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Planning tips for meals on the go

Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a marketing degree from Penn State University and 15 years of international business experience. Mary specializes in writing about parenting, children, pregnancy, college, h...

Work now, eat later

Busy families need healthy and nutritious meals, but eating right isn't easy when you’re always on the run. With a little planning, you can make sure your family is getting what they need to keep those energy levels high.

Woman cooking in crockpot

1Shop smart

Meats and poultry: Buy your main-course meats and poultry in bulk; divide it into meal-size portions and freeze in containers. Before bed or first thing in the morning, transfer one of the containers to the fridge for that evening's dinner. Always keep a supply in the freezer, and you'll always be prepared for meals.

Fruits and vegetables: Cut up fruits and veggies as soon as you get home from the store. You'll eat more of them if they're always ready to eat. Plus, chopped vegetables will always be ready to toss into a quick salad or dinner side dish.

Grains: Cook a large batch of grains (e.g., rice) and freeze in meal-size portions. Grains thaw quickly, and you'll be ready to stir fry in no time at all.

I thought my family was too small to buy in bulk, but I've learned how to use my freezer to our advantage. Now I buy more food at a time, which saves me money and time. I shop monthly rather than weekly. ~Deb

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2Cook once & serve twice (or more)

You already have your main-course foods stored in portion-sized containers in the freezer. Brown your ground beef and cook your chicken, and you'll have the main ingredient to many of your family's favorite meals: tacos, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken stir-fry, meatloaf, casseroles and more.

Save even more time by browning or cooking several meat/poultry portions. Use what you need now and refrigerate the rest to use over the next three days.

As soon as your bring your ground beef home, form it into hamburger patties. Place a cupcake liner between each patty, wrap first with waxed paper and then with heavy-duty foil, and place in a freezer bag. Label it with the date and contents. ~Genevieve

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3Make ahead & serve later

Many of us find that cooking on a weekend afternoon is easier than during the week. If this applies to your household, take advantage of those weekends to fill your freezer with a week's worth of meals.

Then, each weekday morning, you can simply retrieve one dinner, put it in the fridge to thaw and warm it up in the oven or microwave for dinner. You'll enjoy the affordability and nutrition of a home-cooked meal with the convenience of a store-bought frozen dinner.

Don't forget dessert! Make a batch of cookie dough, wrap 1-tablespoon balls in waxed paper, and freeze. Right before dinner, pull out as many as you need, place on a cookie sheet and bake at 325F until done (about 10 minutes).

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4Store appropriately

When you prepare food in advance and eat meals on the go, having the proper food storage and travel containers is important.

Freezing: Every layer you put between your food and the freezer will help prevent freezer burn.

  • Bread: Wrap in waxed paper, seal with tape and place in a freezer bag. (When used this way, freezer bags are reusable.)
  • Meat: Place meat portions (cooked or uncooked) in waxed paper, wrap with foil and place in a freezer bag.
  • Soup or stew: Line a freezer container with foil, pour in the soup/stew, cover with another piece of foil and seal.

With a Sharpie and some masking tape, label every item you freeze with the date and contents of the package.

6 Freezer staples you shouldn't be without

Traveling: If your family is too busy to eat at the table, at least make sure their food is transported safely. Insulated containers are a must to keep foods at the appropriate temperatures and prevent spoiling.

More on-the-go food ideas

Great food accessories for travel
On-the-go snack essentials
Satisfying snack ideas

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