Earlier in the month I was talking to some mums mums with younger children and I just happened to mention a method of cooking that kept me on top of things when I had little kids. Once a Month cooking, or Cooking for the Freezer. These ladies had never though of doing this so I thought I would share how it worked.
In a sense it took two days
Day 1: I would clean out the fridge, the pantry, the kitchen benches and make sure my shopping list was completed. I would also write a cooking plan so I was ready for the next day. In the afternoon I would do my grocery shop. When I shopped at the butchers I would pre-order my meat so that was just a pick up. (These jobs need to be done anyways.)
Day 2: My cooking plan was set up in columns and each column would be for a cooking appliance – Electric Frypan, deep fryer (which I cooked my corned meat in), crockpot, oven, stove top, microwave. I would have recipes for each one of these and then plan which one had to go on first – start with the longer cooking ones – the crockpot, the deep fryer, the oven. Then I would start browning meat in the frypan etc etc etc.
I also planned to cook as much of one recipe as a container would hold. My roasting pan can hold two chooks that is two meals with one effort. My frypan can hold enough mince for 2-3 meals. My oven can cook 2-3 shelves so in goes two quiches while the roast is cooking.
So to start off I would set up all the appliances around the room, hang my plan where I could see and stack up the recipe books. I found it easier to copy the recipes onto large index cards this way I could blu-tak them onto the wall in front of the relevant appliance. I tended to use the same recipes month by month, as a general rule, so it was worth the effort.
Whenever a recipe started cooking I would note on my Cooking Plan when it would be finished. I tried to keep the dishes under control. It would take 5 minutes to do the dishes, sure it would delay a new recipe being started but the mess would take hours to clean up at the end if not done recipe by recipe.
I made sure I had enough freezer containers ready for each recipe. The Dining Table was my cooling off spot. Once the meal was cooked, into a container and on the table to cool. Once cool it would go into the freezer. There has been some health research done on this practice and I think they say to put it in the fridge straight away. Not sure there!
Of course finding containers for all these meals 15 meals is a big ask. I used to use my mixing bowls lined with a freezer bag, Id fill it up with the casserole, tie it off and freeze it in the bowl. Once frozen Id remove the plastic bag from the bowl and Id have a stackable bowl shaped casserole minus the bowl!
As to what foods freeze?
Any meat caseroles
Quiche and veggie slice
Pasta and rice – freeze your left overs
cooked roast, corned meat, grilled chicken (use these in salads, or pasta bakes, or with a sauce)
Cakes, slices, muffins,
The number one rule for this method is: EAT TAKE AWAY THAT NIGHT.
We have never lived close enough to town to have take away for our evening meal so I would compromise on this and use Freezer takeaway (its cheaper anyway!) Pizza, Pies, FishFinger Sammos, etc.
This morning I got to thinking where did I get this idea from? I think it was on the Internet though at some stage I bought a CD, which now no longer works! So I searched online and came up with several links and you could find more by searching on once a month cooking.
Another method that doesnt take the big day of cooking, or the bulk shopping, is to do a little bit every day or every time you cook a meal that can freeze. If you cook a chook for dinner tonight cook two freeze one and there is a meal ready for you. When you cook a casserole double it and freeze half. When you cook a quiche do two at once and freeze the second one. Etc etc. I have found though, especially as my family has got bigger that I need to freezer that 2nd portion before dinner is served, otherwise it often gets eaten as Seconds that night! This method works if you cant spend a big block of time in the kitchen on one day or if you cant work your money for once a month shopping. (Meat being the most expensive part of the once a month cooking scheme)
Not only did having food in the freezer help me on those very busy days but it also gave me food ready to give to another mum who was having a hard time. As a young girl I was involved in Girl Guides; Be Prepared was their motto and I found myself liking this motto as a Home-keeper too.