I spent just 2.5 hours this morning preparing 10 meals for my family's freezer. Instead of messing the kitchen up to make dinner 10 different times, I messed it up all at once and got it all done! Think about how much time you spend each evening making/cleaning up dinner. Maybe an hour total? That would be 10 hours to get done what OAMC gets done in under three. Despite the craziness of homeschooling and various afternoon/evening activities, we can still eat good, home cooked meals. That makes this mamma happy.
The key to once a month cooking (OAMC) is planning and prep. If you do this step correctly, the assembly goes much more smoothly. Here are a few quick tips to get you started.
1. Choose recipes you are already familiar with. Yes, you can look on-line and find a plethora of OAMC recipes, but choosing 10 new recipes to assemble on cooking day will slow you waaaay down. Instead, look over your family's favorites and see which ones might freeze well. Soups, stews, casseroles, sloppy joes, quiche, crockpot favs, chicken in marinade...most recipes will freeze fairly well. If you want to try a new recipe, consider limiting it to one or two each cooking session. If the family likes them, you can add them to your regular rotation.
2. Decide where in the cooking process you will freeze each meal. I don't like my meals to taste like leftovers, so if I'm assembling a casserole I put it together and freeze prior to baking. This way when I take it out of the freezer I just defrost and bake. Right now I have Salisbury steak patties and Ranch chicken I am flash freezing and will bake when we're ready to eat them.
3. Prepping is the key. I list out how many pounds of hamburger I need to brown, how many onions I need to chop, how many pounds of cheese I need to grate, etc. Keep this list handy to work from. Taking the time to chop all the onions at once instead of each time you need them saves loads of time...and sanity.
4. Lay out each recipe with the ingredients. I'm a visual person, so this helps me IMMENSELY with assembly. When I start putting it all together I'm not scrambling all over the kitchen and pantry to find what I need - it's right there. Makes the process super fast.
5. Gallon Ziplock freezer bags are your new BFF. Just label with the recipe name and date and pop the meals in the freezer. These freeze flat and don't take up too much space. The only thing I ever freeze in a baking dish would be lasagna or something I need to layer. Even the quiches fit nicely into the bag and freeze very well.
Now to relax. After all morning in the kitchen, hubby's taking me out to dinner! :-)