Cooking Day: A solution to the “What’s for Dinner” dilemma

Moms are asked many questions daily:

  • Where are my shoes?
  • How much is 4×12?
  • Can I have the car keys?
  • Can I have $12?
  • Where are my shoes?
  • Can I wear your shoes?

The questions vary depending on the ages and stages of the children…but one question that is always asked in our house is “Mom, what’s for dinner?”

Moms who are raising kids with disabilties know that the time between after school snack and dinner is FULL: therapies, homework, social groups and medical appointments can monopolize this time, leaving everyone tired and hungry…and headed for a dinner-time meltdown.

Below is a solution that has worked well for our family. I posted this on facebook a few months ago, and thought I would share it with you here. Hopefully, it will give you a boost, or allow you to share a new idea with a friend. I know that that everyone’s  budget and dietary needs/tastes are different…so, modify this to fit your budget and family needs. Have a recipe to share or a time-saving idea? Leave a comment, or tell me here.

 Several of my friends have asked about my “Cooking Day…” Today seems like a VERY good day to share a bit about this with anyone who is interested. You see, today was Cooking Day. My standard “uniform” for this day is yoga pants, an old sweatshirt and a baseball cap. Unfortunately, I forgot that I needed to pick up a prescription at CVS, and so I dashed out in the nick of time to make it to the drug store before closing…hoping that I would not see ANYONE  I know.

 Big mistake.

 I saw SEVERAL people I know.

And one of them said, “You smell like chicken soup!” Which I did.

And so, I explained my “once a month cooking” system to two of my friends, who are both lovely ladies and who were quite willing to overlook my less-than-lovely appearance!

One of these gals asked me to send her some details, so I thought I’d post it here!

So here’s the scoop:About 15 years ago, my friend Mary Beth loaned me a book called Once a Month Cooking. You can  get a newer version of this book by clicking here. 

I loved the whole concept that the authors shared…the idea was that by cooking BIG once each month, people could save time and money. What I REALLY liked was the authors shared that having a stocked freezer allowed them to be more hospitable and ready to help someone else out at the drop of a hat.

 The recipes in that first volume of the book were really good. However, I only had one child then, and many of the recipes didn’t appeal to her. So, I ended up using some of the ideas/concepts and periodically stocked my freezer by doubling recipes we all liked, and then cooking some of the other recipes for Tom and me.

 Fast forward to a few years ago…a wonderful lady named Carolyn Ritchie opened a shop called Dinners by the Dozen nearby. Annie and I would go together every month and cook up a storm, and bring home 12 yummy meals. We did that for about a year, and then the economy forced Carolyn’s shop to close.

 I greatly missed that feeling of a stocked freezer, so I just sort of re-invented the “Once a Month Cooking” to suit my own schedule and my own family’s needs. Please don’t think I am overly organized, impressively creative, or that I posses Martha-Stewart-like ingenuity. None of those things are true. I am, however, quite practical, and always love when I find something that works well for our family.

 So here is what I do:

About once each month, I do a HUGE grocery shop at WalMart. I stock up on meats and pantry staples like pasta, rice, canned soups, canned veggies, etc.

The following day is COOKING DAY. What I cook each month depends upon (quite frankly) what I am hungry for! But usually, it goes something like this:

 WHAT I ALWAYS MAKE:

  •  Two meatloaves (One of Tom’s favorites!)
  • Two chicken and stuffing casseroles (Bill’s VERY favorite)
  • Marinated chicken (I buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts, wash them and then “pound them” down to thinner pieces, and cut them into individual sized portions. I then put a meal’s worth into a ziploc bag and then pour in marinade…barbecue sauce, Italiian dressing, Paul Newman’s Sesame Ginger Lite, Teriyaki sauce…you get the idea. I grill or bake the chicken, or stir fry it and serve it over rice or pasta…Annie’s favorite)
  • Browned ground beef and onions (about 5 pounds…to be used to make tacos, sloppy joe’s, casseroles. I divvy this up into meal-sized portions.)

WHAT I SOMETIMES MAKE:

  • Meatballs (to be used for sweet and sour meatballs, meatball subs, or with pasta) This month I just bought pre-made meatballs, because I couldn’t be bothered with making them myself. It’s true.
  • Pork Tenderloin (My mom gave me a yummy marinade recipe…I make that and put it all in a freezer bag like the chicken)
  • Hot and Sour Chicken drumsticks (recipe from The Pioneer Woman’s website: www.thepioneerwoman.com (Great recipes there…and on her “Tasty Kitchen” section as well. Plus my friend Lori went to high school with her…)
  • Fish (usually a marinated salmon)
  • Pot Roast

And that is about it…It takes me about three hours to do this…I usually have music playing or a movie on to keep me company. It has been a fabulous time-saver, especially with two teenagers, work, etc. etc….the normal “busy-ness” of life. I still go to the grocery store about once a week for fresh fruits and veggies, but those trips are quick and easy. Dinner time is a breeze because there is hardly any prep (and therefore, fewer dishes to do after dinner.) It’s great, too, because I can make something that everyone can eat even if the kids are headed to rehearsals or football games. We don’t eat these meals EVERY night of the month…we’ll do hot dogs or just pasta or pancakes or sandwiches sometimes. I’m not positive it saves me that much money…I’ve never crunched the numbers exactly. But the savings in time is HUGE!

 Oh! one more important thing…  I NEVER make dinner on Cooking Day…that is one of the “rules” from the book’s authors…you GO OUT FOR DINNER on Cooking Day (or get take out…)

 And now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to eat some Chinese food…

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2 thoughts on “Cooking Day: A solution to the “What’s for Dinner” dilemma

  1. My friend Laurie and I (and another friend, Deb) did a “Food Exchange” when the boys were babies. Each of us would make a double or triple batch of a meal to freeze. Then we would get together and exchange the frozen meals. Laurie and I have started to do this again. It’s a nice way to have meals ready to go and to get some new recipes. And, I find it is a way to share our friendship — it’s always a comfort to know that someone cooked for you.

    • Love this idea…such a great way to collaborate and care for each other (and vary the menu, too!) My sister used to do something similar with a friend of hers: one of them would cook on Tuesday and one would cook on Wednesday. It worked really well for them, too. Thanks for the tip, Kate!! Hope you are all having a great weekend, friend. 🙂

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