Organized Cooking

This Sunday I spent about 4 hours cooking.  “FOUR HOURS?” You’re shouting at your screen.  Yes, friends, 4 hours (okay, 1 of those was shopping).  But I made five meals!  A few months ago I signed up to receive the menu plans from Once A Week Cooking.  I did it several weeks before the holidays and loved the process.  It’s a good amount of work on Sunday but it makes for much more pleasant week nights.  Then the holidays came and our meals were all over the place.  And so far this year I’ve had trouble getting things planned in advance and setting aside several hours on the weekend to get the shopping and cooking done.

But this weekend it was time to get back on track.  How did I do it?

We took the kids to the park this morning to burn off some extra energy.  Right before we left I printed out my menu and shopping list (Val puts it all together for you!).  I popped it on my clipboard and worked while Mr. Brown did the driving (we went to a farther away park).  Val’s menus are great but there’s usually at least one that isn’t right for my family so I always figure out which ones we’re going to actually make (this week I made 3 of her recipes and 2 of my own) then adjust the shopping list accordingly.  Next I rewrite the list, adding any extra things my family needs (like breakfast foods, milk, butter, etc) and put things in the order I shop through our supermarket.  This sounds like a lot of work but it probably takes 10 minutes – tops.

Once the kids were down for afternoon naps I headed out to the grocery store.  I’m much faster alone.  By the time I got home the kids were up and watching a movie.  I immediately unloaded the groceries and got to work.  One of my adjustments was the addition of a chili that Mr. Brown saw on Barefoot Contessa (it must have been a slow day in sports) so he basically made that one.  I made the rest.

Here’s what the kitchen looked like as we got started – Mr. Brown cubing the brisket

Our hardworking stove – ground beef browning for taco casserole, chicken cooking in the big pot for enchiladas and oil getting hot for browning brisket in the dutch oven.

More of the fun

And here’s what we ended up with:

Chicken Enchiladas (which we ate tonight)

Beef Stew, Chili, Honey Ginger Chicken & Taco Casserole
With the exception of the chicken everything is cooked and just needs to be reheated to serve.  Even the chicken is easy to prepare, just pop into the oven and bake. We’ll serve them all with simple sides (salad, rice, rolls, frozen veggies, etc) and my evenings will be a million times easier.
When you sign up for the Once A Week Cooking service, you’ll be provided with great information on how to prepare and carry out the process.  Here’s a few of my own tips:
  • Wear comfortable shoes when you’re cooking.  It’s a lot of standing.  You don’t want to have sore feet.
  • Unless your kids are old enough to actually help and know not to touch hot stoves and things, find a way to keep them entertained elsewhere.
  • Start with a cleared countertops and an empty dishwasher.
  • Put things away when you’re done using them so you don’t have tons of ingredients to put up at the end.
  • Put anything you can directly into the dishwasher.  For everything else… fill your sink with soapy water and let them soak until the end.
  • If you don’t want your glass baking dishes tied up in your freezer, go with disposable aluminum trays for your freezer meals.  I’ve found you can get them really cheap at the Dollar Store.
  • Write any reheating instructions you can right on the freezer package so if you aren’t home to do the actual cooking the cook doesn’t have to hunt around for instructions.
  • Swap out ingredients or meals you know your family won’t like for tried and true ones.
  • 6 meals is too many for our family.  We do 5 so I have meals for Sunday – Thursday.  We eat 5 nights, have 5 days of leftovers for lunch and usually still have a “leftover lunch” on Saturday afternoon.  Of course my kids are little and not big eaters.  Your family might be different.
  • Clean up when you are done.  Waking up to a messy kitchen on Monday morning won’t do you any favors.  Then all your hard work will feel futile.
  • If you use up an ingredient from your pantry or spice cabinet, write it down on your shopping list at the end of the meal prep so you can get it on your next shopping list.  Today I used the last of my ground ginger and added it right away to the shopping list I keep in my Springpad account.
Overall I’ve found that life as a family of five requires a good amount of extra planning.  This advanced meal prep really saves my sanity during the week.  Maybe you’ll find some help from it to.
***Disclaimer: Neither Suzanne or Delightfully Organized has been compensated in any way, monetarily or otherwise for this review of Once A Week Cooking.  All opinions expressed are my own.  I do have an affiliate link with OAWC.  If you subscribe to their service I will receive a small amount.  If you’d rather not use my affiliate link you can go to http://www.onceaweekcooking.com/ 

3 Comments

  1. Nice post Suzanne =) You've inspired me to get back to cooking meals ahead.

    For meals that I make frequently, I write the thawing/reheating instructions on 3×5 cards that I slip between freezer bags, or tape to the outside of the container. That way I can reuse them and it's much easier to see the instructions (and I can write more).

    An easy way to build up some extra meals in the freezer is to double/triple a recipe you're making. If you're making a lasagna for dinner one night, make two instead of one. One to eat and one to freeze.

  2. Laura – I love the idea of making reusable instructions for the reheating! I am totally going to do that for the ones we make most frequently.

    I bet with your crazy photography schedule having meals prepped in advance will be a huge help!

  3. Wow Suzanne,
    What a glowing review. Thank you so much. It really warms my heart to read how it's helping another family as much as it helps my own.

    Laura I'm a huge fan of the double/tripling of a meal. I especially do that with spaghetti sauce. It's quick to thaw if I forgot to get it out the night before. We had chicken gumbo tonight that I made a few weeks ago and tripled the recipe 🙂

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