If you are looking to save time and money – and make meal planning a cinch – you must read this Tutorial on Kosher Once a Month Cooking by Chavi Singer of the new blog, Easy Jewish Home. This two-part series may just change how you feed your family.
Think about the last time you made lasagna. Break down the parts. What took the most time?
Not making noodles. Not heating up the tomato sauce. Not mixing the cheese. The time consuming part was getting all of those ingredients out — and then cleaning up after yourself.
Now that we know this, how can we harness that knowledge to save for our budget and our time?
OAMC stands for Once A Month Cooking, and it’s based on spending one day in your kitchen cooking in order to create the main courses to serve your family for one entire month.
It sounds impossible, but with the right planning (which I’m going to do for you), it can be done! One caveat – it is very difficult for the kosher cook to do just one OAMC session and have both dairy and meat meals, so you may have to plan two sessions. The plan I am sharing here is a meat plan. You can see a similar dairy plan on my blog.
How can investment cooking keep you on a budget? I can count at least three ways.
- This plan stretches your meat.
- It can save you from last minute take out during this busy time of year.
- A plan can save trips to the grocery store, and with gas at $3.50 a gallon, every trip counts.
For Kosher on a Budget, I have created a mini-session, called Investment Cooking. This plan includes recipes, directions, freezing tips, and a shopping list.
The recipes are set up to feed four adults. If you make the smaller amount listed, you will have 8 meals, or 32 portions. I’ve included the amounts for doubling each recipe. You can easily cut the amounts in half to make 4 meals.
If you want to cut costs, consider buying dry beans and cooking them yourself. Directions are on the package. Remember that beans should be prepared the day before you plan to cook.
You can peel and chop your own potatoes, instead of buying frozen hash browns. You can also look for restaurant size cans of tomato puree and tomato sauce at your BJ’s, Sam’s Club or Costco.
Read through the whole plan before beginning! (Note from Mara: This is only the first part of the plan. Look for OAMC Part 2 tomorrow.)
Part One ~ Cooking the Basic Meat Sauce
Note: To make cooking day go faster, you can wash, peel, and chop the vegetables the night before. You can choose to break the cooking into two days, if needed, by making the sauce one day, and assembling meals the second day. This second method is not as efficient, but if you work, you may prefer it.
Chop all the vegetables. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, and sauté the vegetables until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in garlic, and cook one minute more.
Put the vegetables in a large bowl, leaving some of the oil in the pan.
Sauté beef until no longer pink, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and cook until liquid is cooked off, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the vegetables, tomato puree, sauce, and 4, or 8, cups of water. Season with salt and bring to a simmer. Cook partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours.
Note: To make the vegetable chopping go faster, you can cut carrots, onions, and celery into one inch chunks and put them in the food processor, pulsing with the steel blade. Don’t put in too many vegetables at once, or you will end up with too many big chunks.
If you are trying to hide the vegetables from your kids, you can puree them after cooking and before adding to the sauce. You will probably need to cook the vegetables in more than one batch. If you have more than one frying pan, use them at once to save time. Don’t wash your pans until you’re totally finished cooking!
Stay tuned tomorrow to learn how to put this meat sauce to great use in making three different recipes to serve at eight different meals. That’s two meals per week that will be done and ready to pull out of your freezer just in time for dinner!