Saturday, August 8, 2009

Adventures in cooking

Fooling around online a couple of weeks ago found me pondering a couple of websites highlighting a concept known as Once A Month Cooking. The idea being that with a little planning you create a menu, go shopping, spend a day cooking, and wind up with a freezer stocked with fully prepared meals for the entire month. For us working moms (or dads if you're the ones doing the cooking) how wonderful to be able to come home at the end of a long day and merely heat up that homemade meal. I had visions of my family's reactions to no more 'fend for yourself' nights because I'd forgotten to defrost the meat, or since my daughter and I are vegetarians, making the boys their dinner, but forgetting to make something non meat based for us.

I checked out this OAMC idea and thought, I am the queen of making lists how hard could this be? I scrolled through several meal ideas on a couple of different websites, thought through my family's favorite dishes, and made up a menu of 16 different options. We invariably have leftovers when I cook, and there's no reason why leftovers can't be a part of this plan. After making the menu, which included five breakfast options, I made the grocery list. I discovered a pattern when I made that list for a month's worth of meals. We eat an ungodly amount of cheese! Nonetheless, the list was made. Hubby and I went grocery shopping and spent $279.00 to make a month's worth of breakfasts and dinners to feed our family of four. We stopped at the dollar store and picked up disposable pans and several more inexpensive single serving plastic containers for hubby's breakfasts, along with freezer bags, and tin foil. All told another $28.00 invested. We got home, unloaded everything and I was all set to embark on this cooking journey.

Because I'm nothing if not a helper and a giver, here are a few tips for you should you ever decide to take up this challenge:

1. Don't wait to grocery shop until Sunday afternoon.
2. Don't start cooking a month's worth of meals on Sunday evening. You only wind up with maybe four meals and wind up cooking every night for the next week to finish this supposed "once a month cooking" project.
3. Don't use lasagna sized pans for every meal you make, unless you own a free-standing freezer. We have two refrigerator freezers. A month of meals in pans, DO NOT FIT in those freezers!
4. Despite the desire to make it super easy by having all those meals in lasagna sized pans, in my abnormally small oven two of those pans don't fit at the same time, and since I make two of everything, one with meat and one without, this has in essence doubled the cooking time each night. So I suggest you get everyone on board, either everyone eats meat or everyone becomes a vegetarian.

This weekend as I endeavor to finish this darn OAMC project, I will be putting everything I make in FREEZER BAGS instead of pans, I will do it SATURDAY instead of Sunday night, I will actually MAKE the breakfasts I promised my kids, and I will stop trying to force feed squash to my family who claims to hate it. The squash thing is really a side note. Being quite frugal (cheap), when friends offer up free veggies from their gardens, I take them up on it! However, when your family won't eat it, I suppose it doesn't do any good to cut, par-boil, and freeze 20 pounds of squash. I will do Once A Month Cooking again, although due to space constraints it will likely be more like Twice A Month Cooking, but will endeavor to put a little more thought and planning into it.

Witty quip of the day: Lack of preplanning on your part, does not constitute an emergency on my part. From a sign on the wall in my dad's workshop.


Cindy DG said...

Very cool! neat concept to try! I try to cook a few meals on Sunday to heat up for the week :) It helps!

Michael and Lynn Vickers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael and Lynn Vickers said...

Good for you G-friend. I tried this for a while when we use to eat all the same types of food. However, just like all good things that must come to an end; it did. Now everyone eats so differently (picky) in my house, cooking in gernal is a waste of time, food, and my patients. But I still advocate it for other families that's for sure..

Anonymous said...

I tried this once a month cooking worked well except I too experienced the freezer space problem. Then the next time I tried it I did make about 2 weeks worth of meals instead...then one week...then poof! quit doing it altogether and fell back into my old habits all over again. Since then we have bought a larger freezer so you have renewed my vigor for once a month method...I will try it again! And will probably have stories of my own to share! =) Love ya! Cuz Jude

Mystery Maiden said...

I would love to do this! I think I would need to invest in a bigger freezer though - the one on the top of our fridge might not cut it! haha

Leigh Clements
The Mystery Maiden
Shot In The Dark

Apryl Schneider said...

No matter how small the space, you can still succeed with cooking in advance. Just try making things that can go in gallon ziplocks, flatten them out, then freeze stacked on top of each other. You could probably fit a good dozen stacked in evan a small refrigerator/freezer. Good luck all, and thanks for the comments!

Apryl :)