WRITE: Mega-Cooking FAQs, Part II
Today’s post continues a topic we began earlier this week when I posted a picture on Facebook of some meals I’d prepared for the freezer. Feel free to read the first set of FAQs here before you read these.
Do you have to cook as much without all of your children at home, or is it just habit?
As I mentioned in Tuesday’s post, our meals have gotten smaller now that our three older children have left the nest. But I’ve noticed our remaining family members still like to eat. And mega-cooking is the most practical, efficient, and cost-saving way I’ve found to feed our family and keep up with my other responsibilities, too.
I need a workshop on this!
I’ve taught workshops on this topic several times but only once in the past few years. I would be glad to do so again. It’s a great topic for a church group, MOPs group, homeschooling group, etc.
How do you decide what meals to freeze?
I have a battery of recipes I’ve used and developed through the years. I also like to change things up every once in a while and add something new or different. Not all meals work for the freezer (celery is a popular ingredient, for example, but it holds too much water to freeze well in bulk).
Whenever it’s time to do our mega-cooking, we have a family meeting and discuss what to prepare. Like any other family decision, meal-planning often involves compromise. Allowing family members to help make the list cuts down on future complaints, too.
I would add that you don’t want to use a new, untried recipe in your mega-cooking rotation. If your family doesn’t like it once, they won’t want to see it five or more times. And yes, I speak from experience. When our oldest two daughters were small, I tried a Sweet-and-Sour Chicken recipe that my husband and I enjoyed but our children despised. We made the mistake of calling it “Chinese food,” and for years afterward, our older girls were sure they hated any kind of Asian cuisine!
My spouse (children, grandchildren) won’t eat casseroles. Can this kind of cooking still work for me?
Yes and no. If you read my recipe list from Tuesday’s post, you’ll notice a few casserole-type dishes there. The soups and sauces used in casseroles work well for freezing. But I also freeze entrees like Taco Meat and Marinated Chicken. I would say not eating casserole-style dishes might limit, but not prevent, mega-cooking. You shape your mega-cooking to fit your family’s budget, needs, and preferences just as you do whenever you cook.
How does mega-cooking save you money? It seems as though the cost must be high.
Mega-cooking saves me money because I can buy in bulk. A #2 can of tomato sauce at one of the club stores costs much less per ounce than a 10- or 16-ounce can. Buying cheese in bulk costs less than buying it a pound or two at a time. I also watch for sales on chicken, ground turkey, and other staple ingredients and stock up ahead of time.
Because so many people want specifics: the food for my last mega-cooking session (more than 70 main dishes) cost me less than $300. Those meals will last several months. Many families spend more than that in a weekly trip to the grocery store. Of course, I still buy fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products, etc., but the mega-cooking takes the sting from our food costs.
When I mega-cook, I use lots of energy—personal energy as well as gas and electricity—at once. I have lots of shopping to do, lots of meat and vegetables to prepare, and lots of dishes to wash. But after that, my dinner preparation can be as simple as heating up a dish in the oven or microwaves and adding a side dish, salad, or bread. I’ve already done all the dirty, time-consuming work. And as a stay-at-home, work-at-home mom, I find that even more beautiful than saving money.
How does mega-cooking help you serve others?
One year, when I had first started mega-cooking, a good friend was confined to bed during a pregnancy. I empathized with her because I had spent twenty weeks on pregnancy bed rest the year before. We planned menus together, and I was able to shop and cook a set of meals for her freezer.
That’s the plus side. The minus side was that I had a nursing toddler along with our other children to watch while I cooked. I ended up staying at her home past two in the morning to finish up the meals! If I did this today, I would plan to stretch it out over more than one day. And of course, the toddler in question is now 22, and the baby my friend was carrying has almost finished college!
But on a more serious note, serving others is my favorite bonus blessing of mega-cooking. When someone has a new baby, a death in the family, a hospitalization or other need, the food I’ve prepared ahead of time makes it easy for me to share. Sometimes I take the dish frozen for the family to use when they need it. Sometimes, I thaw it, heat it, and prepare any accompanying salads, side dishes, or desserts.
Either way, mega-cooking gives me a head start and makes me much more likely to help others in a practical, meaningful way.
Have you considered writing a how-to on preparing meals to freeze?
To be honest, I hadn’t—until this topic drew so much response. I’ve drawn my recipes from many sources and never thought I had much new to add. But I do have a particular way of doing things that’s worked for our family, and I certainly have the experience. I started cooking this way around the time our son, now 22, was born. So perhaps one day, I’ll work on a small manual of tips and include a few more recipes.
Feel free to comment and let me know if you think this is a good idea! Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. I’ve enjoyed this little departure from our more typical Read. Write. Pray discussion.