Last week, I prepared a week’s worth of meals for a family who recently welcomed their third child into their home.
Even though we sent a lot of food, it didn’t take me much time to prepare. I made a careful meal plan for my own family, and doubled the portions and froze them immediately. There was one night when I spent about an hour chopping, simmering and cooking things beyond what I would normally do. But still, it wasn’t bad.
I prepped Caribbean jerk chicken, made a huge vat of chicken noodle soup, meat loaf balls (just took a meat loaf recipe and turned it into meatballs to make it grab-and-go), taco meat complete with taco fixins’, bowtie pasta with sausage, tomatoes and cream (I just made the sauce and included a box of farfalle with my care package), a lemon herb chicken ring that I assembled once we arrived at their house, and some jars of spaghetti sauce and a box of spaghetti for a simple, quick meal.
I froze everything flat in Ziplock bags so everything would take up minimal space in their freezer.
The beauty of freezer meals is that you can do the prepwork and cooking in bulk. You’ll save time cooking and cleaning, and by buying larger quantities of ingredients, you might be able to save money.
Rather than turning to take-out when you don’t know what to make for dinner and you’re short on time, you can just grab something you’ve already prepared in your freezer.
The publishers of Once-A-Month Cooking Family Favorites, written by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg, have sent me a copy to review and one to give away.
I’m a huge fan of batch cooking/freezer cooking, so I jumped at the opportunity to learn from this book.
Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to try any of the recipes. Um. I’ll do my best to give you a general run-down of the book. It features:
- Two one-month cycles, two two-week cycles, a gluten-free two-week cycle, a summer two-week cycle, and a gourmet two-week cycle. Ooh, la la!
- Helpful menu chart, pantry list, shopping list, assembly order, and of course, recipes for each cycle
- 130 recipes, ranging from dinner entrees, soups, and a few sides
- Explanations and suggestions for how to do this crazy thing
These days, I can’t spend several hours (or all day!) in the kitchen. So, I tend to double recipes that can easily be frozen and reheated at a later time. You can take that approach with these recipes, or you can prepare several meals at once.
Here are some suggestions for making once-a-month-style cooking work for you. Some are my own, and others are inspired from the book:
- Plan your menu and shopping list one day.
- The next day, go shopping for everything you need. Do some prepwork, such as chopping vegetables, that day.
- Clear your workstations to make them free of everything you won’t need while cooking. Cookie jars, toasters, coffee pots — give them new temporary homes.
- Clean out your freezer. Toss old things you’ll never eat. Organize it to free up space. Do the same with your fridge.
- On cook day, clean as you go!
- Stay hydrated. Take breaks. Listen to music. Cook with a friend. Have your spouse take your children out for a fun day elsewhere.
- If this is your first time, for pete’s sake, don’t do a whole month’s worth of cooking unless you’re ultra-motivated and have help. Start with a one or two-week cycle.
- Label your freezer contents, and keep a list of what you have. Mark off meals as you eat them.
Final thoughts on the book:
This book is a helpful guide to making OAM cooking really work for your family. It’s well-organized, and most of the ingredients will be easy to find in any regular supermarket for a decent price. There are lots of recipes that I’d like to try, including Zanzibar Chicken, Nan’s Indonesian Pork, Southwestern Chicken, Texas-Style Lasagna, and the Five-Cheese Spinach Quiche.
It would be even better if the book was spiral-bound to lay flat while you’re cooking. ALSO — since it’s a cookbook, it really needs photos. There’s some clip art pictures sprinkled throughout, but they aren’t helpful.
Lastly, if you’re a vegetarian — this book is not for you. A huge majority of these recipes contain meat or fish.
For more info, visit Once-a-monthcooking.com. Once there, you can access a free one-week cycle of recipes complete with assembly instructions and a shopping list. This one-week cycle is a great example of what you’ll find in the book.
To win a copy of this book, simply comment below. Tell me what you like about OAM cooking. If you’ve never tried it before, tell me why you’d like to start. Be sure to use a real e-mail address in the e-mail box (not in the comment box) so I can contact you if you win.
For a second entry, subscribe to my blog and post a comment telling me you’ve done so (old and new subscribers are welcome to enter this way). We’re on the honor system here!
Contest ends on Friday, Oct. 9, 2009 at oh, how ’bout 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.
I will use a random number generator to select a winner. I will contact you by e-mail and you will need to tell me your mailing address, as I will be the one mailing you the book at my own expense. Giveaway open to US residents only. Good luck!