40 Make-Ahead Meals That Are Perfect for Busy Weeknights

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Whip out your weekly meal planner, it’s time to get prepping! We know firsthand how busy life gets, and school nights make us even busier. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a handle on your daily dinners. With some meal prep and a few well-crafted make-ahead meals, you’ll be serving up great food in no time. From savory soups and stews to perfect pasta and chicken, read on to see our favorite kid-friendly recipes that make weeknights a breeze.

Budget Bytes

One-Pot Sausage and Sun Dried Tomato Pasta

Perfect for meal prepping for a week's worth of lunches, Budget Bytes' One Pot Sausage and Sun Dried Tomato Pasta is a meal even your picky eaters will enjoy. From the savory sausage to the sweet sun-dried tomatoes, this beautifully colored dish is made using just one pan and makes tons of leftovers. Get the recipe here.

Yummy Healthy Easy

Easy Crock Pot Sloppy Joes

The classic American dish has never been easier than with Yummy Healthy Easy's recipe for Sloppy Joe's. Add browned meat and spices to a crockpot before heading out for school pickup, after school sports or weekend activities and return home to a hot dinner with minimal effort. Get the recipe here.

Melanie Makes

Slow Cooker Lemon Rosemary Lentil Soup

Healthy and hearty is the name of the game with Melanie Makes Slow Cooker Lemon Rosemary Lentil Soup. Fresh ingredients are easily tossed together and left to slow cook for six hours. Perfect for freezing in both small and large batches, this soup is perfect for chilly nights. Get the recipe here.

Six Sisters' Stuff

20 Minute Tuscan Pasta

A creamy pasta that easily camouflages vegetables, Six Sisters' Stuff recipe for 20 Minute Tuscan Pasta is an easy choice for meal prep. Make the full recipe and save half for the freezer. When you're ready to enjoy, take out and allow to thaw in the fridge for 24 hours then reheat for 30 minutes in the oven. Dinner is served!

Get the recipe here.

The Lean Green Bean

Pesto Chicken Pizza Rolls

Chicken+pizza does a happy child make! These Pesto Chicken Pizza Rolls from the Lean Green Bean are not only awesome looking, but they are great to make in a big batch and serve all week for snacks or lunch. Enjoy reheated or cold, they'll make any hungry little happy. Get the recipe here.

Make-Ahead Meal Mom

Hawaiian Sweet Roll Sliders

Perfect for the freezer, these mini sandwiches from Make-Ahead Mom are made with sweet buns for an extra punch of flavor. Topped with a savory sauce, they heat up to a melty goodness in the oven straight from the freezer, and are great for lunches, appetizers and tailgating! Get the recipe here.

Live Well Bake Often

Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Cups

You don't need to sacrifice breakfast when you prep a big batch of Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Cups from Live Well Bake Often. The low-sugar recipe is packed with heart-healthy oats and fresh blueberries that are perfect for freezing and easy to reheat. Get the recipe here.

Beyond the Chicken Coop

Chicken Broccoli & Rice

If the chilly weather's got you down, then this Chicken Broccoli and Rice recipe from Beyond the Chicken Coop is bound to warm you up. Savory ingredients can easily be thrown together over the weekend, or make in a big batch for the freezer so you're ready for the busy week ahead. Toss in the oven after school or work, and you've got comfort food ready in no time. Get the recipe here.

Gimme Some Oven

Crunchy Asian Ramen Noodle Salad

We know, kiddos usually shy away from salads but this fresh meal is perfect for warm nights. We can't help but think they'll love throwing this together ahead of time and tossing in the canned mandarin oranges, edamame and crunchy ramen. Get the recipe here.

The Creative Bite

Sweet Potato Taco Bowls

Meal prep has never been easier, thanks to this genius recipe from The Creative Bite. Just roast sweet potatoes and cook up a batch of ground meat on your prep day, then let your crew assemble their own bowls with their choice of toppings. Get the recipe here.

Inquiring Chef

Breakfast Burritos

There’s nothing better than breakfast for dinner! Whip up a batch of these freezer-friendly burritos from Inquiring Chef, then heat them up any time of the day for a super satisfying meal. Best of all, you can heat them up straight from the freezer, making them the perfect choice for busy weeknights. Get the recipe here.

Family Food on the Table

Cheesy Mexican Chicken Quinoa Casserole

You’re definitely going to want to add this recipe from Family Food on the Table to your meal prep repertoire. After all, it’s filled with kid-pleasing ingredients (like chicken and a healthy dose of cheese), and it’s super easy to make. Just assemble the casserole on the weekend, then finish it off in the oven when you’re ready to eat it. Get the recipe here.

Pinch of Yum

Beef Stew

This freezer meal from Pinch of Yum is the ultimate in comfort food, with hearty chunks of beef, plenty of carrots and celery and luscious tomato-based gravy. If you have an Instant Pot, this is a great time to use it (it’ll be ready in 45 minutes flat!), but there are also instructions to make it in a slow cooker. Get the recipe here.

This Farm Girl Cooks

Crustless Quiche with Bacon, Broccoli and Cheddar

Everyone loves a good quiche, and this one from This Farm Girl Cooks is a make-ahead dream. It reheats well in the microwave after it’s been cooled, or you can freeze the uncooked egg mixture and thaw it when you’re ready to bake. Any way you slice it, it’s bound to be an instant favorite. Get the recipe here.

Vanilla and Bean

Thai Peanut Noodle Salad

If your kids balk at the idea of salad, then this colorful Thai-inspired dish from Vanilla and Bean just might get them to give it a try. It’s filled with veggies, rice noodles and a tangy, garlicky peanut lime sauce that will have everyone asking for seconds. Best of all, it keeps well for days to come. Get the recipe here.

A Taste of Madness

Leftover Chicken Flatbread Pizza

Give leftover rotisserie chicken an upgrade with the perfect kid-pleaser: pizza! This idea from A Taste of Madness is super easy and a great option for your weekly meal prep. Get the recipe here.

Damn Delicious

Freezer Croissant Breakfast Sandwiches

All hail Damn Delicious and this idea for freezer breakfast sandwiches. They do their name justice (hello, easy breakfast!) but also work as a quick and quirky lunch or dinner. The kids can even help assemble the ingredients! Get the recipe here.

Kitchen Sanctuary

Big Batch Chinese Beef

Put down the takeout menu! Thanks to Kitchen Sanctuary, we’ve got something much better for your hungry family. This beef dish is great for a crowd and can be used with your slow cooker. (Bonus points if you add bok choy or another green veggie!) Get the recipe here.

Kristine's Kitchen

Make Ahead Macaroni and Cheese

You can never have too many mac and cheese recipes! We’re digging this one from Kristine’s Kitchen because it’s a snap to make and you can refrigerate it up to two days before baking. It's a cheesy win-win! Get the recipe here.

Sweet Peas and Saffron

One-Pot Black Bean Fajita Pasta

Psst! Not only is this a one-pot dish from Sweet Peas and Saffron bursting with flavor, but it can also be assembled ahead of time and frozen! So when a crazy weeknight hits, all you have to do is place everything in a pot and get cooking. Get the recipe here.

Kitchen Sanctuary

Make-Ahead Spaghetti

Cooking for a crowd? Need a quick meal on a chaotic weeknight? This spaghetti, courtesy of Kitchen Sanctuary, is the answer! It’s über flavorful and can even be frozen. Plus, it’s full of veggies and crispy bacon. Get the recipe here.

Life Made Simple

5-Ingredient Pizza Bagel Bites

Bagel bites and kids go together like cheese and pepperoni, which means you’ve got to try this idea from Life Made Simple. Way better than store-bought, these pizza bagel bites are customizable, freezable, and a cinch to make. Get the recipe here.

Dinner at the Zoo

Loaded Mashed Potato Casserole

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and sometimes families gotta have mashed potatoes. That’s where this casserole from Dinner at the Zoo comes in. It’s loaded with wow-factor (a.k.a. bacon, cheese, sour cream and chives), but easy to make for any holiday or weeknight. Get the recipe here.

Two Healthy Kitchens

Hand Pies

How cute are these hand pies from Two Healthy Kitchens? They’ve got all the tastiness of a chicken pot pie (hello, flavorful veggies, tender chicken, and thyme crust!), but are totally kid-sized. Stock your freezer and get the recipe here.

Thriving Home

Baked Italian Meatballs

We love these meatballs from Thriving Home Blog, which are baked, delicious and the best thing to happen to your freezer in a long time. Add them to your spaghetti, make a sandwich or just eat ‘em straight for a perfect weeknight meal. Get the recipe here.

Gimme Delicious

Salsa Verde Chicken Enchiladas

Forget Taco Tuesday—any day can be enchilada day with this recipe from Gimme Delicious. This dish has layers of flavor, super simple instructions, and can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer. Score! Get the recipe here.

Love & Olive Oil

Homemade Frozen Pizza

You know those store-bought frozen pizzas that you keep around for supper emergencies? Well, this homemade version from Love and Olive Oil is so much better! With tons of customization options and homemade flavor, these make-ahead pizzas are sure to please the whole family. Get the recipe here.

Jo Cooks

Chicken & Veggie Pasta Casserole

The beauty of this chicken and veggie pasta casserole from Jo Cooks is that it makes a bonanza amount of food and gives kids a good dose of veggies, too. Reinvent the leftovers during the week or freeze a portion and save for later! Get the recipe here.

Mrs. Schwartz's Kitchen

Chicken (Minus the Noodles) Soup

For all the times you need comfort food in a pinch, this chicken soup from Mrs. Schwartz’s Kitchen has you covered. Freeze the stock mixture, add the noodles when you’re ready to eat, and voila—dinner is served! Get the recipe here.

Katy She Cooks

Homemade Fish Sticks

As everyone knows, there are plenty of fish sticks in the sea—or at least there are plenty of homemade fish sticks in the freezer, thanks to Katy She Cooks. Bonus: This recipe is way healthier than what you'll find in the frozen food aisle. Get the recipe here.

Kristine's Kitchen Blog

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

Here’s an updated tongue twister for you: She eats stuffed shells on busy school nights. You can make it happen, with the help of Kristine’s Kitchen Blog. (Psst! You can even lighten them up with cottage cheese.) Get the recipe here.

Oh My Veggies

Cheesy Broccoli and Pepper Baked Orzo

This baked orzo from Oh My Veggies hits all the top Cs—it’s cheesy, comforting and colorful, too. Freeze it in individual portions for extra-quick meal prep and add all the extra veggies you want. Get the recipe here.

Our Family Eats

Mini Meatloaf Muffins

Let’s face it, kids love kid-size food—and these mini meatloaf muffins from Our Family Eats are no exception. Not only are they packed with protein and vegetables, but they can also be frozen for about two months. We promise, your minis will love them. Get the recipe here.

How To: Simplify

Tortellini, Spinach, and Black Bean Soup

You've got to bookmark this hearty tortellini, spinach and black bean soup from How To: Simplify. It's a great thing to have on hand for the mid-week rush, and it offers a tasty way to scarf up spinach. Get the recipe here.

Kiwi & Bean

Enchilada Casserole

This black bean and spinach enchilada casserole from Kiwi and Bean isn’t just for vegetarians. Take it out of the freezer, pop it into the oven until it’s warm and bubbly, and watch the hungry masses gather ‘round! Get the recipe here.

Marjorie Druker

Alphabet Vegetable Soup

Give your make-ahead meal a little literary twist! This alphabet soup comes straight from Chef Marjorie Druker (best-selling cookbook author and owner/executive chef of The New England Soup Factory) so you know it’s the real deal. Get the recipe here.

Grace and Good Eats

4-Ingredient Chicken Rigatoni

Please your pasta-loving crowd with this couldn’t-be-simpler recipe from Grace and Good Eats. This dish only requires a few ingredients, but the flavor payoff is off the charts. It’s just the thing to help control your weeknight chaos. Get the recipe here.

Tastes Lovely

Garden Vegetable Lasagna

Load up on your veggies with this delish lasagna from Tastes Lovely! The cheesy layers are a total kid-pleaser—and they make great a camouflage for the green stuff. Get the recipe here.

Thriving Home Blog

Mac and Cheese with Sneaky Sweet Potato

Who doesn’t love mac and cheese? Especially when it’s healthy, delicious, and freezable? This Thriving Home recipe involves Greek yogurt and sweet potato, among other ingredients. We guarantee the kiddos will want seconds! Get the recipe here.

Neil Conway via Flickr

Easy Tomato Soup with Roasted Bell Peppers

This make-ahead meal combines simple ingredients to make a truly magical soup—not a bad kitchen lesson for your little chefs! It’s easy to whip up and freezes beautifully so you can slurp it up any day of the week. Get the recipe here.

Cathleen via A Taste of Madness

Taco Rice Casserole

You can't go wrong with this super simple Taco Rice Casserole from Cathleen over at A Taste of Madness.You can customize flavors to your liking, and it even freezes well. Use your favorite beans and protein and get ready to rock this back-to-school dinner. 


—Abigail Matsumoto & Karly Wood

Featured image: Sheri Silver via Unsplash


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