I have a confession to make, dear reader.
I have long harbored a slight disdain for the frozen section at Trader Joe’s. I taught myself to cook by ignoring the semi-homemade route. I learned how to proof my own pizza dough and never bought pre-shredded cheese or biscuits in a tube. My mother once called on a Sunday night in college, only to find out I was busy making my own pie crust. Having raised me on boxed mac 'n' cheese and grocery-store rotisserie chicken, she could only say, “Where did you come from?”
When I moved to New York, my roommate and I laughed at our realtor when he told us our oversized stove meant more clothes storage. No, we told him, now we finally had space for a pizza stone of our own. We have a standing mixer, a VitaMix, and two immersion blenders. We never bought pre-mixed or pre-made and hardly ever bought anything frozen. If you're more likely to go hunting for bone-in pork shoulder or superfine sugar over frozen meals, you won't find much at Trader Joe's.
But then, slowly, inch-by-inch, my realtor’s predictions came true. Real life (and even more real expenses) got in the way of my home-cooked-meal plans. We aren't resorting to using the oven for purse storage, but it does go weeks without being fired up. But instead of trying to find time-saving solutions in my grocery shopping, I became dependent on takeout. My halal-cart guy would ask where I’d been if I didn’t get my signature lamb gyro at least twice a week. There is a pizzeria in my building. You can imagine how good I got at resisting that siren song.
I was hemorrhaging money and, frankly, losing my taste for gyros. It was time for drastic measures. Knowing that my days of elaborate cooking were at least temporarily behind me, I decided to overcorrect and lean in to the food I’d been avoiding: the convenient, flash-frozen, cheap meals of Trader Joe’s.
Could I do it? Was it even possible? Would I even monitor the amount of sodium I was ingesting? (Not really.) Click through to join me on my journey of frozen oatmeal pucks, plastic trays, and a whole lot of hanging out in the office kitchen. Oh, and did I mention that I don't own a microwave?