New Pets

The kids decided they really, really wanted parakeets. We told them we’d look at yard sales for cages and if we found one we could get the birds. On Saturday Ian and I found a really awesome cage ($25 – a similar one sells for $259 new!) and so we got our budgies.

Mickey is our blue one. He’s a little bit skittish and very loud.
Mickey

Goofy is our green one. He was quite a bit smaller than Mickey when we got them, but he’s been fattening up fast! He flies all over the place and acts crazy, but he’s a lot quieter than Mickey.
Goofy

It’s a lot of fun to watch and listen to them. They definitely have set routines. In the morning we take the cover off the cage and they stretch their wings for a while. They eat a lot in the morning soon after waking up. Then they start to sing. They sing all morning. They are much quieter throughout the afternoon. They eat a whole lot again in the evening. We cover them up again before we go to bed and they stay nice and quiet all night long. They sing a little in the afternoon and evening and eat a little throughout the day, but they definitely have times of the day where they do those things a lot. We’re trying to teach them to say hello right now. Maybe it’ll work.

Once a Month Cooking, Preparation

I’ve been doing once a month cooking regularly for a while now (I don’t do it each month, but every 6-8 weeks instead). It takes a bit of time over a few days, but it makes dinner so easy. Last fall I discovered a website called Once a Month Mom. They make it super easy to get started. I used their plan exactly as outlined twice. Since then I’ve done it a little differently. Preparation takes a few hours over a couple days.

The first step is selecting 15 recipes. I get most of the recipes from Once a Month Mom. At this point we have three recipes that I make every month because everyone likes them so much (Mexican Shepherd’s Pie, Southwest Crockpot Pork, and Easy Pleasing Meatloaf). A couple other recipes are things we like that I’ve made before, we like a lot, and freeze well.

The second step is scaling the recipes to make enough servings for the whole family (there are 8 of us here) and then doubling them. Each recipe makes two meals so 15 recipes equals 30 dinners. Once a Month Mom makes figuring the totals needed for the recipes super easy. They have spreadsheets that let you customize how many people you will be feeding.

The third step is making the shopping list. I put everything on the list to start with. Then I go through what we have and delete anything we don’t need to buy. Then I arrange the list based on how the grocery store is laid out. I print two copies of the list. One copy is to shop with. The other copy is for dividing what I’ll need for doing the cooking from everything else we buy at the same time.
Once a Month Cooking

The fourth step is preparing the recipes to make the cooking days go smoothly. I write out the steps for each recipe and then arrange them in an order that makes sense. When I am actually doing the cooking, I don’t always do the recipes in the order I printed them if another order makes more sense to me at the time. I cross out steps as I complete them. This makes it easy to do multiple recipes at one time. I divide the recipes into groups based on type (chicken, beef, pork, etc.).

Once all that is done, it’s time to go shopping and then on to cooking!

Once a Month Cooking, The Actual Cooking Part

I pick a type of meat and get to work. I have learned that doing the chicken recipes first is best. I hate raw chicken. It feels disgusting and has all sorts of nasty things to cut off. If I wait until last to do the chicken, I dread it the whole time. It’s much better to just get it over with.

I chop lots of vegetables. If several recipes need one type of veggie, it’s best to do all of that vegetable at once. I portion out the vegetables based on recipe into baggies. If I’m not going to use it right away it goes into the refrigerator for later.
Once a Month Cooking

The refrigerator ends up quite packed for a day or two (and then the freezer is stuffed!).
Once a Month Cooking

I spread the cooking over two or three days. Things like bacon or onions that are in multiple recipes get cooked all at the same time.
Once a Month Cooking

Keeping the kitchen clean while cooking is very important. We’re constantly washing dishes and straightening up while cooking.
Once a Month Cooking

Some meals get completely cooked and so are heat and eat while others are only prepped so the actual cook time is super short. Some meals get portioned into disposable pans. I get them in packs of thirty at Costco. One fits a meal for a family of 8 perfectly.
Once a Month Cooking

Others get put into freezer bags. Most meals fit in one bag, some need two or three.
Once a Month Cooking

Once a Month Cooking, All Done

Once all the cooking is done, I stand back and admire the freezers for a little while. It is a truly wonderful thing to have 30 meals ready and waiting in the freezer.
Once a Month Cooking

Once a Month Cooking

Keeping the kitchen cleaned up while cooking makes it easy to leave the kitchen shining and clean when you are all done.
Once a Month Cooking

Most mornings we bring something up from the freezer to thaw. A few recipes don’t need to be thawed and a few go in the crockpot in the morning so they need to be pulled out the night before. Choosing one of those requires a little advance planning. Finishing the meals for dinner usually just takes a little while (often a side dish needs to be added, too) and we’re ready to eat. This is great because by the end of the day, especially if school took longer than usually, I’m tired.
Once a Month Cooking

To keep track of the meals we have waiting to be eaten, I print out a list of them. As time goes on and we eat them, we cross them out. This helps us both to know when it’s getting to be time to do another round of once a month cooking and to make sure we don’t forget about anything that’s waiting to be eaten.
Once a Month Cooking

Once a month cooking takes some concentrated time and is a bit painful for my feet, but it’s totally worth the time savings every day. I do a lot of recipes at once, but there are people that do just a few meals at a time. Some even just double or triple freezable meals when they make it for dinner and put the extra in the freezer for later. No matter how you do it, I totally recommend once a month cooking!