Early January my sister-in-law called me while she and her husband were cooking meals for the entire month of January. My mother-in-law had given her an old copy of the book Once A Month Cooking. I had heard of the concept before, not only from my mother-in-law, but I’m quite sure I heard the author’s interview on Focus on the Family way back when it was first published (while I was in elementary school). I never would have imagined that I could cook a month’s worth of food in one day. It sounded quite overwhelming, but my sister-in-law was excited. She said she’d send the book along after she had copied down the recipes she wanted.
When my birthday rolled around at the end of January, she sent me a new copy of the updated version of the book that she had found at a bookstore. I skimmed through the book reading the author’s process and instructions for cooking and freezing and then browsed the menu plans. I knew off the bat that the menu plans wouldn’t work for our family as-is. The toddlers still don’t like spicy, nor do they like a lot of things mixed together (like casseroles), and we aren’t meat and potatoes kind of people. But I saw a lot of recipes that looked good for our style of eating. I started bookmarking pages and then headed to the computer. I created a two-week menu for February and re-created her process of cooking (doing all like tasks at once, chopping all veggies, browning all meat, cooking all chicken, etc). In her menu plans, she has everything broken down in like tasks, and even a shopping list for the menus in the book. There are a few two-week menus as well as a good number of monthly menus. As I re-created my own menu, I worked to keep the system balanced so there were a few soups that were thrown in a pot and simmered on the stove or crockpot, a good number of items that just needed to be assembled and frozen (no cooking and my favorite!), and then a group of recipes that involved a bit of browning/sauteing then assembling. Her recipes are delicious, and if you know your way around the kitchen, this really isn’t as daunting as it may sound. Most of her recipes are very simple and she provides a list of guidelines for using your own recipes (like what can and can’t be frozen and for how long).
I had a lot of fun dancing around the kitchen, although I was ready to be done by the end. Having a freezer full of meals was so satisfying. My in-laws came to visit for a week that month and I spent almost ZERO time in the kitchen. We were able to enjoy our visit with minimal dishes and cleanup and just adding a salad to the pre-made, absolutely delicious meals. It was A.MA.ZING!!!!
For March I decided to give it a go again making even more meals. On Saturday, I cooked up 14 dishes which I figure will give us 20 meals since I doubled a couple of our favorites and some of the recipes made enough for our little family to eat over a couple days. Adding in pizza nights, the occasional salmon quesadilla, and salads and sides from our Veggie Co-op, my cooking is 90% done for the MONTH!
What I love about this process is it really helps us avoid the “I don’t feel like cooking, please pick up Chinese” tempation. Or the kids want Chick-fil-A and I’m tired and don’t feel hungry for what’s on the menu so I cave. Also, I watch a friend’s little girl 2 days a week until mid-April and on those nights, it’s tough to get dinner ready. Let’s not even mention the call to The Narrator “There’s nothing in the fridge can you please pick up something for dinner from the store on your way home?” He is….creative…and definitely a Dad!! But none of those issues matter now. Turn the oven on, pop it in. The hardest part is remembering to pull something out of the freezer the night before, or by 9 a.m. And for time management? I spent 7 hours in the kitchen instead of 1 hour every night for the next month.
Can you tell I’m in love with this? I actually enjoy cooking and meal prep again.Â Â I have more time to play with the kiddos and no kids hanging on my legs at 4:30 while I try to rush aÂ dinner together. I can enjoy the evenings with The Narrator instead of cleaning the kitchen!! Or maybe learn something else new in ’08! Yay for freezer meals.