I get so tired of food! Some days it feels like between meal planning, ingredient reading, price checking, shopping, prep, set up, clean up, and, of course, the ever-important snacks, all I ever think about is food, what is in it, is it the right thing for my family, and how do I need to plan my day around getting it on the table and in their tummies on time. Oh, I forgot to mention being the sole food source for a four month old...food food food. But I have discovered a system that frees me up a lot because I freeze up a lot! You may have heard of Once-a-Month cooking, Frozen Assets, or, as I like to call it, Marathon Cooking. Right now I'm doing twice a month cooking (although I just did my second shopping trip and there's less than 10 days left in the month and I still have 2 meals in my freezer!).
Why I LOVELOVELOVE it:
* Two days of work affords two-plus weeks of entrees and lunches!
* It gives me a concentrated time of focused super organization and work, and then the rest of the time I can fly by the seat of my pants like I like to! No more stressing out because I forgot to get dinner started in time or don't have all the necessary ingredients like I thought I did! This system works really well with the way my mind works/doesn't work.
* Instead of peeling, paring, chopping, sauteing, browning, etc... every dinnertime, I do a ton of it in one day and then am done!
* Same thing goes for all those dishes and pots cooking requires- one of my favorite realizations of the perks to doing this: Post dinner clean up is a breeze!
* typing out my menu plan and grocery list makes going through the grocery store ads and coupons much simpler. I don't have to carry all those coupons on me because I know exactly which ones I need. Same goes for sales (like BOGO or "10 for 10") on non perishables- I have a good idea on how much to stock up and what to pass up.
* Doing the bighuge grocery trip makes me extra careful to go exactly by my list, which is carefully made up after going through my calendar, recipes and pantry. Knowing that my grocery bill is going to be in the three digits always gives me a knot in my stomach. At the same time, knowing that every item that I am purchasing is going to get used and not forgotten or wasted is such a great feeling!
* Added bonus- after I've done my big shopping trip and collected my receipt I usually have no desire to go shopping or spend money on anything for a long time. =)
* Cooking from scratch is always more cost and health effective!
* Having all those meals planned out and made means spending less on eating out or random trips to the grocery store, which always add up. Not feeling great? Tired? Just get home from a busy day out? Dinner is still right there just waiting to be heated! And I know it's more cost effective and healthier than buying frozen entrees at the store; I know exactly what went in, and more importantly, what didn't go in (preservatives!)
* I always feel prepared for mealtime
* It has helped me overall have a idea of what meals go over really well with the family, and to realize that I don't need to serve them a different meal every night. I repeated my two week menu plan in the same month to get a really good idea on prices comparisons, and nobody complained that we were eating the same things! duh, sarah!
* Hospitality isn't as stressful because I can spend time with guests instead of cooking and cleaning up.
* But I think my favorite aspect is that once all I've done all that thinking, planning, organizing, and cooking, I can just FORGET about it for a week or two! I don't have to worry about running to the grocery store or keeping up on sales, and to me, that is a thing of beauty!
If there is one problem I've found with this system, it's that after I've filled up the freezer I just want to stand there and soak it all in; the temptation to hoard that precious treasure hits. =) But in reality, I feel so much more ready to bring a meal to someone in need.
I especially recommend this if you are planning to become pregnant, or are about to have a baby. Watching my husband scavenge around in the kitchen while I was seriously sick during the first trimester of my second pregnancy was one of the main impetuses for me trying this. When we started talking about having Baby no. 3 I got to cooking! It was so helpful. And then towards the end of my third trimester I started cooking up a storm again and, together with the meals from family and ladies at our church, we didn't have to do major shopping for a month and a half! Such a blessing.
It takes a lot of organization, freezer space, and a free day (although I've managed to do it over the course of two days with all the kids at home, and stayed somewhat sane) but I did want to share this because it really has made life easier for me, and I feel so much more on top of our food chain and food budget!
If you're like me and sorely under-utilize the internet, you can still totally figure out a system that works for you and make it happen. However, you can also check out some of these online resources.
* Mimi Wilson is a Believer, she grew up on the mission field in Africa, later, she and her husband served in Ecuador. I was talking with my mom about her cookbook and found out that we actually went to the same church in CO. when we lived in Denver. Small, crazy world...
* Frugal Alert! Our local Half Price bookstore is currently carrying her cookbook for $4.99
If the thought of marathon cooking is overwhelming, (and I do recommend starting off with a 2wk plan before you attempt a full month's worth) you could still do your menu planning and shopping, but split it up with half crock pot meals, another great 'fix it and forget it' cooking method!