Tuesday, September 17, 2013

October Meals Planning Session

It is always exciting when a new baby is added to a family, but it can also be exhausting.  I remember when my daughter was born.  We were so exhausted adjusting to our new life, making "real" meals was on the bottom of the priority lists.  One thing that really helped us was the out pouring of help we received.

This month my cooking partner is expecting.  She is expecting to become a grandmother for the 4th time sometime in late October or early November.  So this month while we were figuring out what meals we might want to prepare next month, we decided that as a gift to this new mom and her family we would triple 8 of our meals to help provide meals during those first few hectic weeks.  One major aspect of this blog is to become a ministry so being able to help out this new mom gives my heart joy.  Knowing that with little extra effort I am able to provide for a family going through a rough time or a change in family dynamics renews my spirit.

So this month we are trying something different.  The last 2 months we have cooked all the meals for the month and then froze them.  This has worked for us but has also taken a lot of time. So this month we are doing "dump" recipes. The idea behind dump recipes is that you take all the ingredients raw (for the most part) and "dump" them into a ziploc bag and freeze it.  Then the day you are ready to cook, take the bag out of the freezer and "dump" it into the crock pot.  You CAN cook from frozen as long as you place it in a COLD crock pot.  

As we discuss the actually menus and the order of operations, I will explain in better detail "dump" recipes and how to use them. However before we get to the actual recipes, I do have some disclaimers.

1) I have found most if not all of the recipes I will share on here from doing research on Pinterest and other blogs.  Whenever possible I will link to the original poster.  I find that is just the proper way to do and it gives the other hard working bloggers some added promotions.  If I am unable to find the original poster, I ask that anyone who knows where to find the original poster would leave a comment to let me know that.  

2) All chicken dishes I follow a really simple calculations as to how much to use.  For my family of 3 adults and 1 toddler, I use 1 breast per adult.  My daughter doesn't eat that much chicken so for the time being, I end up sharing my breast with her.  If I were to use thighs or legs for a recipes then it would be 2 thighs per adult and 1 thigh for my daughter.  Please feel free to adjust all recipes to your own families liking.  (Also you can prepare these recipes if you are only cooking for 1 or 2 by cutting the recipe in half or making the whole recipe and planning on the leftovers as another meal)

3) All beef or pork dishes tend to be a little more complicated as to how much meat we will use.  We use (depending on the type of meat, who is eating, and what side dishes we will be having) approximately 2.5 - 4 pounds of meat.

4) At the moment the best storage method I have found are Ziploc bags.  I can freeze them and label them.  I can also reuse them.  I am always looking for more systems that might save us money in the long run.  If you have a suggestion please do not hesitate to share them.  This blog is me sharing my information but also it is about you sharing what you already know and want to learn more about.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

3 Types of People

When I first started writing this blog, I was wanting to use it to minister to families.  However, I didn't know exactly who it was I was hoping to help.  As I thought more about it, I realized there are 3 different groups that might be interested in what I have to offer.

Group A 
For one reason or another, families in this group are like me.  Relying on assistance to provide for their families.  The families in this group are already using food pantries to help stretch their food budget.  They shop sales and may even use coupons, but aren't exactly sure what types of recipes they can create from the items they get.  They might be used to buying convenience foods but really want to know how to make a healthier, cheaper version.

Group B
Families who are in this group don't require any assistance but want to be able to use their current resources in the best way possible.  They may be using coupons and shopping sales, but they are not forced to do that.  These families might be searching for ways to save money, time and energy while creating lasting memories with their families.  

Group C
It is my prayer that Group C will eventually stop existing.  The families in this group are struggling to get the basics on the table.  For what ever reason these families don't know what resources are available to them or have been made to feel shame for asking for help. I pray these families are reading and using this blog to help them move into another group either A or B.

Please know I have been apart of all 3 of these groups at one point in my life. What I have learned is that everyone can learn something and no one knows everything.  I don't think I am a master at monthly cooking.  In fact I know that I am NOT! There are plenty of months I have no idea how it is going to come together and yet it always does.  And along the way, I learn something that makes the next month easier.  In fact just this week I found out how some of my favorite meals can become "dump" recipes taking a lot of the work away from our cooking day. I will explain "dump" recipes in the next post when I share our next months planning session.

What group do you see yourself in?  How does your impression of that group your in dictate how you approach batch cooking?  Is there something you can learn about yourself and others by recognizing where you are?

Friday, September 13, 2013

In the beginning there were 2 families....

Since I don't know exactly where I should start this blog, I guess the best place would be to start at the beginning.  When I first started batch cooking I was a stay at home mom to a 7 month old little girl.  My husband and I were living on a monthly budget a little over $1000.00 (still are to this day).  We did and still receive assistance in many different areas including WIC (Woman Infant and Child), food stamps, and energy assistance programs.  Even with all this assistance, I was still struggling to provide healthy meals for my family on our budget.  At the same time my mom was trying to find an easier way to prepare dinner for her and my dad.  After reading about batch cooking, we discussed if we could make it work for our two families.

Turns out we could.  We sat down and figured out what were some of our families favorite meals.  When we first started we decided for our time limits and due to energy that would be required we would only be able to do 1 week at a time.  We had a six week meal rotation that also included doing weekly salads and veggie bags for lunches.  We were very successful.  That first week we make meals for both families at less than $50.00 for each family.  We continued to do our weekly cooking sessions, making 5-6 different meals a week for almost a year.

Now that I have been successful at making meals my family will eat and even requests, I finally felt comfortable to share with others what I have found works and what doesn't. Over the next month I will take you through the entire process.  From the planning stages to the actually cooking day and even to preparing to eat each meal.  But before we get to the fun stuff, I have a question for you:

What made you desire to learn more about monthly cooking? What areas are you struggling with that has stopped you from batch cooking?

At the time of writing this blog, I just finished working on October's menu with my cooking partner.  We are trying our hands are dump recipes this month.  What is your favorite crock pot meal that you would like to be made easier?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Its time to buy a saddle......

If someone calls you an "@$$" don't pay attention to them.  After all its only one person's opinion and what does one person really matter.  If a second person calls you an "@$$" you might want to start thinking because now you have 2 different people telling you something.  However if a third person calls you an "@$$" its time to buy a saddle because you are an @$$. 

Well this blog is my saddle.  I have always wanted to be able to take my gifts and help others with them, but I never felt that I was good enough to tell anyone else how to do something because after all I am still trying to figure all this out.  Well just this week alone I have been told by at least 3 different people "you should write a blog about this." 

I don't know exactly what this blog will become or exactly where it will lead.  I am going to leave that up to my King.  I pray that I will be able to reach people with this website that are struggling to provide healthy, easy, and quick meals for their families and they can learn what I have to share.  At the moment, I think I will keep it very basic.  As of right now we are currently providing monthly meals for 6 adults and 3 toddlers.  I try to keep the monthly cost to under $150.00 dollars for each family.  This includes 20 different dinners complete with side dishes and at least 1 lunch and breakfast.

For the time being I will put up our schedules and our meal planning.  As I get better and more organized I will start posting the recipes and maybe some tutorials on some of my other ways of making money stretch.