Saturday, November 20, 2010

True Life: How I Became a Pre-cooker

This post was inspired by your sweet comments on Fittingbackin, and by some of Homecookedem’s questions to a post, which highlighted my twice-weekly "marathon pre-cooking event." Here are the results of one of my pre-cooking events:

Q: Did you come up with this on your own or was there someone who inspired you to start doing this? Have you always done this or did you start when you got married?

A: This was definitely not something I did before I was married, although it really had little to do with being married aside from me getting back from my honeymoon and realizing I’d gained a lot of weight and was the biggest I’d ever been. This was when I was like okay… time to work out. I worked out. I didn’t really lose much. My clothes fit better but the scale remained constant. I knew I was going to need to alter my eating, I discovered Hungry Girl and began cooking and doing meal plans (i.e. one plan per month - here are the dinners I will have). Then it turned into here are the breakfast, lunch and dinners I will have… and it progressed from monthly to weekly. However, I was cooking almost every night, and only making 2 of each recipe (was still trying them out and didn’t want to make four servings of a recipe and not like it!). I was worried I was going to burn out!

Finally, once I really started building up a list of recipes we loved/wanted to have again (thanks to your blogs, my sister's cookbooks, my friend Monica's recipes and so on and so forth!), I realized I could make like 10-11 recipes and be DONE for the week (as opposed to 20+!). Granted, I still wanted to try new recipes, but I got more confident with what I tried and some things I just KNEW we would like (based on past recipes, ingredients lists, fabulous sources like For the Love of Cooking, etc.) so I felt comfortable making four servings straight out of the gate.

Around January 2009 I started making these ‘meal plan packets.’ A lot of the reason was because of Austin – he was tired of having to look up recipes on my blog and in my word documents. He wanted to help more but it was hard because my stuff was in multiple places on my personal computer! This ‘packet’ would have meals for 7 days, a list of all recipes and a list of all ingredients. This worked WELL for us. I wanted to make several different packets so that, eventually, I would just rotate through the packets and be done with it! I’m still working on this part – it’s hard because I feel like I still want to try new things and sometimes I’m SO in the mood for a recipe that’s not on the meal packet! I think I’m up to 12 packets (some have overlap) and am still making new recipes/packets. During October 2009, I posted How I Plan Meals: 8 Steps to give as much of an overview as possible of what I found worked for me and Austin. Also, it’s gotten even easier now that I’ve been making more and more recipes for SIX servings – this was huge for me! Haha

So to answer Em’s question, I think I slowly came up with a system that worked for us on my own. It was almost like a failsafe – I really had no excuse to not eat what was prepared and I HATE wasting food so I tend to stick with it. It’s kind of like turning the ‘clean plate club’ on its head and being like well you HAVE to eat these healthified/portion-controlled/pre-cooked meals or you’ll WASTE them! I don’t know that anyone really inspired me to do it, and I didn't even know where I was headed when I started out, but people sure supported me, especially Austin, and I think that’s what’s made it easier to keep on keeping on!

Now I usually make packets, grocery shop, and do the majority of my cooking/prepping on Sundays (while watching Friends or SATC on DVD in the kitchen), and then cook again on Thursday during lunch. (I work from home Thursday and by then it’s usually like 3-4 recipes and I’ve prepped for them on Sunday so easy peasy/1 hour tops).

So what’s next? I plan to:
  • Create 20-25 solid meal plan packets that I can have on hand (I'm about halfway there).
  • Organize the packets by season (i.e. chilis for my "winter" packets; fruit/sammies for my summer packets, etc.). Mind you i'm in Atlanta - there won't be many winter packets!
  • Begin incorporating snacks and desserts (snacks are much easier for me... desserts are going to be a while).
I think that's it for now! Let me know if you have any questions; clearly this is something I've gotten to be a bit passionate about so don't hesitate!

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