A couple weeks ago my husband asked me “What would make your life easier?”
Huh…whaaa? Easier, you say? It had never occurred to me to think of it in those terms. Yeah, I know, how lazy can I be if that’s not an active and frequent thought? So, here’s what I came up with off the top of my head:
1. Not making dinner every night
2. Having someone spoon feed me lessons in how to be organized
3. More sleep, less brain fog, more meditation, less driving, more cowbell…
Are you acquainted with the concept of once-a-month cooking (OAMC) or freezer cooking? I’d first dabbled with it before Mike arrived (7 years ago!) in an attempt to get the freezer stocked up before we had a newborn in the house. I did it exactly once and was so overwhelmed I never tried it again…until this month. This is what I did to make my life easier and possibly save some money on overall food expenditures.
I’ve had Once A Month Meals (OAMM) on my radar for a while, particularly since they have a menu swapping feature that lets you build a menu from their recipe collection and adjust it for your family’s size. OAMM also features specialty menus like traditional, whole foods, diet, baby food, and–my choices–gluten-free, dairy-free and Paleo.
The absolutely best part, they spoon feed you how to do it! Whoo hoo! I knew I could figure out a shopping list, but this service offers an absolutely beautiful, detailed list (of course, I forgot a few things on my shopping day anyway), a lengthy prep sheet, cooking day instructions, plus all kinds of little videos and tricks on their website. Best tip: store all your prepped veggies in a cooler over night. When you subscribe to the service they you send a series of OAMM 101 Basic Training. Little pointers like don’t jump right in, clean out your freezer first, and don’t try to cook with little kiddies underfoot.
So, how did I do? I totally bit off more than I could chew.
Every summer my husband takes our two little guys to Pact Family Camp and I stay home with the teen, who had summer school classes this year. I knew I’d have 5 full days to work on this project.
I needed it.
Because of my chronic fatigue, I’d planned on spreading out the cooking to 2 days. I ended up spreading it out over 3. In hindsight, I should have dialed down my ambition. This plan is designed for hale and hearty young women who can power through 12 hours straight on their feet. (I was also spending part of each day sorting through piles and heading out with my teen. We hit the beach, ate out a couple of times, and took a short hike at a local park.)
Day 1, Thursday: I shopped. I hit Whole Foods for most of the meat I was going to use and Trader Joe’s for some of their staples (and organic chicken tenders). I spent less than $350 for all organic produce, grass-fed beef, organic chicken, and pastured eggs. I bought almost exclusively organic staples as well, like Muir Glen tomatoes and various spices. I used hemp seed milk in recipes that called for milk or almond milk.
Day 2, Friday (it also happened to be July 4th): I prepped. I chopped and chopped and chopped. I honestly enjoyed separating prep out like this. I’ve done it a couple of times before for Thanksgiving dinners, but nothing on this scale: my list included 6 cups of pitted and halved cherries, 7 cups of chopped onion, 2 cups of sliced onion, 4 cups of shredded zucchini, and 4 lbs of diced chicken breast. I put on music (I made a Lindsey Stirling Pandora station), wore comfortable shoes, and enjoyed the smell of fresh basil and cilantro, snagged a generous handful fresh pitted cherries, and managed not to cry my eyes out over 12 cups of onions.
Day 3-4-5, Saturday, Sunday and Monday: I cooked. I spent 2-4 hours each day cooking. About a third of the meals I picked were prep the marinade, bag ‘em, and freeze ‘em. I ended up doing most those on Monday morning.
What I made:
- GFCF Apricot Muffins
- Sausage & Pancake Breakfast Balls
- Almost Chick Fil A Chicken Nuggets
- Nightshare-free Cherry BBQ Chicken
- Chicken Sausage Stir Fry with Kale
- Mini Zucchini Bread Pancakes
- Crockpot Shredded Chipotle Beef
- Paleo Asian Turkey Burgers
- Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken
- Slow Cooker Braised Short Ribs
- Carne Asada
- Tender Grilled Pork Chops
- Chicken tenders in lemon and rosemary marinade,
- Italian turkey meatballs (meat mixed for me at Whole Foods meat dept)
- Turkey-zucchini poppers adapted from this recipe
- Batch cooked black beans and pinto beans
…actually double portions of everything but the pork chops and carne asada. So that’s about 30 organic, allergy-friendly meals for roughly $350.
What I would do differently: I wouldn’t make the chicken nuggets, which are delicious, the pancakes or the muffins. The nuggets and the pancakes were mind-numbingly labor intensive and the muffins aren’t nearly as good as a box of my beloved King Arthur Gluten-Free Muffin Mix.
I think next month I’ll scale it back and do a couple of mini sessions, but I’m looking at a month of ready-to-go meals, fewer shopping trips, less time in the kitchen, fewer last-minute “Oh just get take out” decisions, and reduced spending on food.
Now, let’s just hope they eat it all!