Welcome to second in a series about how we make our freezer cooking group work: Cooking Day! To see what to do to prepare for this day, see Group Freezer Cooking - Planning.
When cooking day arrives, one of the most important things is that all the cooks try to arrive on time. It is also important that the house we're cooking at is prepared to handle it! (I'll write more on this later).
We print out each of the recipes on a full sheet of paper (so it's harder to misplace) and put it in one of those plastic page protectors (so spills wipe up easily). Quickly scan the recipes to see what needs to get started right away. Anything that needs to be baked and cooled should be started early so it can rest while other things are being made.
We usually give each mom one recipe to work on, start to finish, and making all the batches of that recipe. This is more efficient than having each person make one of each recipe. Whomever gets finished or has some waiting time in their recipe helps out someone who needs it.
During cooking, we periodically check with each other to personalize the dishes. Who wants extra onions, no mustard, food allergies, etc. Sometimes a mom with a smaller family will want a meal separated into two bags so there aren't so many leftovers. As we continue cooking with the same ladies, we can pretty much guess who's going to want what, but it never hurts to ask. Other than that, we're constantly chit chatting which makes the time go by faster, plus, it's fun!
As each meal is made, it gets put either into a casserole dish that each mom is responsible for bringing or into freezer zipper bags. Then it gets labeled with the recipe name and date. Tristy had the wonderful idea to print up address labels with cooking instructions and stick them right to the bags! Now we don't have to try to find the original recipe for reheating instructions. This also make it easier for someone else to pull the bag out of the freezer and make dinner (as if that would ever happen!). Finished meals are kept in the fridge or freezer until we're done.
Dirty dishes get washed as we have time during the cooking day, but definitely when we're all done. No fair leaving the host home with a huge pile of dirty dishes to clean up (and I don't say that only because I'm always the host home!)
Finally, our bin of pantry items is packed back up for storage until next time. If we have time, and the kids aren't too cranky, we like to plan the next month's menu at the end of our cooking session. It's easier to do when we're all together. But sometimes we have no choice but to do it via email over the next couple weeks.
We also take time to settle up with payments. We pre-pay the grocery shopper about $30 each depending on the recipes for the month. We just use a calculator or simple spreadsheet (this link can also be found in our sidebar under Tools) to determine if we still owe more to the shopper or if we get a refund (we love to get a refund!).
For us, we think we've done well if everyone is on their way home by noon. Since we start at 9, that's 3 hours of cooking.
That's it! That's a cooking day.
See also: Group Freezer Cooking - Planning; Group Freezer Cooking - Host Kitchen