Nearly any meal your family loves can be made with real food!
Two weeks of suppers at our house could look like this:
Monday: Pot Roast with Potatoes and Carrots and Onions,Caesar Salad, Vanilla Custard
Tuesday: Chicken Pot Pie, Green Salad, Brownies
Wednesday: Baked Salmon, Smashed Potatoes, Slow cooker green beans, Apple pie
Thursday: Chili with rice, cheddar and sour cream, Salad
Friday: Green Thai Curry, Fresh rolls (the Thai sort, not the bready sort)
Saturday: Leftover Banquet and/or fried egg sandwiches
Monday II: Beef Stew, Green salad, Chocolate pudding
Tuesday II: King Ranch chicken, green salad, Brownies
Wednesday II: Salmon Chowder, bread & butter, blueberry cobbler
Thursday II: Lasagna, salad, chocolate chip cookies
Friday II: Burritos of refried black beans, pumpkin chunks, cheddar and sour cream, pico de gallo and greens
Saturday II: Leftover Banquet or fried egg sandwiches
To accomplish real meals every night, I'll be using the freezer again. A lot. To get through a month I'll use this menu twice. The only way I can pull off 3 meals of real food every day without losing my mind or feeling like a galley slave is by making things ahead. Some people do all of their cooking in one crazy day. I tend to spread mine over two or three. With this menu I would do this:
Place 4 whole chickens in roaster pans with some seasonings and roast. Cool so they are comfortable to handle. Pick the meat and place into a holding container in the fridge. Bones then go into the stock pot with veggie trimmings, a little salt, some herbs and a bit of vinegar to make stock.
brown 2 large chuck roasts for pot roast. Cube two more large chuck roasts(or a lamb leg or half and half) and brown the chunks for stew. Peel 3 onions and chop into halves, peel 3 more and chop into a large dice. Place a whole roast + 3 onion halves in a freezer bag; repeat. Place half the browned stew meat in a freezer bag + half the diced onions; repeat. Seal, mark and freeze.
Brown 6 lbs of ground beef or other ground meat with diced onion and garlic for chili and lasagna. Divide it into 3 equal portions. Season two bags for chili, mark and freeze. Take the remainder and a portion of frozen or canned grated zucchini, carrots, or other veggies; add tomato sauce, tomato paste, seasonings, a little wine or balsamic vinegar to your taste. Then make up two lasagnas. There are two ways to handle the freezing part. The greener way is to make your lasagna in your regular lasagna pan, freeze it, then pop it out of the pan by running hot water on the outside of the inverted pan. You then wrap the entire lasagna in plastic wrap for freezing. The less green (and, admittedly, my) way is to buy a pack of the disposable aluminum pans at Costco and make your lasagna in that and wrap then freeze the whole thing. Aluminum is very recyclable and there is still less embodied energy in my one pan than a Happy Meal. I know- I'm rationalizing.
Put black beans on to soak. You want to do enough for two meals of chili, two meals of burritos, and the enchiladas for school lunch. For my family of 6 at home, that means about 3-4 lbs.
Prep shredded cheese
Cook black beans
Assemble chicken dishes. I make just the creamy filling and freeze that in large ziplocs & add the crust or the tortillas before baking. You also want to put aside enough chicken for chicken salad for sandwiches for lunches. That I chop into the fine dice for salad, add my pickle relish and store in small ziplocs. I add mayo at the last minute before packing the lunches.
Assemble the shellfish/coconut milk/veggie mix for the curry into ziplocs and freeze
Assemble chowder ingredients- salmon, sauteed onion, bacon, corn, dill, salt. Freeze in large ziplocs.
Make Pizza crusts. Enough for the family for 4 weeks. Mix, rise, blind bake, top, wrap and freeze.
Day 3: Baking
Make pie crusts, chicken pot pie crust, cookies, brownies, lunch baking
Some things just have to be done that day and for other things, I'm relying on having previously canned other ingredients (carrots, pie filling, stock). Puddings and custards are just too good warm and too easy to do for me to do them ahead for supper desserts. Potatoes don't freeze well.
I still need a plan for Sunday coffee hours- I invariably find myself scrambling at 9:30 on Sunday morning because I've failed to plan and have still not gotten used to the idea that I need to bring something small every week as opposed to having one week a quarter or so when I needed to do the whole thing. It's always evolving!