The four of us rattled around the kitchen that rainy Sunday afternoon between church services. We gals busied ourselves with asking sweet Jennifer our hostess where to put the shredded cheese on the buffet line, if there were mini tongs for the fajita fixings and “oh, was I supposed to do something now that the kitchen timer has buzzed?”
You know how such conversations go with gals. In-between the self-made interruptions deemed necessary when both talking AND cooking, the conversation often revolved around food, our families, or relationships.
I quickly moved to the topic of food. I was bemoaning the close out of the Mega Foods in my town and how much it changed my budget, time management and food prep. I had had my food budget and shopping down to a comfortable science. It allowed me to be efficient and creative and enabled our little family and guests to eat fresh on a smaller budget. Now that the store had closed it ALL CHANGED! I either had to shop closer at the more expensive Safeway or drive another 45 minutes to bulk stores (and of course no ONE store had 100% of what I wanted). I wasn’t prepared to increase my food budget, I didn’t want to give up on my fresh cooking and I hated the idea of driving a lot more in this season of Baby and Puppy.
Jennifer piped up “I have an old book about once a month cooking. Here, let me find it for you!” She handed me a well-used copy of Once A month Cooking by Mimi Wilson & Mary Beth Lagerborg.
And that was the start of this new experiment I am trying, once-a-month shopping AND once-a-month batch cooking.
Once a month cooking means that you cook 30 meals (the entrees) in one day so that you don’t have to stress about the entrees during the month. The idea is simultaneously daunting and appealing. All the cooking, planning and budgeting necessary to prep for this endeavor feels over the top at first. However, the fact that when you are done you know what is for dinner, have minimal prep and mess and take fewer trips to the grocery store makes it rather attractive. It is also an easy way to be ready at the drop of the hat when meals are needed for friends and family (drop in guests, a friend has their baby early, or sudden loss of a loved one etc).
The book Once A month Cooking by Mimi Wilson & Mary Beth Lagerborg is a little dated although they have updated it more recently with gluten free recipes. You can find the book as well as a numerous number of other books and websites on the subject.
While Once a month meals.com has a lot of free tips and recipes, the core of what they do is subscription-based service. They have recipes of all sorts (keto , whole foods, vegetarian, FODMAP, Gluten free, Kid friendly, Paleo etc). So much is done for you in their system. Not only can you create your own months-worth of meals using their recipes, they organize the shopping list for you! Unfortunately they only accept new subscription members 2x a year and I missed the subscription deadline by a day. (I guess that is what you get for procrastinating in checking your emails for updates and alerts!)
As incredible as those websites were, I decided I would just do it on my own. It would cost less (no monthly subscription fees), and I could tailor it to my family’s unique dietary needs. Plus, I would get the benefits of really learning the process.
As I read the book as well as several online resources, I decided I would modify the plan a little bit.
If my goal was to get what I needed, reduce the number of longer trips to the store while saving money and time in the kitchen then I would try to execute a BIG SHOPPING DAY in which I would do 80% of my shopping for the month. Following that would be prepping and/or cooking ~50% meals for the next month.
Prepping and or cooking ~ 50% (or less) or meals seemed more reasonable to me for a number of reasons:
I wasn’t having anyone babysit my 13 month old (and as we all know sweet babies have sweet needs all day long J )
I wasn’t using a pre-made plan. I was using my own recipes (favorites and new ones). If I used a pre-made plan from the book or website then the shopping list, organizational prep schedule and cooking day schedule would have been laid out. As it was, I had 2 therapeutic diets my doctor had me on so I could rely on recipes and aids from the book.
So basically I knew I would have some inefficiency and couldn’t plan on cooking really streamlined for 8 hours straight. I was on my own. But I didn’t mind. It was actually sort of a fun challenge.
The Magic of it all
The magic of it all is in the preparation. I spent several hours the day prior to my BIG SHOPPING DAY just taking inventory or my freezer and pantry, looking at our social calendar for upcoming events, organizing my recipes and TYPING UP MY SHOPPING LIST.
I wasn’t going to type it at first. I have horrible handwriting however, and typing it forced me to really be prepared and think ahead. I organized my list my area in the grocery store (canned goods, misc, dairy etc) which helped a lot!
So how did it go? Wanna know how the shopping day went and the cooking day? What did I learn?Stay tuned for NEXT TIME!