I love the feeling of having a fresh, home cooked meal for my family. There is just something about it that makes me feel like I have succeeded at life, and perhaps evaded mommy failure for at LEAST an hour. However since the birth of our latest little one in February and our older children being increasingly more active, I am often left with little time to shower, never mind cook. Shamefully, I had succumbed to the life of frozen pizzas and boxed mac and cheese (with the occasional pasta with meat sauce for good measure).
For at least a year a very good friend of mine had been telling me that she (and a good friend of hers) take one day a month to do a cooking day and cook for the entire month! The idea of it seemed daunting. That's an awful lot of organizing, preparation, par-cooking which in the end will probably not even be worth it! (Sorry Liz... its just how I felt! haha)
It wasn't until talking with another good friend of mine and realizing that we were BOTH failing in the department of feeding our children/husbands (especially on a budget) that I actually considered this "cooking day" idea as being a viable option. We decided we would try it: but in a smaller scale. We decided we'd do two weeks at a time instead of 4 weeks. It took about 2 months and many planned and then canceled days to actually get it done, but eventually we did it!
Since posting on Facebook about our second bi-monthly cooking day was met with many requests for recipes and shopping lists, I decided I would just post it on the blog (and will continue to do so every time we have a cooking day). I am almost positive that I lost the receipt for the shopping, however I will do my best to remember everything that we bought.
We make 7 recipes for 2 weeks. We ALWAYS have enough leftovers from a meal with enough to feed the entire family again. This week we got all of our recipes off of Stephanie O'Dea's A Year of Slow Cooking blog and they are all Gluten Free. (I don't need to cook gluten free but my friends family does and since I'm too busy/lazy (mostly lazy) to pick out the recipe's we cook what she wants!)
Our 7 meals we cooked are:
Crockpot Bacon and Cheese Chicken
Obama's Chili (I have a more endearing name for it that I probably shouldn't share at this point)
Brown Sugar Chicken
Whole Chicken in the Crockpot
Salsa Chicken and Black Bean Soup
Sausage and Peppers (scroll down, the only recipe not from crockpot365)
Items I had at home already:
Most of the typical seasonings
Jenny-O Italian turkey sausage
Balsamic dressing (if this isn't your favorite dressing then put your favorite on your list of things to get)
My shopping list:
5 lbs of whole chicken breasts
1 lb ground turkey
About 12 chicken thighs
1 whole chicken
4 lb boneless pork tenderloin/butt/whatever
1 package of Italian sausages (I like Jenny-O and already had some... but my friend didn't)
1 package of bacon (Hormel sells hormone and nitrate/nitrite free)
2 packages of the 3 pack multi-colored peppers
1 large onion
Sliced mushrooms (optional... and I most DEFINITELY did NOT use them.... blech)
1 cup frozen corn (not fresh but whatever)
bag of shredded cheddar cheese
1 can kidney beans
2 cans black beans
1 jar of minced garlic (the wet kind... I"m sick of chopping garlic)
Red wine vinegar
Can of Sprite
Box of chicken broth
Gluten free beer (Redbridge)
Can of diced tomatoes
The produce, meat and some of the miscellaneous items we doubled and our grand total was about $150 for both of us. So that is 7 recipes and, if all goes according to plan, 14 meals for roughly $75! We did all of our shopping at Walmart and did cost comparison.
Then we got home and started the prep work. We had 4 children running around the house (2 of them were VERY unhappy) and it still only took about 2 hours for prep and organization. First we sit down and organize our freezer bags: 7 bags with the name of the item as well as the amount of time required in the crcokpot (ex: 8hrs on low or 4 hrs on high). And then one recipe at a time we put them together. A lot of people chop everything up first but that's is just way to confusing for us! The only things I par-cooked this time around was the ground turkey (even though the recipe says you don't have to) and the bacon... but make sure that you keep an eye on the bacon, or set a timer, or else you are going to be forced to fan the smoke alarm for 20 minutes because your entire house is filled with smoke (I PERSONALLY have never experienced that... just heard that advice some where... at some point...yeah).
Yes... your kitchen will look like a bomb went off at the end of it (unless you are a neater person than I am... which I doubt, because I'm extremely neat and clean and also... the sun shines out of my butt) and it could look something like this
But as a result you will have this (super cute kid not included)
Now remember when I said earlier that I used to do pasta with meat sauce for good measure every once in a while. Well please don't think that I have given that up! This week I also made a home made sauce that was given to me by yet another amazing friend. It is super super easy (because we all know I love easy) and its incredibly tasty as well!
Here's the recipe for that pasta sauce (left out the mushrooms and substituted ground turkey for ground beef):
2- 28oz cans of tomato puree
1- 12 oz can of tomato paste
1 large onion, diced
1 large tomato diced
5-6 garlic cloves, pressed
1 lb of ground beef
1/2 of a container of mushrooms, diced
1/2 tbsp basil
1/2 tbsp oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp brown sugar
Hopefully that helps all of you realize that you CAN pre-cook your meals and it doesn't have to break the bank! Trust me, if I can do it ANYONE can do it!