I am always looking for easy and delicious ways to feed my family, and while I love to be in the kitchen, the reality of our family schedule does not always allow me to cook dinner. This semester, our family has two nights a week where we are all home for dinner. Knowing this, I like to maximize our potential to eat together on those evenings. I want a meal that is full of flavor but will come together rather quickly and provide some leftovers for the nights when we are scattered and eating on the run.
Meatballs have become my new magic meal planning secret, and today I want to pull back the curtain and show you why meatballs may be your new meal planning BFF.
First, meatballs are easy to make. You throw a list of ingredients into a bowl, mix them, form them, and bake them. Dinner is done. Even the most involved versions are essentially a variation of the same concept. Perhaps you have to chop some garlic or grate some ginger, but at the end of the day all we are doing is mixing meat with other ingredients and forming them into spheres.
Second, meatballs are incredibly versatile. I know we typically think of meatballs in the context of spaghetti and red sauce, but that is only the beginning. From cheeseburgers with special sauce to warming curry to barbecue and coleslaw, the flavor profiles of meatballs can include just about anything. Meatballs provide variety and interest to your meal planning lineup.
Finally, meatballs freeze beautifully! Since we can agree that making meatballs is not difficult or particularly time consuming, I would like to suggest that whenever you make a batch, you double it. You can serve one batch of meatballs on the day you make them, and then store the second batch in your freezer for a future meal. Whether you freeze the meatballs raw, or cook them first and then freeze them, you are giving yourself a future dinner gift.
This semester, I am planning to make a different meatball recipe once a week. Thanks to the variety of flavors and the ease of preparation, I know this is a meal my family will enjoy and I will be able to manage on a regular basis. By doubling and freezing six different meatball recipes in a row, I will feed my family for six weeks, and then have the next six weeks’ worth of dinners waiting for me in the freezer!
If this idea appeals to you, here are the recipes I will be using…
Cheeseburger Meatballs With Special Sauce via How Sweet Eats. My kids loved these. I piled everything on a big platter, just like it is in the photo, and they went to town. They still talk about this meal, and it reminds me of deconstructed hamburgers. The communal aspect was half the fun.
Spaghetti and Meatballs. This recipe is from my blog, and it is a combination of all my favorite features from different classic meatball recipes.
Vietnamese Meatballs via Once Upon A Chef. I made these at the suggestion of my friend Jess, and I followed the recipe exactly as written. No notes. They are perfection. If you’re not a rice noodle person, you could easily serve these over rice. So dang yummy…
Chicken Meatball Pita With Roasted Red Pepper Feta via How Sweet Eats. You are going to make this and then thank me later once you are addicted to the whipped red pepper feta situation. While I know I am trying to convince you to make these and freeze the extra for a future dinner, the extra batch would come in quite handy for a week of lunches.
Coconut Curry Pork Meatballs via How Sweet Eats. I salivate just looking at this photo and remembering how insanely flavorful this meal was. Pro tip: If you are making this for kids, seriously reduce the red curry paste. And keep in mind that the heat level of red curry paste can fluctuate wildly from brand to brand. Start with a tiny bit and continue to build until the heat level is to your liking.
Smashed Chicken Meatball Sliders via Smitten Kitchen. I literally bribed my children with this meal last week when they were so tired and didn’t want to get up and go to school. I told them that when they got home, the “barbecue chicken meatball meal” would be waiting for them. They perked up and decided they had something to look forward to after all. Per usual, Deb knocks it out of the park with this dinner recipe. While technically slider-sized sandwiches, you could serve these without the bread. But as written, the promise of these for dinner are good enough to woo my kids out of bed in the early morning.