Easy Meal Prep {for Beginners}

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Meal prep is one of those things that I’ve been wanting to do for my family for quite a long time. It is also one of those things that I’ve never quite got around to doing. The perfect opportunity to kick myself into gear presented itself when Dolmio sent me a hamper of ingredients so that I could take part in the #ThankGoodness challenge.

The idea behind the challenge was to make a good-for-you meal including a jar of Dolmio Bolognese sauce which contains no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or sweeteners.

This post is an entry for the #Dolmio #ThankGoodness Challenge, sponsored by Dolmio. www.dolmio.co.uk/thankgoodness

Easy Meal Prep for Beginners - includes recipes for delicious family meals that you can make in advance! Meal prep doesn't have to be scary or boring!

 

Easy Meal Prep with Dolmio

“Why make one meal?” I thought to myself “When I can make ALL the meals this week?” Essentially, I picked up the gauntlet and ran with it! I made 5 different meals using Dolmio as an ingredient. As well as prepping all breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and sides for the week too. I supplemented the grocery hamper provided with some of my own ingredients – including other Dolmio products which we always have at home – they help to make quick mid-week meals.

Meal prepping everything made our lives so much easier, because we could just grab and go during the day; and for our evening meal, it was a case of either re-heat and serve, or quick assembly job and serve. The Dolmio meals went down really well this week!

Dolmio Bolognese Sauce
{CLICK TO ENLARGE}

Meal Prep Planning

When meal prepping, the number one thing you need is a meal plan. I’ve got two free printables that you can download to make this step a breeze:

» Weekly Meal Planner – for breakfast, lunch, dinner + snacks
» Weekly Dinner Planner – for dinner only

You will also want to list out what you need (and want) to do – as it will make the time you spend meal prepping a lot more constructive and organised. For example: peel and chop veggies, make bolognese sauce, cook pasta, chop chicken… (I will make a printable for that soon, because I need one too!)

Meal Prep Organisation + Supplies

Get yourself organised in the kitchen: Have a clear work space so that you can have everything set out; have your recipes to hand (I stick them upon the wall!); empty the sink/dishwasher; sharpen knives; set out separate chopping boards for meat and vegetables to avoid cross contamination. If you don’t have a dishwasher, I advise washing up as you go. (Or draft in the kids/other half to help! My hubby makes a great commis chef!)

Make sure you have plenty of containers to store your meals in: The throwaway takeaway type ones come in various sizes and are great for things like pasta bake or lasagne. If you’re using your own dishes, make sure that they are both oven and freezer proof. I also used good quality food bags with a zip slider seal, and lots of glass jars with seals and lids. The glass jars kept things perfectly fresh – even 5 or 6 days later – I was SO impressed! I’m improving my stock of different sizes of glass jars from week to week.

Get yourself into the meal prep mindset – Preparing ingredients and cooking for a few hours can be more tiring that you realise! Plus of course, make sure you have the time to get it done – my meal prep for the week took a good 3-4 hours. But I know I will learn lessons along the way to speed things up. Make sure you take breaks if you need to, and have a drink close to hand! The end result is well worth the time and effort you put it. We had so much more time together in the week which was awesome.

Dolmio Spaghetti Bolognese

Meal Prep Ingredients

In my excitement to get started on this challenge, I completely forgot to take a photo of all the groceries that I was sent, so I’ll list them here. The first list of ingredients is what I was sent, the second list is from our kitchen.

carrots • mushrooms • beef mince • parmigiano reggiano • Cheddar • chicken breast fillets • courgettes • aubergine • Dolmio Original Bolognese Sauce • jacket potatoes • brown onions • red kidney beans • green peppers • wholewheat spaghetti

rice • lasagne sheets • cottage cheese • Greek yoghurt • eggs • ciabatta • pizza dough • mozzarella • panko breadcrumbs • flour • fresh flat leaf parsley • fresh baby spinach • rocket • herbs & spices • chicken breast fillets • Dolmio Sauce for Bolognese Intense Spicy Chilli • canned tomatoes • stock cubes • bacon • cream cheese • tomatoes • cucumber • spring onions • lettuce • red onion • bell peppers • chilli peppers • low calorie oil spray • olive oil

 

 

Meal Prep Recipes

From the above ingredients, I made these meals, snacks, and sides. Click for the full recipe.

  1. Spaghetti Bolognese with Extra Veggies – recipe also included in this post below
  2. Lasagne
  3. Chicken Chilli
  4. Chicken Parmagiana
  5. Ciabatta Pizza
  6. Thin Crust Pizza: Spinach & Ricotta
  7. Loaded Jacked Potatoes (side dish)
  8. Cheesy Courgette Crustless Mini Quiche (breakfast, snack)

I also made:

Make the most of your ingredients!

For my first foray into meal prepping, I decided to stick to similar ingredients so that I could batch cook – the bolognese sauce made both the Spaghetti Bolognese, and the Lasagne.

Beef Mince + Chicken

Initially, I was going to make a chilli from the spag bol batch too, by adding another jar of sauce, extra veg, beans, and some spices and fresh chillies. Then my husband mentioned that we had a jar of Dolmio Sauce for Bolognese Intense Spicy Chilli in the cupboard, so I used that instead, making a chicken chilli with kidney beans, mushrooms, and green bell peppers.

I supplemented the chicken we were were sent with some of our own, as there wasn’t quite enough for what I wanted to cook – the aforementioned Chicken Chilli, and Chicken Parmigiana. I then had too much chicken(!) so I marinaded it two ways to cook and cool for lunches.

Using leftovers

I had planned to serve the chilli with jacket potato, and cooked them in advance in the oven, to then heat up in the microwave on chilli night. Completely forgetting that I had done that, cooked rice instead – d’oh! The potatoes didn’t go to waste though, as I scooped out the jackets, and mixed the potato with cream cheese, cheddar, and bacon to make loaded jacket potatoes.

When I made the white sauce for the lasagne, (using cottage cheese to help lower the calories) I had some leftover, so I turned that into Cheesy Courgette Crustless Mini Quiche for breakfasts or snacks.

Pizza Night!

We’ve been a bit disconnected as a family recently, so I thought a fun pizza making night was in order. Hubby bought a pack of pizza dough, thinking it would be enough for all three of us. It wasn’t! He didn’t fancy having to go to the huge supermarket, so I suggested he pop to the local shop and pick up a ciabatta or similar type of loaf, and we could make pizza on that too. So that’s what we did, and hence why two different kinds of pizza here! I prepped all the toppings in advance, and we used Dolmio as the tomato base for our pizzas. Homemade pizza is so much tastier than the takeaway (cheaper too!)

We ate salad with pretty much every evening meal – this helps to fill us up and so, means smaller portions. I portioned everything up in advance, and knew there would be enough for either leftovers for lunch, or to freeze for another time.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese is a family favourite, and so easy to make with the help of a jar of Dolmio Original Bolognese Sauce. It made sense that this would be the first dish that came to mind when meal planning for the week!

To make the pack of beef mince go further, I added lots of veggies to bulk it up. (As I mentioned earlier, it made enough for both the spag bol, and the lasagne.) My son has always been a fussy eater, and even at 18 he’ll turn his nose up to certain foods – including the veggies I put in this sauce… I cut up the mushroom, aubergine, and courgette into small cubes, and cooked everything down well, that he didn’t even notice – Mum win!!

If not serving immediately, transfer to an airtight container, and allow to cool for 1 hour, before placing in the fridge. Use within 5 days. Reheat gently over a medium heat on the stove top.
Alternatively, you can freeze the sauce, but placing in a freezerproof container, and popping in the freezer. Use within 6 months. Allow to defrost overnight in the fridge, and reheat as above. Make sure you add a label with the name of the dish, and the date!

Spaghetti Bolognese
 
Author: Michelle Ordever
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 45 mins
Serves: 8
[b]NB:[/b] This recipe makes a large batch of sauce – enough for 8 – 10 portions. I used half to make spaghetti bolognese and the other half to make a lasagne. Halve the recipe if you want to make just the spag bol. Lasagna recipe to follow! [br][br] I haven’t added a quantity for the spaghetti as you might eat more or less pasta than us! I generally have 40g, with my husband and son having around 75g (all dried weight) I also use a low-calorie oil spray, but you can use a drizzle of olive oil if you prefer.
Ingredients
  • low-calorie oil spray
  • 200g onions, finely chopped (about 2 medium sized onions)
  • 220g mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 200g aubergine, cut into small cubes (about 1 medium sized aubergine)
  • 300g courgettes, cut into small cubes (about 3 medium sized courgettes)
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 500g organic beef mince (15% fat)
  • 2 beef stock cubes
  • 2 tsps dried rosemary (optional, I always add it to my sauce!)
  • 2 x 500g jars Dolmio Original Bolognese Sauce
  • salt & pepper
  • wholewheat spaghetti
  • Parmigiano Reggiano, grated, to serve (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat up a large saucepan, and spray in some of the oil.
  2. Add the onions, mushrooms, aubergine, and courgettes, and fry gently for about 5 minutes. You can add a splash of water to stop them from sticking, or a a few more sprays of oil.
  3. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the beef mince and stir until the meat is browned.
  5. Crumble in the stock cubes and add the rosemary if using.
  6. Pour in the Dolmio Original Bolognese Sauce – I then add a drop of water to the jar and shake it up to get every last bit of sauce out!
  7. You can season with salt and pepper if you wish. (I didn’t)
  8. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in boiling water according to the package instructions – should be around 10 minutes.
  10. To serve, portion out the spaghetti into bowls, and add a serving of the bolognese sauce. Sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano if desired.
Serving size: 1 Calories: 167 Fat: 7g Saturated fat: 3g Carbohydrates: 14g Sugar: 9g Sodium: 906mg Fiber: 3g Protein: 13g
Notes
I have also included the nutritional information, as I am counting calories at the moment. This information is approximate using online resources. I am not a doctor or dietitian, or providing medical advice and hold no responsibility for the complete accuracy of calorie counts and nutritional information. I advise you check your own resources if you are using recipes to lose weight. All weight loss programmes should be followed on advice from a doctor.
3.5.3226

Spaghetti Bolognese with Extra Veggies, add extra vegetables to your bolgonese sauce to make the meat go a bit further! A filling and thrifty mid-week dinner!

Dolmio Bolognese Original 500g sauce is 100% natural. In each jar, you’ll find at least 10 juicy diced tomatoes, a dollop of tomato puree, half an onion, a tablespoon of sunflower oil, a couple of cloves of garlic, a handful of herbs including basil, a teaspoon of cornflour, a teaspoon of salt, a pinch of pepper, two teaspoons of added beet sugar for taste, a squeeze of lemon juice, a splash of water and nothing more. In fact, a jar provides a family of four with one of their 5-a-day each and that’s before you add any further veg to the meal! For more information visit www.dolmio.co.uk/thankgoodness or if you’re looking for mid-week meal inspiration check out the label on Dolmio jars.

Dolmio Bolognese Sauce

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