Thursday, February 4, 2010

Once-A-Month Cooking

Well, I did it. I've talked about for years. My sister-in-law Kerry and I used to discuss it, but we never got around to making it happen. When I was trying to get our schedule together for the new year, it seemed like meal time was always in the way. Don't get me wrong, I like to cook most of the time. What I don't like is going to the store with four kids. I don't like being busy up to meal time and then trying to get it all together. I bought the Once-A-Month cookbooks a long time ago. I've had them a while, I know I bought them in Iowa at least a year ago. Anyway, while I was organizing my kitchen, I saw them and decided to go for it. So, after much planning and making lists, my fridge went from this:

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to this in my freezer:

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The grocery shopping was never ending. I hit Wal-mart, Sam's, and Aldi. Once the shopping was done, there was no turning back!

It was the longest day ever! I messed up by not following all the rules. Does that surprise you? The cookbook gave all these helpful hints and one hint was to wear comfortable shoes. I didn't wear shoes at all and I paid for it. My back hurt for days!

I had help, of course. This was our school for the day. Lot's of math!

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Callie just stole bites of food. Especially the freshly grated cheese!

january2010 032Gannon did a lot of supervising and sampling!

I planned to take pictures of things as the day went on, but there wasn't really a stopping point! Once you start, you just have to keep at it. Too much money goes into buying a months worth of food for six people. I wasn't about to waste anything!

We learned a lot that day about what to do differently next time. We have a list of things to try and buy for next time that will make the job easier. A lot of dishes can be frozen in 9x13 dishes. I was going to just buy a few more at Wal-mart, but they are more expensive than I remembered. I don't know if I have ever even bought one. I think the ones I have now were wedding gifts! So, we're going to look for some at garage sales and places.

I have planned (but not cooked) weeks of meals at a time for a while. I have cooked more than one meal sometimes, or cooked and frozen a few things, but never a months worth. I even included some stuff for lunches and breakfasts when we cooked. So, it was a LOT. One reason I had put this off for so long is that I thought it would be a lot of casseroles. It's not. I made very few. So far we have like most of what I made. We mixed some new recipes with some of our tried and true go-to recipes. Now that I have the idea of how this works, it will be simpler to do with almost any recipe.

In the end, it has been soooo worth it. The pluses are having a meal plan, I know what we are having for breakfast, lunch, and dinner up until Valentine's Day. I have most of the food in my freezer and fridge. The only things I don't have are the few fresh items that we pick up each week. Another plus is the amount of time I spend in the kitchen at dinner time. I am still cooking, but it is quick. Think Hamburger Helper, but good and healthy. I am spending more time on side dishes, which we are enjoying. My favorite is that there are very few dishes after dinner! We are able to put what we use on the table in the dishwasher and we can go to bed with a clean kitchen. (I do not hand wash dishes!) I am loving this part of it. I like to be done after dinner. Of course, a mom is not done after dinner, but at least the cooking and cleaning can be done! Also, I tried to make sure and make the recipes so that we would have enough leftovers for Todd to take a lunch, so another bonus!

But, the absolute best...I haven't been to the grocery store with four kids in weeks! I have hardly been to the grocery at all. Woo-hoo! Now that I haven't been, I realize that this is really what has been stressing me out. I love to shop, don't get me wrong, but not for groceries. It is so nice to have all the time that I would have normally been going to the store. I am thinking it is probably saving us money too. I haven't set down to figure that out yet. I need to get through a whole month and see what I spent all together and compare to another month where I didn't do this.

So, we will probably try this again. I already dread the day of cooking! But, this time I know the reward will be worth it. Think there could be a lesson in this?


Tenneil said...

I am so very impressed!!! I think this is so wonderful and SOOO healthy!! Maybe someday I'll get over the intimidation of it and try it...but not yet!! I'm still working on weekly meal planning!!

I could probably handle everything but planning! I never get everything on my list and can rarely make a decision about what to eat!
What's Todd think of it?

Kerry Foxx said...

You inspire me! As I was making a big batch of chili for our small group the other night (with ground turkey), I cooked more than enough meat and decided to mix that with some tomato sauce, herbs, cheeses and penne pasta for Monday's dinner! Now I have chili in the freezer and my Monday was so much nicer knowing dinner was going to be so easy. It's all about thinking ahead...a huge challenge for those of us spinning a few plates! Can't wait to hear about your next round!

Amy said...

Kerry: Yay! Your right, is just about thinking ahead. I had to pick a day to cook weeks ahead and not plan anything else, which was a challenge for me. I always think I can do more in a day than I really can!

Amy said...

Tenneil, you could so do this! You might have to take Austin to grandma's for the day, or at least part of the day. The planning was the worst! I just made list after list and didn't come home from grocery shopping until I had everything. The cookbooks I used had lots of hints and even spell it out for you if you want to use their meal plan. I, of course, didn't, so I had to wing it!

Todd thought I was nuts on cooking day! But, he's used to my crazy plans! He hasn't said a whole lot, but I am sure he has noticed the lower stress level at meal time and after from me! I think we were both worried about not having "fresh" dinners, but it doesn't seem like that at all.

Colleen said...

Hi Amy! Wow, your day of cooking was so impressive! I'm glad it's made life easier already. My mom always had a meal plan for us growing up and that seems to be the way to go.

Amy said...

Colleen, Thanks! Yes, a meal plan is the way to go, even if you don't do all the cooking at once. I hate stressing about meals! And for some reason, everyone here thinks they should be fed on a regular basis!