Higher prices on everything in East Texas are stretching all of our budgets, almost to the limit, and the most expensive time of year is just ahead of us, the holidays. If you keep an eye on your expenses, you can probably find where the leaks are each month. Most of us don’t have the ability to change the fixed costs that we have each month like house payments, car notes and insurance, so it seems like the food and fun take the biggest hit. Trimming the fat in those flexible spending areas seems to be the logical choice. However, life is still busy. Work, school and family activities keep us on the go. Some days, planning ahead is more difficult than grabbing food on the run for our family. However, here are ways to cut back, live life and not feel deprived. It just takes a little planning.

Once-A-Month Cooking

Once-A-Month cooking is a method developed by two busy moms. In 1981, Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg wrote a book that you may find helpful, Once-A-Month-Cooking. Others call it Bulk Cooking, but whatever name you choose to call it, for busy families, it can be a solution.

Prep for multiple dishes at one time.

In a nutshell, you use one day out of the month to cook various meals, or components of meals, to make quick preparations for the entire month. One day spent cooking 10 pounds of chicken for 4 casseroles, 2 soups and chicken salad sandwiches doesn’t really sound like fun, but the extra time with the family on work nights makes it worth the effort. From experience, try to shoot for day when the family is gone so your time can be 100% devoted to the process. You can brown enough hamburger meat for tacos, chili, spaghetti, casseroles or whatever ground meat dishes that your family enjoys. Try to use common ingredients for various dishes like casseroles and soups so that prep and clean-up is minimal.

Roasted chicken can have many uses.

Once prepared, foods can be frozen and planned out for the month. The first rule is that there are no rules. You don’t have to cook for entire month. Try a week or two to start. Be sure and incorporate any left-overs if they aren’t utilized for lunches. If you are going to cook in bulk, make sure that the foods and recipes that you choose are ones that your family will actually eat. Also remember, if a casserole is fully frozen, it will need time to thaw. It’s best to put it in the refrigerator in the morning to be ready for the evening meal. 

Bulk Grilling

Grilling multiple meals at one time means lighting the grill once, using the charcoal, wood, or gas once and increases savings. Pairing up with a friend, who also wants prep for a week or a month, can offer a mix and match of recipes, cooking styles and flavors.

Chances are you will still go out to eat or go through the drive-thru, but maybe a little bit less. There is an added expense for freezable and cookable containers, but those can be reused time and time again. Bulk Cooking and freezing can also be utilized for assisting an elderly family member, who needs easy dinner solutions. Whatever the case may be, there are quite of few resources for ideas, instructions or recipes for your experiment. Have fun, and hopefully save time and money.

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Shelley Swanzy Cooking, East Texas, Lifestyle