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Category: Baking Day

Freezer Cooking Day: The Master Plan

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Today's the day! I've cleared my schedule, made my list, done my shopping, got a good night's rest, cleaned my kitchen, and brought in recruits (i.e. Grandma!) to help with the children. And I'm ready to hit the ground running with this cooking and baking thing.

But not before I first make another list (yes, I'm one of those Type-A list-makers–sorry, it's just the only way things seem to get done around here!). This list is my Master Plan list which tells me what to do when–in detailed order.

I've found that it's great to have a Proposed List of everything I want to accomplish, but breaking it down into bite-size pieces of the order I plan to accomplish it in helps me be much more efficient and organized.

Last night before going to bed, I grated up all the cheese I'd need today and set out the milk and ground turkey from the freezer to thaw. Prepping a few things like that the night before help give me a little jumpstart to my Freezer Cooking the next day.

Here's my Master Plan for today and tomorrow (remember, I'm planning to work from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. CST since I'm fitting this in around our homeschooling schedule):

Tuesday

1) Grind flour and mix together waffle batter and begin cooking waffles
2) Boil chicken
3) Get potatoes in the crockpot for Freezer Mashed Potatoes
4) Chop chicken, boil noodles
5) Quick clean up
6) Boil rice, make homemade cream soup, chop red peppers
7) Make Chicken Tetrazinni
8) Make Chicken Broccoli Rice
9) Make Granola
10) Make Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
11) Mix together Turkey Meatballs, cook one pan for dinner, cook the rest and freeze
13) Finish Freezer Mashed Potatoes
12) Finish dinner preparations (Turkey Meatballs, Freezer Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli, Toast) and clean up

Wednesday

1) Make Slow Cooked Pepper Steak and put in crockpot
2) Make Farmhouse Chicken
3) Make Pumpkin Scones
4) Make Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
5) Finish dinner preparations (Farmhouse Chicken) and clean up kitchen
6) Be thrilled with the finished results, put my feet up, and relax knowing I don't have to do much cooking for the next month!

As you can tell, I'm planning to do the bulk of my cooking today since Grandma is here to play with the children. It also gives me a little wiggle room if I'm not able to get to everything I planned to do on Tuesday; I can always bump it to Wednesday, if need be. And if I get incredibly ambitious, finish everything on Tuesday's list, and have extra time, I can always start in on Wednesday's list!

Need more help and ideas for making a game plan for your Freezer Cooking Day? Check out FishMama's post here.

Stay tuned for live-blogging and tweeting (follow me on Twitter here) this afternoon on my real-time progress complete with pictures and recipes. Don't forget to follow FishMama on her blog and Twitter or the more that 250 other women around the country who are participating in this Freezer Cooking Day and tweeting about it with the hashtag #bakingday

Have you posted your Baking Day plans on your blog? If so, leave your link below so others can be inspired with ideas and new recipes to try. Remember to link directly to your blog post.

Guest Post: Tackling Meal Planning–One Month At a Time!

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Guest Post by Tricia from Once-A-Month Mom

Meal
planning can be a bit of a challenge to even the savviest of
organizers. Planning each and every week can sometimes be time-consuming or tiring. I use to plan meals one week at a time and found
that it worked for me most of the time, but other times, I was too exhausted or didn't have new ideas or I would make a great plan only to
have plans change and not be able to use the meals, thus ingredients
going to waste! That's when I started doing once-a-month cooking (also
known as bulk cooking, freezer cooking, power cooking, and OAMC).

Most
people are overwhelmed at the prospect of making all of their meals for
the entire month in one day. They hear "8 hours in the kitchen" and
they leave about hyperventilate!

Don't get me wrong, 8 hours in the
kitchen is a long time, and tiring. But when you are finished, you have
enough meals to rarely step into the kitchen for another month! Not
only that, but you can also save money on your grocery bill as well because this method of planning and cooking will save you shopping trips and trips through the fast-food lane.

Here is a look at how a whole day in the kitchen can put more hours in
your day and money in your wallet:

Once-A-Month Cooking Saves You Time
Once-a-month
cooking does require an 8-10 hour cooking day (or split amongst several
days). However, if you do the math on the amount of time that you would
have spent in the kitchen preparing these meals throughout the month,
it would be substantially higher.

Once-a-month cooking saves time
because you are cutting, dicing, mixing, chopping, sautéing, and cooking
"like" ingredients all at once. For instance, instead of chopping onion
several nights each week for the entree you are making, you can chop
that onion all at once, then cook and package the meal.

In
my most recent once-a-month endeavor, I spent 8.5 hours in the kitchen.
At the end of the day I had 30 meals (a mix of breakfasts, lunches, and
dinners). The time I would have spent had I prepared these meals when I
was serving them would have been at least 30 hours. I don't know about
you, but I can find lots of things that I can do with an extra 22 hours
during the month!

One of the other ways that
once-a-month cooking saves time is that you don't have to perform a juggling act to get dinner on the table. The
stretch between 4:00 pm and 5:30 pm has to be the most hectic time of
the day in our household. My husband isn't home from work yet; I am
trying to appease my son so that I can get dinner finished in a timely
manner; and all he wants is for me to play with him—it gets rough! I
find myself frazzled and easily willing to forgo my menu plan to save
my sanity. When I have done once-a-month cooking, I instead pull out
one of my freezer meals, stick it in the oven and go play with my son
until it is ready. That is precious time that I can't afford to miss!

Once-A-Month Cooking Saves You Money
I
am amazed at how cooking "like" meals can really save you money in a
month. The savings comes in the fact that you are buying large
quantities of products at one time, hopefully when they are on sale or
when you have coupons. If you plan to make things that are in season,
you can also save money by buying ingredients when they are at their
lowest price point.

For smaller families, these bulk savings are not
usually possible because large quantities of food often spoil before it
can be consumed. With once-a-month cooking, you are preparing all that
food at once and don't have to worry about it going to waste. And it
will last in the freezer for several months!

In the last two months alone, we have cut our grocery bill in
more than half by doing once-a-month cooking. I decide what we are
cooking, shop the sales all month, and then prepare the meals that we
will be eating the following month. I usually spend approximately $75 to $130 for a month's worth of meals. That is around $2.60 to $4.33 per meal!

If you are
looking for ways to make your dinner time less hectic, spend more time
with your family, spend less money on your grocery bill, or develop an
effective way to menu plan, you should try once-a-month cooking. You
just might surprise yourself at how much you can save, both in your
wallet and by your watch!

Tricia recently had her first child and is getting used to her new
career as a stay-at-home mom in Ohio, where her family resides. She is
expecting her second child in December (don't ask the gender they
aren't finding out). She is trying to show others how to be good
stewards of their time and their money while still providing wholesome
and nutritious meal options to their families. Her website, Once-A-Month Mom, is dedicated to "making daily chores
monthly memories" by providing monthly meal plans, grocery lists,
instructions, recipes and more for families curious about once-a-month
cooking and baby food.

Note from Crystal: If you are planning to join us for our Baking/Freezer Cooking Day Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and are looking for a "plan of action", you might try using the October (Thanksgiving) Menu or the new November (Christmas) Menu. The October (Thanksgiving) Menu has
many make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes and lots of menu items that you
will find on sale right now at your local grocers. The November (Christmas) Menu is
meant to be shopped throughout the month of November, cooked at the end
of the month, and consumed in December. However, you are welcome to shop
and use the menu now. Each menu includes recipes, a grocery list,
step-by-step instructions, and labels.

The Proposed Baking/Freezer Cooking Day List

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As I mentioned on Saturday, FishMama from LifeAsMom and I are planning to host a Freezer Cooking Day on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. We'll be live-blogging our progress and sharing tips and recipes along the way on both of our blogs. If you'd like to join in the fun, you can sign up at the Facebook Event page here, follow along on twitter with the #bakingday hashtag, or just check our blogs for updates, pictures, and more!

Since our family is on a new schedule and I'm staying completely offline in the mornings so I can focus all of my energies and full attention on homeschooling and investing in/loving on my children, I'm planning on doing my baking and cooking from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. Check in here or on Twitter for my real-time progress updates.

In the mean time, here's my Proposed Freezer Cooking Plan:

Breakfasts:
Whole Wheat Waffles x 5
Granola
Whole Wheat Pumpkin Scones with Cinnamon Icing

Main Dishes:
Chicken Tetrazinni x 4
Turkey Meatballs x 3
Farmhouse Chicken x 4
Chicken Broccoli Rice x 4
Slow Cooked Pepper Steak x 3

Snacks/Desserts:
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Sides:
Freezer Mashed Potatoes

Guest Post: Maximize Your Freezer’s Potential and Minimize Freezer Burn

After I live-blogged my Baking/Cooking Day last week, there were hundreds of questions asked about methods of freezing. I’m hoping to address many of these in future posts, but while you’re waiting on that, my friend Amy from The Finer Things in Life offered to write a quick guest post on a creative way she’s discovered to maximize her freezer’s potential and minimize freezer burn. I think those of you who feel like you don’t have space or pans to pull off Cooking Ahead might just re-think that after reading her guest post!

Freezing meals ahead of time for busy days sounds like a great idea, in theory. But what about freezer space? What about pans? What about freezer burn?

A technique that my high school home economics teacher shared with us many years ago has stuck with me and served my family well when it comes to freezing meals. Here’s what works for us:

Prepare freezer meals in 8×8, 9×9, or other smaller pans. Anything that will fit in a gallon-sized freezer bag will work. Before filling it with food, line the baking dish with aluminum foil or freezer paper.

 

Fold the foil over the top and freeze the meal.

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Once frozen enough to hold its shape, pop it out of the baking dish. Seal the meal in a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible.

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When you are ready to use the frozen, there are two options: you can either remove the wrapping while the item is still frozen and place the food back into the original pan to thaw and bake. Or, you can just slip the whole thing (still wrapped in foil) in a pan and bake it making clean up a snap!

Here are just a few of the reasons I love freezing meals this way:

* The smaller pans prevent leftover burnout (If you have a large family, just pop two pans in the oven.)
* Several meals can be in the freezer while favorite baking dishes remain handy.
* There’s no need to purchase lots of expensive aluminum pans (or clean them!)
* Foil and freezer paper can often be found on sale with a coupon.
* Wrapping the meal and then sealing it in a bag prevents freezer burn.
* This method maximizes freezer space since the baking dishes aren’t stacked up.
* And, in light of yesterday’s post, it’s also worth mentioning that your freezer bags can be reused when food labeling is done on the foil or freezer paper.

Amy is a Tiny Town coach’s wife and mother of three convinced that the The Finer Things in Life offer more joy than anything money can buy. 

Baking Day: Lasagna, Ziti, and a picture of the fruits of my labors

After the girls went to bed last night, I quickly whipped up three pans of lasagna and three pans of Ziti.

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The lasagna recipe was a new one (go here to see it) that FishMama highly recommended. I'm curious to see how it tastes. It was easy to make and less expensive than usual lasagna since I can often get cream cheese for $0.50 per package (with a sale and a coupon)–which beats the price of cottage cheese or ricotta cheese that I'd usually use in lasagna.

I don't have a recipe for the Ziti because I just made it up on the fly using ground turkey, pasta sauce, cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, noodles, and spices. I've learned that a great way to be frugal in the kitchen is to learn to be creative and flexible with ingredients!

After finishing up the pans of Ziti and Lasagna, I called it a day. I didn't get to quite everything on my list, but I did get a lot done yesterday–and that's a very good feeling! In fact, I was surprised at how much I'd gotten done when I laid everything out on the table to take a final picture:

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5 batches of Whole-Wheat Waffles
3 bags of browned ground turkey (we'll use this for homemade pizza or possibly pair it with pinto beans to make chili)
1 bag of cooked chopped chicken
1 batch of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
5 bags of cooked Pinto Beans
3 pans of Lasagna
3 pans of Ziti
3 meals of Chicken Tetrazinni
1 bag of Southwest Roll-ups

It was about seven hours' worth of work total to make all of that and I'm figuring it will make at least 20 dinners and 8-10 breakfasts. That is totally worth it to me for seven hours of work. Plus, it means I don't have to worry about "What's for Dinner?" many nights for the next month nor do I have to mess up my kitchen as much!

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Did you have a chance to do any baking or cooking this week? If so, post about it
on your blog and leave your link below to your direct blog post. I'd
love it especially if you could share pictures and recipes so I can get
more ideas for my next Baking Day projects! And I'm guessing many
others would be inspired as well.