Tuesday, February 16, 2010

If you're going to cook, make it a party...

I remember when Matthew and I were both working full-time (and thought we were busy and thought we didn't have money and thought we didn't have enough time and thought we were tired...who were we kidding?). We went out to eat A LOT.


I would cook MAYBE 2 TIMES a week. Those were the days, weren't they?

Well, nowadays, I cook approximately 7 DAYS a week. Monday through Friday I prepare between 2 and 3 meals a day (and by "meals", I consider frozen pancakes in the morning a meal...just so we're clear). On Tuesdays, after Ladies Bible Class we typically go eat lunch with friends, so I get a pass on that meal. And we do try and go out at least once a week.

While I do enjoy being in the kitchen and preparing meals (and I really do, no kidding) I sometimes feel bogged down by the decision making of planning a menu and timing my day perfectly so I can get dinner put on the table before my girls go into "starvation" mode.

I cannot even imagine having a full-time job and then coming home to fix dinner for my family. We would eat sandwiches every single night. Seriously.

My friends and I have been discussing ways to make dinners a little bit easier...one friend had this book:
So four of us go together and decided to give it a try...let's cook a lot of meals in great quantities and freeze them.

I did the all the shopping (two days before the event) and surprisingly, it didn't take that long. I spent about 1 hour at Wal-Mart and 20 minutes at Sam's. I didn't do any other shopping, just the shopping for our "cooking party".

This is my refrigerator after I got all the refrigerated stuff in it.
It was PACKED! Matthew couldn't wait for all of the food to get taken away.

We met up at our church one evening and worked NON-STOP.

This is one of our food "stations"?
And another:

Obviously, I am behind the camera (one of the chefs)...here is Tanya and Danielle (two of the other chefs). Our final chef, Jasmine, didn't get to come because she had been sick the whole day.
Our plan was to walk out that evening with 8 meals. We each were in charge of two.

Since this was our first time doing this, we had no idea what we were in for that night. We started at 6:30pm and got right to chopping onions, celery, bell peppers and carrots. While we were chopping we had whole chickens boiling on the stove top.

AN HOUR LATER we finally finished cutting the veggies...geez. Good thing though, it gave those chickens time to cook...which had to be de-boned...


Lesson learned: chop veggies ahead of time and look for sales on boneless chicken.

Fast forward a few hours...we were confident that we could complete 6 meals by midnight but didn't know how long it would take to make the last two. The veggies were chopped and the chicken was shredded but there was still a bit of cooking involved in the other two recipes.

We made the decision to send the ingredients for the last 2 meals home with me and I would make them later and divide them out (which I have done...one was successful and one was ruined. UGH! I doubt I'll get voted on to cook independently again).

We ended up being it the kitchen for 6 hours and 15 minutes.


On our feet the entire time+moving rapidly+6 hours=DEAD TIRED the next day (we are NOT 16 anymore, that's for sure!)

But was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY. Totally worth it. I am already looking forward to doing it again next month.

Last night, I pulled the chicken noodle soup out of the freezer, thawed it out until slushy, put in the pan and cooked. Easy as can be!

And there is plenty for dinner tonight!

I have seven meals (not eight, sigh.) in my freezer for my family. All seven will provide leftovers for another meal (and possibly leftovers for Matthew's lunch). And it cost $80 (per person). (That includes some spices that we will use again, foil, saran wrap, freezer bags...all that we will use next time).

80 dollars. That's pretty good! It's less that I would spend for 8 (or 16) GOOD meals a month.

These are the recipes that we made:

Chicken Noodle Soup

North Woods Wild Rice Soup


Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken a la King (the ruined one)

Beef Stroganoff

Baked Steak in Tangy Tomato Sauce

Telluride Black Bean Tortilla Bake

Yum! I am so excited about trying them all...well, minus the chicken a la king.

If you have thought about doing something like this, I encourage you to give it a try! Find some friends, a big kitchen and several hours and get to work.

And enjoy eating!


Marty Rhea Hill said...

That sounds like so much fun. I can't wait to be married and have babies and friends like you have to do the same thing. You could have used ALL handy-dandy kitchen products to chop, slice and dice. Again, sounds like fun.

P.S. Wine would have been fun too. :)

Jenn said...

This is awesome! I'm so going to have to check out that book....we only eat out on Sundays at lunch with friends and let me tell you...I LOVE Sundays!!! :)
I think I'll call some of my friends right now so we can get on this! :)

Sara said...

Meal planning is also one of my dreaded tasks each week. I'd love to hear if you are happy with the finished eaten product and can recommend the recipes....

Holly Aytes said...

Our playgroup has been talking about doing this. I already do it halfway. I buy all my meat for the month at the beginning. I cook all ground beef and chicken and then put in freezer bags in 2-3 cup portions. I also do this with my veggies. I can put together a meal in less than 30 minutes most nights. I also try to fix an extra casserole or 2 whenever I am doing one for a new baby or sickness at church then I have one for our family too. I like simple recipes...preferably ones with no more than 5 ingredients :)

Kristen OQ said...

3 other friends and myself do a meal swap every 6 or so weeks (we started this year and have done it 4 or so times). Same concept but we each pick 2 recipes and make it into eight 9x9 freezable dishes. In fact, we are "swapping" on Friday at lunch and I just cooked all of my food yesterday (4 poppyseed chickens and 4 chicken & spinach pasta bakes). It works great and is especially wonderful to pull out a freezer dinner on Tuesday & Thursdays when I teach preschool all day.

Good luck in doing it again!

Deborah said...

This is so smart! Thanks for sharing.

~aj~ said...

I love this idea and am glad it was such a success for you!

I did something similar a couple of years ago with church friends. We got together on a Saturday morning and cooked until a little after lunch. We started off with a huge pot of soup on the stove and the boys entertained the kids in the gym and we all had a yummy soup lunch to recharge us. It didn't take us nearly as long since we had more cooks in the kitchen, but our problem was the choice of recipes. Not good. I don't think there was one frozen meal we enjoyed and we haven't done it since. :(

I'm going to have to get your recipes and maybe we'll give it another try sometime. I also think it would be a great service project...to make meals for the widows/widowers, shut-ins, etc.

Kim said...

FUN! I want to do this.

Kim said...

FUN! I want to do this.

dee said...

Dallas, I happened on to this post through another link. I buy 30 or more lbs. of boneless skinless chicken breasts when they are on sale, immediately trim (use kitchen scissors), wash, and repackage in 1 qt packs for my freezer. About half of the chicken will be cooked that same day...it, too, will be packaged in meal-sized servings with broth and frozen. This has worked well for me...better than making a meal, b/c I have the option of raw or cooked chicken, ready for the crock pot, skillet, or oven. It will take about an hour to wash and trim 30 lb chicken, sometimes a little more, but it's time well spent. :) Deanna Brooks

Whitney said...

What a fun thing to do- I need to do this for sure!!!

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