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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Once-A-Month Cooking

Late last fall, I hit a crisis in my kitchen.  On the days I went to the office for my part-time job, I hated coming home at 5:30 and then going "What are we going to eat?" with small children who hadn't seen me all day hanging on my pants, wanting to help, needing a hug...you get the picture.  

Days that I'm at home, I'm working outside on the farm...same result.  "Why are the kids so crabby?"  Because it's 6:30 and you've been outside all afternoon.

And after 3 days of hotdish (not that I'm opposed to hotdish, mind you), it was starting to send me into a cream of mushroom soup induced culinary coma.

I had heard a rumor that such a thing as Once-A-Month cooking.  Could it be?  

I promptly ordered this:
  

And my life has never been so good!!

My method is slightly different from theirs, but certainly inspired by the saints that are Mimi and Mary Beth (I feel like we're friends).

1.  I shop on one day with a giant grocery list.  I'll just warn you that it might be a two cart day in the grocery store.  But soooo worth it.  Make copies of the lists so that you can check them off in the store as you get the items.  This is critical!  Also check off what you have at home before you leave.  I don't buy chicken, for example, so that gets crossed off.  No need to buy yet another bottle of Tabasco each month.  When I get home I put the perishables away and keep the pantry goods in the grocery bags, so I don't have to take them out again.

2.  I prep my foods the day before the cooking marathon.  By prep I mean chop 11 onions, 7 green peppers, roast 5 chickens and then shred or dice, etc.  (Some recipes use rotisserie chickens, I use my own and roast them in the oven.)  I store all of this prepped food in the fridge in plastic containers. {In the book, you prep and cook on the same day.  I don't because I have small children who may need a snuggle/read break or a cowboy break.}

3.  The day I cook starts right after breakfast.  The recipes walk you right through what to cook and what to combine from all of your ingredients.  You will store your foods in Ziploc bags and plastic containers.  Some meals you will cook (simmer a soup, for example), others you will just combine ingredients and freeze (like Melt-In-Your-Mouth Chicken Pie).  I label each one with the name of the meal and the page number the recipe is on so I can easily reference the cooking instructions.

I have to issue a warning:  The day you spend cooking will be the longest day of your month.  In the middle, I always think "Why am I doing this?  This is insane!"  But then, when you're done and there are 25-30 meals frozen in your freezer, you are TRIUMPHANT!  For you have slain the "what's for dinner" dragon!!  (I may have uttered the words, "I AM AWESOME!"...)

Each evening I take another meal out of the freezer to defrost in the fridge until the next day.  That's it!

This method has worked so well for us.  Hubby isn't a cook, but he can takes something out of the fridge and put it in the oven at the appointed time.  He can start the crockpot.  These meals are mostly main dishes, so we can eat seasonally for the side dishes and vegetables, adding salads during the summer and eating root or home-canned vegetables during the winter months.

In our family, we have homemade pizza and homemade ice cream on Friday nights.  Sunday nights I make either a new recipe or an old favorite, like hotdish.  Lunches are either leftovers or sandwiches and fruit.  That means my month of meals lasts about 6 weeks!

The first two months, I cooked according to the book.  This past month, I chose our favorite recipes from the book and added some of our own.  This is what I have in my freezer:
  • Minestrone Soup
  • Black Beans and Rice
  • Tamale Pie*
  • Meatballs*
  • Creamy Chicken Enchiladas
  • Tortilla Cheese Soup*
  • BBQ Shredded Sandwiches*
  • Spaghetti
  • Chicken Broccoli Casserole
  • Smothered Burritos
  • Sloppy Joes
  • Old Fashioned Beef Stew
  • Stroganoff*
  • Hamburger Quiche
  • Chicken Supreme
  • Garlic Cheddar Chicken
  • Chicken Wild Rice Soup
  • Chicken and Cheese Chowder
  • Melt-In-Your-Mouth Chicken Pie
  • Meatloaf
  • Lasagna
  • Egg Bake*
  • Upside Down Fettucini Bake
  • Macaroni
  • Chicken and Noodles*
  • Roast, Potatoes and Carrots*
  • Swiss Steaks*
  • Chili*                                                    (*=my own recipe)
Once-A-Month Cooking has freed up my mind from trying to remember if I have all the ingredients on hand to make such-and-such or to defrost the meat in advance.  And it's freed up my time to snuggle my kids with a book when I get home or play cowboys when I come in from the garden or pasture while dinner is cooking.

**Disclaimer:  Mimi and Mary Beth have no idea who I am.  I just found their book, love it and thought I'd share.  

3 comments:

  1. I've been searching for blogs of people who do OAMC, before I buy a book and start out. Would you consider sharing some of your recipes? They sound amazing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't share the recipes as they are property of the authors and I don't have their permission. But, go for it, buy the book. It's the best sanity-saving money you'll ever spend. Much cheaper than therapy!!

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    2. And the * recipes are ones I've collected from other various sources.

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