Big cook collage

I promised you a little post about the Big Cook! There is an actual book by that name, two in fact! You can get them at Amazon – and if I knew how to do an affiliate link I would but the thing keeps giving me an Internal Error message so I’m not persevering on that front!

I have done this several times and in a few different ways. This is my take on how to do it. There are instructions in the book, but being a good Mennonite, I mostly ignore them. (This post could alternately be called – How to Cook Big Mennonite style.)

WHY?

Why bother making this huge grocery run, killing yourself in the kitchen for an entire day, conscripting slaves helpers and all that mess?

Sanity. Pure and simple. One day of crazy for many days of NOT having to think about what is for dinner. We are farmers and the season is here. Doing all this preparation in advance makes life easier, especially if for some reason I can’t do the meal for the field,  I can give a pre-prepped meal to my mom and ask her to heat it up and done!

If it isn’t harvest, it still just makes life easier knowing that I have a lot of main courses just sitting there in my freezer waiting to be used. I HATE when my kids ask me what’s for dinner and I have no answer.

NOTE: I will do bodily harm to anyone who unplugs my freezer and forgets to plug it back in. You have been warned!

1. The most important thing you should do before cooking BIG is have a lot of kids! There are several reasons for this:

  • they will help at some point with the chopping, cleaning, cooking and eating
  • there is an excellent reason to cook BIG
  • you will train them in righteous cooking and thus save the world

*Note: you may need to start this part at LEAST a decade in advance of your BIG cook date – I have six and it took me approximately 10 years to have them all at which point the oldest ones were pretty helpful. I used the younger three on this BIG cook and they were very beneficial.

2. Kill a cow, pig and a lot of chickens OR you will have to actually buy meat in a store.

3. Ignore completely the terms “Value Pack”, “Club Size” or “Family Format”. These are erroneous titles made up by some person who doesn’t actually know what size a ‘club’ actually is – there are usually more than four people in most clubs.

4. Try out a few of the recipes that are in the cookbook if you are using it – you can just use your own recipes to do this but the book has actual measurements for how much stuff you need to make and this makes things easier on the noggin. If you try them out it may save you some money and nasty comments if they don’t like something. This is good for your self-esteem down the road.

5. Plan – this one is serious people. Decide what you want to make a couple of days ahead and write down all the ingredients it will need. See if you have any of those already on hand. No one needs three packages of paprika sitting on their shelves!

6. Rob a bank or re-finance your house or something so you have enough cash to go shopping for this adventure.

7. Clean your kitchen – you will need pretty much every measuring device and every square inch of counter space you have.

8. Shop. I suggest – strongly – NOT to take the kids with you. But DO make sure they are at home to help you unload. Make sure you purchase something to eat for supper that night because you actually won’t feel like cooking after you’ve done the BIG cook! Get something fun to drink that the slaves kids will enjoy that is only for those who are working – keeps them motivated.

9. Sort all the bits and pieces out on your table (the cleaned off one) so that it is all ready for you to go the next day.

10. Brown hamburger or throw a roast or ham into the crockpot to cook overnight if you are using recipes with either of those. I use a real ham rather than that weird football shaped ham for the Pizza Casserole – tastes WAAAY better. Then you can make summer borsht out of the bones and you get more meals for the same price!!

11. Have a good breakfast on cooking day. Assign everyone duties and do only one recipe at a time to avoid putting stuff together that shouldn’t be or forgetting ingredients altogether. Also, read your spice container before you put it in…I’m afraid I’m going to have very garlic-y something or other because I assumed I grabbed the onion powder!

NOTE: You can do this with friends if you haven’t got that baby-making thing up to speed. I would suggest you do it with someone who has a similar sized family to yours or splitting the cost gets kind of crazy. If you each buy your own meat that helps, too.

NOTE 2: The Big Cook meals are designed for six people which is bigger than average – still smaller than us, but it makes it easy to add or subtract an extra piece of meat or so to make it work for your family.

12. Have at ‘er. Keep your special drinks/snacks coming to keep those slaves worker bees happy!

13. Put the bags flat in your freezer for more efficient storage and watch for leaks – especially with pork chops that have the bone in.

14. There’s that cleaning thing again…

Here’s what I made this week and the actual cost (yes, I did math)!

2 Amazing Chicken

2 Baked Chicken

2 Cheesy Chicken Casserole

2 Saucy Chicken

2 Thai Chicken

1 Teriyaki Chicken

2 Cantonese Sweet and Sour Pork

2 Marinated Pork Chops

4 Pizza Casserole

1 Sweet and Sour Pork

1 bag of Shredded ham for something else

1 big pot of summer borsht

Meat cost: $254 (I didn’t have any chickens to kill and I am not sure if our pig is ready yet. I did not do any beef recipes because we did kill a cow and I will do beef on another day)

Other food items: $103

Non-food items: $40 (zip locs, some new paring knives and a real cutting board)

Total cost: $397

Price per meal: $17

Cost per person per meal for our family of 8: $2/person

There you have it. My version of The BIG cook. Have you done one of these? Tell us all about it!!