Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Once a Month Cooking Part 3: Once a Month Mom

Finally, I came across this amazing website called Once A Month Mom after my friend Chelsea (yes, the same one that inspired preschool, the activity bag swap and pretty much every other fun idea) blogged about her once a month cooking experience.

What is Once A Month Mom?

This website is amazing because they do EVERYTHING for you except cook. They plan the menu, plan the grocery list, and give you step-by-step instructions. You can even change the quantity (number of people eating each meal) and they automatically do ALL of the calculations for you!

And that's NOT ALL! They have menu plans for vegetarians, gluten-free diets, whole food diets, etc. So, there's something there for everyone.

I LOVE this because I don't have to spend hours and hours pulling my own recipes. I can make a more vast variety than if I just cooked the same meal four times, and I don't have to compromise our desire to eat fairly clean/whole foods. WIN! WIN! WIN!

Why I LOVE Once A Month Mom

The first time I did once a month cooking with Once a Month Mom, I did it by myself. After half a day of grocery shopping, an entire evening of chopping/prepping and probably almost 12 hours of cooking I SWORE I would NEVER do that again.

But then we started pulling meals out of the freezer and eating them. Some nights the most we had to clean up in the kitchen was a ziplock bag and our plates/cups/silverware. There was little to no breakfast prep. I didn't have to spend all of Monday cooking our breakfast/lunches for the week. Let me tell you it was nice! Less meal preparation, less time in the kitchen, less time cleaning up and doing dishes - that is my kind of eating.

Cooking Once A Month Mom with a Friend

The second time I cooked for the month I recruited my friend Allison to join me. I still spent half a Saturday grocery shopping, but we split the chopping/prepping and I had a friend to talk with in the kitchen. The husbands watched the kiddos (and some football) while we worked in the kitchen.  We knocked out all of the meals in 8-9 hours, and I didn't end the day in a foul mood.

I was a little scared that the long, long day would chase her off, but her family enjoyed the meals (sans those really garlicky enchiladas) and Allison came back for another batch cooking day the next month.

Tips for Making Your Cooking Day a Success:

Here are a few of our tips that we learned the hard way, or things we'd change for our next once-a-month cooking extravaganza:

  • Do as much chopping of veggies/shredding of cheese/cubing of meat the night before. It makes your day go smoother.
  • Start as early in the morning as possible. We've gotten a late start both months and find ourselves cooking at 9:00/10:00 pm when we're tired and still have to get up the next morning.
  • Cook with a friend - it really does help pass the time. It also helps because you're more likely to have all of the spices you need already in your pantries. That cuts down on the cost when you don't have to purchase an entire bottle of Rosemary just for a recipe that calls for three tablespoons.
  • If possible, have your kids/husband hang out at the house you're NOT cooking at - our kiddos often wanted to help or just wanted mama and it was distracting.
  • Trust your instincts when making recipes that you think may not be to your taste or when buying ridiculously huge proportions. We've made Garlickly Enchiladas that were pretty much inedible and purchased WAY too many butternut squashes (even after cutting the amount in half) but we doubted ourselves because the "grocery list" called for those amounts. Next time we'll trust our gut and use/purchase less.
And, now for a few pictures of the process. I didn't take alot because I was busy COOKING!

Here's my half of the groceries - when Allison showed up my entire kitchen table was covered with supplies!
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The clean kitchen before we got started . . .

A fridge full of chopped veggies, shredded cheese, eggs and milk . . .

We do dishes over and over and over again as we work. 

Danny kept us stocked in Dr. Pepper and M&Ms and at the end of the day the husbands ran and got us fast food so we could sit and eat (this is essential - the last thing you want to do after a day in the kitchen is fix yourself dinner). And yes, that's my prego belly hanging over that stove.

Cannon looks on at the madness.

And there you have it. Our once-a-month cooking not-so-secret secrets. 

Standing and cooking all day in November about did my pregnant body in - so I think we're going to skip December, except for a few meals from "Fix, Freeze, Feast" and "Don't Worry Dinners in the Freezer" and resume our cooking regime after I've had a few months to adjust to having two kiddos!

Let me know if you give once-a-month cooking a try, or if you have any other tips/suggestions!

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