Emergency week night meal kit
What could you set up in your pantry, refrigerator and or freezer as an emergency week night meal kit?
You know when you have come home late and have to cook something because you don't want to ruin the budget with "Take out" food.
Could you set up some kind of kit? Maybe home made boiling bag meals.
I usually have leftovers for lunch, but I keep a few "emergency" lunches in the freezer that I can grab if I need to - and they've been known to double as quick dinners, too!
I think someone mentioned lasagna - I like various types, and they all (so far!) freeze well.
Burritos - again, various. I think right now, I have some mole pork + black bean, BBQ'ed turkey + rice + pinto beans, and black bean + sweet potato burritos in the freezer. Surprisingly, ratatouille freezes and reheats very nicely - and I'm gonna make a big batch of that here in the next couple of weeks for the freezer!
Also, when my son was small, I used to keep homemade spaghetti sauce in the freezer - by the time the pasta was cooked, the sauce would be hot. Or the sauce (gravy?) for chicken and biscuits - I used to pick up a tube of Pillsbury biscuits and either serve them as biscuits or plop them on top of the simmering sauce (or gravy) and call them dumplings - he was young!
I agree with another commenter who recommends chopping and freezing veggies. I recommended in another thread to pre-prep mirepoix and onions and freeze them in 1 or 2-cup portions. I can do a pretty mean imitation of shrimp etouffee in the time it takes for rice to cook when I've got onions, celery, and green pepper already prepped in the freezer. You can also pre-caramelize onions and freeze them -- same with roasted garlic. Keeps really well in the freezer!
If you have an Asian grocery in your area, stock up on rice noodles and legit ramen. Chuck in some frozen veg or leftover meat and an egg or two and you've got dinner on the table in ten minutes.
Other quickie meal pantry/fridge must-haves for me:
sundried tomatoes in oil
I usually buy value packs of chicken breast, pork chops, and chuck steak - basically whatever's on sale - and freeze them in individual ziplock bags. In the morning, I throw one in the fridge. More often than not, i end up using it for a quick stir-fry along with the frozen veg I have in the freezer.
Since the veggies are frozen, I always make sure to have onions and green onions on hand to add fresh.
As for rice, we have a rice cooker with a timer and a great keep warm setting, so I always have hot rice on hand. My aunt, however does keep cooked rice in the freezer and she tells me it heats up remarkably well. Even if it's not great, stir-fries are good for spooning over not-so-perfect rice.
I think fried rice would be a perfect application for frozen rice as it does tend to dry out a bit - which is exactly what you want for fried rice.
I've taken to getting ham steaks in the vacuum wrapping, as they'll last for quite a while in the fridge if I need a quick meal some night. A quick fry-up in a skillet while doing up a green veggie and/or doing a quick nuke of little red potatoes and toss in butter & parsley (or, alternatively, ranch dressing) and dinner is done. Plenty of meat for two for dinner, plus the leftover ham steak is great in eggs the next morning or packed for lunch the next day.
-like everyone says pasta doesn't take long.. and you can do so much..
-if you buy the little chicken fillets (inner fillets? not sure what they r called) they only takes a few minutes to cook.. and you can marinade them if you want (the night before, or 2 night before).
- couscous is quick. just add boiling water (+ stock cube or salt and other seasoning) and let sit for 5 min.
-buy some pastasauces or cream (+ spices + stock + maybe whine?) and you have a great sauce
- chopping veggies doesn't take long but you could do that some days before or buy pre chopped/sliced veggies
- a sandwich takes under a minute to preper and you can make a salad or soup and have ready in the fridge..
and about the meatballs you can make them in the oven just roll them to little balls and put on a baking tray/pan, add 2-3 Tbsp butter and putt in the oven (at 350 For 400 F depending on if you want them brown or just cooked) and then take out the tray/pan after 10 min and shake and put back in for another 10, or well the time depends on how big the meatballs are.
"if you buy the little chicken fillets (inner fillets? not sure what they r called)"
You can usually find these in the freezer section labeled "chicken tenderloins." They're slightly more expensive than whole breasts but, you're right, they defrost and cook in no time at all. I always keep a freezer bag handy. Costco sells them at a reasonable price.
Pasta carbonara comes to mind as my favorite quick meal: pasta, eggs, bacon/pancetta, and parmesan cheese (and some of the pasta cooking water). I've always got those items in the pantry/fridge and the meal comes together in minutes.
I've also taken to freezing individual portions of lasagna. They're easy to reheat in the microwave, then top with sauce from a jar if you like (and we never eat the whole thing anyhow).
Other quick items include:
cous cous with whatever veggies you have on hand,
frozen cooked shrimp (thaw in a bowl of tap water while you mix up the cocktail sauce and open a bottle of wine),
canned tuna with canned white beans tossed with oil and garlic over pasta,
omelets filled with leftover whatever and.or cheese,
any kind of "breakfast for dinner" items like pancakes from a mix with frozen blueberries thrown in (even better if you keep real maple syrup and bacon on hand).
I also love a bowl of yogurt topped with mounds of dried fruit, granola, honey, and whatever fresh fruit I've got on hand.
I love stir fry so I will often cut up zucchini, carrots and onions, store them in a zip lock bag and that way I get a headstart. I usually have a plan so these veggies work nicely. Also have my herbs ready, clean and fresh. I'll start the marinade in the morning, or even dry season the meat to hang out in the fridge. Some desserts can be made early in the morning if you're willing to get up a half hour early.
I have a kit for won ton soup. I make the won tons and freeze them individually. The veggies are chopped and ready in a baggie. Homemade broth ready. When I get home I boil the broth add the won tons and veggies, and it all comes together for a nice bowl of soup. The pork won tons cook in the soup, no need to cook the pork ahead of time. You can do the same thing with shu mei, just individually freeze them, and steam them later.
Lots of things freeze well that you could portion into a freezer/microwaveable steamer bag and cook later. Parcooked pasta/rice/noodles are an example. Bag it up with a separate pouch of raw mix of veggies & thinly sliced meat or seafood of choice and you could have dinner in 10 minutes, which could be stir fried, steamed in the microwave or dropped in a pot of boiling water.
Meat loaf, stuffed pasta (i.e. shells, etc), partially cooked & frozen chicken, which could be finished in the oven are some other possibilities. I don't pre-cook the meatballs...they only take about 10-15 minutes in a hot oven anyway. Cooked chicken/pork, shredded & portioned could easily be turned into enchiladas, wraps, salads, etc. Boiled eggs, baked potatoes for a dinner hash, bacon, cooked ham, etc.. added to an omlette. Frozen pizza dough is something I always keep on hand.
Yes, freezing individual portions is the way to go. Soup, yes. Lasagna. Rice dishes. Pretty much anything, really.
The key, for me, is to take the time to divide up the whole into individual portions, wrap, and freeze rather than lazily freezing the entire thing.
And, yes, I'd precook the meatballs (don't overcook), then freeze.
TJs - frozen turkey meatballs in the freezer
Pasta and sauce....it can be made with said meatballs (see above)
eggs - cheap and they keep for a few weeks.
I always have cheese in the frig.
cheese and eggs - yum!
I also usually have some homemade frozen soup in the freezer - just heat it up.