Making Life a Little Easier

I (Steph) wanted to share a couple of things that, when I use them, make my life less hectic!  I fell off the band-wagon awhile ago, but am recommitting myself once again and thought I would bring you along. 🙂

The first one is probably not new to many of you, it’s the concept of “once a month cooking” or oamc.  Once a month cooking is basically cooking all of your meals for a month in one day.  I love doing this!  Whether I just make a double batch of something one night, eat one for dinner and freeze the other OR I do a big cooking session in one day and have a months worth of meals in my freezer, it feels great to know that dinner is pretty much done.  It’s so nice not to have to think too hard about our dinner, let alone set aside the time to make it.

I recently found OnceAMonthMom.  It’s a GREAT site that has a new menu, recipes, shopping list, instructions, labels AND a podcast each month (for FREE).  She has shopping lists for doubling the recipes, trippling, and even quadrupling them!  She gathers the recipes from all of the web from people that have tried them and like them (she discusses the origins of the recipes in the Podcast).  The site is very organized and easy to find things!  You can see October’s Once a Month information HERE.

Most of the time, when I do OAMC, I just take my family’s favorite recipes and double them and then do all of the prep work up to the final cooking and instead freeze them.  I do the final cooking the day that we are going to eat the meal.  Everything just tastes better to me that way.  So, for example, this recipe I make the filling like the instructions say, assemble the enchiladas and then put them in a ziploc bag.  Next, I put all of the ingredients for the sauce in a different ziploc and then the extra cheese in a 3rd and final ziploc.  You can then either staple the bags together or put all of the bags in a larger bag to keep them together.  Now, I know a lot of people say that you shouldn’t freeze dairy products.  I have found that if cream cheese is mixed with other things, it freezes and cooks up fine.  I have also found that as long as you will be cooking other dairy products, it works perfectly well.  I wouldn’t cook anything with sour cream or cream cheese and then just reheat in the microwave, mostly because the texture is pretty gross (can you tell I have tried…haha?).  I also go a step further and plan one side dish to go with each of my freezer meals and purchase those items at the same time I do my big shopping, so I don’t have to do as much planning later.  For these enchiladas, I would probably just do a Spanish or Mexican rice dish (easy) for my one side (I will also add a fruit and veggie with whatever I have on hand).

Another thing that I love to use in meal preparation is my crockpot or slow cooker!  My favorite thing in the world is to combine the freezer meals with the crockpot!  take the “Slow Cooker Chicken Stroganoff” recipe that my family LOVES, I usually just put all of the ingredients on one ziploc bag, freeze it,  and then dump it all in my crockpot the day we are going to eat it.  Cooking just cannot get any easier than that!!  I recently discovered SlowCooker365 and have tried a few of her recipes.  I have to say that the Beef Bourguignon really was amazing and everyone in my family liked it…a lot!!  She has a very interesting story behind her site as well, so take a few minutes to look around!

The last thing that makes me feel on top of my life is something that I learned about in the forums at DST (isn’t their new site decor cute!?).  Motivated Moms really helped me feel like I was getting things done in my house each day without being overwhelmed.  I have a tendency to work really hard, but then only see what still needs to get done, which can be discouraging.  For some reason having a list that I can check off each day and knowing that everything WILL get cleaned if I just follow the schedule, makes all of the difference in the world to me.  Now, I found this site a couple of years ago, but didn’t buy the new calendar for 2009…until a few weeks ago.  I have to say that I am so happy to have this back in my life!  I forgot what a difference it made!  You can see a sample here.  When I was trying to decide if this would work for me, I printed the sample and worked through it for a week…it actually only took me a day or two to decide it was what I needed.  You can buy the rest of 2009 for $2 at the bottom of this page or 2010 at the top.

So there you have it…  A couple of simple things that help ease my stress.  What about you?  Do you have some resources of your own you can share?