January 10, 2011

Batch Cooking, Take One...

I realized not too long ago that staying ahead of my kids when it comes to meals is key.  Dinner is especially important.  My kids, like most, hit the witching hour about the same time that I need to get dinner started.  They need my full attention and I can't give it when I'm stirring a pot or frying up bacon.  I've been making dinners during nap time for a while, and this worked really well when all of the boys napped.  Now, with Stone doing his school work during the little boys' naptime, I needed a way to still have dinner ready to go without taking up nap time.  I needed a plan.

I've followed Life As Mom for a while and have drooled over her Freezer Cooking section.  She cooks a month's worth of meals over the span of two days.  Amazing!  I want to do that, but I'm a bit overwhelmed, so I thought I'd start small... for the next few months, Heath's in charge of the boys on Sunday afternoons after church until dinner time.  I'll use that time to cook as much as I can for the week and we'll see how it goes.  If it works, we'll continue, if not, we'll come up with something else.  If this week was any indication, we'll be sticking to the plan!

After about five hours in the kitchen, my freezer is stocked and my meals are planned out for the week.  I made several things in double, so that we could eat them later into this month or next, so the work I did will extend well after this week.  If I keep this up, we can have an eat from the freezer week every so often to clear it out and I won't need to do any cooking that week.

When we first started our adoption process, I worked at our neighborhood Super Suppers in the evenings to help us save towards expenses.  I learned a lot about things that freeze well and assembly line cooking while I was there, so this has been a nice revisit to that.  A huge bonus to batch cooking is that the kitchen really only needs to be cleaned once, so you're really cutting down on time.  If I made each of these things individually, on the night that they were needed, I would guestimate it taking me closer to 15 hours between the cooking and clean-up.  That's about 10 hours saved and my family is still eating non-processed, whole made foods!

My freezer is now stocked with:

Chicken broth (I often cook chicken in batches in the crockpot to use in casserole and soup recipes.  I always freeze the stock)
Chili (2)
Mashed sweet potatoes (3 cups) (I often throw a cup into my pancakes and other baked goods, so this is a big help to have on-hand)
Meatballs (3) These are made plain so that I can add different sauces
Flax and Whole Wheat Pancake mix (3) (These are actually in the pantry, but I thought you'd be interested)
Muffins (3 weeks worth, frozen in week's batches)

The ones with (#) after them are the amount of meals we can eat off of them.  For example, there are two nights worth of Easy Cheesy Chicken Casserole.  

This weeks menu is:
Monday:   Meatballs
Tuesday: Chicken Lasagna
Wednesday: Mac and Cheese - Heath and I will eat at the church, so we're just feeding the kids
Thursday: Chicken Tacos
Friday: Left-overs
Saturday: Grilled Cheese and Soup
Sunday: Stuffed peppers

It's so nice to know that everything is prepared so that I can focus on my boys.  So nice!


Jenna said...

I admire you...I do....but I am way to ADD for that!

Anna said...

Love that idea! I see this as something that will happen at our house more and more. For now I can cook 1-2 days a week and we'll eat the left overs. :)

Have you ever heard of a soup swap? Like a cookie swap, but exchanging 1 qts of soup. Apparently Jan. 22nd is National soup swap day. Who knew? I guess 1 quart might not be enough for 5, though!

Living with Three Boys of Our Own said...

Ahhh... a soup swap sounds fun! My neighbor and I do a casserole swap 2x a month... it's been a fun way to have some new recipes and not have to cook!

Jenny said...

What a great list! You have some great things in your freezer that will last much longer than just this week.

Aimee said...

This is great! I have started to plan to freezer cook, but I just don't feel like my recipe list does it. Would you consider posting some of your freezer cooking recipes? Thanks.

Living with Three Boys of Our Own said...

Aimee, I'm going through and adding links... so stay tuned!

For some of the items, I use recipes from cookbooks that are copywritten, so I can only share a link to the book and page number, which I'll do!

Deb Hauer said...

This is an awesome idea! My kids are beyond the stage of needing that attention but at the same time they do still need me! I work outside of the home and when I get home it is a hurry to get dinner, clean up, go over homework and then get them ready for bed on time. This is an idea that I should try. I bet it will help relieve the evening rush and we will all enjoy ourselves more!