As I mentioned in Frozen Assets, I like to cook, but I’m not big on thinking about it constantly (my Food-Nifty posts to the contrary. I like to read about food, but not necessarily think about what’s for dinner tonight.) I also really, really dislike going to make something, and realizing I’m short one key ingredient. That means a trip to the grocery store, and it’s really hard to stay inside my grocery budget if I have to be in the store three or four extra times each week. It’s too easy to add just one thing, and suddenly, I’m $50 over my budget, and feeling more than a little annoyed at my weakness in falling for grocery store marketing tricks.
That, and I tend to be seduced by magazines at the checkout, and get kind of cranky when there isn’t something new. (My main seducers are shelter magazines, sewing magazines, and scrapbook magazines, of which there are decidedly fewer these days.)
To that end, I like kitting up my menu items as much as possible, particularly for frozen things.
For instance, I can prep meats for stir-fry by slicing them thin, and freezing them in the appropriate marinade. As they thaw on Use Day, they marinate at the same time. This is handy. But I can take that a few steps along, and make a meal kit by adding a quart bag of steamed rice, and a little freezer bag of any special sauces or nuts to be added at the last stage, and put all the pieces into a gallon-sized zip freezer bag. The whole bag of bags becomes my meal kit, lacking only the fresh veggies that can be easily added to the weekly grocery run.
If I’ve made a casserole that has cheese added to the top in the last moments of baking, I cover the casserole with one layer of foil, then add a freezer bag with the shredded cheese right on top, and finish wrapping. On the label, I note that cheese is included (because I’ve heard forgetting this step could lead to a melted bag of cheese between layers of foil at dinner time. Not that I have personal experience at all. Really.)
Kitting up makes it possible to prep either the entire entree, or very close to it, all at once, which really cuts down on the chance of running short of some important completion item when I use it later… no last minute run to the store that could blow my food budget or tempt me to buy more than I need.
(It also helps with my oh-so-small problem regarding Reece’s Pieces at the checkout lane… and those DIY Home Dec magazines, drat them.)