Thanks to the ladies over at Once a Month Mom for sponsoring this cook-off - I love freezer cooking anyway but making it a challenge certainly egged on my competitive spirit. (And if you have any inklings of trying out once-a-month cooking, you MUST visit their site. Now. I'll wait.) For me, this was more of a "Several-times a Month Cook-off" - Our schedules are such that it's almost impossible to schedule one entire day for cooking. And no offense ladies, but if hubby and I have a day off together, I'm kind of inclined to hang out with him eating Cheez Doodles and catching up on LOST :)
I planned things out kinda loosely, and arranged my days so that I was prepping stuff for two or three dishes the night before, and then assembling the next day. For example, I browned all the ground beef, and then put together the Sue Sue's Casserole, Taco Bake and the Sloppy Joes over the next two days. Another night I tossed the chicken in the crockpot overnight, and the next day put together the Chicken Ranch Pizza and the Black Bean Salsa Chicken (I pre cooked the chicken for that dish, it's a personal preference). That night I tossed the Lazy Granola together so that it cured in the oven while I was cleaning up. It worked out well because the littles keep me VERY busy during the day, but once they were in bed I usually had time to make a few dishes. I also got some help from the Boy Wonder when making the Stuffed Pancake Cupcakes :) I made a few adjustments to some of the recipes, based on what I had on hand and what would make the overall recipe a little cheaper for me.
The nice thing about doing a freezer cooking month gradually is that I never did more than an hour or so of work in a night. Some things, like the Pork Roast dishes, took all of about 20 minutes to throw together! All told I probably did about 6-7 hours over the course of the month, but when you break it down into small groupings, it's not even noticeable.
We hit a bit of a snafu with the Pancake Cupcakes - the first round I made leaked out the bottom, and the gel around the fruit melted down so much it just left caverns inside the ones that did stay together. With the second batch, I used paper liners (which solved the leakage beautifully!) but I still had the big holes in the middle. I ended up scrapping them - but made more Lazy Granola to make up for the missing breakfasts. I also only ended up with three Taco Bakes instead of four, but that's because I bought 8X11 lasagna pans instead of 8X8...it worked out fine, I'll just have more leftovers when they appear on the menu!
Since I always price out cost-per-meal on what I cook, I did the same for the OAMC dishes that are now happily tucked away in the freezer (these are based on the actual cost of what I bought...I'm a total nerd and did the math out for individual ingredients. It's my OCD.) I actually used a lot out of my existing pantry, and included what I paid for those items in the cost-per-meal. But I also tracked what I bought new just for OAMC, or what would replace pantry items that got used up this challenge. The grand total for my OAMC spending was: $97.96!! As I've done my Grocery Tracking I made notes on anything that was bought for this cook-off. Since this whole blog is about my monthly spending and grocery budgeting, I'm really looking forward to seeing how spending that money ahead of time saves on my overall budget!
Here's what I ended up making, along with the cost-per-meal for each dish. We have 21 dinners(most will leave us leftovers) and a lot of granola to carry us through March and probably the beginning of April!
2 Pork Roast with Apples and Pears - $4.47/entree
2 Asian Pork Roast - $3.56/entree
2 bags Curried Turkey Tidbits - $1.32/entree!
I used a bunch of leftover turkey that I had in the freezer, so technically that's FREE!)
2 Chicken Ranch Pizza Toppings - $4.65/meal including dough
used 1 can of diced tomato drained instead of fresh tomato
4 bags Black Bean Salsa Chicken - $5.32/meal
I used a 1-lb bag of dried black beans (cooked) and 2 cups frozen corn per bag instead of the canned
4 bag Lazy Granola - $4.44 for all!
3 pans Taco Bake - $3.21/meal
again, used frozen corn kernels in place of canned, also used canned crushed tomatoes instead of tomato sauce
4 pans Sue Sue's Casserole - $4.62/meal
2 bags Sloppy Joes - $2.62/entree