Once A Month Cooking Day
An Attainable, Easy Plan from Our Hectic Household for Cooking 30 Meals in One Day
Recently I had a reader ask me how I find 8-9 hours in a day to cook with small children. It takes a little planning and know-how, but then anyone can do it without having to hire a sitter.
My day starts at about 6 a.m. when I’m planning on doing 30 dinners. I have a list prepared ahead of time showing all the dinners I’m going to do and the order I will do them in. The recipe books are out, the kitchen is cleaned, the crock-pots are ready to slow-cook and there isn’t any clutter on the counters. I find something on Netflix or dig out some DVDS, basically looking for four hours' worth of kid shows or movies.
When the first child comes downstairs, usually by 7 a.m. I cheerfully tell them, “Would you like cereal or oatmeal for breakfast?” The prospect of getting breakfast right away from a pleasant mommy is wonderful to them. I sit them at the table with their bowl and say, “If you are very good I have a special movie for you after breakfast.” This almost always guarantees a fight-free mess-free breakfast.
I set up each child as they come down. And as far as my toddler goes, I set him up in the highchair and he’s usually fine to stay there after finishing his breakfast (for about an hour or two) if he has a few kitchen tools or cups and spoons to play with.
Sometimes I move his highchair to the doorway of the kitchen so I can talk to him and so he doesn’t feel containerized and abandoned. I chat his ear off with knowledge he’ll find useful later in life, “Did you know that three teaspoons equals a tablespoon? Do you know how to scoop and measure flour properly? Aluminum never goes in the dishwasher. Remember that. Can you nest all the measuring cups together?”
On OAMC cooking day we don’t have preschool. This is good and bad. The children love preschool and beg for it. Not having it disrupts their routine. But they are also thrilled to be allowed to eat microwave popcorn with their favorite blanket and stuffed animals and watch a show in the living room.
The first two hours of shows usually goes smoothly. Then we need potty-breaks. And then I need to separate my five year old and three year old so they don’t spazz-out. So, one of them becomes my helper while the other one gets to play with a special toy like Legos or a floor puzzle. After 30 minutes we switch helpers.
I have children wander into the kitchen and ask what I’m making and if they can lick the beaters or the bowl or dump ingredients in a recipe. I try to see this as a teaching moment and let them participate. I figure, if I only get 24 meals done, I can do the rest in the evening when hubby is home, or tomorrow.
Before long, it’s time for naptime snack and then naptime. Then I say, “Go to sleep. When you wake up, I will tell you about something special.”
When they wake up, they get lunch with the same movie/show promise, “If you are very good I have a special movie for you after lunch.” This is usually not rejected. If it is, I say, “Would you like to make crafts for Grandma and Grandpa?”
And then I sit them at the table with washable Crayola crayons and construction paper. When that gets boring, I put one of them supervised in the highchair with scissors. And then they take turns.
The whole day I’m checking on them CONSTANTLY. I’m a very paranoid mom. I look and see what they’re doing, ask them questions, and ask for helpers. “I need a little helper to throw away some trash for me.” or “I need a taster that is 3 years old and loves chicken. Does anybody know someone 3 years old who loves chicken?” Then I hear my son yelling at my daughter, “I do. It’s you! You’re 3 and you like chicken!” We have fun with this.
They can tell if I’m stressed and they can tell if I’m trying to keep them out of the kitchen. So I don’t.
If I had a sitter, I would have to trade with another mother so I wouldn’t have to pay. I could probably get it all done A LOT faster though-like maybe 5-6 hours.
You can always start with half OAMC days.
Or just do all the chicken recipes or maybe all the beef recipes on one day. That’s my method of choice. It’s thrilling to look in your freezer, and have your hubby and all your neighbors look in your freezer at the end of a complete OAMC day and say, “Look what I did!” It’s very attainable and very adaptable. You can do it.
Start with doubling or tripling recipes once a week, or twice a week if time permits. Or tell yourself “I’m going to do a OAMC day with one dozen meals.” That’s a dozen meals! I think the hard part is deciding what dinners to have. There are lots of resources online and in books showing you tried-and-true freezer-worthy recipes. If you have a family of picky eaters, try just a few at a time. Have them participate in the judging of it. “How do you like this? Is it something you’d want to eat again?”
As far as OAMC goes, it’s like I feel about homeschooling: it’s not hard if you just do it, thinking about it is the freaky part.