I'm one of those kinds of people who likes to eat high quality food - organic, free-range, pastured, food. I love food and I love to eat.....so let's just say I'm particular. ;)
I'm also one of those kinds of people who really hates cooking at the end of a long day of working. Who does?? I've had a love/hate relationship with cooking for about 15 years. Make that 20, if I was being really honest.
So I stopped cooking. While my non-cooking husband raised a few eyebrows, he took it in stride.
Enough was enough. I just couldn't do it all: work, take care of my grandkids, help my mom, plan meals, food shop, AND cook on top of that. I wasn't willing to budge on my standards, either. I want high quality food and I don't want to cook. So what did I do?
I explored paleo meal delivery services and signed up with two of them. For the past 5 months, I really haven't cooked. Once a week, I log in, choose our meals for the week and voila! They are delivered to my door. One service was in Charlotte, NC (www.modpaleo.com) and one was in Chicago (www.factor75.com). I would alternate them. When we needed a change in menu, we'd switch to the other company, and went back and forth. Both were absolutely excellent! (And if you sign up with either, tell them I sent you!)
We would come home at the end of the day, pop a meal into the oven and 15 mins later sit down to eat. How incredibly unstressful that was! And it gave me a break from planning, shopping and cooking. I loved it!
Yes, it was a tad expensive, but not overly so ($12-$14/entree). We could manage. Still, it was a chunk of change every week and in some ways I missed cooking which can be quite enjoyable when you're not tired and hungry. So I started to explore options: how I could cook (but not at the end of the day) and still enjoy the ease of popping a meal into the oven which is ready in 15 mins?
The answer: Batch cooking.
Batch cooking is when you cook a ton of food, make it into meals, and freeze some of it while putting the rest into the fridge all in the space of a few hours. That actually sounded like fun! Perhaps I could turn this into a cooking show in my mind! (Raise your hand if you like watching those chefs on TV!! All that stress: who is going to win by making the tastiest dish???)
I explored a few online places that help you figure out your menus and decided on www.20dishes.com. The premise is that they will show you how to prep a weeks worth of meals in one hour. Then I sold my husband on this idea, after all, I was going to need his help.
I signed up with 20dishes (the first week is free), chose a week of menus, printed out my shopping list and my prep list. I also watched their intro videos that introduce you to batch cooking; those had some valuable tips for me. I also decided I was going to go further than just prepping: I was going to cook as much of the food as possible which meant it was going to take longer than one hour.
I shopped without wondering what I was going to make with this food. I already knew it: every food had a purpose. I also utilized a local, organic produce delivery service: www.motherearthproduce.com. This really helped so I didn't have to do as much running around and shopping.
We chose this morning to take the plunge and do our first batch cooking.
My menu consisted of 7 meat entrees:
My side dishes consisted of:
By 11:00, we had quite a few bowls filled with chopped, raw vegetables.
Then I moved on to cooking while he continued to chop.
I had two and three burners going at once.....
.......and both oven racks were filled.
Pretty soon we had beautiful bowls of steamed, sautéed, and baked vegetables, sweet potatoes, and oven fries.
Then I started compiling the food into meals. That's the chicken carrot meal in the forefront and the baked trout in the back.
PJ worked on the 3 slow cooker meals. He added all the ingredients for the pot roast into our crock pot.
The other two meals were loaded into heavy duty ziplock bags and were put in the fridge.
(And if you're thinking: plastic! Oh, no! The meal is now toxic! Learn German New Medicine so you can put this thought into perspective!))
This is the Pork & Pineapple Stew. Yum!
This is NOT even all of them!! I still have the pot roast and the two slow cooker meals in the fridge that haven't been cooked yet. I'll cook those this week and divide them into some of these trays I reserved for them.
PJ & I each did several rounds of hand washing dishes, plus we filled up the dishwasher!
So, are you just dying to know how much this cost and how many meals we now have??
Here are the stats:
The veggies were all grown locally and were purchased at farmer's markets and farms. Same with the meat AND it was all pastured, free range meat and sustainably harvested trout.
We have 14 meals in the freezer.
There are 8 finished meals in the fridge for this week.
PLUS: 6 pot roast meals, 6 lemon chicken meals, and probably 4 (maybe 5 or 6) pork pineapple stew.
These are not super-sized portions! The protein in each meal was 4-6 ounces, plus there were two sides of varying sizes. I'll add on a salad if we need more food to round out the meal.
Total meals: 38, 19 for each of us. ( I will also have lunch everyday from my meal the evening before, so figure I also have 38 lunches in addition to the 38 dinners). I'm figuring it will last us between 3 & 4 weeks since we don't eat every dinner at home.
Cost for each of the 38 dinner entrees: $3.82. (And I was paying $14/meal with the meal delivery service!)
I'm also figuring this doesn't count the salad I'll make every week to augment a few of the meals for variety.
We started at 10:00. I was essentially done with cooking around 1:00pm. We finished making up the trays, labeling them, and storing them around 1:45. I finished mopping the floors at 2:18pm. Essentially it was 4.25 hours.
I'll start gearing up for the next prep day in about 3 weeks. For now, I can rest easy that we have some super scrumptious meals all ready for us every day. And if all else fails, I can always put in an emergency order with one of the meal delivery services!
Have you ever tried batch cooking? If not, I highly recommend it. If you have, drop me a line and let me know how it went for you!