and vegetables store is next door to it so it’s not a bigger trip to go there for me. They actually have better prices if you buy in bigger quantities. Ever since I’ve got a freezer, I’ve stored lots of meat like that. Grain fed chicken breasts that was air frozen not water frozen, extra lean ground meat that was never frozen, pork tenderloins; you know the meat you can do so much different things with. So waiting for those savings can actually be nice on your budget and since you are making them from scratch on your stomach also!
You are probably going to think, we know how to make meatballs, and it’s not rocket science! True. My tip is actually to do those as you cook something else or to make double or triple the quantity and freeze the rest. Tonight, I prepped everything (for my dinner and my meatballs) and started cooking. I was making chicken with a side salad and while my chicken was cooking I did my meatballs, using an ice cream spoon to make them even, put them on a cookie sheet, put them in the oven and put a timer. This couldn’t be easier.
What’s nice about this is that you don’t realize that while you’re doing them, later, someday, you are going to save time by having those on hands. Trust me, that’s no surprise why frozen meatballs exists on the market. People use those to save time. So making your own meatballs is nicer because you can use whatever you like or whatever you have on hands to do them and it’s cheaper too.
You can put whatever you like in there, try different types of spices and create lots of different tastes. Italian, Swedish, Middle Eastern, any type of meatballs can be made in a snap of the fingers (ok almost but really it’s easy). Use fresh herbs if you have them or use dried one if you feel like it! You can even try vegan meatballs, there are lots of recipes out there if you feel adventurous!
And you know those kids who hate vegetables? Well, a meatball is a great way to hide vegetables in. Put some mushrooms or some vegetables puree in there and while you have the same size of meatballs you have actually less meat and more vegetables in your plate! So, it’s a little healthier for you and they will actually taste amazing with them!
I have a vacuum sealer machine and this is so amazing when you want to freeze stuff. When your meatballs are done, you put the amount you want in a vacuumed sealed bag and you just open them and you don’t need to unfreeze the rest or open the bag and risk freezer burns on your precious piece of work. But I was still freezing stuff without it and so can you, it’s not essential but really handy. I got this as a gift from my dad and never really wanted that until I had one and saw what I could do with it.
So what happens when you have your meatballs ready? Well you open that freezer of yours and make wonders with it. Open a can of tomato sauce, put garlic, onion and spices and dump your meatballs in there and heat them up and put them on top of pasta and bam, here’s your dinner in a heartbeat. Feel like a meatball sub? Well there you go, slice up some bread and cheese, put a marinara sauce on it and there you go. You feel like recreating that IKEA meatball dinner? Use a brown sauce, cook the meatballs in and add some mashed potatoes and there you go! You could even use those to put in your home made spaghetti sauce and break them down. Your options are really up to you!
Here’s what I put in mine tonight.
- 2 lbs of ground meat (I used extra lean but whatever you have on hands will do)
- About 10 cremini mushrooms (you can be creative here too!)
- 1 red onion finely chopped
- Italian spices: oregano, parsley, thyme (I felt like it but feel free to put something else!)
- Garlic powder
- Salt and pepper
- 1 egg
- Preheat your oven at 350 degrees F.
- Chop everything up and mix all the ingredients together.
- Make balls with an ice cream spoon and put them on a cookie sheet.
- Cook for 20 min or until done.
- Calculate how much is needed for a meal and put them in a bag and freeze them or eat right away!
So here is a tip that can save you time and money and answer that horrible question: “what’s for dinner?” that you loathe sometimes. You can do that for other things too! Do you own chicken fingers, soups, sauces and it can save you time. Sometimes I just feel like making double the batch and freeze one and eat the other one. You chop stuff already, sometimes it’s not longer to make a little more! With my friend the food processor too I can do it quicker!!
Have fun and bon appétit (well in the future!). 🙂