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    OT: Tell me all about freezer/once-a-month meals

    Okay, while I'm on the road the next 2 days, you ladies (and gents) have plenty of time to chime in and all about freezer meal planning/once-a-month meals and anything along that theme. **Squee! I can't wait to check back in and see the responses!*

    I've seen an outfit at a few conventions offering membership to a freezer meal club, but I've never had time to stop and ask questions. I've seen blurbs here and there for once-a-month meal prep and, while it looks neat, I'm just not sure I'm ready to pay for this. (I know I can't cough up the dough for Hello Fresh and other fresh-ingredients-delivered-to-your-door services!) Here is some helpful info to consider:

    1. I use my crock pot religiously but I do not own an Insta-Pot
    2. I purchase most of my meat through Azure Standard and pick it up at my drop once a month
    3. I purchase most of my produce at my local farmer's stand and/or at the grocery store (but could easily arrange for bulk produce pickup through Azure to save $$ if I can prep it all at once to freeze)
    4. I have a decent amount of freezer space
    5. We spend about half the year (combined) fasting - eating basically vegan meals for religious purposes

    Here are some questions I have:

    1. How varied are the menu options?
    2. Do the recipes really feed a family of 4/5? I mean, until they're actually full?
    3. Can you really prep a month's worth of meals in one day?
    4. How easy are they to prepare once you pull them from the freezer?
    5. Do I need an Insta Pot?
    6. Once you join and you feel you have a good repertoire of recipes, can you quit? Or are you locked in for a certain amount of time?
    7. Do you find this is really a time/sanity saver? Or does it take just as much thought/time to prepare as a normal meal? (That is, am I going to smack my head when I see that it's yet again 4:30pm and I've forgotten to take the meal from the freezer to thaw?)
    8. Do I really need to do a service or should I just make a few trays of lasagna and such to freeze on my own?

    TIA for your thoughts!
    Mary

    DD14 - 9th core + CLRC Ancient Greek I & Latin IV + VideoText math
    DS12 - 7th core + Novare Earth Science + CLRC HS Latin I + VideoText math
    DD8 - SC level 2

    #2
    Re: OT: Tell me all about freezer/once-a-month meals

    Originally posted by OrthodoxHandmaiden View Post
    Okay, while I'm on the road the next 2 days, you ladies (and gents) have plenty of time to chime in and all about freezer meal planning/once-a-month meals and anything along that theme. **Squee! I can't wait to check back in and see the responses!*

    I've seen an outfit at a few conventions offering membership to a freezer meal club, but I've never had time to stop and ask questions. I've seen blurbs here and there for once-a-month meal prep and, while it looks neat, I'm just not sure I'm ready to pay for this. (I know I can't cough up the dough for Hello Fresh and other fresh-ingredients-delivered-to-your-door services!) Here is some helpful info to consider:

    1. I use my crock pot religiously but I do not own an Insta-Pot
    2. I purchase most of my meat through Azure Standard and pick it up at my drop once a month
    3. I purchase most of my produce at my local farmer's stand and/or at the grocery store (but could easily arrange for bulk produce pickup through Azure to save $$ if I can prep it all at once to freeze)
    4. I have a decent amount of freezer space
    5. We spend about half the year (combined) fasting - eating basically vegan meals for religious purposes

    Here are some questions I have:

    1. How varied are the menu options?
    2. Do the recipes really feed a family of 4/5? I mean, until they're actually full?
    3. Can you really prep a month's worth of meals in one day?
    4. How easy are they to prepare once you pull them from the freezer?
    5. Do I need an Insta Pot?
    6. Once you join and you feel you have a good repertoire of recipes, can you quit? Or are you locked in for a certain amount of time?
    7. Do you find this is really a time/sanity saver? Or does it take just as much thought/time to prepare as a normal meal? (That is, am I going to smack my head when I see that it's yet again 4:30pm and I've forgotten to take the meal from the freezer to thaw?)
    8. Do I really need to do a service or should I just make a few trays of lasagna and such to freeze on my own?

    TIA for your thoughts!
    I have lots to share, but must get my crew ready for mass. I'll be back!
    Katie

    2019/20 6th year with MP
    DS 15: 10th, MPOA: Latin & HS Comp II
    DD 12: 7th, MPOA: Latin, Pre-Algebra, Chreia/Maxim & Ref/Con
    DD 9: 4th using 3A
    Twin DD's 7: 1st

    Comment


      #3
      Re: OT: Tell me all about freezer/once-a-month meals

      I haven't seen anything that impresses me about an instant pot, but I'm not into that sort of thing. I did have a basic rice cooker for a while, and liked it.

      I don't cook monthly, but I have a rolling menu I put on my Google calendar. I don't schedule lunches, but cook double most of the time, which covers that... and helps when the adult children show up at meal time unannounced with their spouse, which still happens regularly.<3

      When I do make things that require more prep, like lasagna or meatloaf, I make 2-3 meals worth because I know it's coming back around in a few weeks.

      We have a Costco membership this year because of some big-ticket purchases we planned to make. For our dietary needs, we've found some handy products. Not sure if we'll renew for next year, but worthwhile for now.
      Bean. Long time MP user.

      DD- 9th grade aerospace enthusiast. Using a mix of dual credit, online and classical materials for 2019-2020.

      Comment


        #4
        Re: OT: Tell me all about freezer/once-a-month meals

        Hi Mary,

        I've been around the once-a-month-cooking crowd for years. I've seen everything from "buy our kits" to "here's the shopping list, now take it away". Which type are you asking about?

        Personally, with my diagnosis of an autoimmune condition (Hashimito) and my need to have some specifically prepared foods nearly always at hand, I prefer the Weekly Cook up. I have a list posted in my cupboard of the items I make weekly. I can even adjust my schedule for 8 - 10 days, if I know something is on my calendar, but weekly seems about right for keeping foods fresh and ready. BTW, I have an Instant Pot and *adore* it. It has expanded my ability to great meals on the table, esp soups and stews. I use it every week in making a batch of bone broth, too.

        My own weekly cook up includes: bone broth (nourishing, versatile in soups and stews, and even drinkable), breakfast for the week (my fav is "breakfast meatballs" since they are seasoned by me, quick to warm up, and small enough to chose my daily portion size), at least one large protein source for dinner which creates "planned reuse" for the week, "gummies" (treats made with fruits and juices plus high quality gelatin), and usually a batch lunch choice (chicken salad, etc). Veggies can be steamed a bit for quick reheat and more, but I actually like to cook (chemist!), so I don't usually bother.

        Most of the weekly cook ups I have seen focus on batch cooking versatile protein, veggies, and making a few sauces, so that dinner time is a snap of combining those items.


        I'd definitely take the advice of batch cooking bigger, time consuming items like lasagna, etc, so that you can fall back to those meals as desired.


        Here's a link for one of my favorites. She's a bit of a foodie, though:

        http://meljoulwan.com/2010/01/14/pal...nd-my-madness/


        Here's more of a template. This would allow you to use your meat and veggie delivery system, too

        http://autoimmunewellness.com/batch-cooking-101/



        Happy cooking!


        Jen
        DS, 26 yrs, graduated from MIT (Aerospace), recently completed the design and execution of unhackable military software... in his spare time.

        DS, 24 yrs, graduated from SIU's School of Business, ENGAGED!

        DD, 21 yrs, Senior in Education at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC

        DS, 11 yrs, 6M: complete!

        All homeschooled.

        Comment


          #5
          Re: OT: Tell me all about freezer/once-a-month meals

          Hi Mary!

          I am going to give you second-hand responses from my dear friend DeAnn...She has an instant-pot, and also LOVES it! Has been a very handy way to do crock-pot type meals in the a regular dinner-time timeframe. She said its actually pretty amazing.

          I know she has done a lot of once-a-month cooking, but I think it sounds a lot like what Jen suggests - cooking a vast amount of proteins and veg that you can then pull out and very quickly whip into something.

          I researched those methods years ago as our family was growing, and even gave it a shot for a very brief period of time. It did not work for me because I find that while I do enjoy having a "big picture" plan for most things, food is not one of them. I vary what I want to make based on how things are going that particular week. We do not eat "fancy" or anything, just that some weeks soup sounds perfect, and other times it does not suit at all. When I tried to plan a month in advance, I ended up not wanting anything on my list when the time came to eat it! Not to mention I am not a fan of the way freezing changes food (except for raw meat, of course), or with how things taste out of the crock-pot.

          So we have a recipe book of favorite meals, along with frequent checks to favorite websites for something "new," and I just do a week at a time. Most of our meals are things I can prep and have on the table in an hour, with a few favorite exceptions. This way I don't *usually* fall into the trap of having frozen meat to defrost at the last minute - it is still fresh from the Saturday grocery trip. Our meals also stay very basic this way...protein, veg, and salad is the most common format. I find that it is a good way for me to realize we NEED to be done with school because I have to make dinner. If I don't, we don't eat!!

          So aside from the feedback from DeAnn, I am of absolutely no help to you with what you want to try doing! . But I hope you can take what others offer and come up with a new plan that suits your current state of on-the-road-a-lot-ness!

          AMDG,
          Sarah
          2019-2020 - 9th Year with MP
          DD, 18, Homeschool grad; Art major/philosophy minor
          DS, 16
          DD, 14
          DD, 12
          DD, 10
          DD, 7.5
          DD, 5.5
          +DS+
          DS, 18 months

          Comment


            #6
            Re: OT: Tell me all about freezer/once-a-month meals

            Another vote for an instant pot! I'm so not a fan of crockpot meals. I feel like the are basically mashed meat, with slightly different flavors. I recently started "Trim Healthy Mama" and it has been a life savor. I use my instant pot to make poached eggs, every.single.morning. I can stick it in there and while it is cooking unload the dishwasher and tend to the kids. It isn't necessarily any faster than poaching on the stove, but I stick it in pot and walk away. I also make soup weekly. Even in the summer, this has been very satisfying. At 10:30 we take a school break and I can go and chop veggies, sauce IN the instant pot and by noon my soup is more than ready (and the flavors are really, fabulous). I also make yogurt, the best yogurt I have ever had! (we went to Paris, France on our honeymoon and I could not find the yogurt we ate there, this is exactly it!) It's time consuming, but the pot does all the work. Every Monday I put in some chicken breasts (frozen) have them ready to shred and eat the rest of the week (I put it on top of salads or sometimes in a soup that I did not put meat in) by lunchtime that day! I also make some form of a grain to eat throughout the week (quinoa, rice, a blend, etc), mostly for my lunches, but sometimes as a side for dinner.

            I have TWO instant pots, they are THAT helpful! I don't think I could have kept up with the THM "diet" without the Instant pot. I gave my crockpot away!

            P.S> I still prefer to grill or bake most of my meat, but still use my instant pot every.single.day!
            Last edited by howiecram; 06-19-2017, 08:53 AM.
            Christine

            (2019/2020)
            DD1 8/23/09 - SC5/6
            DS2 9/1/11 - SC3,4, 5/6 combo
            DD3 2/9/13 -SC2 to start, MP1 second semester

            Previous Years
            DD 1 (MPK, SC2 (with AAR), SC3, SC4’
            DS2 (SCB, SCC, MPK, SC2)
            DD3 (SCA, SCB, Jr. K workbooks, soaking up from the others, MPK)

            Comment


              #7
              Re: OT: Tell me all about freezer/once-a-month meals

              not to derail but is once a month cooking feasible for people who have diabetes or/and high blood pressure?
              Des
              3 graduates (used LC1&2, Traditional Logic)
              G (4th grade using old MP core 3, GSWL, Strayer-Upton book 2)
              S (9th grade Abeka US History, Abeka Themes in Literature, Henle Latin w/MP guide, Systematic Mathematics w/LOF, Anatomy and Physiology, Art of Argument)

              Comment


                #8
                Re: OT: Tell me all about freezer/once-a-month meals

                I think the more necessary concern with health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure is of what you are choosing to eat, rather than how you are choosing to prepare it. If you are cooking once a month but are making meals that would aggravate those conditions, it would not be helpful. But if you choose to prepare food that would help support a healthy meal plan for those conditions, than once-a-month cooking could definitely work for you.

                The baseline is still to make better choices of food to combat those conditions.

                AMDG,
                Sarah
                2019-2020 - 9th Year with MP
                DD, 18, Homeschool grad; Art major/philosophy minor
                DS, 16
                DD, 14
                DD, 12
                DD, 10
                DD, 7.5
                DD, 5.5
                +DS+
                DS, 18 months

                Comment


                  #9
                  Re: OT: Tell me all about freezer/once-a-month meals

                  I'm not a huge fan of crockpot meals either, except occasionally for pot roast. I don't like the texture of reheated freezer meals, and we tend to eat seasonally. Here is what I did to get menu planning under control. I wrote a list of all the meals I like to cook. (It was fairly long, because I love to cook.) Then I wrote each one on an index card. I put all the cards into categories. Italian, Chicken, Creole (I'm from New Orleans.), Beef, Soup, etc..., so that I had seven categories. Each night of the week gets its own category. Fridays are the meatless options.
                  I usually just flip through the cards and see what I'm in the mood to make that week. I also try to keep in mind the specials my grocery store is running and what I have on hand. My kids like to help do this, picking out their personal favorites. If there is a new recipe to try, I put that in place of one of the cards. If it is a success, I make a card for it.
                  There are nine of us, and I like to have leftovers or enough for anyone that might drop in for dinner. This pretty much rules out any of the Hello Fresh type options. I stopped using Costco, because the one by us does not stock what you find at most of their locations nationwide. Apparently this is due to the large Asian, Indian, and Middle Eastern population in our area.
                  Just thought I would share this one idea. Have you ever had a night where you just cannot get dinner done? One of those days where everything falls apart and you forget to start cooking dinner or end up spending the afternoon at the ER? Here is the thing my kids get a kick out of. We call it the Peter Rabbit Dinner. It's from the end of the book, where Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail (who were good little bunnies) have bread and milk and blackberries for dinner. Yes, I actually serve them those items or something similar. They can fill in the gaps with whatever each kid wants: peanut butter, deli turkey, baby carrots (just like Peter eats) cheese sticks, whatever. For some reason they love this.
                  Blessings,
                  Jude

                  DD 20, DS 17, DS 14, DS 12, DD 10, DS 7, DD 5

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Re: OT: Tell me all about freezer/once-a-month meals

                    Originally posted by howiecram View Post
                    I'm so not a fan of crockpot meals. I feel like the are basically mashed meat, with slightly different flavors.

                    Not here to sell the Instant Pot, but I wanted to comment on the above. I was tremendously surprised to find this to be true, too. Whereas the crockpot makes a mean slow cooked chili, where the melded flavors are helpful, the Instant Pot leaves vegetables and meats with distinct flavors. My first recipe in the Instant Pot was turkey veggie soup, using the wings and a drumstick from my holiday bird. I plopped the meat in, cut my veggies in chunks, added bone broth and seasonings, as was blown away by the "fresh" taste of the veggies, while the meat was falling off the bones. My stews are the same. The flavors in the veggies remain more vibrant while the meat is well cooked.

                    While I don't use my Instant Pot every day, I use it every week: once a week for bone broth, 1-2 times per week for meals. It also cooks in a fraction of the time of the crockpot, so I can speed up some of my favorite crockpot meals if I have forgotten to start them early enough (see the chili comment above).



                    Jen
                    DS, 26 yrs, graduated from MIT (Aerospace), recently completed the design and execution of unhackable military software... in his spare time.

                    DS, 24 yrs, graduated from SIU's School of Business, ENGAGED!

                    DD, 21 yrs, Senior in Education at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC

                    DS, 11 yrs, 6M: complete!

                    All homeschooled.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Re: OT: Tell me all about freezer/once-a-month meals

                      A 12-hour day of meal prep isn't sustainable for us -- even if it is just once a month -- so I'm trying to batch cook "as I go". For example, last night's dinner included rice so I made a triple batch since I know I need rice for other meals this week. When I made chicken for dinner last week, I made extra to use for lunch the next day. It does rely on having a meal plan for the week, but it's been the least stressful way of getting a little ahead.
                      Jennifer
                      Blog: [url]www.seekingdelectare.com[/url]

                      DS16
                      MP: Lit 10, VideoText Algebra
                      MPOA: High School Comp. II
                      HSC: Spanish I, Conceptual Physics, Modern European History, and electives

                      DS15
                      MP: Biology, Lit 10, VideoText Algebra, Greek Tragedies
                      MPOA: High School Comp. II, Fourth Form Latin
                      HSC: Modern European History

                      DS12
                      7M with:
                      Second Form Latin, EGR III, and HSC for US History

                      DS11
                      SC Level 4

                      DD9
                      3A, with First Form Latin (long story!)

                      DD7/8
                      Still in SC Level 2

                      DD 4/5
                      SC Level C

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Re: OT: Tell me all about freezer/once-a-month meals

                        Originally posted by SaintJude7 View Post
                        Here is what I did to get menu planning under control. I wrote a list of all the meals I like to cook. (It was fairly long, because I love to cook.) Then I wrote each one on an index card. I put all the cards into categories. Italian, Chicken, Creole (I'm from New Orleans.), Beef, Soup, etc..., so that I had seven categories. Each night of the week gets its own category. Fridays are the meatless options.
                        I usually just flip through the cards and see what I'm in the mood to make that week. I also try to keep in mind the specials my grocery store is running and what I have on hand.

                        Just thought I would share this one idea. Have you ever had a night where you just cannot get dinner done? One of those days where everything falls apart and you forget to start cooking dinner or end up spending the afternoon at the ER? Here is the thing my kids get a kick out of. We call it the Peter Rabbit Dinner. It's from the end of the book, where Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail (who were good little bunnies) have bread and milk and blackberries for dinner. Yes, I actually serve them those items or something similar. They can fill in the gaps with whatever each kid wants: peanut butter, deli turkey, baby carrots (just like Peter eats) cheese sticks, whatever. For some reason they love this.
                        Blessings,
                        Jude

                        DD 20, DS 17, DS 14, DS 12, DD 10, DS 7, DD 5
                        I love both of those options! We pretty much have taco tuesday and pasta Wednesday and have yet to grow tired of it..but it still leaves the other days of the week to consider! Monday are exceptionally difficult! Love it! (especially the Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail thing for our Monday nights)!

                        But, really, i need to keep a running list of meals we enjoy as well!
                        Christine

                        (2019/2020)
                        DD1 8/23/09 - SC5/6
                        DS2 9/1/11 - SC3,4, 5/6 combo
                        DD3 2/9/13 -SC2 to start, MP1 second semester

                        Previous Years
                        DD 1 (MPK, SC2 (with AAR), SC3, SC4’
                        DS2 (SCB, SCC, MPK, SC2)
                        DD3 (SCA, SCB, Jr. K workbooks, soaking up from the others, MPK)

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Re: OT: Tell me all about freezer/once-a-month meals

                          Originally posted by KF2000 View Post
                          I think the more necessary concern with health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure is of what you are choosing to eat, rather than how you are choosing to prepare it. If you are cooking once a month but are making meals that would aggravate those conditions, it would not be helpful. But if you choose to prepare food that would help support a healthy meal plan for those conditions, than once-a-month cooking could definitely work for you.

                          The baseline is still to make better choices of food to combat those conditions.

                          AMDG,
                          Sarah

                          Yes, I understand that it's about making better choices, I was just wondering if you can actually freeze those sorts of meals. I'm so new to possibly having these conditions that I'm still trying to figure out how I'm supposed to eat and make my meals etc...
                          Des
                          3 graduates (used LC1&2, Traditional Logic)
                          G (4th grade using old MP core 3, GSWL, Strayer-Upton book 2)
                          S (9th grade Abeka US History, Abeka Themes in Literature, Henle Latin w/MP guide, Systematic Mathematics w/LOF, Anatomy and Physiology, Art of Argument)

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Re: OT: Tell me all about freezer/once-a-month meals

                            Originally posted by robopanda5 View Post
                            Yes, I understand that it's about making better choices, I was just wondering if you can actually freeze those sorts of meals. I'm so new to possibly having these conditions that I'm still trying to figure out how I'm supposed to eat and make my meals etc...
                            Oh, sure! I think personally I would recommend figuring out what things are good and healthy for you to eat first, getting some recipes that you like eating on a regular basis, get used to those new habits, and then judge whether those foods would freeze well.

                            Both of those conditions usually respond well to having lean protein, fibrous legumes, vegetables and greens, and low-glycemic fruits be the center of your diet, along with limited starches (potatoes, grains, rice, pasta) so you could always take advantage of the suggestions to prep a lot of protein at once and divide it up to have ready to put into a dish, or to have cut up veg in the freezer to add to something easily. And then you could work up from there once you have some dishes you really like.

                            AMDG,
                            Sarah
                            2019-2020 - 9th Year with MP
                            DD, 18, Homeschool grad; Art major/philosophy minor
                            DS, 16
                            DD, 14
                            DD, 12
                            DD, 10
                            DD, 7.5
                            DD, 5.5
                            +DS+
                            DS, 18 months

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Re: OT: Tell me all about freezer/once-a-month meals

                              I've tried the freezer-meal thing: no dice. I've also done recipe cards, crock pot meals, once a month cooking and a ton of other things. The thing that works the best for us is basically what you are already doing, Mary. Fresh, seasonal ingredients and an investment of time and work every day. That investment varies from day to day, but I really haven't found anything that delivers the time, energy, money and stress savings it advertises. It is far more pleasing and doable for us to cook as we go.

                              Leftovers can be creatively reworked or frozen for two weeks ahead (or thrown in the crock pot on warm in the morning for a hot lunch after Mass). I am impressed that the insta-pot seems to be a boon to faster and tastier eating. But other than that, I have always come back to square one, as far as cooking is concerned. Plan ahead, cook at 4PM, eat no later than 6PM, clean up, load the dishwasher, repeat.

                              Sarah hit on something that I think I can safely expand: Pulling something out of the freezer -- however tasty -- is never going to seem as appealing as eating it fresh. You can't smell it; it doesn't look appealing; there's no real deadline for consuming it (unlike a fresh ingredient that pops up on your internal radar because you look at it every time you open the fridge). Even a gourmet, home-prepared, free-range, organic, non-GMO, super-fantastic, tastee-meal will always be a "frozen dinner". And that just doesn't make me hungry.

                              Your mileage may vary, though.
                              Boy Wonder: 10, MP2/SC4 (Special Needs)
                              Joy Bubble: 8, MP2 (Special Needs)
                              Snuggly Cowboy: 6, MPK
                              Sweet Lightness: 2, Reverse-Engineering Specialist

                              “Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”
                              ~Pope St John Paul II

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