Thursday, October 3, 2013

Food Prep for Baby!

In our home, I am the sole cook.  Steve has slowly been learning some tricks in the kitchen, but I know if we want to eat after baby's born, it's my job to have meals ready to go.

My friend stumbled across a blog called Once a Month Meals.  It's a website with meal plans that can be mass produced to provide you with a month's worth of meals in the freezer.  You select a month's menu from the archives (older ones are free, newer ones are for paid members only).  It comes with spreadsheets that allows you to input the number of meals/servings you want it to yield, and it gives you the shopping list needed to complete your meals.  We decided to combine forces and make a day out of it.  

Hindsight is always revealing.  We should have gone grocery shopping and prepped all the veggies in one day (or even start out way earlier than we did), but we knew there would be kinks we'd have to work out.  So instead, we headed to the grocery store around noon and purchased all the ingredients.  We split the cost in half since we were making meals for the both of us - score!

We headed back to her house, ate lunch and discussed the game plan.  I chose to work on chopping and prepping veggies as she chose to start working on the baking portions (I should mention that this is the same friend who owns her own cupcake business and writes a food blog - I was just really along for the ride and meals!).  We quickly learned that we should have read through the recipes a little more closely before actually starting.  We bought some things we didn't need (like the list called for 10+ onions, and we definitely used only 2) and were short some items (how the heck is 2 cups of cheese supposed to produce 10 quesidillas?!).  

We finished up all the baking and cooking just before dinner time.  Upon which we both realized we had husbands to feed and no desire to cook dinner!  Haha.  I helped her clean up her kitchen, loaded up my car with my bounty, and marveled at all we accomplished as I loaded it into my freezer.  Now I feel like I'm sitting on a gold mine.  Several times I've gone to pull a meal out to use, and thought "No! Wait for when baby is here!"  I will admit, we did eat one of the dinners on a day I just didn't want to cook.  It was very yummy and we look forward to the next freezer meal!

(Look at all those yummy baked goods!  We each came out with about 15 pumpkin pancakes, 13 pumpkin muffins, 9 granola bars, and 4 broccoli/cheddar biscuit muffins.  I will admit I've already consumed some of our pumpkin pancakes and muffins.  It's so nice to just pull one out of the bag in the freezer and pop it in the microwave!)

(Our full bounty before we separated everything.  In the end, it didn't equate to an entire month's worth for the both of us, but it definitely is enough food for a solid 2+ weeks.  The serving size/meal quantity was another kink we had to work through.  I know I"m going to forget all the meals, but I'll attempt.  We both ended up with 5 quesadillas, 1 big bag of taco soup, 1 big bag of chicken wild rice soup, 1 Parmesan chicken meatloaf, 1 chicken enchilada lasagna, 1 chicken/stuffing bake, 1 salsa chicken crockpot meal, 1 articoke/spinach pasta dish, tons of meatballs/gravy, and 1 beef stroganoff meal.  "1 meal" can definitely be consumed over multiple days, so that's how you end up with more than just a weeks worth of stuff.)

(Close up of the goods -- notice the labels taped on the bags.  Not only does the website produce the grocery list & recipes, it also produces labels for each meal that tells what the meal is and how to prepare it after it's frozen.  Awesome!  Now all Steve will have to do, is pull out a meal and follow the instructions - sweet!)

(The real only catastrophe of the day - another kink that needs to be worked out.  When you're mass producing meals, you need really large pots.  Neither of us had thought that through nor had big pots to use.  The stroganoff proved to be especially tricky and may have resulted in a small fire.  Don't worry though -- Sara has great insurance! Haha, I guess I should explain she's married to an insurance agent, who also happens to be our agent.)

I've also done some other food prep on my own.  When Liz (my sister-in-law) came to visit, we had plans of working on a few meals I wanted to make ahead and freeze.  It didn't happen that weekend (because we were too busy with other activities!), and I did it over a few days the next week.  There are some specific sauces I like to fancy up (like spaghetti for instance.  I take a jar sauce and add in onions, meat, mushrooms, etc) and decided to mass produce them.  I made big pots of my spaghetti sauce and a special alfredo sauce and then divided them into small bags to freeze.  I also made up a couple lasagnas and pans of macaroni and cheese to add to my freezer.  Now all we need is baby to come so we can partake of these meals - haha!

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