Make it tonight, enjoy it tomorrow. That’s the premise of these healthy make-ahead meals, and it will help you eat better during the work day and cut costs on any impromptu lunch takeout.
Fall is a prime time to start doing make-ahead meals, since this is the time of year we begin to roast, bake, and stew—all of which can be done the night before.
Here are 4 healthy make-ahead meals brimming with fall flavors to cook for tomorrow’s work day.
Healthy Make-Ahead Meals
1. Slow-cooked stew
Slow cookers make fall cooking so incredibly easy, but many of us fail to utilize them more often! By prepping a wholesome stew the night before, you can set the slow cooker on low and let it go all night (about 8 hours or so), then turn the heat off first thing in the morning when you wake. The best part of slow cookers—there is really no recipe required! Just make sure that with whatever ingredients you toss in there, you include enough liquid so that the dish doesn’t burn as it cooks (especially if you’re letting it go overnight). Some tasty fall flavors to use in there? Try any mixture of the following: winter squash, adzuki beans, pumpkin puree, fire-roasted tomatoes, chopped bacon or tempeh bacon, onions, garlic, and ginger. For cooking liquid, try apple juice or cider for an autumnal flare—and for seasonings, go for rosemary, thyme, and pumpkin spice.
Casseroles are a lot like pizza—they taste better the next day. And when it comes to packing a lunch for taking on the go, casseroles are quite simple to cut, pack, and reheat (although cold leftovers can be good too!). Many casseroles are cheesy bakes, but by no means do they have to be. The basic template for a quality casserole is a deep-dish pan of some sort, filled with sliced or chopped meats, vegetables, and spices, cooked together in a broth- or cream-based sauce. Top your casserole off with the standard cheese and breadcrumb topping, or go newfangled shepherd’s pie style and spread mashed sweet potato over the top of the casserole before baking. Or better yet, make an inverted shepherd’s pie, and roast chopped pumpkin and vegetables on top of mashed sweet potatoes or creamy polenta.
3. Whole grain bowl
This is a great way to use up leftover cooked grains, vegetables, or proteins. Make a mega-bowl for lunch by tossing together cooked grains of choice (brown rice, quinoa, millet, barley, or spelt are great options) with cooked or raw veggies of choice. Add a protein like baked tofu, leftover roasted meats, or even canned salmon. And for that perfect fall touch, add cooked cubes of sweet potato, pumpkin, or squash. Finish your bowl off with pre-made sauce or make your own. Whisk together olive oil, a splash of lemon juice, and seasonings; add chopped fresh herbs and pour over grain bowl. (While green salads get soggy if you store them overnight in dressing, a whole grain bowl will actually soak up more of the dressing and just get even more delicious for the next day!)
The glory of the frittata is that is can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner—or all of them! By cooking it the night before, you can have breakfast and lunch ready for your next day (not to mention that the breakfast is handheld and totally car-ready if need be). Fall add-ins to include in your frittata? Try roasted bell peppers, sautéed kale, sautéed wild mushrooms, bacon or prosciutto, and rosemary.
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