OAMC Starter Ideas

bouchard8600August 15, 2007

I'm new to the concept of OAMC. When I first heard of the concept I got all excited and started making all kinds of foods only to find out that DH is not too sure of the idea of eating premade frozen foods. To him it is too much like leftovers, which he absolutely hates!! I was wondering if anybody has any ideas on staples foods that can be prepared and frozen. This way I can make my meals based around food that has already been made to cut down on cooking time.

I am aware of the usual staples like spagetti sauce, lasagna, and things of that nature. Anybody got any other ideas???

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Bouchard, I'm only a lurker here but maybe I can help. I don't use this method so much anymore - children are grown and gone and cooking has really changed! But back in the day I would take a day for quantity cooking now and then (not so much on a schedule as keeping an eye on the grocery sales and on my "frozen assets". I didn't prepare complete menus or even dishes to serve, rather I would simmer a flock of chickens so that I would have a big pot of stock and enough cooked chicken for a lot of meals - everything from chicken salad to soups to casseroles. I would make enough meatballs (bake them rather than cooking them in a skillet - way easier and faster) for all kinds of recipes: spaghetti (of course) but also sandwiches, in a mushroom cream sauce over rice, etc., etc. You get the idea?

There are cookbooks that offer recipes for this type of cooking ahead - my favorite was one that was given out at Tupperware parties many, many years ago. But you can probably work out your own personalized version by taking a good look at your family's favorites. Are there multiple steps involved? How many times do you start out by browning hamburger? I used to brown 3-5 pounds with onions and other seasonings that were common and freeze by portions. That cuts down a lot of time and you can still add seasonings to push your recipe in a different flavor direction. You may be able to identify several of these "first steps" in your recipes that could be prepared in quantity ahead of time.

It is amazing how much time you can save by preparing part of your recipe in advance while still getting the same fresh, home made flavor your husband is looking for.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2007 at 1:15PM
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I used to get this magazine called Taste of Home and another one by them called Quick Cooking. Anyway, one of them had a section dealing with this and had one basic thing that you made in a big batch then the subsequent recipes that could be made out of that particular part you had made ahead. Check out one at the bookstore or something and you'll see what I mean. They don't accept advertising so it's all recipes which is nice. They put out a lot of booklets I get when I see them in the grocery store that just have hamburger recipes or just casseroles etc. The publisher is Reimen in Wisconsin or something. I'm sure if you google it, you'll find it. Subscription isn't expensive,,,reminds me to renew mine. They also put out yearly books too. Hope that helps. Out here in California, someone started Dream Dinner's (want to try) where you go there (they have a set menu for that day) & there are stations and you put together from their ingredients a whole pan of XYZ and then bring home to freeze. You'll make like 5-6 things in a couple hour period. Some friends have done it and liked it. What about Sandra Lee's Semi Homemade on the food channel? She probably has a cookbook too. Let us know what you come up with. I personally am so sick of having to think of what to make,,,if someone would just say, make this,,I'd do it. Guess it's been a hot summer and my brain is fried.....

    Bookmark   August 16, 2007 at 10:37PM
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Piper, I completely agree that figuring out WHAT to cook is a big part of the job. And don't you hate it when you ask your family what they would like and they all say, "Oh, I don't care,"? That's why I used to work out menus for at least two weeks in advance and post them on the fridge. All I had to do was check the menu and get busy. Of course, I allowed myself to switch if it said "chicken" and I just wasn't in the mood. And knowing at the beginning of the day what I'd fix for dinner reminded me about taking pre-cooked ingredients out of the freezer in time to thaw.

People thought I put up those menus because I was super organized but that wasn't it at all...I was just too lazy to get creative about cooking every single day! I would work out the menus after one of those "big cooking" sessions so I knew what I had on hand to start meals. I'd gather the grocery ads and figure out meals based on the specials that would be available. Then I could figure out my grocery list so that I'd have what I needed to make the meals I had planned. As hard as it is to come up with meal ideas when you try to do it every day (usually when you are tired and not in the mood) those planning sessions were kind of enjoyable. I'd gather new recipes I had clipped and work a few of those in, figure out ways to use up what I had in the fridge before it could go over, and just generally feel like a real chef for a while. LOL It really made the actual chore of cooking the meal a lot simpler.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 8:28AM
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Linda, Any suggestions for, in my case, there is just 3 of us and I usually cook enough for 2 days of meals then for 2 days I'd cook 2 different things so that the next 2 days I'd switch the leftovers so we wouldn't have the same things 2 days in a row. I guess I figure if I'm going to cook and clean it up,,it might as well be so that I can take a day or two off. Do you use a standard recipe for each or your planned meals? Say if you made stew,,you'd only use one recipe instead of looking thru cookbooks for something different? I have a lot of cook books and need to start making my son or me, a master cookbook where I keep all of my tried and true recipes that I make all the time,,easier to find and easy to grab. I usually go with what's on sale too and work it from there. I'm tryig to talk my Husb. into buying me a small freezer (we had one in another house but I had to defrost it) so when we moved I got rid of it and just haven't replaced with a frost free unit. I just like to take advantage of meat on sale, bread, packages from Costco of more than you need etc.

How did you sit down and "WORK" out the menus? Did that take hours? I can get off on a tangent when I want to make something of checking thru all my many cookbooks looking for a recipe or jumping on allrecipes.com and then there goes an hour or more of time. Do you just have a list of all the things you make and just pull out what looks good? I guess I should go pull out something from the freezer right now.....It's been in the 90's so I should throw something into the crockpot,,,not real motivated to heat up the kitchen when it's hot. Nicole

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 1:20PM
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Piper, it sounds like you have already got a nice little system working. My family objected too much to "leftovers" (and I don't like eating the same thing over and over, either) so my system was a bit different. The main thing is to figure out what works best for you and yours.

Now, to answer your questions: Do I use a standard recipe for each planned meal? Well, I did prepare the bulk recipes (sauteed ground beef mixture, cooked chicken, basic meatballs, etc.) pretty much the same way each time. That would result in multiple meal-size packets of starters - usually the first few steps of a recipe - already done. I was able to vary the flavor of that bulk recipe food according to the specific recipe I used for a daily meal. You could use the same basic hamburger mix, for instance, to make stroganoff or chili. It just depends on what other seasonings and ingredients you add.

I have collected cookbooks and recipes for many, many years and I love trying new things. Of course there are some things I make again and again because they have become family favorites. But in those cases I seldom bother getting out a recipe - I just make those things from memory. And that usually means they vary somewhat depending on available ingredients and my memory! "Standard" just doesn't seem to apply well to me. LOL

How did I "work" out the menus? I'd check what I had in the freezer (those bulk items and anything else like veggies and such) and fridge (a bit of sour cream? some extra cheddar cheese? produce that needs to be used soon?). Then I'd check the grocery ads so that I could see if there were specials I could take advantage of. I tried to do this planning the day the ads came out and once I had my menus planned I could shop with some assurance that I'd get what I needed and not have to make extra runs for things I hadn't anticipated. After shopping I would take the time to do some prep - wash all the week's salad greens and dry them, for instance, before putting them away. (That saves so much time when you are getting meals ready! And you don't have to buy the expensive prewashed, bagged stuff.)

I also tried to plan variety into our meals - no weeks of only chicken, for example. By planning I found that I could use up what I had on hand much more efficiently while taking advantage of seasonal (much cheaper!) veggies and fruits on sale when they are really ripe and lovely.

I found that I saved more than enough time to offset my meal planning when shopping (and avoiding those extra trips), standing in the kitchen wondering what on earth I would fix, and doing the same common prep chores over and over and over (doesn't take much longer to chop 5 onions than 1 and you save time on washing up).

I can get lost in cookbooks,too. I must be one of only a few who can read them like novels! LOL But, in this, as in so many of our activities, you just have to use a bit of self discipline. I found it so relaxing and enjoyable that I would often do my planning instead of some other "fun" thing (like watching TV). It's a pleasant way to rest while children nap.

I had a friend once who had a list of recipes (about two weeks worth) that she simply rotated when planning her menus. The same old Shepherd's Pie and Baked Chicken turned up with maddening frequency. I would HATE to fall into that rut! What a boring chore cooking would be when done that way!! I'd much rather follow my taste plus what is suggested by the season - tempered by what I happen to have on hand - even if it means making up my recipe as I go along!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 11:20AM
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I know there are many people (men mostly) that equate pre-made foods with leftovers and therefore second class. Luckily my husband is not one of them, however my father is.
My suggestion is to "transform" your frozen made-ahead dinners by thawing them and then putting them in either the oven or slow-cooker to re-heat so the smell makes the kitchen feel like a freshly made dinner. The microwave is great for convenience but doesn't give the same feeling.
I think some people want the whole experience of dinner,the smells, etc not just the food.
I think this would work with individual casseroles, chicken pot pies, lasagna (oven) or chili, beef bourgigon, turkey tetrazini (slow cooker) etc, etc.
You could even saute some onions at the last minute just to give things a real sizzle and pretend you made everything that night.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 7:50PM
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Lots of good ideas on this thread! Piper101, Taste of Home and Quick Cooking are two magazines I have bought (and I hardly ever buy magazines!) they are outstanding. They always give credit to the person sending the recipe in and many times it is a farm wife or an elderly person who has lots and lots of experience. I value that! The recipes I've tried have been good.

That being said, how does one prepare ahead? I'm no expert but one thing that works for me is making a whole turkey or ham or more chicken breasts than we need for dinner. Then I chop or cut up the leftovers with a plan in mind. I have several chicken casseroles that call for cooked, cubed chicken. You probably do too! (Also there's soups, chicken ala king, stir fry, chicken fried rice, etc.) I may make something the next day, if not, into the freezer it goes!

For the ham, I cube a couple cups and bag & label in a freezer bag. Someday when I want to make Split Pea Soup or Delicious Ham & Potato soup all I have to do is thaw the night before. I also cut scraps for one of my favorite crock pot dishes, Ham & Au Gratan Potatoes. I freeze some slices for sandwiches. My family would be so sick of ham if we had to eat it all week. So after the first initial dinner, zip lock baggies get filled, labeled and put in the freezer.

I make a few pounds of meatballs at a time. Put on a cookie sheet and "flash freeze" in the freezer. After they are frozen I pick them off and put about two dozen apiece into baggies which go into the freezer. At a later date I can pull the meatballs and add them to spaghetti sauce (I cheat and buy it when it goes on sale) for an easy meal. Or they are always good in the crock pot with a jar of BBQ sauce (more as a party appetizer than a meal and definitely more than 24 meatballs) but you get the picture.

I'll bet you have more than a dozen recipes that start with browned ground beef! It is worthwhile to brown several pounds and bag it, (2 cups is approximately 1 lb worth) for future use. I've always done this in a frying pan, drain the grease into a can and then rinse the browned meat in a colander to get off as much grease as possible. However, I heard recently of someone suggesting to 'boil' the ground beef in your largest stock pot and straining it. It's supposed to be much healthier and doesn't make a greasy mess. I'm going to try that next time.

I sometimes peel, slice and dice vegetables the night before and take the frozen meat out of the refrigerator so it is easy to throw a meal together the next day.

My husband turned up his nose when he saw the browned ground beef thawing in the refrigerator and thought he wouldn't like it. I told him that he'd been eating it that way for YEARS! I use the ground beef in the crock pot and I would never put ground beef in there raw. Don't know why, because I do put raw pork chops and roasts in that way.

Sometimes I buy large portions of pork chops or chicken breasts and repackage them in four's when I get home. The trick is to remember the day ahead of time to thaw them out in the refrigerator. But it's still easier than stopping at the store!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 1:53PM
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