Wednesday, July 29, 2009

FROZEN ASSETS, Part 1

Wouldn't it be nice to spend one day in the kitchen a week, and prepare seven-days worth of meals? What about 14 days? 28? "That's crazy talk, Heidi!"
No, that's Kitchen Day talk, and it's what we're discussing today, in the first installment of a seven-part series: Once-a-month-cooking.

Once-a-month-cooking is, like so many things, circular. My Hazel Meyer's Freezer Cookbook - circa 1967 - tells me that batch cooking is "now quite popular among homemakers". And back in 2009, it's all the rage again. Busy moms are going to little dinner-prep stores with catchy names like "Super Suppers" and "Dream Dinners", preparing one or two week's worth of meals and feeling good about providing their families with nutritious food. Don't get me wrong, every family is different, and if this is what it takes to switch your kids from the "Golden Arches" diet to consuming the 4 basic food groups, then go for it. But with 6-person meals starting at $25 EACH, my grocery budget would be consumed faster than a Happy Meal on Town Day.

Why not take one Kitchen Day a month and transform your own kitchen into a Super Suppers? It's easier than you might think!

But isn't freezer cooking HARD?

It's a lot of work...for one day. But in the end, you'll end up saving time. If your home is anything like mine, the hour before dad gets home is the witching hour...kids bouncing off walls, baby screaming, steam coming out my ears. Something in their internal mechanism tells them that mom NEEDS to get dinner into the oven, so they NEED to act like wild banshees. (Am I the only one?) One day of hard work and you'll have a hot, home-cooked meal each night, simply by thawing and baking. (One of my boy's daily chores is bringing up "dinner" from the deep freeze...right after breakfast! So really, my only job is turning on the oven. Not too bad, eh?) Is a true freezer frolic easy? No. Worth it? Oh, yes!

I don't have a big freezer. Where am I going to put all this food?

First of all, if you have no deep freeze or second freezer, you may do better by only making 2 weeks of meals at a time, instead of a month. Even one week is better than nothing at all. But then again, one freezer cooking session and you might just be amazed at how much food your little freezer can store! Freezer meals don't have to take up as much room as you think. If you store your entrees in gallon-sized zipper food freezer bags, and freeze those bags on a cookie sheet (so they'll lay thin and flat), you can store a LOT of meals in very little space! Besides, this undertaking will give you a great excuse to clean out your freezer, and whose freezer couldn't use a little cleaning out?

Do I have to use one of those Once-A-Month-Cooking Cookbooks?

No. Those cookbooks are simply there to help you do the math, give you a list of meals that are known to freeze well, and provide you with a ready-made shopping list. You probably already have meals in your arsenal that you know your family loves, and that you know freeze well. Then it's simply a matter of multiplying and organizing your shopping and preparation lists (we'll cover these matters later!)
Perusing those cookbooks can be fun, however. Your library is a great place to start, and a Google search is sure to produce at least 17 O's as well.

I've never done this before. Where's the best place to start?

As the song says..."Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start." Before you go to the store, before you open up that freezer, before you heat up that stove, you'll need to plan your freezer cooking session.

That's just what we'll do....next Kitchen Day!


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