Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Learning Once a Month Cooking

I have been wanting to try once a month cooking for quite some time.

I've bought several books, made lists, made plans, then got intimidated. It seemed like a huge undertaking. However, listening to people rave about the $$$ it saves them and looking at our budget has been a powerful motivator for me. I also like the convenience--no more standing in the kitchen at 5:00 wondering what the heck is going to be for dinner. That alone is priceless since we often resort to fast food or take out pizza at that point.

This morning I sat down with my OMC books and found 6 recipes and then found a creole mustard marinade recipe that can be used on pork and chicken. I figured venturing out with 6-8 recipes was not going to be as intimidating, therefore a good way to take baby steps into the process.

After that, I made a master shopping list and a master calendar of two weeks. I figured two weeks of worth of menu planning was not as intimidating. After I made the two week menu, I realized that if I just doubled the amounts I cooked of the 6 recipes, I'd have enough to spread over the next two weeks. I decided that I would buy 10 pounds of ground beef and make 12 large patties to freeze in freezer baggies of 4 patties per bag, with enough left over to make several large baggies of precooked meatballs, beef burritos and stuffed shells. The meatballs will be used for meatball subs, spaghetti and barbecued meatballs with smokies. I also have plans for chicken enchiladas and King Ranch chicken casserole to freeze. In combination with a couple other meal plans, I just realized I will have enough entrees for more than a month! All in one cooking session! And with the meals spread around, we really are not having the same meal more than twice in the month long period. It looks like I might actually have enough to last past the month. Those meals will be handy on the next day I do a cooking session.

I'll look in my OMC book and try 3 new recipes the next time I cook, in addition to the others--if they are voted as repeats--and grow my OMC cooking file that way. Out of the 4 Once a Month cooking books I own, there are hundreds of recipes I can choose from based on my family's preferences. Some of them will be voted off the island I'm sure. But this allows us to try different meals and get out of the cooking rut I've been in. I also have a killer recipe for a peach berry crisp that I am going to test to see how well it freezes. We have a large bag of mixed frozen berries I got from the warehouse store that we haven't used. Combined with frozen peaches and the topping, it sounds like a good way to use up the berries. I'll make a test run of it on Monday and freeze a batch uncooked, then a batch cooked and cooled to see how they turn out. I'll post the recipe for the best one later this month. I figure on the days when we are using up the leftovers in the fridge, having a special dessert will make it a little better. We tend to not eat leftovers like we should, and that is a budget killer too. One other thing I plan to work on is cooking the right amount--more in line with what portion sizes SHOULD be. I tend to cook LARGE portions. Great for hubby to take to lunch and me to have, but let's face it--How many times do you want to eat the same meal in a short period?

I am now psyched to get started. I will wait until Monday though, since the boys and hubby will be at school/work and I'll have time to shop in the early morning for the best deals on meat. The grand idea is that I will do all my non perishable shopping on Sunday at the grocery store and clean/empty the fridge at that time, then Monday morning will be my day to hit the store for perishables. That may change. I'll look at the schedule and decide what is going to be the best use of my time.

However, after reviewing what we spent for groceries last month (THANK YOU SimpleMom for turning me on to Pear Budget) , I think any savings will be a tremendous plus!

I'll let you know how it goes.

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