Simplemama

I’ve been working in the kitchen…

all the live-long day….or at least all day long every day since November 1st.

I’ve been somewhat consumed with food lately. I’ve already ranted about the inconvenience of convenience food. I did buy a bunch of convenience food last month and while there were definitely some major bonuses (less stress, less clean-up, husband actually cooked a meal), it was very expensive and we all got sick a few weeks into it. (our immune systems are too spoiled).

I knew I couldn’t try and be a Julie or Julia so decided to try and be a Once A Month Mom and cook all our meals for a month in one day and make my own convenience food.

ha.

ha.

ha.

That one day turned into two weeks and I still haven’t done everything I bought food for!

I’ve done this before and was able to do it in one or two days but this time I was distracted with a few other things going on in our lives and for some reason I decided to try all new recipes at the same time. I got the inspiration from my friends Elizabeth, Amy, and Corinne after we discussed freezer cooking and these books: Once-A-Month Cooking, Revised and Expanded: A Proven System for Spending Less Time in the Kitchen and Enjoying Delicious, Homemade Meals Every Day and Once-A-Month Cooking Family Favorites: More Great Recipes That Save You Time and Money from the Inventors of the Ultimate Do-Ahead Dinnertime Method.

I am definitely going to buy at least one of those. I love how they go give you step-by-step directions: Go to the store. Buy this this and that. Go home. (an important one). Unload groceries (also important).

Then the next day, they tell EXACTLY how to assemble everything and when to cook what and it’s really great.

But did I do that for my first month back to freezer cooking? Nope. I got sidetracked…by this lovely site: http://onceamonthmom.com/

And did I stick to the recipes she had for this month or even for last month so I could use her grocery list?

Nope.

I decided to mix and match throughout the recipes  in her September, October, and November menus and make up my own menu. This meant I had to make up my own grocery list.  I don’t want to say I don’t like her website because it really is a cool resource. But it’s not as detailed in directions as the Once-A-Month Cooking book is and the quantities for ingredients in her recipes are a little crazy. Like 5.32 cups of shredded pepperoni. Ok…so how many pounds of pepperoni do I buy?  So it took me a few days (yes days not hours or even minutes) to put my grocery list together.

Then it took me a few hours in the store to buy it all. (with 2 male monkey babies) Thank goodness God sent my friend Patty randomly to me in the store or I may have gone crazy staring at egg cartons while holding a screeching male monkey baby and trying to decide how many eggs I should buy.

I fully intended on taking one maybe two days to do all the cooking and I also fully intended to write a short blog post each day of my freezer-meal adventure (like Julie from Julie and Julia). But again. No.

So it was a very exhausting couple of weeks. But you know what? I now have about 20 meals in my freezer and we’ve already cut our grocery bill and dining out bills substantially just in these past 2 weeks of staying home and not buying convenience food or eating out as much as the past 2 months. So it might just be worth it. I think I’ll buy that Once-A-Month Cooking book and see if that’s easier for the next go around.

What resources have others found for making your own freezer meals? Is it worth it or it it easier to just make dinner every night (or every other night with  leftovers)?

Ok here’s some pictures of the past couple of weeks: (I realize I have more pictures of the baby than of the food but by the time I sat down to eat anything I didn’t feel like grabbing the camera. I’ll post more food pics as we eat the ones in the freezer)

Pizza Croissants (her pictures are way better but these were very yummy)

baby-approved

I cooked 2 Arnold Acres chickens  and shredded them…one of those fryers was about 6-8 cups of shredded chicken

I had some great helpers!

Chicken Tacos! (hmm I can’t find the recipe on OAMM…I’ll get back to you on that)

Cooked 6 lbs of ground beef in one day!

He didn’t like that

Put it in containers and in the fridge for the next day’s work

still not happy about that…

nope, not even on mama’s hip

but look! Yummy food!

This was a baked pasta with zucchini and sausage and tomatoes (again can’t find the link for the recipe now…)

From Food

at last he found something to keep himself busy with

he figured he might as well add to the mess…

but at least he tried to help clean up

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10 thoughts on “I’ve been working in the kitchen…

  1. Monica

    This is great, Erika. WOW!! Totally with you on the prepared food, our systems just can’t handle it. Or stuff that is high in carbs/processed/white flours and sugars, etc. What have I done to myself, haha!! One of the few “convenience foods” we keep on hand is the Tyson chicken strips from Sams (they carry them intermittently). They are actually really good and healthier (the chicken is frozen raw so you actually bake them, and the breading is a very thin layer). They are nice for when we don’t feel like cooking a big meal, and we always try to stick some healthy sides with them or put them in a wrap with spinach, cheese, sour cream and tomatoes.

    I will admit I still have not jumped on board with the freezer cooking. First off, we do not have room in our freezer. We keep lots of meat on hand, and until we get a second freezer it just isn’t an option. We split the cooking about 60/40 (me/him) which works well with him having that day off in the middle of the week. We are avid leftover eaters because it makes Aaron cry (ok not really but almost) to throw food away. We have our staple items we buy, a variety of things we like, and we build our meals around what we have in the fridge/what needs to be cleaned out of the freezer. I use the crock pot a bunch, especially this time of year (at least once a week) and to me that is *almost* just as easy as a freezer meal. I may jump on board with this yet, especially as we expand our family (no that is not an announcement) but for now what we do works for us.

    I enjoyed this post. It’s nice to have other people who are so nerdy about nutrition. ;-D

  2. Mary

    I am in awe of you attempting such a massive undertaking. It sounds like something I would do (or maybe something I do too often for my poor family’s liking). In any case, I did not realize until lately that I have been trying to seek out healthy foods for many years now. I just did it instinctively, but I am definitely now making an effort to do so as I notice the difference in how I feel when I eat well, as compared to processed food. My kids are too young to notice the difference (although I notice it in the younger one’s diapers). My hubby only agrees because some of the healthy food I have recently started adding to our diet tasts SO MUCH BETTER than the processed. In any case, we still have a long way to go, but every little step moves us closer.

    As for the freezer meals. . . we recently bought a new chest freezer (which means we have a side-by-side fridge (one side being freezer), a mini-chest freezer, and a full-size freezer. The intention was to freeze A BUNCH of pre-made meals in the mini-chest freezer and then keep all the raw ingredients in the larger chest-freezer. And just keep things like frozen veggies and fruit in the fridge freezer. So, for the birth of my last baby I made 15 meals and froze them (several of each of the following: lazagna, chicken enchiladas, shepherd’s pie, meatballs, and a few others). Unfortunately, when it came time to eat them. . . well they did not taste as good as fresh-made and cooked. I packaged them in disposable pans with aluminum foil on top, but. . . I had to doctor-them-up or sneak them into other recipies. We have finally gotten through them and I am none-too-eager to restock. Instead I have another idea floating in the back of my head. We have a spare fridge on our back porch, so I am contemplating prepping meals for the week and just putting them in the fridge (we don’t have room in the main fridge for this kind of prep). Of course, the hubby just wants to sell the old fridge and be done with it. I think the heart of my trouble is that I need either A) better food storage methods in order to freeze food and keep the taste intact or B) to find more recipies that my family likes so we have more selection (as some meals freeze better than others). Oh and one more thought, I am also contemplating browning a bunch of hamburger and cooking up a bunch of chicken and then freezing it in meal-sized portions. This way, the night before I just put the frozen portion in the fridge and then throw it in the meal the next day. Not having to cook the meat cuts a good half hour (counting kitchen clean-up) off of any recipe. It is not AS easy as just grabbing a meal from the freezer, but every little bit helps with time being at the premium.

    I apologize for such a long comment here. This has been my escape this morning (from my cranky baby -that had me up all night – nice to sit and think about other things for a bit here), but now the baby calls again. . .

  3. Erika Marie Post author

    I forgot a disclaimer to this post: Do not attempt this at home!
    Seriously though I don’t want to say I wouldn’t recommend it but I also don’t want anyone to try it without keeping a good grip on reality while trying it.
    We do have a freezer in our kitchen with the side-by-side fridge and then we have an extra fridge in the basement (with the freezer on the top and fridge on bottom) but I am almost out of room and don’t remember what’s all in it. I need to go back and write down what I have now. It would be pretty awesome to get a freezer that is the size as a regular fridge. I don’t like the idea of a chest freezer because I’d have a very hard time finding anything.
    I wrapped things in cling wrap (horrible stuff but it sure works) and then foil and then sometimes put it in a Ziploc gallon freezer bag too. You see the pasta meal picture I also use foil pans and then clingwrapped those and then foil on top of that too. We’ll see how it tastes when I start using the ones from the freezer. I think fresh is always best in taste but hopefully we won’t lose too much on taste by freezing some.
    I think cooking up a bunch of meat and having it ready like Mary says is a great idea and definitely would save on time and money without all the effort of once-a-month cooking. Sticking to simple recipes would also make this task easier.
    Patty-you saw me in the store so don’t think it was just a piece of cake or anything! I bet you could do this too!

  4. Amy O.

    Erika, I am so proud/glad that you finally accomplished this. I know it was hard for you, but it feels good now doesn’t it? It is very nice to have a meal to just get out of the freezer, thaw and throw in the oven/crockpot/skillet. I do also think it’s a good idea to cook up a bunch of meat to have on hand. Maybe I will try that next time instead of cooking a bunch of meals. That might be easier.

    I know how difficult it is to cook with a little monkey attached to your legs. Kudos to you for getting it done!

  5. Monica

    Chest freezers aren’t that bad. We really like ours, and Sams has them for a really good price. (The half-size ones). We’ve had ours since we bought the house and it’s been good to us.

  6. Elizabeth

    Great job Erika! It is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment to have all those meals in the freezer, isn’t it? I know it’s made our days run more smoothly since I’m not spending so much time in the kitchen. I let the girls bake with me, but cooking around a hot stove or having them around when I’m dealing with uncooked meats and actually doing the cooking/food assembly is definitely a struggle with patience for me (and them as they wait for my attention/food for their rumbly tummies). I agree that doing your own meal plan from scratch is a lot more work. I find that a combination of 4-5 meals from the book and some staples that we enjoy with maybe a couple meals I’ve found online works well for us, and I try to prep 2 meals that have similar ingredients at a time, which has worked well. Saturdays when Matt’s home obviously helps in the food prep as well. And yes, I would forget what I had in the freezer, so I’ve taken to writing a list of what’s in there and crossing it off as we eat it. This also helps get Matt to decide what’s for dinner (I guess it’s less intimidating for him to pick from a list than to suggest something for me to make from scratch). The disposable foil pan wrapped in foil and sealed in a freezer bag has worked well for us, as well as just wrapping in foil and freezing, then popping out of the pan and sealing in a freezer bag. I had made stuffed shells in a disposable pan and they got pushed to the back and forgotten about for over a month and we had them last week and they were very tasty. I would have the same battle with a chest freezer, so once our upright dies (it’s a hand-me-down from my parents who got it from my great-grandma) I’m sure we’ll buy another upright. It’s so convenient to see exactly what’s in there and have shelves dedicated to veggies, uncooked meats, prepared meals and everything in between. And the precooked meats is nice for cutting down on prep time, as well as having some seasoned for chili and taco meat to pull out on the nights when you really need something simple. Hopefully your family appreciates all the time and effort you spent doing this for them!

  7. Erika Marie Post author

    Thank you Elizabeth, again for the inspiration and letting me look through your books. I feel like I understand more about how to freeze what and that alone will help me plan for future meals. If I can’t commit to a once-a-month deal I will try and at least double and triple my dinners as I make them or other meals for later in the month. It is nice tonight we had a freezer meal and I have our dinner for tomorrow thawing in the fridge and when my mil asked what I’d like to bring to Thanksgiving I told her immediately since I already have it waiting in the freezer!

  8. Erika Marie Post author

    oh and yes I hope my family will appreciate it also. So far I’ve noticed they are being a lot of more helpful in picking up and everyone seems to appreciate some new dinners instead of the usual stuff we’d been having.

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