My longtime readers know that the biggest problem I have in keeping a budget is in the area of cooking (or lack of) and eating out. Between homeschooling, blogging, and trying to keep up with cleaning the house, I hardly have time to menu plan.
In addition, we’re a super busy family. We have activities going nearly every night of the week, which makes it difficult to get a healthy meal on the table every night and very tempting to hit the nearest restaurant on the way out the door to soccer practice.
Several weeks ago I was contacted about an opportunity to review Once-a-Month Cooking Family Favorites by Mary Beth Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson, and I jumped at the chance. Cooking only once a month seemed like it might solve a lot of problems I have in getting dinner on the table for the family.
I received the book a little over a week ago, and I was immediately impressed by the menu plans. There are 7 menu plans: Two one month plans, two regular two week plans, a two week gluten free plan, a two week summer plan that incorporates lots of grilling, and a two week gourmet plan.
A wide variety of recipes are included, including Chicken Scampi, Mediterranean Burgers, Lime Grilled Mahi-Mahi, and Four Seasons Pizza. The recipes average $2.16 per serving, which is a lot cheaper than dinner out at McDonald’s! Healthier and tastier, too!
Each plan comes with a chart that shows you the recipes, the number of servings, the meat used, the reheating method, what you need to serve the main dish, and a space to write what you’d like to serve on the side.
Also included with each plan is a grocery list, broken down by sections of the grocery store, and a pantry list, which lists items you probably have on hand that will be needed in the recipes.
Beyond the menus and recipes, Once-a-Month Cooking Family Favorites also includes tips and tricks, such as what equipment you’ll need, freezing tips, a section on how to get started, and much more!
I couldn’t wait to give it a whirl.
Being new to once a month cooking, I decided to start with a two week plan. I set aside last Friday to shop and cook, which the authors don’t advise. They actually suggest shopping before cooking day, but I only had one day available, so I threw caution to the wind.
I followed the instructions for my menu plan, starting with processing the food. I chopped, grated, and sliced…a lot! I found myself very grateful to my husband for the food processor he bought me for my birthday a few years ago.
After processing came the assembly of the dishes. The authors really knew what they were doing when they wrote this book! The directions were very clear, and it was easy to move from one recipe to the next. I started with an egg dish and then moved on to all the ground beef dishes, followed by some pasta dishes, and I finished up with the chicken dishes.
It took me about 5 hours to do all the processing and cooking, but I finally managed to get it all done. I went to bed very tired, but very satisfied that my freezer was stocked with good food. Some of the recipes even made more than I knew my family would eat, so I split them in half to make two meals. So between weekly dinners at church on Wednesdays, our weekly ethnic meal to go with our homeschool lessons, and the 17 meals I have in the freezer, I have about a month’s worth of food.
I say yes! The 5 hours I spent cooking weren’t very fun. It wasn’t too bad, but you all know cooking isn’t my favorite thing to do. I have to tell you, though, pulling out a delicious macaroni and cheese dish last night and throwing it into the oven was WONDERFUL! And since all I used was a casserole dish, cleanup was easy before we headed out the door for 4-H.
And my groceries were only $300 (and that includes a big Costco run and breakfast and lunch items). So I still have $100 left in my grocery budget this month to pick up fresh produce and milk as needed.
Once-a-Month Cooking Family Favorites gets five stars, in my book. It’s a great way to save time and money!
Have you ever tried freezer cooking? What did you think?
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I'm just an average mom, trying to live a frugal life and get out of debt. I write about things that have (and haven't) worked to improve my family's financial situation. What works for me may or may not work for you, and you should always consult a financial advisor before making important financial decisions.
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