Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tackle It Tuesday ~ January Cooking for a Month

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

I was waiting for the time to strike when I would get back into my cooking for a month routine. I had started doing this a while back as a way to cater to my sanity. I'm feeling confident now that I can get back in to this routine.

Some people might ask if I am insane - cooking for a month? The answer to that is - always yes! But you see, although I do enjoy cooking, most nights I feel so pressured to hurry up and 'get it on the table' that it's not enjoyable anymore. Sometimes I feel like I am just cooking the same thing night after night. I dare not ask anyone tips, idea's or thoughts on 'what's for dinner tonight'. Nights I am having trouble thinking of something for dinner, I will ask my husband, 'What's for dinner tonight?' His response: 'I don't know, I'm not hungry.'

Uhh, well listen buddy, although you might not be hungry, I know there are at least 5 other people in this house who are or will be. So ya want to throw me a bone or something?

So, I am left on my own. My solution to this irritating madness is my monthly cooking.

First I plan my menu:

When planning out my menu, I am only planning The Weekday Dinners and 4 snacks/desserts. Notice on the last week of the month there are some days without dinners - so I guess we won't eat those days.

Just kidding! I actually goofed somewhere and came up a few dinners short. What can I say, I'm out of practice.

I always have tons of frozen or fresh veggies or salad on hand for sides. Also, because the main bulk of the cooking is done this allows me more freedom to be more creative with my side dishes.

I start by going through my stockpile and coordinating meals with what I already have on hand. I also try to substitute ingredients I don't have with something I do have that will work just as well. For example, I needed bread crumbs (which I didn't have on hand) for my meatloaf. However, I did have boxes of instant mashed potatoes that I planned to use instead of bread crumbs. This saves me money because now I don't have to buy the bread crumbs.

So, after completing my rough draft menu, and collecting all the ingredients I need, hauling them all upstairs, this is what already have on hand for my monthly cooking:

I then go though my menu again and compile a list and collect any coupons I can use to complete my menu.

I spent a total of $25.29

While shopping I found these bags of Mann's Rainbow Salad on clearance for $1.31. I had 2 coupons that would give me $1 off, so I got both bags for just $.62 cents!

Now, this wasn't on my monthly cooking list, so why did I get them? After seeing them and doing some careful thinking I actually knocked off about $6 or more off my 'would be' grocery bill.

Let me attempt to explain:

The fist week of this month I had 4 meals planned: ABT Pitas (Avocado, Bacon Turkey Pitas), Tacos, California Rolls, Egg Rolls. On my original grocery list I needed tomatoes (which are always expensive but these where for the tacos and pita's), cucumbers (California Rolls) and cabbage (Egg Rolls). Instead of buy the overpriced tomatoes, cucumber and cabbage, which would have cost me about $6 bucks, I spent $.62 cents and got these 2 bags of Mann's Rainbow Salad to replace them. I thought it would be something really fun and different to have this on the pitas and tacos instead of the traditional lettuce and tomatoes. I also plan on making my egg rolls using this rainbow salad mixture. I know it's traditional to use cucumber in California rolls, but I am going to use this instead because it will give the same 'crunch' as the cucumber - and it's already sliced into strips so one less thing I have to prep.

All in all I think it will work out great. The Mann's Rainbow Salad is also super nutrish - more so (I think) than the lettuce, tomato and cucumber I was going to buy. This salad is made up of Broccoli and Cauliflower hearts, Carrots and Red Cabbage. We had the ABT Pitas last night and everyone loved it! There was a little left over, so today for the babies lunch I divided it up into two bowls with a little ranch dressing and they ate it right up! They love crunchy veggies!

All n all, I spent a good 12 hours cooking, shopping and planning. This is worth it to me because even if I was Rachel Ray and could do 30 minute meals - 17 meals over a month would amount to 8 1/2 hours + cleanup time. That is IF I was Rachel Ray. So I think it saves a little time and it's nice having everything done and ready to go. It's also nice having it all planned out and everyone knows what is for dinner that night.

I know there is more to tell so if anyone has any questions feel free to leave me a comment or email me. If you would like to know more about how I plan my menu, how I cook the meals, how I freeze the meals or anything else - let me know.


Lolli said...

I love cooking for a month! It is SO worth one crazy cooking day to have all those meals finished for the month.

Anonymous said...

I think it's amazing that you are organized enough to do this! I usually plan for a week in advance but don't do all of the cooking up front because we don't have the freezer space. Occasionally I'll make extra of something and stash it in the freezer, but not to the extremes that you are able to.

I think it's great that you plan out so many of your family's meals like this so that you can focus on feeding everyone healthy foods. Too many people put such crap on the dinner table using the excuse that they don't have time. You, my dear, have proven all of those people wrong!

I've never seen that Rainbow salad before. I bet it would also be great with a thick coleslaw dressing and some plump raisins in it.

Homeschool Mama said...

I am trying really hard to save $$ at the grocery store. I usuallly buy two weeks out and cook the same day. I've done a lot of crockpot recipes but sometimes if you forget and the time goes by you don't have enough to finish cooking before it's dinner time.. That's happened to me too many times lately! Then no dinner for us. I would love to try this and see if it will help in our grocery bills.. Thanks for sharing..

Jill Scott said...

So you not only plan and shop for a month's meals, but you also cook that entire months meals and then freeze them? You really are organized.

One Mom, Five Kids said...

Organized? Huh? What's that? (ha ha ha!)

I plan and shop for a months meals and I cooked or prepped about 85% of the meals. The first part of the week I planned stuff that would stay fresh in the fridge. I prepped everything for the pita's, cooked the taco meat, shredded the cheese, crab meat etc. I did not prepare the avacado's until cooking day because they will just get brown and yucky. The same with the California Rolls and Egg Rolls, everything is prepped for them, but on cooking day I guess I will have to cook the rice and put them together.

The Lentles, I cooked about 75% of the way through, they were still hard but I do this so when I heat them up on cooking day they will finish cooking and won't be mushy from over cooking.

After the first of the week, everything is frozen - except for the spheghetti. I made the meat sauce for the spheghetti, but on cooking day I will cook the noodles. The same way with the brocoli tuna cassarole. I made the sauce for the cassarole, but I will wait until cooking day to boil the noodles, toss with the sauce and put it in the oven.

So I guess on some days I am still 'cooking' but the bulk of it is done for the most part.