Saturday, January 11, 2014

{Once A Month Cooking}

If you are like me, you eat the same meals for supper on a regular basis. I call this a "dinner rut." I have been in a dinner rut for a while, and I posted on Facebook that I was looking for new recipes to try. In response to my plea, my amazing sister shared that she was preparing to do a major cooking spree. She shared her plan and gave me some tips, and I decided to research the idea to see if it was something I could do, too.

I began by checking out the book Once-A-Month Cooking by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg from my local library. I read the first chapter to understand the premise behind the book, and I was hooked! The book was a huge help because it provided two 1-month meal plans, two 2-week meal plans, shopping lists, recipes, and cooking day assembly instructions. I originally planned to start with a 2-week cooking cycle to get a feel for doing so much cooking at one time, but decided to go ahead and extend it to a 1-month plan.

As suggested in the book, I did all of my shopping in one day and spent the next morning chopping vegetables.(I love that the recipes include LOTS of fresh veggies and herbs- something I don't use nearly enough but have started using more as a result!) The biggest change I made from the book was that I prepared the meals for freezing as I could fit them into my schedule. If you follow the book, the cooking day is almost an entire day spent in the kitchen, preparing meals and assembling them in a specific order to maximize cooking/prep time and minimizing time wasted. That is a fabulous idea, but with 7 kids and homeschooling, it surely isn't feasible for me! It took me about 10 days to prepare 30 meals. After including a night for leftovers each week, I ended up with enough meals to last for 6 weeks.

I loved the book so much that I bought my own copy from Amazon. I love that the meals are already planned out, the shopping lists are included, and the recipes are easy to follow. Speaking of the recipes, they include instructions for preparing up to the point of freezing, and then for preparing on the day it's to be eaten. The book also includes additional recipes for breads, side dishes, and more.

As we consume meals, I have been preparing other meals to replace them. None have been from the book but rather recipes I've been wanting to try. By preparing meals strictly to freeze, I've gained some knowledge on how to freeze meals and what types of meals freeze well. I have made an additional 2 weeks worth of meals. It has been so nice knowing not only what was for dinner, but that I had the meal made already. It has eliminated the last-minute scramble of trying to prepare something from a hodge-podge of ingredients or planning a meal only to find out I was missing an ingredient in the midst of preparing it. But, the best part is that I am cooking more from scratch as opposed to semi-prepared foods with added *stuff* like preservatives and unnecessary sugar.

I am looking forward to our next break from school so that I can do some more marathon cooking days (when I say marathon, I mean prepare 3 or 4 meals in one day, not 30 like in the book!). I want to try the next 1-month cooking cycle for some more new recipes. It has been fun to try new recipes and improve my skills in the kitchen. I have made homemade bread and yeast rolls, pizza dough, a version of "Shake-n-Bake", lots of soups from my own chicken stock, marina sauce, and so much more! As I have gained confidence in my cooking (based on the ease of the recipe and the response of my family after eating it), I have expanded my "freezer recipe" search to include other sources. There are so many options that I have opened myself up to, and it all started with this little book...

I hope it blesses you, too.....

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