So you read my first post on freezer cooking and you’re excited – you want to give easy freezer recipes a shot! I know, I’m a pretty convincing gal. Please tell that to my kids. So, where on earth do you start now?
I’ve already mentioned that I’m totally in love with my Once A Month Meals membership, and I think that people are in two camps about this:
1. If this site can do a lot of the planning for me, sign me up!
2. I want to try and do this on my own and avoid another expense.
Well, regardless of the group you fall into, the best starting place, in my opinion, still is the Once a Month Meals website. Now why on earth would I send you there if you don’t want to buy a membership? Two simple reasons:
There are tonnes, tonnes I tell you, of FREE resources to help you get organized and plan your big cooking day. We’re talking blog posts, tutorials, videos, tips for beginners, a series on planning a menu based on your own recipes and more.
All of the menus that were released before January 2012 are available for free, so that means you get the grocery list, recipe cards, instructions and labels. For free. You’re welcome!
So why do I even bother with a membership? I can be pretty darn frugal sometimes, but I liked the idea of being able to browse through all the menus and pick whichever one I liked for $10 a month. And when I saw that they have a Pro option (that one is $16) that allows you customize your menu and swap out recipes you don’t want for something more suitable (ahem, the Acadian and his disdain for eggs have called for many a breakfast substitution), I was sold. The thought of figuring everything out myself did cross my mind, but the idea of giving someone $16 to save my mommy brain a couple of hours of work each month won.
Step 2 – Shop! Shop! Shop! (and score some deals)
So you have a menu planned and a crazy-long grocery list of things to purchase? Yup, that sounds about right. This is the step where I do my best to save some money. By planning ahead, you can watch for sales on items you’ll need, particularly for meat which can have a huge impact on your grocery bill. My favorite way to do this (ahem, obsession) is to use the Flipp app available for free on my smartphone. It’s essentially a repository for every flyer you can imagine – kind of like your weekend paper, only a lot less junky, and OMG – SEARCHABLE! (A big thanks to my little sister for turning me on to this one.) So I open up my app, search for each item on my list to see if it’s on sale anywhere. A little tap on the screen clips it to a new tab that keeps track of all the deals I’ve found. Which is nice if you want to shop at 10 different stores, right? Nope. It’s way easier than that. Just shop at a store the price matches! In my area, Real Canadian Superstore is a price matching champ, so that’s where I do the bulk of my grocery shopping. I store everything I want to match in the top part of my cart, and when I get to the register, I quickly show the cashier each deal that is conveniently stored in the clippings tab of my app, the price gets manually adjusted and boom – I save a lot of money! The only tricky thing is meat – at this particular chain, you can only price match on two per item in the meat department, and they have to print you a sticker at their counter. So if you try to do it at the register, they’ll turn you around while you mosey on back to the meat department with a grumpy toddler and a baby on your back, which is just cruel since you were so, so very close to finally leaving the store.
Step 3 – Refrigerator Tetris
Even if you have been searching for sales all month, the day before your big cookoff, you will inevitably come home from the store with the mother-load of all grocery hauls. You will get to your kitchen, open your fridge and say $hit (or other swear word of choice) when you realize that there is no way it will all fit in there. Ok, maybe *you* won’t, but I did. And I’m better because of it now. Being the kind soul that I am, I will graciously share a few tips on fitting things in your fridge in this video. Please note that although it does not contain any swears, it is, if I do say so myself, a tad bit violent.
There. Problem solved. But now we have a new problem. You saw the second half of the video with all of the chopping and food prep, and you also want your prep to be done in 38 seconds. Which brings me to step 4…
Step 4 – Chop chop!
Please, don’t pretend like you can skip this step. Don’t decide that it really won’t take all that long to prep a two-page list of ingredients. You don’t hate yourself like that. You’re a good person, and good people get all their food prep done the night before. It’s that simple. You know what else they do? They get someone to help them. I actually got the Acadian to help me (yeah, he’s the cutie in the video!) by telling him it could be like our date night, and we could chit chat while we chopped together. Teehee! I’m a little bit evil, but that’s ok. But try to make it fun – put on some music, you can even have a glass of wine just as long as it does not impair your chopping and counting abilities.
As I mentioned in the video, our total prep time with two people working away was about 5 hours (with a few breastfeeding breaks for me here and there), so plan accordingly. We were prepping for 15 different recipes set to serve 6 people twice (so 30 meals that will feed 6 people), so bear in mind that your time will vary if you are prepping a different quantity. That, and I am a very slow chopper. We like to do our prep once our oldest has gone to bed. Be sure to clean up your kitchen and run the dishwasher before you hit the hay. Believe me, you do NOT want a mess waiting for you in the kitchen when you get up and at ’em the next day.
Congratulations! You’ve just set yourself to have a successful cooking day! Providing you got yourself to bed at a decent time. If not, that’s ok, a pot of coffee will fix all of that up for you in the morning. You did remember to set the timer on the coffee maker, right? *Sigh* Go back downstairs and do it. You’ll thank me tomorrow morning.
Ready to cook? Check out my easy freezer recipes:
Yes, I’m obsessed with Once A Month Meals, so much so that I’ve signed up to work with them as an affiliate. As a perk, I get a month’s free membership, which is great, since as a paying customer for a few months now, I already know how awesome they are.
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