I love being in the kitchen. It’s my favorite thing to do, even after a long day of work at my office job. But there are some nights when I know I’ll be working late, so a little planning on my part will ensure that I have a tasty home cooked meal that will steer me from driving through the Burger King drive through.
I also love to see how much food I can get for my budget. I know a lot of people think it can’t be done, but I spend about $40 dollars a week for myself – that’s breakfast, lunch and dinner. I normally have one meal out a week, and while I love meal prepping, I will never be a meal prepper that does grilled chicken, brown rice and asparagus for 14 meals. Um, no.
Chicago peeps – check out your Jewel stores for the discount meat bin! It’s meat that has to be sold by that day. There are steep discounts – and granted, it's obviously hit or miss, but I usually hit up my local Jewel around 9:15 on Saturday mornings for the best selection.
I was able to get this one pound package of ground veal for $1.07. A mere .27 cents a serving – score!
This is my base recipe for the veal meatballs, and then I’ll show you how I morphed those meatballs into four different meals.
- 1 pound ground veal
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cracked pepper
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Heat a cast iron over medium low heat. Mix all the ingredients above and make 16 meatballs out of that mixture. Place in skillet and let sit for one minute before turning and browning on all sides. Since I am making four meals out of this recipe, I didn’t finish cooking all the way through because I knew I’d be reheating them later on in the week. That’s my number one tip for meal prepping, cook the meat you’ll reheat later about 75% through, since the second heating will cook it to perfection – no more overcooked meat!
Meal One: Veal Meatballs with Gnocchi and Zucchini
Boil packaged gnocchi for 2 minutes, drain and set aside. Heat skillet over medium heat, add 1 teaspoon grape seed oil, add in one cup sliced zucchini and the 3 meatballs. Cook for about 5 minutes, tossing. Add in ½ cup of jarred pasta sauce, toss in one cup of the drained gnocchi and cook for another minute, tossing to coat. Plate and sprinkle with some shredded mozzarella and dried parsley.
Meal Two: Meatball and Mushroom Pizza
You can make your own pizza dough (check out The Chopping Block’s recipe for Neapolitan pizza dough here!) or you can pick some up at most grocery stores. Slice three meatballs, and ½ cup of mushrooms. Roll 4 ounces of pizza dough out per mini pizza, top with jarred pizza sauce, the sliced meatballs and mushrooms, and 3 ounces of your favorite pizza. Bake at 450 for 10-15 minutes.
Meal Three: Meatball Sub
Who doesn’t love a meatball sub?! Did you know that Jimmy John’s sells a loaf of their bread for just .50 cents? It’s called day old bread, and if stored properly, will last you all week. It’s not only great for this meatball sub sandwich, but great for making croutons, crostini, or bread pudding. Remember, I am on a budget and always looking for ideas to save on food.
Take 2 ounces of the Jimmy John’s day old bread, or 2 ounces of store bought French bread. Slice in half. Place three meatballs on the sandwich, top with jarred pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and put under the broiler for 5 minutes, or until the mozzarella gets melty.
Meal Four: Meatballs with Mushrooms and Mashed Potatoes
Last, but not least, this is pure comfort food on a plate. You can make your own mashed potatoes, or you can buy prepared. Heat one cup of mashed potatoes, set aside. In a non-stick pan, melt one tablespoon of butter. Add in 1 tablespoon of flour. Cook for 1 minute. Slowly stir in one cup of beef broth over medium high heat. Add ½ cup sliced mushrooms, reduce heat to low, add in three meatballs and put a lid on the pan and let cook for 5 minutes, until the sauce gets thick and the meatballs are heated. Pour the meatball mushroom mixture over the cooked potatoes, sprinkle with dried parsley and enjoy!
Meal planning doesn’t have to be boring, and you don’t have to eat the same food to eat healthy – you sometimes just have to think outside the box a bit.
If beef is your thing, check out this class at The Merchandise Mart:
If Italian food is your thing, check out these classes at Lincoln Square
And I know everyone loves pizza – check out our pizza on the grill class!
Show of hands how many of you are meal planners, or if you just wing it every day – I’d love to hear in the comments!