Here at Wichita on the Cheap, we’re already getting into saving on back-to-school stuff. And one of the big, big challenges when school starts is having inexpensive (but nutritious) lunches and breakfasts for the family ready to go.
We all have to eat, but who has time to make breakfasts and lunches on a school morning? (Very few of us, I’ll bet.) The key is planning ahead!
That’s why I was really excited to get the opportunity to review a complimentary copy this summer of the Prep-Ahead Breakfasts and Lunches: 75 No-Fuss Recipes to Save You Time and Money by Alea Milham.
I knew this would be perfect for when school started back up.
So far, we’ve made several of the recipes from the cookbook and they’re going onto our regular rotation of meals. A few of our favorites so far are Chipotle Egg Muffin Sandwiches (which makes 12!), Mongolian Beef and Broccoli, and Peach Stuffed French Toast.
They might sound fancy/difficult (they did to me), but they’re actually easy! This was the first time I was successful at making freezable breakfast sandwiches. The egg muffin recipe in the Prep-Ahead cookbook worked perfectly, and the ingenious method she has for batch cooking the sausage and eggs made them really simple to prepare.
Cheapness factor: Excellent. I just bought a dozen eggs at Dillons last week for 59 cents. Sausage and English muffins are a bit more, but not bad, and a lot less than running through the drive-through.
We’ve even tweaked the ingredients here and there to use what we have on hand and our personal preferences. (The recipe uses turkey sausage but my husband will not go for that, so we used regular breakfast sausage. And it still worked perfectly!)
Another favorite was the Mongolian Beef and Broccoli Bowl, which never made it to the lunch boxes because it looked and smelled so good we just had it for supper. Again, super easy to make, and it serves 5 or makes 5 hearty prep-ahead lunches. The recipe is in the section of One-Bowl Wonders.
I make the rice for this and other recipes in my Instant Pot and it turns out perfect every time.
The book also includes sections for breakfast and lunch sandwiches and/or wraps, breakfast cereals, breakfast quick-breads, lunch salads, soups, chiles, and stews. There’s even a section for prep-ahead desserts, which might even make gorgeous and delicious homemade holiday gifts now that I think of it, because there are some for fruit crisps in mason jars.
Anyway, each recipe comes with instructions for cooking, freezing or storing, and reheating. The author has also included several sections on how to batch cook food for the recipes, and recipes for all or nearly all of the sauces, seasoning mixes, and salad dressings are in the back of the book.
She gave me permission to include a FREE recipe from the cookbook so you can get an idea of how simple making breakfasts and lunches ahead of time can be! We loved the Jalapeno Chicken Pita Pockets recipe that you’ll find below…
DIY sauces and seasoning mixes are a frugal cook’s best secret for saving both money and time! It’s a lot faster to whip up a sauce using ingredients you already have in your cupboards than it is to drive to the store, scan the grocery aisles for the seasoning mix or sauce, and then wait in line to check out.
If you need help or further tips or want to do more prepping ahead, Alea’s blog, Pre-Meditated Leftovers, has lots more information and cooking and storing/reheating tips. She has a background in writing about frugality, so you’ll probably really appreciate it as much as I do.
Video: Jalapeno Chicken Pita Pockets
Prep-Ahead Lunch Recipe: Jalapeno Chicken Pita Pockets
We recently tried another of the cookbook’s lunch recipes and again it was a hit, so we’ll absolutely be adding it to our school lunch rotation this fall. The author has given permission for me to share it with you here!
from Prep-Ahead Breakfasts and Lunches, by Alea Milham
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 ½ pounds chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and diced
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- ¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese
- ¾ cup shredded Monterey Jack
- 3 Pita Pockets, cut in half
Heat the oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Place the chicken in the skillet and cook until the chicken is cooked through, approximately 10 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the heat. Drain any excess chicken fat from the skillet. Add the jalapenos, green onions, cheddar and Monterey Jack. Stir until the ingredients are just combined.
Divide the chicken mixture between the pita pockets.
Storing and Reheating:
Allow the pockets to cool before storing. Place the pita pockets in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
To freeze, wrap each pocket individually and freeze for up to a month.
To reheat a thawed pocket, unwrap it and place it on a plate, and microwave on high for 30 – 45 seconds.
To reheat a frozen pocket, unwrap it and place in on a microwave-safe plate, and microwave it at 50% power for 3 minutes.
One other thing I really appreciate about Alea Milham’s Prep-Ahead Breakfasts and Lunches is that it isn’t one of those methods that puts 30 meals in your freezer (after you go shopping for 30 pounds of chicken and other ingredients). I do like the idea of those methods – and you can use the recipes that way, but to be honest, I get quite overwhelmed whenever I try to do that.
Rather, with the prep-ahead recipes you can make one dish at a time, using reasonable amounts of ingredients, and still get a week’s worth of lunches. Plus, you don’t have to an industrial size kitchen or any specialty equipment.
All recipe photos on this page by Ken Goodman.