This is part two in a four part series of ways to get food on the table quickly to save you the expense of dining out or picking up food when you are short on time. Part 1, Cook Once a Week, can be found here.
Why Meal Components?
I wish I was one of those people who simply looks at food as fuel and eats whatever is around, but I am not. I am an emotional eater. Sometimes, especially on a rainy day, I like something hot and comforting. Other times I want something cool and refreshing. I am also someone who gets bored eating the same foods over and over again. I am continually trying out new recipes. One way I can meet both the desire to eat foods that match my current emotional state and try new recipes is through meal components.
Even if you are not an emotional eater like me (lucky you!), having meal components in the freezer all ready to go will offer you tremendous flexibility in meal planning and getting food on the table more quickly.
How to Make Meal Components
When making a meal, I generally make double or triple of a certain ingredient and put it in the freezer as a component. For instance, I use only dry beans because of the price difference. So, on a weekend day, maybe I am going to make soup with pinto beans. Rather than just cooking up the cup of pinto beans I will need for my meal, I will cook up the entire bag and put the remainder in 1 cup portions in freezer bags. Then, on a busy night, I can just pull the beans from the freezer and use them as I would canned beans. I now have the convenience of canned beans without the cost.
Another item I prepare frequently are meatballs. On a weekend afternoon, I take an hour or two to cook up a batch of meatballs, usually enough to make 6 meal components for my family of 5. Then, on busy weeknights, I can make spaghetti and meatballs, sweet and sour meatballs, meatball subs, etc.
If your family likes to eat Mexican food, you may want to cook up 5 or 10 pounds of seasoned beef. Freeze in meal size servings and use for tacos, nachos, enchiladas, etc.
While your meal won’t be ready and waiting for you if you use the meal component method, you will save yourself a great deal of time when preparing the meal. (I know if I had to go through the hassle of making meatballs any time I served a meatball meal, we would not be eating meatballs. :))
Do you prepare meal components ahead? If so, which ones do you use?