NDSU Extension - Benson County


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Try a Made-ahead Meal for a Stress free Family Gathering

By Kimberly Fox, Extension Agent Family Nutrition Program/Family and Consumer Science

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with balancing your family’s activities and cooking a well balance, homemade meal?  Not to worry, make-ahead meals will save the day.  It will eliminate the stress you have been feeling about quickly making a healthy meal that your whole family will enjoy.

Many meals can be frozen and put in the oven to fully cook later.  You can also cook up chicken, ground beef, or a variety of other meats and have them ready to put in lasagnas, spaghetti, hot dishes, or casseroles.  Vegetables such as onions and peppers can also be cut up and froze for easy use in a meal.

Full casseroles can also be made and frozen.  If you have a smaller family, you can freeze the make-ahead meals in portions.  This will mean fewer leftovers, and the opportunity for a variety of different meals throughout the week.

Another helpful step is to freeze meals in containers that you can bake or microwave in later.  This eliminates the step of having to put the meal into a new pan, and saves time in the end.  If you do not have these types of containers, freezer bags work just fine, too.

There are some foods that do not freeze as well.  These include dishes that have mayonnaise, sour cream, or boiled eggs in them.  Oftentimes, you can freeze the recipe and add these items later.

Below is a recipe for baked meatballs.  It is a great source of protein and can be eaten immediately, or frozen for later use.  Enjoy!

Baked Meatballs


  • 1½ pounds lean ground beef
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 c. quick-cooking oats
  • 6½ ounces nonfat evaporated milk
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • ½ c. onion, chopped fine

Directions: First, place the ground beef in a large bowl and mix in the egg. Next, using clean hands, add the oats and mix thoroughly. Pour in the evaporated milk, seasonings and onion and continue mixing until the beef mixture is combined well. Form beef mixture into 32 1-inch balls (or use a small scoop). Place balls into a sprayed baking pan and bake at 375 F for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are brown and reach an internal temperature of 160 F.

Makes: 8 servings.  Each serving contains 170 calories, 5 grams of fat, 95 mg of sodium, 11 carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, and 20 grams of protein. 



  • NDSU Extension, Family Meal Times, Issue 10, Make-ahead Meals Save Dinnertime Tonight.
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