Main Dish Monday {Once A Month Cooking & Baked Ziti}

by Hope Sewell on January 23, 2012

in family, Organizing, recipes

Hey Hey Hey!!  It’s Monday….AGAIN!!

It’s crazy how it always comes around so fast.  Do you dread Mondays??
I don’t.
I am a very schedule oriented girl and sometimes I get stressed on the weekends because there is a lack of “order”.  Yep…I know I just admitted that I have some OCD tendencies.  I do actually struggle to relax sometimes.  Nobody’s perfect right??


Speaking of weekends, I started something the last weekend of 2011 that has literally changed my life.
As a mother of 3, I have experienced a LOT of change!!  The first change being becoming a mother in the first place.  And then 20 months later, I went from being a mother of 1 to a mother of 2.  After 3 more years, I was now a mother of 2 toddlers and 1 infant.  And presently, I’m a mother of 2 big kids and 1 toddler (who is still very much a baby!! :)Without my realizing it, life has progressively gotten busier for me.
And before I knew it, a family dinner around the table was almost non existent!!  I hated that!!  There is something special about family time around the table to me.  It wasn’t that I didn’t menu plan or grocery shop….those things were always done.  But having the time and energy to cook a meal, not to mention the cleaning up afterward, seemed to get more and more difficult.  And I know my motherly success is not based on how many nights a week we sit down at the table together, but it sure does make me feel better.
It’s 30 minutes or so of face time where we are not only nourishing our bodies but our hearts and souls as well.  It’s time for conversation, laughter and smiles.  Mix in a few picky eaters and you’ve got yourself a fun time right??

Creating something delicious out of a few ingredients and serving it to my family is really satisfying to me.  And I’m thankful to be able to say that during the month of January, I’ve brought back the Sewell family dinner table time.


Once A Month Cooking.

I have heard about OAMC for quite some time and never thought it was really possible.  But on the cusp of the new year, I was somehow inspired to give it a try.  I researched, researched and researched.  There are MANY methods, websites, and menus out there.  But I want to share with you what worked for ME.

First~ I determined that 12 meals should most likely last a month for our family.  That’s 3 freezer meals per week, most of them leaving leftovers.We don’t need a meal for Wednesday night’s.  And we sometimes have what we call “get by nights” where we may do sandwiches or whatever for whatever reason.

Second~ To get these 12 meals, I made a menu of 6 Main Dish supper recipes with plans to double each recipe

Third~I made a shopping list.  Making sure I doubled the ingredients for each recipe.
3a– I cleaned out my fridge and freezer.  Got rid of all out dated and freezer burnt items.  It’s no good to have a TON of meals ready and no room for them ya’know!  😉

Fourth~I planned a shopping afternoon on a Friday.  For me, I bought some things in bulk at Sam’s and did the rest at Publix.

Fifth~ I did all my cooking on the following Saturday (shopping and cooking all in one day is just too much).  It took me 6 hours.  That included a generous amount of breaks, lunch and cleaning.  I will admit that I was exhausted at the end of the day but not overly so.
I even had a little help!!

Here’s how it all went down!!
Swiss Steak: I did NOT double this recipe.  This was the first thing I put together in the crock pot.  We had it for supper that night (which after working with food all day I wasn’t really that hungry) and for lunch after church on Sunday, along with some baked corn bread and rice.

Beef Stroganoff:  I made this recipe exactly like I did in the post except I did double it.  I put half of the finished meal into 2 gallon sized ziplock freezer bags and laid them flat on my table to cool.  When it came time to eat these, I set it out to thaw, put it in a pot and heated it through.  While it heated, I made some rice (and bow tie pasta) to go along with it and some fried corn bread (upon request).  😉
Ruthie helped me out with cutting the mushrooms here.Monterrey Chicken:  I did this one a little differently than I did in the post.  I put the seasoned chicken breast on the grill.  Working in batches I grilled them on both sides.  While the chicken was working, I made a double pot of yellow rice.  In a foil baking pan, I layered the rice and then the chicken.  Topping them with Monterrey Jack cheese, cooked bacon and green onions.  I covered it with a layer of parchment paper, tin foil and then the lid to the pan.  Labeled it and let it cool.

Sloppy Joes:  I’ll share my recipe for this at a later time but I put it all together, cooked and packaged it just like the beef stroganoff.

I also did 3 different kinds of “dump chicken”.  This is where you put bone-in chicken pieces OR boneless skinless chicken in a ziplock bag along with other ingredients and then freeze it.  To cook, you thaw and bake, grill or put it in the crock pot.  Recipes to come in the future.  I’m still testing some of these…

Baked Ziti:  This is the recipe I want to share with you today.  It’s a family favorite and having it sitting in my freezer ready to bake is a dream!!
Start with 8 oz of pasta.  Even though this is called baked ziti, I actually prefer penne pasta here.  Cook according to your package directions.

Brown 1 pound of ground beef.  Season it with salt and pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.  I used fresh this day since I already had it all out.Add about 3 1/2 cups of red sauce (homemade or jarred) to the beef.

In a small bowl, combine one 15 oz tub of part-skim ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup Mozzarella.  I thin this out with a little milk but YOU could beat in one egg.For MY family, this will make 2 8×8 pans (without doubling the recipe) and we normally eat it all in one sitting.  So I didn’t double this recipe to get the two pans. But I think I will double it next time for 4 pans.  This is perfect to have on hand for company or ready for a friend in need.
First, put a layer of the meat sauce in the bottom of the pan.Top with a layer of pasta.
If you don’t need the whole 8 oz of pasta…then don’t use it all.  You don’t want there to be more pasta and less filling.Then layer half of the cheese mixture in each pan (so that you use the entire bowl full).Top with the remaining sauce.  Sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese and more Mozarella (about 1/4 cup per pan).At this point, I covered with a layer of parchment, tin foil and then the lid.  Let it cool and popped it in my freezer.
To bake: let it thaw.  Bake at 450 for 20-25 minutes.  Until the cheese is brown and bubbly!!  Add some bread and a salad to round it out.

After my full day of cooking, here is what my freezer looked like!!

That’s 12 quarts of red sauce, 4 gallon bags of shredded cheddar cheese, and 12 meals.
Talk about a sense of accomplishment!!
And I can’t tell you how great it has been to ALWAYS have dinner on hand.
The clean up is a BREEZE!!
PLUS it’s cut my grocery bill by half because I’m not CONSTANTLY going to the store.  I try to make it my goal to only go grocery shopping twice a month.  So far, it’s worked perfectly!!  I even had time to make some breakfast items to put in the freezer as well.  Things like these Cinnamon Rolls AND some Chocolate Chip Scones (recipe to come soon).
I’ve even been able to clean 4 of the bathrooms in this house AND keep up with the laundry (well….the laundry has been washed and dried at least).
I’m already planning next month’s menu!!

Have you tried OAMC before??  Do you have any tips or ideas??  What works for you?

Print Recipe

Baked ZitiBaked Ziti
adapted from Everyday Food
8oz Penne or Ziti pasta
1 lb ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small onion diced
3 1/2 c. red sauce (jarred or homemade)
1- 15oz tub part-skim ricotta
1 egg lightly beaten (optional)
3/4 c Parmesan Cheese
1 cup shredded Mozzarella

Preheat oven to 450º.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  In a small bowl, combine ricotta, egg (or a touch of milk), 1/4 cup Parmesan and 1/2 cup of Mozzarella.  Season with salt and pepper.

In a large casserole dish (or 2 small) layer half of the red sauce.  Top with pasa, ricotta mixture and the rest of the sauce.  Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese and Mozzarella.  Bake until everything is brown and bubbly, around 20-25 minutes.

This post linked HERE!

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie Williams January 23, 2012 at 10:40 am

So glad you posted about this! I just started looking into this the other day and compiling a menu. It’s nice to see a real-life person doing it! I’m definitely trying it out.


Hope Sewell January 23, 2012 at 10:50 am

It really has been life changing for me!! 😉


Meghan January 24, 2012 at 5:38 pm

I’m expecting my first baby and want to do some freezer cooking before the baby comes so we’ll have something to eat for after the baby comes. Though I’ve read lots of blogs extolling the virtues of once a month cooking, it’s good to read how you it broke it down. You made it sound very manageable.


Hope Sewell January 24, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Congratulations!! I wanted to freezer cook before each of my children but never did. But it really did work for me once I made a plan and followed through. It is definitely manageable. I’m looking forward to doing my second month!
Thanks for stopping by!!


Our House January 24, 2012 at 8:46 pm

I just love your blog! I just froze a lasagna tonight! I am starting to make double at dinner and then freezing the second meal. I look forward to you imput and ideas!


Hope Sewell January 24, 2012 at 9:15 pm

That’s GREAT!! Thanks so much!!


Summer @ Summer Scraps January 25, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Great post – I have always wanted to try this and I like your step by step post. I think I am going to give it a try!


Hope Sewell January 25, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Go for it!! It has really been life changing for me!!


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