Okay, so you’ve dipped your toe into freezer cooking. Let’s take a look at a full scale plan. This thread in the Zaar OAMC forums has a very detailed and well laid out set of OAMC plans. They are not exactly Once a “Month”, but by doing 2 or 3 of these 12 meal plans (or doubling/tripling up on some of the meals) you can make it for a whole month. As with me, these are not created by vegetarians. That isn’t to say that vegetarians can’t do freezer cooking. These particular menus were just created by meat eaters.
The first thing, and most important thing when tackling a full OAMC session (whether for a week, month or quarter) is to plan, plan, plan. Meal plans, shopping plans, budget plans, cooking plans. the more days you plan on cooking for, the more organized and planned you have to be. This would be another of my major stumbling blocks with full OAMC style cooking, I’m not very organized.
So let’s say that you are going to make a 30 day trial. First figure out how often your family wants to see the same thing on the menu. If you have the sort of family who is used to having Spaghetti every Friday, then OAMC is for you! 🙂 If your family will turn their nose up at the same thing twice in one month, you may have to attack OAMC in a different way (see next week’s article). For the sake of argument, let’s say that your family is okay with seeing a few dishes twice a month, but would mostly like some variety. This is a pretty normal situation, I think. The younger your kids, the more likely they are to like repeats of their favorites, and the less likely they are to like repeats of stuff they don’t like! 🙂
Next come up with themes that you cook in. Either by type of cuisine (Italian, Tex-Mex, Asian), or by type of protein (beef, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese), or by type of cooking (crockpot, casserole, stirfry, grill). You get the idea. Figure out 5-7 categories. This way you can have a wide variety during any given week, but still have some commonalities which will make cooking day easier. Such as for Italian nights, you can plan lasagna, spaghetti, manicotti, and all sorts of very different tasting dinners that all revolve around a homemade spaghetti sauce. Or try meatballs. This is just my recipes that use my recipe for meatballs, and you can see the sheer variety of food you can make using them. So, as you can see, having common threads can still give you a wide variety.
Using dump recipes can also add to your freezer stash without adding a lot of work to your big cooking days. Most of these type recipes can either be cooked most of the day in the crockpot or grilled outside, both of which can cut your actual in the kitchen time for cooking it.
So now that you have a strategy for choosing recipes, choose some. For a full 30 days, with few repeats, you are going to want to choose at least 15 different recipes, closer to 20-25. Plan at least some dump recipes (or “freeze in marinade” if dump sounds bad to you *grins*) to save you some time. Plan some stuff that you can cook in a crockpot while you assemble and cook other dishes (such as chili, soup, spaghetti sauce, shredded meat).
Now that you have your recipes chosen, you will need some form of organization. You’re going to need to know things like, how many pounds of onions do you need to buy and how many of them need to be chopped. For all 30 meals. There are a bazillion ways to do this from doing it all by hand on paper, to using software designed just for OAMC. Myself, I would load it all into Recipezaar, but as you can tell, I really like Zaar. You will need to figure out which works best for you. (Sorry, no easy answer here.)
So now you have a menu plan, a recipe plan, and a shopping plan. The last plan you have to make is a cooking plan. What you should prepare before the cooking day (chopping veggies, organizing ingredients) and in what order you should be cooking things on the big day. Don’t forget to make sure you have ample storage space, both in the freezer, and on your counters (you can’t stick a bunch of hot dishes in your freezer!). Make sure you have ample cooking utensils, pots and pans, and freezing containers. Make sure your sharpie is ready for labeling.
Now, go get cooking! 🙂
Next week: What if this just scared the bejeezus out of you? Mini-Sessions!