Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cooking for a Month Attempt #2

We have spent a week eating some pretty fantastic meals from our freezer.

Once again, my childhood friend Katy and I teamed up for a day of cooking. Since my mom was out of the country, our good friend Hannah not only joined us, but hosted the marathon.

If you read about our last experience (check it out here), I gave it a 7/10. This time, I think we're nearing 9. The meals are better both in flavour and "freezability", we did it in less time, plus we added more  meat dishes and used sustainably grown meat and eggs purchased from our local friends Christine of Shooting Star Ranch (elk) and Arie of Ma-Be Farms (beef and eggs) at the Alberta Farmer's Market- for almost the same price as the last trial.

Katy's baby is due in two weeks! Mad lady trooper!
The Stats:

Meal Planning time - 2 hours
Shopping time- 4 hours
Prep/Cook/Clean up time- 10 hours

Meals prepared per family- 18
Servings prepared per family- 120

Cost per family- $220

Each meal averages out to less than an hour of time (including shopping, prep and cleanup!) and about $2 per serving. In the scheme of things, not bad for some damn good meals. Here's a sample of our line up:

-Chicken Manicotti
-Elk Meat loaf
-Italian Sausage and Mushroom Pizza
-Red Pepper Quiche
-Breakfast Burritos
-Beef and Spinach Lasagna
-Black Bean Salsa Soup

Each meal has easily been dinner and a couple lunches for our family of four (two of which don't eat anything but crackers and spaghetti).

How we changed it up:

There were a few things we did differently- and better- this time:

1. We chose recipes that we already liked and knew froze well. So each of us brought some favorites to the table and we worked with that. This took slightly more brain power when it came to creating the shopping list, however one of us wrote out the list in pencil (on five separate sheets of paper, each titled for different sections so we could divide and conquer at the grocery store) as the others read out the ingredients (x3) one at a time. It probably added half hour to the process, over using the book's recipes which were less consistently good.

2. We used locally source beef, elk and eggs. Though we paid slightly more than at Superstore, the meat stretched well. It also has proven to be a lot less fatty, with surprisingly more flavour.

3. We made a huge pot of tomato sauce and used it in a number of recipes. We bought four cans of 100 oz cans of spaghetti sauce at the Italian Centre, then I simply added a whole bottle of pesto. Delicious. it was used to make pizza and lasagna, plus was added to flavour a couple other dishes.

4. We doubled a few of the recipes- meaning we made 6 casserole dishes of Popeye Pasta and Enchiladas. It required significant counter space but shaved 3 hours off our cook day.

Popeye Pasta- lots of beef, spinach and cheese
5. We froze everything outside first, which meant it was less messy stacking the dishes in our freezer at the end of the night. We also used more Ziploc bags to freeze things which is more efficient for the freezer and better for the environment.  I do feel bad about the tin foil casserole tins, but I don't have enough glass ones to spare. We did manage to reuse a few from last month- so hopefully we can stretch the disposable ones over a few cook-offs.

I have just started back working part-time in paid employment and this has been a major treat for both Mat and I as we transition our family into a slightly busier schedule of life. Its taken the edge off, you know what I mean?

I've had a few people tell me they are interested in finding others to try this with-- if that's you, let me know and perhaps I can connect you to others for a blind-date type cook off!


Anonymous said...

Just a thought on the subject of using the foil pans, if you lined them with foil before adding the casserole, once they are frozen you could pop it out of the pan and use a similar-sized glass pan to thaw and bake it, you could re-use the foil pans every month solely for cooking.

An Avenue Homesteader said...

Brilliant! Thanks for the idea.

Kevin Kossowan said...

Off topic: I had that exact combo of counter and tile backsplash in my last condo. Funny to see it again!

Vicki said...

Maybe you could run a workshop on your 'cooking for a month' technique. I would sign up!