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saving money

Amazon: FREE Personal Finance E-Book

by Tara Kuczykowski on August 29, 2011 · 3 comments

personal finance bookHere's a new free Kindle book to download today. You can download this to your Kindle, iPad, smart phone, PC or Mac- so basically everyone can take advantage of this!

Get Let’s Get Real About Money from Eric Tyson FREE right now.  According to the online reviews it looks like he has an interesting take on personal finance by reinforcing the need for balance in people’s lives.  This one may be worth the read!

Thanks, My Frugal Adventures!

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Save Time & Money with Once-a-Month Cooking, Part 2

by Tara Kuczykowski on October 8, 2010 · 2 comments

freezer cookingPhoto by Rubbermaid Products

The following guest post is from Melissa at Mom's Plans and Dining Out Challenge:

Yesterday we looked at the benefits of freezer cooking and some helpful resources. Today we're going to look at the process and tips:

I hear from many moms (and dads) that they would like to stock their freezer with meals, but they don’t know where to begin.  They are overwhelmed by the entire process.

You can do this!  Just start small.  Don’t plan on cooking 15 meals for your family the first time you try freezer cooking.

You can start slowly by picking 5 meals for one week and doubling each meal on the night you cook it.  Just like that, you have 5 meals in the freezer for later in the month.

If you'd rather jump into the process, I would still say start small.  Plan no more than 5 different meals for your family and double each recipe so you have a total of 10 meals in the freezer.

Steps to Follow to Make Your Freezer Cooking Day Go Smoothly

Choose your recipes. Try to pick a variety of dishes, such as one chicken meal, one beef meal, etc.  Also, choose a variety of meal types.  Nothing could be more boring than having to eat endless casseroles all month.  Finally, choose a variety of cooking methods—one slow cooker recipe, one oven recipe, one stove top recipe, etc.  That way you can utilize various cooking methods and make your freezer cooking day much more productive.

On the day before your freezer cooking day buy your groceries. Look for ways to save time on your actual cooking day. For example, if you know you will need cubes of chicken, buy your chicken and ask the butcher at the grocery store to cube it for you.  Most do this for free, and it will save you a great deal of time.

Chop all of the veggies you will need for your recipes. Again, if you want to save time, consider buying your veggies already chopped at the salad bar.  Of course, this is a much more expensive method than doing it yourself.

Write out a freezer cooking plan. See an example freezer cooking plan here.  Yes, it takes more time in the beginning to do this, but you will find it invaluable when it is the actual cooking day.  An ordered list makes the whole process much smoother.

Freezer Cooking Day

1. If you have young children, ideally have someone watch them so you can focus on cooking.  On the day I do my freezer cooking, my husband takes care of the kids so I don’t have to be interrupted.

2. Choose a day when you don’t have many responsibilities.  It is hard to get all of the freezer cooking done if you have to take your son to soccer at 10 a.m. and your daughter to dance at 1 p.m.

3. If you have older children at home, enlist their help.  They can stir a meal simmering on the stove while you begin another recipe, or they can do dishes to help you stay caught up.

4. Follow your plan.  If you have a slow cooker meal planned, start that one first as it will take the longest.

5. Make sure to take breaks.

Storing Your Freezer Meals

Proper storage is necessary to keep your meals fresh.  Make sure to use heavy duty freezer Ziploc bags and heavy duty aluminum foil.

To maximize your freezer space, place soups, chilis, etc.  in a Ziploc bag with the name of the meal and the date made.  (You may also want to place the reheating instructions on the bag.) Distribute the ingredients in the bag so it lays flat and then place it that way on a cookie sheet in the freezer until it is frozen.  You will be able to stack your meals so they take up the least amount of room.

Many people think that they can’t do once a month cooking because they don’t have a deep freezer.  While it is convenient to have a deep freezer, it isn’t essential.  You can store many meals in Ziploc bag “stacks” in your regular freezer.

Many people are intimidated by the idea of making many of their meals for the month in one day.  I hope this guide has helped you realize that it is not as intimidating as people think.  With a little planning and a fair amount of work on the actual cooking day, you can save your family money and provide them with healthier foods.  Try it.  You will see it is possible.

Melissa is a recent convert to once a month cooking and can't imagine cooking a meal every night now.  She is the mom to three young children, 6, 23 months and 5 months.  She blogs about eating healthy, freezer cooking and managing family resources at Mom's Plans.  Her other blog, Dining Out Challenge, is about her family's attempts to eat out for $25 or less a week.

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Save Time & Money with Once-a-Month Cooking, Part 1

by Tara Kuczykowski on October 7, 2010 · 13 comments

freezer cookingPhoto by Nancy JonesFrancis

Do you find yourself taking inventory in your mind of the items in your refrigerator every night and panicking because you don’t have any meal ideas and everyone is hungry? Do you stop by the store several times a week picking up items for your daily meals? Do you order take out or spend more money at restaurants than you would like?

If you have experienced any of thes (haven’t we all?) then freezer cooking, also known as once a month cooking (OAMC), may solve your dinner woes.

Years ago, the extent of my freezer cooking was preparing a dish that we discovered we did not care for too much and then freezing the leftovers because we did not want to eat them. Guess what? Those  same leftovers did not taste any better coming out of the freezer. I gave up on “freezer cooking” (even though I wasn’t really doing it).

However, two years ago, right before I had my second child, I cooked up several meals for us to eat for the first few weeks postpartum. This time I picked recipes specifically for freezer cooking, and my entire family was happy with the results. Now that I have three little ones, I freezer cook out of necessity. During the last year, every month I have cooked up two to four weeks of my family’s meals over the course of two to three days. True, cooking that many meals can take some time, but with careful planning, you can minimize the time spent on cooking and reap the rewards all month long.

Five Ways Once a Month Cooking Benefits Your Family

1. You erase the nightly what’s-for-dinner panic.

2. You can save money on your groceries because the majority of your shopping is done in one trip when you buy the supplies for OAMC. The other weeks you can simply buy some items to round out your meals.

3. You dirty the majority of your dishes at one time. Yes, freezer cooking can turn your kitchen into a disaster area. But it only happens once a month. The rest of the month you may dirty only one pan or baking dish a day when cooking the meal you pull from the freezer.

4. You’ll feed your family more nutritious food than you would if you picked up a frozen meal at the store, ate fast food or dined at a restaurant.

4. You can be a little more relaxed during that crazy time between 5 to 7 when little ones are cranky, older ones have homework to do and everyone is hungry. All you have to do is pull out one of your ready made meals.

Once a Month Cooking Resources

To have a successful freezer meal, it is essential to pick a recipe specifically designed for once-a-month cooking. Some of my favorite resources include:

  • Food.com (formerly RecipeZaar.com): This site is free and has plenty of freezer cooking recipes. Just type in OAMC in the search area and you will find hundreds of recipes.
  • Don’t Panic: Dinner Is in the Freezer: This cookbook breaks down recipes and lists the ingredients for you by how many meals you would like to make (1, 3, 6 etc.) You don’t have to do the math to double or triple the ingredients; they do it all for you.
  • 30 Meals In One Day: I love this set! It contains 3 cookbooks: Dinner Is Ready, Lunch Is Ready, and Sides are Ready. Two things put this set over the top. First, the author includes over 40 pages in the beginning of the first two cookbooks giving strategies and tips for freezer cooking. Second, this set comes with software that lets you pick your recipes and choose your serving size. Once you have done that, the software automatically generates a grocery list for you of all the ingredients you need. You have the choice to delete items off the list that you already have or add other items that you need to buy at the store not related to OAMC cooking.

Deal Seeking Mom here -- I just wanted to share one other great resource for learning about once a month cooking. Check out Once A Month Mom where my friend Tricia guides you through a step-by step process for cooking a month's worth of meals, with a new meal plan available every month!

If you are new to freezer cooking, I would recommend borrowing some of these books from the library. If you decide you like freezer cooking, you may want to invest in a few cookbooks full of the OAMC recipes your family enjoys.

Tomorrow, Melissa will share her method and tips for once-a-month cooking with us, so be sure to watch for part 2!

Melissa is a recent convert to once a month cooking and can't imagine cooking a meal every night now.  She is the mom to three young children, 6, 23 months and 5 months.  She blogs about eating healthy, freezer cooking and managing family resources at Mom's Plans.  Her other blog, Dining Out Challenge, is about her family's attempts to eat out for $25 or less a week.

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