In the past, I have relied on Once A Month Cooking to stretch both our budget and my sanity. I had gotten away from it this past year, but lately have been feeling a pressing need to get a bunch of food put into the freezer. Call it a control freak thing.
I don't usually have marathon, get-it-done-in-one-day cooking sessions, because as stated, this is a process meant to enhance my sanity, not release it unharmed into the wild. I generally do prep work and cooking over the course of several days, and suddenly, voila! At the end of a short week, I've got a months' worth of food in the freezer.
My strategy is to pick out 15-18 meals and make a double batch of each. This gets us plenty of food for dinners, as well as some hot lunches, since the Hungry Boys and I are at home every day, and feeding them a bowl of chili gets them back to work much sooner than having them make a sandwich, eat it, sit down with a book, decide 15 minutes later they're still hungry, watch them get up and grab a yogurt, eat it, sit back down with the book, decide 15 minutes later they're still hungry, etc etc. It's either make extra chili, or have them home with me until they are 30, still working on that high school graduation in between sandwiches and yogurt cups. I love them, but not that much.
Most of what I've got on this month's menu is comfort food. It's what freezes well and what my family eats. My guess is that if you're a militant vegan who wants to argue this point with me, you'll actually be a lot happier at someone else's blog.
Some months, I do a rigorous cost analysis before I start cooking; this month is not one of those months. Mostly I want to get back in the groove and save myself time. Which is not to say that we're eating a lot of beer-battered filet mignon, but I'm not worrying about tracking every penny. I will sit down with receipts at the end of the cooking spree and figure out what I've spent.
So! Here's what is on the menu:
Individual Cheeseburger Meatloaves
Phyllo Wrapped Chicken Breasts
White Chicken Enchiladas
Crock Pot Italian Chicken
Balsamic Marinated Chicken Breasts
Chicken Pot Pie
Parsley Parmesan Chicken
Macaroni and Cheese
Cheddar Broccoli Soup
Individual Pizza Crusts (for lunches)
Taco Roll Ups
* somewhere back in the 1990's, I was given a chili recipe to make to contribute to our church's annual soup supper. It is a happy, bland little Midwestern chili, with a tomato soup base. My husband took the recipe as a personal affront, and declared, "That's not chili!" No, but it's a happy, bland little Midwestern tomato soup-based hamburger soup, and as it goes it's not bad. It's earned a name and a permanent place in our happy, bland little Midwestern repertoire.
Here's what I've done so far:
-shopped for my Costco items, which this month was 48 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (so far - I need to go back and get more), 20 pounds of hamburger, a 5 pound bag of shredded cheddar cheese and 64 oz of half and half, most of which is actually for my coffee.
-browned, drained and cooled 12 pounds of hamburger.
-roasted 12 chicken breasts for pot pie.
-made up 12 individual cheeseburger meatloaves, which is four more than I was expecting to get from the recipe, probably because in my unbridled enthusiasm I dumped all 4 cups of cheese into the bowl instead of reading carefully and realizing that 2 cups of that are to be held out to sprinkle over the loaves at the end of baking. Sigh. So, I've got three meals instead of two but the loaves will probably laugh at me as they ooze and fall apart on the baking sheet. C'est la vie.
Yet today I need to: dice chicken for pot pie, cook, cool and dice another 8 breasts for Chicken Divan, make and freeze (uncooked) bacon cheeseburgers, and make a single batch of Chicken Enchiladas which is for tonight's dinner.
Tomorrow I'm going to take stock of what I already have in the house and what needs to be purchased at the store, make a list and head out to get the rest of the groceries; then I will finish up and get everything in the freezer. I know it should have been done already since I've got chicken breasts sitting in the fridge, but a) I'm busy, ergo the need to have pre-prepared meals in the first place, and b) they're vacuum packed so I'm not as worried about them. If we all needlessly die a gruesome, botulism-induced death, you can feel free to think, "See, I knew that would happen."
I do want to post the recipes for all of these dishes; I just have to figure out how to do that efficiently. That's a task for another day, I think...