Like many moms of multiples, before my daughters were born I started filling the freezer with prepared meals for quick dinners while I was in the hospital and after I came home with two babies. Regardless of what the babies would need, there would still be two parents and a toddler to feed.
By the time the girls were four months old, I realized that I had to find some new strategies for feeding our family. Before I got pregnant, I had gone to a meal preparation service. You purchased a dozen or more meals, and then came to store to assemble them. The process was quick and the meals were delicious, but we were paying $4 or $5 per serving. It was convenient but we couldn’t afford that when I wasn’t working.
One day at Costco, I found the solution. It was The Big Cook Book, a cookbook designed for batch cooking. The authors’ idea was that 3 or 4 women would get together every few months and prepare as many as 200 meals in a single day. Each family would then have a freezer stocked with meals for the next month. I soon found three friends ready for a meal cooking experiment.
The first time, we met at my house. All of our children except our 4-month old twins were looked after elsewhere. Beforehand, I planned the menu and, using an excel spreadsheet, prepared shopping lists for everyone. We all arrived with our ingredients, some extra kitchen supplies (knives and measuring cups), and snacks. We started at 9 am, and my kitchen was clean and I was off to pick up my son by 4 pm. We made 72 meals (18 each).
A few months later, we did it again. We made some changes to be more efficient in our shopping, prep work, and assembly. We also added some of our own favourite recipes, including some vegetarian meals, an area which is lacking in this cookbook. We opted for takeout for lunch, and prepared 14 meals each, plus 4 containers of homemade tomato and vegetable pasta sauce.
We’ve continued to do get together and cook every 3 or 4 months. Three of my friends, who didn’t really know each other before, now consider each other friends. Between us, there are now 9 children and 8 adults. These meals, and our friendship, have helped us through pregnancies, new babies, going back to school, shift work, camping trips, moving, medical problems, and more.
We’ve prepared over 90 meals in a single day. Our meals cost between $6 and $8 a meal, which comes out to about $0.75 to $1.30 a serving since most meals feed our families dinner with leftovers for lunch. Our cooking days have become a fun, economical and convenient way to feed our families. It also makes meal planning easy – there’s always something in the freezer – and it avoids the hassle of cooking at end of the day when everyone is already tired.
How do you handle meal preparation? Do you have any favourite recipes to share?