The deep freeze we got to freeze breastmilk is now available for food, and I’m curious about once-a-month, or “investment” cooking. With a baby around, cooking dinner is sometimes a crapshoot, and I really like the idea of making healthy meals ahead of time (as opposed to last-minute fat-filled meals like tonight. Convienent, yes, but not healthy.)
Anyone tried it? Liked it? Couldn’t keep it up? Have any online resources for recipes that lend themselves to this method?
Not exactly once-a-month, but I have done the once-a-week and bi-weekly cooking thing. No big deal, really, if you don’t mind giving one full day a week to cooking, and about three hours of washing pots and pans. I love to cook, so a full day in the kitchen doesn’t bother me.
What sort of food do you like? I have a bazillion recipes, and some are quite easy.
Hi, Whynot! We did the once a month cooking in our house for about a year after the littlest was born. It worked great, and it really was a time saver in the evenings. We did stuff like chili, sauces for pasta, meatballs, meatloaf, manicotti, stuffed shells, and cabbage rolls. I still have this page bookmarked, and I recommend the book Frozen Assets by Deborah Taylor-Hough to get started. Happy Cooking!
We’re a pretty eclectic bunch, actually. My husband’s a recovering vegetarian, so he’s not crazy about steaks or chops, but will eat ground, cubed or sliced meat in stuff. But we all like all sorts of ethnic foods as well as plain ol’ homecooking. I just feel like I’ve gotten into a rut with a dozen of the same meals that we’re all sick of, and not a lot of free time or inspiration to research new ideas.
Ideally, I’d like to find a menu that takes advantage of a few ingredients and does different stuff with them, like those dueling cooking shows. Or to organize it in such a way that if I need chopped celery for six dishes, I can chop it all at once or something. I’m afraid the braincells aren’t fired up to their full capacity these days!
Ooh! FaerieBeth, that first link is wonderful! It explains exactly the process that was stumping me: how to choose recipes and organize the whole process.
We don’t do formal “once a month” cooking however we do try to do batches of food - if, for example, boneless chicken is on sale we’ll buy a bunch, freeze it in zip-locs with various marinades, and then grab a package when we need to cook it. Or we’ll do a double-batch of spaghetti sauce and freeze half of it in quart-size containers.
We do still have to plan ahead, of course (like remember to get the bag of marinated chicken out of the freezer the day before) but it still reduces the frequence of “standing at the fridge wondering what to serve the family in 10 minutes” syndrome
Here’s a site that has some good recipes for freezer cooking: www.30daygourmet.com. I think they sell books on the general subject, and some recipe books, but there are free recipes there also. There are also freezer-cooking lists on yahoogroups (not sure it’s OK to list them here but you could probably search on “freezer cooking” and find them).
Like Mama Zappa, I don’t bother with a whoop-dee-do once a month thing. Mostly I buy stuff on Saturday, then set Sunday aside for basic food prep for the week. Once you get your freezer and pantry in shape, all you have to do is fill in with fresh stuff and restock the freezer as convenient.
Invest in some good freezer bags, markable plastic containers or a vacuum pack system. A spare cheapy cookie sheet and ice cube trays are great too. They’ll repay the initial investment many times over. It’s important store what you freeze properly, as well as mark it as to content and date.
Whenever cooking, double the recipe if feasible. (Or at least freezable components. Pasta and cheese don’t freeze usually freeze well, but their trimmings might.) If you make a meatloaf, pasta sauce, red beans and rice, casserole, whatever, it’s just as easy to make two and freeze one for later. Then just add cheese, pasta, whatever.
Go for investment buying. Buy local produce when it’s cheap and good. Freeze blueberries, sliced peaches, green beans, corn, etc. when they’re plentiful. Instant cobblers, compotes and muffin goodies, or side dishes. Ground veal on sale? toss together a batch of Swedish meatballs minus the noodles. Pork? make bbq. Basil growing like crazy? Make pesto and freeze in cubes, minus the parmesan. It’s all gold, ready for use later.
Take a quick cruise through the freezer and pantry before shopping. It’ll help you use what you already have, not to mention provide inspiration.
Buy, batch, label and freeze essential ingredients, ready to hand. Buy a honkin’ big ‘hand’ of fresh ginger, then bag and freeze it. Snap off a knob for easy grating with a mircoplane. Mince jalepenos, freeze on a cookie then store in a ziplock bag for instant use in chili, casseroles, gumbo, etc.
Prepare fresh stuff sufficient for a week. Example; it’s too blasted HOT to cook around here. I just blanched some green beans (in the micro), then cooled, dried and stored them for Salad Nicoise. Seedless cukes are chopped and stored in fridge bags. Assorted greens are washed, dried and in the fridge. Grape tomatoes from the farmers’ market will be used by Wed. An Asian chicken salad is mixed and ready. A batch of buttermilk ranch dressing–homemade and all lowfat–is made and ready for too damned hot and tired to bother crisis meals.
I’m not really all that well organized. I’d just rather dink around a little extra when I already have to dink around anyway.
Sweet. I like these “ease into it” ideas. I was sort of wondering how I’d find a whole day to do nothing but cook, what with taking care of the baby and pumping milk. (Jeebus! I wish she’d nurse already! Pumping while sitting in front of the 'puter gives me lots of time to check in with you fine Dopers many times during the day, but my life would be so much simpler if she’d just nurse!!! [/whiny hijack])
I like the idea that I don’t have to overwhelm myself with 30 days all at once. Maybe I’ll try a week at a time for a week or two, and then see if I’m up for two weeks at a time. Work up to a month gradually.
I didn’t even know that such a thing existed until I read this thread; this seems ideal for me as I’m both cheap and undemanding of my meals. In an ideal world, I’d go to the grocery store once a month to buy a 40 lb bag of Man Kibble, but I think I’ll try this instead.
Picked up “Once a Month Cooking” at Barnes and Noble.
My current plan is to try making one of the recipes tomorrow, so we shall se how it goes (I’m not gonna do the “make 4 entrees at once” thing; I’m single and I don’t eat much, so a months worth of food for a family of 6 would last me, um, 6 months. :))
People have given you so much good advice already, that I don’t have much to add… here are my two weak points:
Soup. It is soooo easy to make a huge batch of soup that will serve for four to six family meals. It freezes superly (though, as noted before, don’t add noodles until you’re actually ready to eat the soup). It is standard practice, in my extended family, to always have 3-4 kinds of soup (usually vegetable-beef, chicken gumbo, turkey noodle, and turtle) in the freezer. It is the standard nobody-wanted-to-cook-something-special meal. Being a frequent soup eater is also a great excuse to buy those gorgeous peasant loafs of bread and big hunks of fancy cheese–they turn the soup into a real meal.
You can have standing orders for meat from QVC. I get a dozen American Heart Association steaks delivered to me every two months. No shopping, no sorting or bagging–they come frozen rock solid and stay that way until I’m ready for them.
I’m single too, and most recipes make more than enough leftovers. One good meal and maybe a repeat, then I’m tired of it. Even when I make an extra casserole, meatloaf, pasta sauce, whatever, I still divide it into smaller portions for freezing. I can’t eat my way through a whole batch before getting burnt out on it. Or try making a standard recipe and just freezing half.
Or start from basics. Say, buy ground beef in bulk when it’s good and reasonably priced. (Or chicken, or whatever.) Immediately package half into two smaller parts for freezing. With the rest, brown as usual. (Most recipes start out that way anyway; you’re just getting a jump on the step.) Drain, blot and freeze. Then go ahead and use the rest for what you’re making right now.
You have two portions of raw fixin’s (just defrost for use), an almost-ready portion for quickie use and whatever leftovers you have.
I hate being blindsided when I’m totally whipped and just want something good to eat. It’s so much easier to toss in a few extra steps when I’m already futzing around anyway.
I don’t do OAMC as such, but my daughter and I will make and freeze half a dozen meatloaves, for instance, when good ground beef (we don’t use the fatty ground beef any more) is on sale. And while we’re at it, we’ll generally cook up the meat and veggies for several spaghetti dinners. We like meat sauce in the Bodoni family, which is basically ground beef, onion, bell pepper, mushroom, and garlic all cooked together, drained, and then added to Ragu (and it HAS to be Ragu) marinara sauce. So while one of us is making meatloaf, the other is sauteing the sauce additives. After the fat is drained, this freezes very well, and is very easy to thaw in the heating sauce while the noodles cook.
I’d like to have more meals in the freezer, but it’s still half full of venison from last fall.