This month, my friend and I will begin our 15th year cooking together. We have stirred, chopped, tasted, and mixed more meals than we could possibly count. We began our monthly cooking journey all those years ago with the Once-a-Month Cookbook, Master Cook recipe software, and six kids in-tow. Since my own family was never keen on casseroles, the cookbook served as inspiration only and we used Master Cook to organize our own recipes around the concept. It has worked like a charm for all these years. With hundreds of recipes at our fingertips to create menus, shopping lists, and precisely scaled recipes, we load our freezer with some of the same meals you see here at Savoring Today. Here are just a few of the archive recipes we use:
We have learned what freezes well and what doesn’t, understanding it is more important to have the menu and the plan than have every part of the meal cooked and frozen. There are casseroles sprinkled in here and there with soups and stews every cook learns to make in big batches, but many of the recipes are everyday favorites with single meats and separate side dishes. Recipes are evaluated for freezer quality to determine if it will be partially or fully cooked. Sometimes only choice components are frozen for later use. The menu hangs on the front of the refrigerator, ready for the month.
It is not our goal to cook 30 meals in one day (though we did once, and barely escaped with our sanity). We learned quickly that a plan of 15-18 meals would carry a family through an entire month, which made the endeavor more realistic (and a lot less exhausting). Leftovers, dining out, and quick-fix meals like sandwiches or quesadillas fill-in for the remaining meals during an average month. Monthly cooking has enabled us to consistently gather our family around great tasting food for more than 15 years.
Although we have a large freezer now, we started with a standard refrigerator freezer and a basic set of pans, so we know from experience anyone can do it. More than convenient or delicious food, monthly cooking has been a catalyst for friendship, seeing us through every season of life. In the coming months, I will have an e-book available about how to collaborate with a friend and batch meals for a month. I highly recommend teaming up with someone, the camaraderie not only lightens the workload, it lifts the heavy load of life at times too.