- Once-a-month cooking
- Marie Rick's "House of Order"
- and Sandra Lee's Money Saving Meals.
Having a plan gets the decision making out of the way early in the day, and if you strategically plan your meals, you can multi-task the prep work. After all, it's just as easy to cook 6 lbs of hamburger and onions as it is to do 2. It also facilitates grocery shopping, and keeps you away from expensive (and often unhealthy) fast food. If you are going to have, say, pears as your fruit for 6 of your dinners in a month, you can get a case of pears and be set for 2 -3 months.
So, with that in mind I made this grid on excel: 5 weeks of meals including a main dish, a V: = vegetable and F= fruit. I took a poll of what dinners my family would like to see in a month, then gathered all of my recipes together and decided on 7 categories for each day of the week. For Example: Mondays are set aside for Family Home Evening, so I do my quickest recipes then so that I can ALSO have the time to help the kids make a treat. I dubbed it "Dump It" night - my fast recipes that I can make in under 20 minutes.
After naming each genre of the week, I pulled/copied the recipes for the month in a single binder and put them in plastic sheet protectors (knowing how sloppy my cooking can be). I also printed out a copy of my Month O'Meals and have it taped it to the fridge. It was a bit harder than I thought, and it's not perfect yet, but here it is! One month of recipes. One place to look for what I need. This way, I can take the whole binder with me when I go the grocery store and flip through a week or two of recipes to see what I'll need. Slick!
Part of my weekly genres include recipes from the Food Network Show, "Sandra Lee's MSV, or "money saving meals." I tivo the show every Sunday, and have been trying out her recipes much to the delight of my family - I've never made Greek food before! Even better, she has a "Round 2 Recipe," where you reserve some of the ingredients from your first recipe, and for a few ingredients more, comes up with another meal. It cuts down on my prep time, and helps me to feel a little bit ahead of the 8 ball.
Lastly, freezer meals. Once-a-Month Cooking is both a book and a technique. Matthew and I used this in our college days when no one was home to prep dinner. We would make a list of meals from the books "Frozen Assets" and "Once-a-Month Cooking, then go grocery shopping on Friday night, leave all the cans out on the counter, and put it together on Saturday morning.
Most recipes can be stored in a gallon sized zip lock bag. You freeze them flat, then line them up in your freezer shelf like library books. There are often a few "extras" that go with the meal, like chopped tomatoes/avocados on "Sopa de Maize," or Frito's, but that is minimal work compared with having to make the whole thing.
I have, currently, about 17 meals in the freezer. Do I follow any of these plans strictly? Heck no. Each technique has it's merit, and by combining them, it gives me time and it gives me options. At the end of the day, you do what works best for you and your family.
But I can say that having a plan, and simple techniques is much better than trying to make it up every day. I hope to be SO organized one day that I can have FOUR binders of month long recipes. Winter, Spring, Summer (YAY GRILLING!) and Fall. In my mind, I'll have everything plotted out by what is in season cross checked by what grocery stores usually have on sale. Cue "Dream the Impossible Dream...."
But I can't think about that now.... I'll have to think about it tomorrah... after I pull out mah freezer meal!