11 July 2011


Way too many of our evenings end up going something like this: Michael calls home around 6:00 pm to let me know he’s leaving work (it usually takes him about 30 to 40 minutes to get home). Then I rush to figure out what we’re going to be eating for dinner – do I have enough time to defrost some chicken? Are we out of one necessary ingredient? Often I have been to the grocery store recently and have a meal planned, but more times than I would like we are stuck with figuring it out at the last minute, and filling that last half hour or hour before Michael gets home with rushing to put something together.

So, I decided to do a little experiment with something called ‘Once A Month Cooking,’ or OAMC. The idea is to cook all the main dishes for dinner all at once, so you have everything ready to go. Then, each morning, you just decide what to have for dinner that day and get it defrosted and come up with some side dishes. My grandma gave us this great full-size freezer that we keep in our garage, so we have plenty of space. I don’t know how well it will work, or if I might change it later and just do Once a Week (or even simplify more and just cook dinners like normal, except whenever I make a meal that would freeze well I can quadruple it or something and save the extra ones, but we’ll see how it goes).

I started looking online for ideas of what to do, and the second website that I happened upon was food.com, where I found a list of “most popular OAMC main dish recipes.” Not only were there a number of recipes that looked good, and looked easy enough to make in bulk, but they had been tried out by lots of different people, and then rated by them. I figure if a recipe has been tried by over 100 people, and the average score given was 4.5 out of 5 stars, it can’t turn out too awful. Plus, more than just finding recipes, that website lets you save recipes that you are interested in a “my cookbook” feature. Then, you can go into the cookbook, pick a recipe, and add it to your “shopping list.” I tried this last night after the boys went to bed, and it’s a pretty cool feature. So, it adds all the ingredients to the list, and if you are doubling a recipe it automatically increases the ingredient amounts on your list. You are also able to remove items from the list that you already have on hand, and add other items that you also need to pick up at the store. And, it lists everything in categories, such as produce, meats, dairy, household items, etc. so it’s easier to get everything more quickly when you’re at the store.

So, last night I sat down and chose 5 main dishes that I am planning on quadrupling (I get to ‘cheat’ a little this time, since I’m not starting on the first day of the month so I’ve got fewer days to plan for). Plus, since I’m sure we’ll throw in lots of evenings of BBQing on the grill and homemade pizzas, that will still mix things up and make the frozen meals stretch for even a few more days. I figure that after a few months of doing this, you would build up quite a variety of meals, so you wouldn’t get tired of repeating the same things too often.

My plan is to do the big shopping trip today after we go to story time at the library, and then to prepare them all on Wednesday when we don’t have much planned other than Camden’s t-ball practice in the evening – some of the recipes need to be cooked before freezing, and others are as easy as tossing chicken, spices, and other ingredients into a freezer bag so everything is ready to be pulled out and put in the crock pot when needed. And some people gave the idea of lining a pan with foil and freezing a casserole just until it’s no longer soft in the middle, then popping it out of the pan and moving it to a freezer bag so you don’t have to have 20 or 30 pans – sounds good to me, I’ll just have to see if I can find extra large freezer bags for a decent price. I’ve put together a little binder where I’ll keep all the OAMC recipes that we try, so we can make notes if we make any changes, and just throw out any recipes that aren’t great. That way they will all be in one place, and I should build up a decent little collection if this works out well. We’ll see how it goes. I did tell Michael that if I spend the whole day cooking, he will probably come home to kids who need attention and a kitchen that he will need to help me clean, but he’s all up for it if we get to try out lots of new recipes (we’ve kind of gotten into a bit of a recipe rut lately – just falling back on our handful of tried and true recipes whenever we need to come up with something quick. So, wish me luck, I’ll let you know how it goes.

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