Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Once A Month Cooking - Part B

OK, so this is a little later than expected since I was hoping to continue that night, but as they always say "better late than never!"

Here's how I've started my OAMC planning.

Create a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel of our "standard" rotation of meals. I'm sure there are a few more that I could add to this but this was just off the top of my head. I created 5 columns across the top: Beef, Chicken, Other, Breakfast and Lunch. Beneath each column heading I just started to create this list of our family favorites.

In the Beef category we have: beef stroganoff, chopped steaks w/sauteed onions, cheeseburger macaroni, hamburgers, kabobs, manwich, meat loaf, pot roast w/veggies, salisbury steak, spaghetti, steak, tater tot casserole, tetrazzini, quickie tacos, chili mac, Italian roast beef sandwiches, stew, stuffed peppers, meatball subs

In the Chicken category we have: baked chicken, bbq chicken, chicken a la king, sour cream chicken enchiladas, grandma's chicken and rice bake, chicken Parmesan, chicken pizza, chicken pockets, chicken spaghetti, quesadilias, fajitas, marinated/grilled chicken, oven fried chicken, picaunte chicken, chicken tortilla casserole, broccoli and chicken rice bake, King ranch chicken

In the Other category we have things that take lots of time to prepare or are high fat/calorie meals that I don't necessarily make on any kind of routine basis but that we still enjoy OR other types of meat or quickie meals that I routinely make that didn't deserve their own category: ham w/scalloped potatoes, hot dogs, nachos, grilled pork chops, potato soup, ribs, salmon patties, sandwiches, sausage, shake n bake, turkey and dressing, stuffed shells florentine, cheese enchiladas, fettucini carbonera, lasagna, red beans/sausage with corn bread, pasta milano

In the Breakfast category, I listed what we'd normally have for a breakfast rotation: pancakes, waffles, cereal, oatmeal, bacon/egg/cheese toasters, bacon/egg/cheese biscuits, taquitoes, scrambled eggs, hash browns, toast, biscuits and gravy, sausage, pigs in a blanket, sausage/croissant casserole, French toast, breakfast burritos

In the Lunch category (which needs to be GROSSLY expanded) is typical quick lunches: egg salad sandwiches, chicken nuggets, pizza, frozen dinners, hot dogs, left overs, salad, sandwiches, soup

All of this information appears ONE worksheet so I named the tab at the bottom "Monthly Meal List" and left it at that.

One thing I can clearly see from doing this is the need for more fish in our diets but -- I will confess -- I'm AFRAID of cooking fish. Why? #1) I don't like the "fishy" smell. #2) I don't want to under cook it and die. #3) We never ate lots of fish growing up (that wasn't fried) so I don't really have a HUGE palate for fish and don't want to make a lot of fish dishes that ultimately wind up tasting like crap (to me) because that's a waste and #4) I don't know how to SHOP for fish. Generally, if we want fish, we go out to eat.

I'd really like to bring that home this indulgence we have to not only save money but also to expand my cooking repertoire of fish types, textures, flavors and toppings. So, that's DEFINITELY something that I will be doing.

Get your grocery list ready! Just knowing what you routinely cook will help you start to build your grocery list. For now it will contain the ingredients of those items on your Monthly Meal List which you can now expand upon as you add more recipes to your OAMC plan. To begin preparing a blank grocery list, I named the second tab "Grocery List" and created-just that- a huge grocery list.

Then, I went in and expanded the list even further to include everything I can think of so that as I plan my week or two weeks or three weeks or full month of menus, I can simply add up the totals of each item as I require more of it on the computer, print off one list and take that shopping with me.

The beauty of having it on the computer for me, is because I'm an anal-retentive perfectionist who likes her lists nice and neat and organized. It's a sickness but I've come to accept it. Plus, by having my grocery list on the computer, I can change quantities, make notes and my list still looks pretty. And, stupidly enough, that's important to me.

My ultimate plan is, however, to add ALL of my regular menu rotation items to a software program that I own called MasterCook 7. In MasterCook 7, I can create my own custom cookbook called "OAMC" and because of the functionality of this program, all I would have to do is select the recipe and the PROGRAM will generate a shopping list for me. How cool is THAT?!You can size the recipe up or down so if you wanted to double it, it will do the "thinking" for you. There's a little bit of a learning curve for the software but, honestly, it's really wonderful and has helped me purge PILES of recipes that I've wanted to try. Another bonus, it comes LOADED with SEVERAL cookbooks (I have, however, taken time here and there to go in and delete the recipes from those cookbooks that I KNOW we would never eat or that I would never make. Why take up the memory with something you won't use?) It's easy to import and export recipes electronically into the program as well and the BEST feature (to me) is that I'm not having to pay a monthly fee like some of the other menu sites on the net. I pay ONE FEE to purchase the software and it's MINE forever!

So, while I think being able to do that on my software is a great thing -- it's not practical for me to do today while having a 5 year old on Spring Break. I think that's a project for 2am with a nursing baby.

Moving right along. Now that I have a list of our regular meals, I can work into this rotation the meals from the books that I want to try. If you'll remember, I purchased the following books: Once A Month Cooking, Don't Panic - Dinner's in the Freezer, Fix, Freeze, Feast, Frozen Assets - Cook for a day and Eat for a Month, and Dream Dinners. Each of them has their own style and method for pulling off a OAMC session. I can see how my style wouldn't fit with one method provided but the book itself is still full of great ideas, tips and recipes. So, I'm still muddling my way through them all.


chksngr said...

Wow! I have just started the first list myself, but to build a staples pantry that fits my style and also to expand our regular rotation of meals. Your variety is awesome. They say that most families have a 20 meal seem to have double that!

Frugal Vicki said...

Alright, you have put me to SERIOUS shame! I never even thought about a spreadsheet and I LOVE spreadsheets. I am following this whole serious with very baited breath! (and a grumbling tummy!)

MaryC said...

April, for fish I have two go-to recipes that I have eaten since I was a kid. One is Salmon patties, which are so easy it's ridiculous and the other is Tuna casserole made with a boxed Mac and Cheese. I would be happy to send you the recipes if you like. Seriously, I have made these for people and they love them. Also, the recipe for Poulet de France (I think) in OAMC ia REALLY good. I always bring that to potlucks or to people who just had a baby or death or someone is sick because it makes a lot and is very 'leftover' friendly. You should make it once to try it on you family. They would love it, I bet. Great review.