People who have lost weight and kept it off, and people who run efficient households in the middle of chaotic schedules have one important thing in common: They plan ahead.  Meal planning is so much easier when you can make everything at once then just assemble it quickly throughout the week. However, the problem with the make-ahead plan is the delicious meals you make on Sunday afternoon lose freshness as the week goes on and can even spoil by mid-week.

Freeze-drying complete meals is the solution to the make-ahead spoilage problem. Making meals all at once reduces food waste, saves you money and helps you stick to your healthy meal plan throughout the week.  Here are some basics of planning healthy make-ahead meals and three of our favorite recipes:

Balance

Each meal should have a lean protein, a complex carbohydrate and at least one serving of fruit or vegetable. It takes some research and planning to get the portions right, but the first step is to learn what constitutes lean proteins and complex carbohydrates.

Portions

Freeze drying individual portions solves one of the biggest health problems in our society: Portion control. First, figure out how many calories you need to maintain the body weight you want. A good way to estimate the right portion size is to eat a serving of lean protein that is as big as the palm of your hand (without fingers) and a carbohydrate the size of your fist. You don’t have to count calories, but it helps to know how many you need and how many are in the foods you eat most often.

Our Favorite Healthy Make-Ahead Meals

Now that you have an idea of how much you should eat, here are some of our favorite healthy make-ahead meals. Scale up or down according to your calorie requirements.

Breakfast Skillet

(Makes 6 individual meals)

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 6 oz turkey or vegetarian sausage
  • 3 cups chopped peppers, onions and squash

Stir-fry the vegetables for 2 minutes in 2 TBSP of olive oil. Add cooked and crumbled turkey or sausage and stir. Add eggs to mixture and scramble. Freeze dry in individual packets. Make a slice of whole grain toast while you boil water to rehydrate your meal.

Black Bean and Vegetable Chili

(Makes 6 individual meals)

  • 4 cups black beans
  • 1 diced onion
  • 2 cups vegetable bullion
  • 20 oz diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup green chilies
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 cup diced green and red peppers
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 TBS soy sauce
  • Chili powder, salt and jalapenos to taste

Stir-fry the diced onion and peppers in 1 TBSP olive oil for 2 minutes in a stockpot. Add the green chilies, corn and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes. Freeze dry in individual portions. Add a slice of whole grain baguette when you’re ready to eat.

Lemon Chicken and grilled vegetables

(Makes 6 individual meals)

  • 6 chicken breasts or Quorn “chicken” cutlets
  • 3 lemons – juiced and zested
  • 4 TBSP olive oil
  • 3 rosemary stems
  • 6 cups diced mixed vegetables

Marinate chicken or Quorn cutlets for 2 hours in lemon juice and zest, olive oil and rosemary stems. Grill cutlets, then grill diced vegetables in broiler or on grill plan. Combine 1 cutlet with 1 cup of grilled vegetables and freeze dry in individual servings. Add a whole grain roll when you’re ready to eat.