Wednesday, April 28, 2010

OAMC -- The Big Picture

I've been asked a bunch of times about the freezer meals that I prepare for our family.

So, by popular demand:  Once A Month Cooking by The Greyhaired Momma

Now, before you start thinking I am the smartest, most well prepared, most organized, best dressed, most fit -- uhh... wait.  I think I derailed there.  What I'm trying to say is that this whole concept of OAMC is not my own.   I pretty much stole it from some other really smart ladies.  Well, steal is a rather strong word.  I paid.  And you can too.  But, before I get to that, I will tell you more about OAMC and how it's blessed our family.

If you, like me, feel like you're running around like a chicken with your head cut off on most days, then you know that by 5:00, you're exhausted.  And the idea of figuring out what's for dinner is daunting enough to make you offer pancakes, eggs, cereal, canned processed junk, McD's Chicken Flavored Nuggets, and PB&J's to your family.  Repeatedly.  Never mind the fact that making something with meat usually required enough forethought to have taken it out of the freezer.  My family is not a big fan of "mystery meat bricks."  I'm assuming yours isn't either.

I started small.  A friend and I tackled one week of meals.  (I would highly recommend partnering up for your first, and even your second, attempt at freezer meals.  Builds confidence and it's nice to have someone other than the onions to chat with.  Not that I do that.  I'm speaking of hypothetical conversations with the onions.  Sheesh!)    One week of meals worked fine, however it seemed like a lot of work for only 5 or 6 meals.  So, I began to think larger.  I Googled "freezer meals."  There was lots out there with a recipe or two, and people who touted doubling and tripling recipes to freeze.  But I thought there must be something different.  And, I didn't want to eat three pans of spaghetti in one week.  

A lady that I'd heard speak at a MOPS convention, Kathi Lipp, was talking on her blog about freezer cooking.  I entered to win her recipe booklet, The Freezer Gourmet, but, alas, did not win.  When I emailed Kathi about purchasing it and told her about our blog, she took pity on me.  I guess she read our blog, fell in love with MotorMan's commitment to our country.  What can I say?  The woman is a patriot.  And she mailed me her booklet -- for free!

And then I stumbled on this beauty.  The Holy Grail of OAMC guidebooks: Frugal Moms' Guide to Once A Month Cooking.  Not only does the FMGtOAMC downloadable booklet have TONS of recipes, but it also has forms to make your planning and cooking easier. 
 So, using both of the recipe booklets and other recipes I've found online, I begin planning.  I usually choose about 15-20 recipes, knowing that there will be some leftovers from most recipes, which means some meals stretch more than one night.  I also know that most recipes make a larger portion than we will eat and that I can actually turn one recipe into two meals.

After choosing the recipes, I make my shopping list with all the ingredients.  And the crazy thing?  Our grocery bill is LESS when I do freezer cooking than it is for other meal plans.  It's markedly cheaper than that whole fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants meal plan!  For example, I made 19 meals yesterday.  Our grocery bill for that was $220!  That's for a month of dinners, people.  Of course I will need to add the fresh produce each week, but come on!  That's cheap.  Stinkin' cheap if you ask me.  Which, I realize, you didn't.

One of the good guidelines in FMGtOAMC is to designate one day for shopping and another day for cooking.  Trust me, you need two days.   Especially if you shop at the StuffMart.  Just getting through the check out there could take the better part of the day.  But, that's a whole other rant for another day.

Once I've decided on my cooking day, and have the recipes in front of me, I use a worksheet that tells me the order to "do" things for the recipes.  Kinda like a game plan.  A road map of cooking.  This makes things much smoother.  For instance, I will cut up all the onions and mince all the garlic at one time that I will need for the entire slew of recipes.   I will brown all the ground beef at one time.  I will boil all the chicken breasts together and then dole out the appropriate amount for each recipe.   The first time I tried OAMC, even with my game plan, I bumbled around a bit.  This time, I was smoother.   Next time, I expect to shoot through it like greased lightning!  (Feel free to enter the song here.  You know it's playin' through your head and that John Travolta is dancin' through your brain in those tight leather pants.  I'll wait.... "Go greased lightning you're coasting through the quarter mile.  Go greased lighting!  Go greased lightning!  You are supreme!  Uh! Uh!" -- and I'll stop there as this is a family friendly blog!)

Where was I?  Oh, yes...

Honestly, there is no magic to the whole thing.  Yes, it takes time.  But the four or five hours I spend in the kitchen one day comes back to me tenfold when I pull a meal out of the freezer the night before cooking to thaw.  Knowing all I have to do is bake/warm/crockpot the main dish, add some sides and it's ready is wonderful.  All ingredients bundled.  Everything I need is there.   Just thaw, cook, and enjoy!

It's been a blessing on our household and I hope you'll try it and find the blessing for yourself!

**Postscript:  After writing this, I realized that it might behoove (good word, huh?) -- uh, it might be helpful if I actually broke down the whole process a little bit more.  And maybe threw a recipe or two at you.  So, watch for those posts... They'll be coming to a blog near you!  Well, this blog specifically, but you know what I mean.
Love and freezer meals win,

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