once a month cooking

once a month cooking

hello lovelies!  today i thought i’d share something i do at home that helps me balance my time (and keep my sanity!) – once a month cooking!  some people also call them “freezer meals.”  as you’ve probably guessed, it’s cooking a lot of your meals for the month on one day.  i know this might sound crazy or even impossible, but i’m telling you, it’s not that hard and i’ll probably never go back to cooking for an hour every night!

a sweet sweet friend of mine first showed me how to do this by letting me cook with her (thanks cassandra!!)  i’m sure lots of people do it different ways, but here’s how i do it:

first, i make a menu (i know it’s kinda hard to see, but the picture on the left is our menu for the month).  i usually cook between 20-25 meals at one time.  for me, this means at least 10 recipes that i just double.  my family doesn’t mind eating the same meal twice in one month :)

next, i make my grocery list.  since the list is so long, i break down my list into 6 lists: produce, canned goods, grains, meats, dairy, and miscellaneous.  when we get to the grocery story, branden and i each take 3 lists and we are in and out of there in an hour or so (another piece of my sanity salvaged!)

next, i make a “to do” list.  if you haven’t gathered yet, i’m a list person.  they help me stay organized and feel productive.  it feels really good to cross things off a list!  okay, i make the to do list on cooking day.  it’s a list of each step that i need to do to cook the meals on my menu.  this helps me consolidate recipes and save time.  for example, if i have 3 meals that require me to cook ground beef, i can cook all the beef at the same time instead of three separate times – time saver!

alright, i actually took these pics during a cooking day.  i started at about 10am

first thing i do after making the “to do” list, is get all my prep work done.  this includes grating cheese, chopping veggies, cutting up meat, etc.  i know some people that do all their prep work the night before cooking day.  it’s definitely the most time consuming part of the day.  there’s also ways to get around some prep work if you can afford it.  i’ve found that there are a lot of veggies (like onions, garlic, and mushrooms) that can be bought already chopped in the frozen vegetables section.  of course you can also buy cheese grated.  the veggies are worth it to me, but i shred my own cheese :)

people who have an extra freezer can usually get away with placing their meals in ready to cook/warm containers.  for example, if you are making lasagna and know that on the day you’ll eat it, you’ve got to put it in the oven, you could freeze it in a baking pan.  i only have the freezer on top of my fridge, so fitting 20-25 meals in there means i need to put them in freezer bags. as i fill the bags throughout the day, i lay them flat on top of each other in the freezer.   i buy 1 box of gallon size and 1 box of quart size bags every month.  i buy generic because i’ve never had a problem with them.  something i’ve learned: label you bags before you fill them!

okay, all prep work and 4 meals later, the clock said it was about noon.  see?  already productive!

another tip i’ve learned – place your open freezer bag into another container when filling it to keep it from falling over.  this is especially helpful when you’re doubling a recipe and filling two bags at a time.

a few more hours in the kitchen and my stove looked like this – all burners going at the same time!

after about 6 1/2 hours, i was finally done!  i’m talking cooking and cleaning the kitchen!  that day i only made 20 meals, but i’ve never had to cook longer than 8 hours, even with close to 30 meals.  i know that sounds like a long time (and it is!) but knowing that i don’t have to cook for the next 3 weeks is really nice!

i wanted to mention too, that this has been a total money saver for us.  even with buying ingredients for 25 meals, i’ve never spent more than $225!  that’s without coupons of looking for sales, so i’m sure you could probably do it for less!  i think it has something to do with buying in bulk and also using that other half a can of chicken stock on another recipe instead of throwing it away.  i think it’s also the Lord blessing me for being willing to serve my family in this way and trying to be a wise steward of our finances and time :)

for anyone wondering how i can actually do this with just a standard size freezer, here you go!  i actually only use the bottom half for storing the meals (and yes, there are two containers of ice cream on the side :)

for some great freezer meal recipes, check out these sites:

30 meals in one day

fabulessly frugal

everything mom

until next time, happy cooking!

oreo ice cream pie!

oreo ice cream pie!

i know this is supposed to be a foto finch post, but some have mentioned that maybe one week isn’t long enough to capture and share your pictures, so i figured, maybe i’d do them every other week?  everyone okay with that?  great!

so if you’re wanting to join in, take a look at the first two foto finch posts here and here.  then get your camera out, use the info you learned and share your images with us on treu image photography’s facebook page – WE WANT TO SEE THEM!!  give everyone a chance to leave you a little love in the comments section :)

alrighty, with that said, everyone ready for some pie?  a few posts back, i shared a recipe for a key lime pie.  i made a couple for my hubby’s surprise birthday get together.  here is the second one – oreo ice cream pie!  who doesn’t like oreos and ice cream?  it was delicious!  if you want to make one, here’s what you’ll need:

  • a package of oreos (i like the double stuffed :)
  • a quart of cookies and cream ice cream
  • 6 tbs of butter
  • whipped topping
  • chocolate sauce
  • and a pie pan
  • and a ziplock bag, a toy hammer and 1 toddler :)
before you get started, make sure to take out your ice cream and whipped topping so that they can get soft

alright, take 2/3 of the oreos and put them in a ziplock bag.  melt your butter and pour it into the bag as well.  squeeze out the air and seal the bag (really well!)  hand it to your toddler along with a toy hammer and tell them to smash the cookies!  if you don’t happen to have a toddler on hand, you could do this yourself :)

okay, pour the smashed cookies into your pie pan.  cookies don’t have to be completely crushed, but at least in small chunks.  also, leave some cookies to sprinkle on the top of the pie later.

press the cookies into the pan to form the crust

take your melty ice cream and scoop it onto the crust to form a layer

drizzle with chocolate sauce.  you can use a little or a lot, depending on the amount of love you have for chocolate :)

put a layer of whipped topping over the chocolate sauce.  your pie should look more like a mound now!

sprinkle the remaining cookie chunks/crumbs over the top of the pie.  cover and place back in the freezer for at least an hour or until frozen.

now you’re ready to serve!  looks good right?  cut yourself a slice and dig in!!

birthday boy + key lime pie

birthday boy + key lime pie

well hello there folks!  so, last sunday was my hubby’s birthday…the big 33!  i thought i’d share a pic of mister handsome.  this is branden making me valentines day dinner :)

i know…way out of my league ;)  seriously, the vest gets me every time!

also, if anyone is interested, the treus are now on instagram!  yes, we’ve joined the cool kids :)  if you want to follow us, you can find us under “thetreulife.”  here’s another pic of the birthday boy on his actual bday.  the boys and i took him to a mongolian bbq place for dinner.  when we returned home, branden was greeted by about 40 lovely people who filled our house (which isn’t that big!) for a surprise pie party!  yay!!  thanks everyone who helped and came out; you made his night!!

so, in celebration of branden (who does not particularly like cake or many other desserts for that matter…i know, crazy right?), i made three kinds of pie for the party.  and i knew i’d want to share them with you, so here is the first – key lime!!  it turned out super yummy, so i hope you guys make some of your own and enjoy!!  i got this recipe here and tweeked it a bit :)

okay, here’s what you’ll need:

  • a pie pan
  • 1 1/2 packages of graham crackers
  • 6 tbs butter
  • 3 cups of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup key lime juice (i got a bottle of it at walmart in the juice aisle!)
  • the zest of 1 lime

okay, first things first. preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  next, crush your graham crackers into small chunks and crumbs.  i use my kids for this :)  just fill a large ziplock bag with the crackers and give them something hard (but safe!) to smash the crackers with!

melt the butter and add it to the crackers.  make sure to mix it together well as the butter will help hold together the crust.  you can add more butter if you feel like it’s still too dry.

while all the crushing is going on, you can zest your lime!

next, press your cracker/butter mixture into your pie pan to make the crust.  you could also just buy a graham cracker crust, but i think this looks and tastes better!

okay, now pour the lime zest, condensed milk, sour cream, and key lime juice into a large mixing bowl.  beat on low (or mix by hand) until ingredients are well combined.  when you’re finished, the mixture should have the consistency of a thick pudding.

pour the mixture into your graham cracker crust.  bake in your preheated oven for 5-8 minutes, until tiny pinhole bubbles pop at the top of the pie.  don’t let the pie brown!!  take it out, and let it chill thoroughly in the refrigerator before serving.

yum!!  if you wanna be fancy, you could garnish a slice with whipped cream and lime wedges!  or you could be like me who is still enjoying a couple left over slices from the fridge :)  either way, i hope you enjoy!

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