The following is a guest post from Marci of Overcoming Busy:
It is my nature to find the most efficient ways to do things. When I clean out the dishwasher, I even plan out how I can finish the job with the fewest trips around the kitchen. I know, the whole thing only takes about 2 minutes (yes, I’ve timed it), but I still hate to waste time and energy. That is one of the reasons the concept of once a month cooking really appealed to me. Take an afternoon and fill your freezer with a month’s worth of meals. How efficient is that?!
So what took me so long to try once a month cooking for myself? I’m really not sure. I think the lack of knowledge of what meals can freeze and how to properly prepare them for the freezer played a big part. A few weeks back, Mandi posted a series on once-a-month cooking. That series inspired me to finally do it! She gave such great tips and links to make it look easy.
Being my first experience at once-a-month cooking, I chose to follow a menu and plan offered by Once A Month Meals. This site gave possible menus along with grocery lists and step-by-step instructions for cooking day. Very easy. I can follow directions….kind of!
After choosing a menu that I thought my family would enjoy, I headed to the store with my daughter and the Once A Month Mom grocery spreadsheet. To me, that spreadsheet was a God-send. It allowed me customize the amount of ingredients based on the number of servings I wanted to prepare. The spreadsheet also had all the items listed by categories to make shopping a relatively easy experience. My daughter put the spreadsheet onto a clipboard and recorded the prices so I could keep track of how much a month of meals actually costs. It made a great homeschool project!
Getting Down to Business
The night before the big cooking day, I chopped all the veggies and prepared the meat. That only took my daughter and me about an hour, but it saved lots of time the next day.
On cooking day, I followed the instructions pretty much to the letter. I put my daughter in charge of two of the items I knew she could handle on her own (muffins). I prepared the other 20 meals. From beginning to clean up, it took us about 5 hours. Not bad for making 20 meals and several dozen muffins.
That was two weeks ago and I have to tell you that it was totally worth it! It has been awesome to go to the freezer and choose an entrée, add a side and I know that my family will have a delicious, home-cooked meal without all the stress, prep work and clean up! I do make several fresh meals each week, when I have time to prepare them. I love to cook, but for those days when there isn’t time to prepare a good meal or I just don’t feel like cooking, I love breaking one of these meals out of the freezer!
As I mentioned at the beginning, I crave efficiency. Even though this was a really efficient process, I made notes to make my next experience even better.
1. Have someone cook with me. It really would have gone faster with another person. I need to get a friend who needs some great freezer meals to come over and join me.
2. Adapt some of my own recipes. Now that I have an idea of what can be frozen and how, I can make and freeze some family favorites.
3. Look over the entire recipe before starting. This seems so “duh!”, I realize, but there were so many recipes. I didn’t make it through every one, and I got surprised by a couple steps.
4. Start earlier in the day. I started at 3 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon. The upside was that when I finished cooking and cleaning up, I tucked the kids in bed and I went straight to bed too!
5. Have the freezer cleaned out first. The meals fit perfectly in my spare refrigerator’s freezer in the garage….after I cleaned it out. Oops!
My meals will be devoured in a couple more weeks, and I am excited about my next cooking day. I need to start preparing my menu and my grocery list soon. Can’t believe it took me this long to try it! If you have been on the fence, don’t fight it! Jump on in! You won’t regret it!
Have you tried once-a-month cooking yet? What’s holding you back?
Marci Goodwin has a passion for helping people get the busyness and clutter out of their lives so that they can slow down and enjoy what is really important. She readily admits she doesn’t have it all figured out and is a work in progress experimenting on her family – a self-employed husband, an 8-year-old daughter (the homeschooled entrepreneur) and a 4-year-old son (110% boy). Marci can be found blogging about her journey and the evil of “busy” at Overcoming Busy.