Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Cooking Game Plan - Cook Once A Month

I like to cook - really. I love making up my own recipes and having it all come together. What I don't like is all the frustrations that come along with the cooking. I spend at least a half hour digging in the fridge trying to come up with something. Chasing the babies out of the kitchen or worrying about if they are going to get under food when carrying a pot of hot pasta water to the sink to drain. I hate dirty dishes and having the kitchen a mess - which always seems to be the case after I cook something. Then I am left asking myself - was it really necessary to use 4 pans and a skillet to make that one meal? Yup - I'm a mess in the kitchen - but I really do like cooking.

Let's not talk about the look my husband gave me when I told him I only wanted to cook one time a month. But I was serious.

From couponing and deal hunting I have a large stockpile that will allow me to make just about anything anyone wants. Not only that, I have a chest freezer stuffed full of meats, fish and other frozen items. With a piece of paper and a pencil I went through my stockpile and started writing down meals I could make with what I had - or at the most only needed a few ingredients. After I was done I had about 30 or more meals listed. I took this list to my kids and husband and had everyone pick out 3 meals they would like - or if there was something they wanted that wasn't on the list, to write it down.

After that I constructed my calendar:

These are only the main dishes. I have tons of frozen veggies I can add in as a side. I am calling the weekends 'a la carte kitchen' so that is why I didn't plan anything. I also planned for us to go out to eat twice this month. The days were there is not a meat dish, I planned another protein rich dish such as eggs or beans.

On Sunday my husband helped me to chop veggies, fresh herbs and meat. I can't really give you very good details on how cooking day went cause it was a disorganized mess. I do know I spent 3 hours in the kitchen and when the end came - I felt I really accomplished something. I had gotten lots of meals made, which if we weren't eating them in the next week, I placed in the freezer. I had all my meals for the next week in the fridge. I felt very relieved - if not for anything else, just knowing what I was going to cook that day.

Another great thing is that now I have my main course made and ready to go, I can spend more time on my side dishes and be more creative in that area. The other night we had Salmon and I made the most wonderful Tomato Stuffing - even using my own toasted bread crumbs. It so SO GOOD - everyone loved it. I would pass the recipe on but I don't know how I made it. I guess that's the bad part of creating your own dishes. I have got to learn how to write things down.

I have learned a lot with this first experiment and I am definitely doing it again next month. There are some changes I will make, to make things more organized and hopefully I will be able to write in more detail about how I managed to pull this off.

Stay tuned until next month.