Monday, February 16, 2009

A Real Mom's Guide to Once A Month Cooking

I love the convenience of freezer cooking. I love the fact that I don't have to think about what we'll eat for dinner every single day. What I don't love however, is the time and the expense it takes to make 30 meals. Here are some ways I've made this more home school mom of many young ones user friendly.

My first task is to sit down and decide what I'd like to make for dinner for the next month or two. After I decide what I want to make I write down every single ingredient for all my recipes and then I "shop" our freezers and pantry. Once I know what I need I make our final grocery and meal list.

I prefer the thaw and dump method of freezer cooking, which is basically putting your meat in a bag and adding marinade or other sauces to then freeze. I found that for me with five young children it wasn't possible for me to cook all 30 different meals like many cookbooks recommend. I would spend the day frustrated and angry with my children and then I wouldn't want to even think about eating those meals that took so long to make!! So, I continued along trying various different ways to save time, money, and effort by freezer cooking when I stumbled upon a recipe that was so simple I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it! Just add raw meat and a variety of spices, juices, and other ingredients, freeze and when ready to eat, thaw it out and pour into a pan!! WOW! I had time to fit that into my schedule. My oldest can even make some of the meals this way! What a time saver. I just line up three freezer bags, have a child hold each one, while I add the ingredients to each bag. In less than five minutes I can put three meals into the freezer.

Another way I find time to cut the time of freezer cooking is by doing an all hamburger day. I will buy 5-10lb of raw hamburger, right away I'll start cooking at least 5lb on the stove. While that is cooking my oldest is mixing up a meatloaf to freeze in it's raw state. I'll mix up a batch of meatballs during this time too. In about one hour we can put up 10lb of hamburger.

I also cook huge batches of chicken in the crock pot and then shred the meat and freeze in about two cup servings. I use that in chicken noodle soup, shredded chicken sandwiches, enchiladas, and anything else that calls for cooked chicken.

Having ground beef and chicken pre-cooked and in the freezer is a huge time saver. You can put together tacos or chili or sloppy joes in less than 5 minutes!

I only spend about 3 hours a month putting meals away for the freezer. I just don't have time to spend all day in the kitchen at this point in my life. I talked a lot about my oldest helping me, he just turned 10 and has been helping me for over a year. He is finally at the point where he can put his own meals kits together with no help from me. I count this as home economics for him.

I find this works really well if your husband isn't a fan of casseroles or meals that have been completely cooked and then are being reheated. It is also a wonderful way to save money and very healthy. I haven't used any that need cream soups or other premade items like that. Most of my recipes are olive oil, lemon or lime juice, vinegars, and seasonings. It is very healthy if you avoid artificial chemicals in your food or are on a restricted diet like we are. You can also pick up most of your main ingredients in one large once a month shopping trip. I personally, buy a huge amount of boneless chicken tenders/breasts when they are less than $1.99lb and make all my chicken recipes for a month or more that way you know your meals are the most cost efficient. I'm currently in the process of putting together a once a month cooking meal plan and instruction guide with shopping lists, recipes, and even more time saving tips. If you're interested please let me know!!


Heather Benza said...

this is awesome! How about meals with noodles--have you frozen those because we do like casseroles, but I've been afraid to freeze one and have the pasta reheat soggy.

autumn said...

The only meal I've done with noodles is baked ziti and turns out awesome! My noodles were a little chewy but I think that's because I cooked them too long before I froze them.

FromThe Creek said...

That is what I husband does not like casseroles or typical IAMC is not right for our family! Thanks for sharing!

Keri said...

I haven't done a lot of OAMC either because we don't really care for casseroles, but these are some great tips that would work for us. Thanks for sharing!

Mom2fur said...

It's cool when you can take some 'big' project and break it down into what works for you. I like to brown my ground beef and add spices, then label the bags as "Italian" or "Mexican" for example. It isn't exactly OAMC, but having that one 'mess' done all at once sure does make life easier, doesn't it?
BTW, a side dish that works really great for the freezer is Twice Baked Potatoes. I make them up, then wrap them individually. Any recipe will do. Then you only need to take out however many you want for a meal.

Sarah said...

I love the idea of just doing the different meats. How do you do the chicken in the crock pot?

autumn said...

When I do a large batch of chicken in the crockpot I use whatever chicken I have, put it in the pot, put carrots,celery, garlic, and then cover with water. I cook it on low overnight so it's ready for me to shred in the morning.

Heather said...

These are such great ideas! I've been nervous at trying to attempt doing so much cooking at once; you've broken it down into manageable steps.

Thanks so much!

Jennifer said...

I do a similar type thing and it really works for me too. I can't imagine spending a day or so doing nothing but cooking. So I do it your way.

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