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Two crock pots, two large chickens each. A half pound of whole mushrooms in each, add a cup of sherry. Cook on “high” for eight hours.

One large skillet. Very large. Six pounds of ground round, 2 cups of onion. Cook until browned, drain, bag and let cool.

One ten pound center-cut pork loin. A bit of greek seasoning. Place in a large foil covered pan, roast for 2 1/2 hours. Let cool.

Chicken breasts, thinly sliced and marinated in teriyaki. Pork loin, thinly sliced and marinated in olive oil, garlic and herbs. Round steak, cut into strips and marinated in red wine, olive oil, rosemary and thyme.

Meatballs, pulled pork, shredded and chopped chicken. Marinated pork, beef and chicken packaged for individual meals. Chicken broth with mushrooms and sherry. Waffles ready for the toaster with bags of frozen blueberries and homemade blueberry syrup. Eggs McMom. Spaghetti sauce and soup bases.

What appears to be an extremely bizarre menu is in fact my rather modified approach to the phenomenon known as Once A Month Cooking.

My days are getting increasingly busy. Daily visits to the rehabilitation facility where my Grandmother is receiving treatment is eating into what little spare time I have. Top that off with the approach of the new school year and an additional student (I’ll be teaching six this year) and it’s easy to see that I need to streamline my approach to mealtimes.

I’m no stranger to OAMC. In my early homeschooling days it was one of the best ways for a mom who was teaching, nursing and/or pregnant to provide creative and nutritious meals without the constant shopping, planning and prepping that is necessary to feed a large family. I never really managed to prepare an entire month’s meals – I didn’t have a freezer and most often wasn’t able to afford all the provisions to stock the larder. So I improvised. A couple weeks of dinners, breakfast casseroles and sandwiches, soups and breads and I was a happier and much more efficient mommy.

And then I quit. I have no idea why…I just seemed to slip into writing the occasional menu, planning my grocery list according to this or that week’s whim. I do enjoy spontaneity, but it only works if you have the time and I don’t.

So…I hit the computer, opened up a few tabs and pulled every online grocery ad for my local stores. I quickly compared prices, noting the best buys and making sure all stores were within close proximity of one another. I decided to start with the main course and determined that to feed this family of nine for 30 days, we would need approximately 70 to 80 lbs. of meat. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s less than 3 lbs. per day and allows for days of abstinence.

How did my comparison shopping fare? Amazingly!! By searching out the best prices, I was able to locate the best and leanest meats and spent an average of $1.60 per pound. The total cost? @ $120.00 (we ended up buying a bit more…sandwich meat and cheese at a local farmer’s market).

I spent the entire afternoon cooking, slicing, labeling and bagging. It feels really good to know that I’ve saved a tremendous amount of time and money and just need to round out the evening’s meals with fresh veggies from the garden, homemade bread and fresh fruit.

The freezer is stocked with a month of main courses, as well as several options for breakfast and lunch.  It was well worth the effort – a month of mealtime freedom purchased with a couple days labor.  Buying in bulk saves time and money.  This month’s grocery expenditure will be at least half of last month’s and that is a blessing!

Looking for ways to save money?  CouponMom has a lot of great ideas and is also an excellent resource for the discounts and coupons.  Frugal Mom and Mommy Savers also have quite a few suggestions to help stretch a dollar.

Well…off to pack a little picnic for this evening’s Shakespeare In The Park.  Measure for Measure…I can’t wait!

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