As a busy mom of five, Michelle Marshall turns to make-ahead meals to save time and energy during the week.
"I can take my meal and put it in the Crockpot or oven and dinner's done,” Michelle said. “I don't have to give it a second thought, I don't have to worry about it... I can do lots of things with my family."
Michelle was one of several people who took a make-ahead meals class at a community college. And it wasn't just moms. David Anderson is a single-dad who says he took the class to carve out time to make some healthy meals to avoid drive-thrus.
"I have three boys at the house right now, a 14-year-old, a 7-year-old, a 5-year-old, just trying to find some ways to prep some new, healthy alternatives other than fast food that we've been doing,” David said.
Saving time is just one of the benefits of taking the time to make meals ahead of time.
"You're saving money, you're saving time, you're eating so much healthier, you have less waste, because so many of these ingredients can be frozen," explained Registered Dietician Karla Case.
She says if getting started seems overwhelming, just do what you can.
"Make-ahead meals can be as simple or as complex as you want to make them,” Case said. “On busy weekends, then I just make sure I have my hamburger cooked up and that I have some vegetables chopped up and things like that that's going to save you some time during the week."
Michelle finds that carving out time to make some meals for the freezer saves time in the long run.
"If I can take two to three hours a week, and I make six meals in that time period, I've got a dinner every night of the week with probably leftovers."
When it comes time to cook, Karla encourages parents to work with their kids.
"You can see the fun the adults are having and the kids are learning valuable life skills, because one day they're going to be out on their own and feeding themselves and we want to make sure they're doing it in a healthy way."
Michelle has been making freezer meals for years and says she sees many benefits.
"Time, money, health, they're all so important, and we're so busy it's hard to get all that in."