SP has a batchcooking article but it's so general as to be almost of no help. Their advice is one weekend a month, and use up in 3-4 months. Which wouldn't help you much.
So okay, let's think about this Amber.
We have half a month left til Mar 1.
So basically we have Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug.
I'm thinking July & Aug will be hot and miserable and even more so when you're 8-9 mo prego; I don't want to be standing in hot kitchen on a NORMAL day in the summer, and can't imagine having to cook for the entire family and doing so while prego.
Plus in Jul & Aug the other 4? (3 school age?) will be out of school and doing summer stuff, some of which you'll want to do with them. Right? Family stuff this summer. You may have energy for one or the other, family activities or kitchen duty, but not both. DITCH the KITCH. You'll need to be in bed or at the very least, not standing on swollen ankles in the kitchen, in Jul/Aug.
I'd be teaching the two older ones how to do their own laundry in the next two months, if they don't do so already; I'd assign each of them their own laundry day once a week on different days, and let them have at it. They should be pros, no problem, by July.
So: I'm thinking you can get by in Jul & Aug with light kitchen duty, summer food, salad, etc. I'm thinking minimal kitchen duty in Jul/Aug, which leaves Mar, Apr, May, Jun.
So, we're talking about what you can do ahead of time in the next 4 months.
The first thing is I'd get the older ones to help (you might want to start having them make a weekend meal every weekend; they choose and make, while you assist and observe).
But after jr comes? Baby it's Freezer Meal time!
Plus in Aug there is back-to-school stress, in addition to new baby?? Just forget about cooking in Aug. I think you need to have freezer meals ready for Aug & Sept, at a minimum.
In the next 4 months, Mar-Jun, practice doubling every time you make waffles and pancakes dry mix, bread dry mix (because you can freeze the dry mixes), lasagna, always double, cook one and freeze the rest. Put one meatloaf in the oven and put the second meatloaf, uncooked, into the freezer. (That's just an example. I know meatloaf might be unhealthy.) It's easier than it sounds because you only dirty the bowls etc ONE TIME for TWO MEALS. So actually it's very efficient use of energy and time. Which is the whole premise behind Once a Month Cooking. If you have lots of energy that day you could always triple the recipe, because you may not have the energy later as jr gets closer to making his/her debut.
That's the easiest way to start batchcooking. On the fly, as you said: every day as you go. Unless it's salad etc, NEVER make "just enough". Always double; in your case triple when feasible.
I wouldn't keep homemade frozen stuff more than a year, though broth soups and stews (i.e. food frozen in solid block of liquid) and things cooked well in the crockpot, last longer than everything else; and most regs and guidelines say 3-6 months for homemade stuff in the freezer (SP says 'combination' foods, 3-4 months). So my rice I put in the freezer I will use up over the next few months. I started doing this with brown rice because when I first came to SP I'd never made brown rice before and it took a really long time to cook. So after that I batchcooked and froze it, & since I'm single, I froze it in single serving sizes.
But since then, forget about only just doing the brown rice; I batchcook everything, baby. I don't care if white rice is only 20 mins, I'd rather only have to cook it from scratch ONCE. I'd rather take a pkg out of the freezer and put the bag in hot water for 2 mins, and have a meal ready in 10, then wait 20 mins on the rice (and that's after bringing it a boil). I never buy parboiled or instant or any other packaged stuff; I cook from scratch but I never wait 20 mins on rice unless I'm out of what I batchcooked.
Do you have anyone in your family, like a sister, aunt, cousin, who's gift is cooking and who wouldn't drive you nuts and wouldn't step on your last nerve? I would have them come in late July (as close to before due date as possible) and take over your kitchen for 3 days (choose the person wisely), while you're on the porch or on the hotel's patio sipping cold lemonade. Let calgon take you away. You do NOT want to be there while they wreck and then clean up your kitchen. You kind of want to keep the stuff in your kitchen and cooked in your kitchen, for quality control purposes, unless it's someone you trust with your life.
There is a famous book called Once a Month Cooking that gives you a menu, shopping list and recipes to make every thing for a month. There are several menus of entrees to choose from, with serving suggestions.
So when people ask you what kind of gift you need for your baby shower, tell them you need volunteers willing and able to follow recipes, 2 or 3 that will come over and make freezer meals for a month for you. One can do it but it's a big job and two is better; plus it's easier to clean the kitchen if you have a helper cleaning with you, etc. By cleaning helper I do not mean you! If you get lots of volunteers, accept more than once; have one come Aug 1st if the baby is due Aug 7th; and have a second different team come 5 weeks after the 1st one. Also, some who can't afford presents, would love to do this labor of love for you, something meaningful instead. I always offer this at baby showers; only 2 have taken me up on it. I bring the book with me to baby showers so they can see what it is I am talking about.
Send the list to the store with dad & co, dad coordinates the hunt and the cart-fill while overseeing the process of the gophers doing the scavenger hunt to get the stuff, and makes sure what goes in the cart is what's intended for the recipe. And they buy everything on the list (with your changes input to the recipes & grocery list, of course). They buy the stuff and bring it home, of course the canned and bottled stuff on the list you could buy now over the next few months to cash flow it better, and then have one last big shopping trip for fresh stuff before due date. Mimi gives examples in the book of how to mark it, I think she put Xs on the pkgs or cans if it was a grocery item that had been bought for Once a Month Cooking recipe, so it's not used accidentally before Cooking Day.
Then someone comes over and makes it for you, if they could babysit your youngest for two days while you're in the hospital and do the cooking during that time also, answer the phone and provide a presence, then, that would be great; that'd be more like a family member or very close friend though. If not take what you can get; and you have freezer meals for a month. The good thing about her recipes is, it's DESIGNED for this so everything works really well in the freezer, all the foods etc are the right kind, recipes have been tested, they are all kid friendly, family friendly, and budget friendly, just normal regular food.
If you do freezer meals now, you'll probably use them up by baby due date, is what I'm thinking. So unless you have a really big freezer and cook a ton, I'd have it done by someone else closer to the baby's arrival.
So I would do two parallel paths: I'd do on-the-fly doubling and tripling if it's a lasagna you're making, or waffles for example; whenever you can, I'd do something every day or intentionally a minimum of once a week, even if you have to add a menu item that freezes well to your weekly menu planning. And I'd also plan for and be on the lookout for opportunities to recruit cooks for, at least one Once a Month Cooking right before your due date.
If you ever have ANY female ask if they can help you, have a short list of quick replies thought out and at the ready, like: can you come over to my house and bake a turkey for me?
You buy the biggest turkey you can find and have it thawed and ready; have them come over and bake it, and not only that, have them debone it and bag and freeze the meat while they are there, too. Have them do the whole thing from beginning to end, the entire turkey. This would be as a separate task from dinner; leave dinner out of it, or, have them bake two turkeys only if your oven will fit two turkeys. Have them put the bones in the crockpot and turn the crockpot on before they leave, too, LOL.
You could have someone else stew 3 chickens, and eat one of THOSE for dinner; but have them do two of the chickens from beginning to end including the freezing of the meat and the putting the bones in the crockpot. They could reserve the last one of the 3 prepared chickens, and put it in the oven on the way out the door, you could eat that one for dinner, but have your volunteer prep all 3 at once.
Think about a delegatable but significant task, like baking a turkey, or making 3 batches of chicken rigatoni, and have those answers ready when someone asks what they can do to help you. Say, "Well do you know of anyone that'd be willing to come over and make 3 lasagne at my house for me, if I provided the groceries?"
Wish I was close, I'd be right over.
In Aug the tomatoes will be coming on. If one of those ladies can can, there you go. They can batchcook canned tomatoes, sauce, and picante, while they are batchcooking Italian sauce in the crockpot for you at the same time, which they can bag and freeze before they leave.
Between now and June whenever there is a sale, I'd buy and batchcook. Look at every grocery store's weekly flyer online, and go to the one that has the sale. Each of them usually will have a different meat on sale each week. But the deepest discount price is only on sale once every 6-8 weeks, at each store.
Example: ground beef that goes on sale becomes batchcooking extravaganza of:
frozen taco & burrito meat
frozen Italian sauce (to be used for pizza, spaghetti, lasagna, etc)
frozen veggie beef soups
Whole chickens go on sale, buy 5, freeze 2, stew three, eat one of the three, freeze the meat of the other two that you stewed, or make them into white chili and chicken spaghetti and THEN freeze them. If it's August and DH has to fend for himself, he can boil pasta, and combine it with the frozen chopped chicken meat and frozen Italian sauce, slide into oven, 20 mins later top with cheese. You can make up several pans of this yourself ahead of time. Line the pan with heavy duty foil; after it's frozen, remove the food and slide into dated & labeled freezer bag, then your pan is freed up to use in the kitchen again.
Cook one big crockpot batch of dried beans every week; freeze 1/3 plain before making the recipe, make 2/3rds into a doubled crockpot recipe like black bean soup; pintos and taco beef; white beans and ham (or smoked turkey); split pea and ham. Eat one third (half of the recipe) and freeze the other third (other half of the recipe). Beans and soups freeze well so you could eat the frozen thirds this fall when weather is cold again, but the baby is still tiny.
I don't have a freezer and am single, so my versions of all of the above are way scaled down, but Mimi Wilson's book is all family-scale.
If you have, or think you can find, people who'd be willing to help you do the batchcooking in the kitchen, then I'd concentrate on choosing recipes that are family favs that freeze well, and watching the weekly sales so you can stock up on meat sales, pasta sales, etc whatever it is your family likes, and getting the dried beans cooked (plain) and in the freezer; then when the other ladies come you already have the chicken, the ground beef, the turkey, the lasagna noodles, and the beans all recipe-ready after thawing.
I would batchcook in the crockpot and freeze all your family's favorite soups once a week, just leave the pasta out of the ones that call for it and add the pasta at the time it's served.
For the next 4 months, I'd save all the bones and batchcook and freeze chicken and turkey broth, and make veggie broth and freeze it every time you clean out the fridge or buy new veggies; use the old ones in broth and freeze it.
Maybe you can do in each of the 4 months, a different type of batchcooking. Like look online every week at the weekly grocery circulars, and if ground beef goes on sale in the next two weeks, buy a ton in Feb and have March be "ground beef freezer meal" month. Mar ground beef; April chicken; May steak; Jun turkey; depending on what's on sale before.
Once a Month Cooking, by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg (see also library, eBay, half.com, paperbackswap.com, Goodwill):www.amazon.com/Once---Month-Cooking-Revise
Freezer Meals, disclaimer I have NOT watched these:www.youtube.com/results?search_query=freez
Freezer Meal thread on another team:www.sparkpeople.com/myspark/team_messagebo
Hope some of these ideas help. Eat the fish, leave the bones.
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