We're all looking for ways to eat healthier, spend less time in the kitchen, and feed our families for less. So when two savvy mums from Melbourne teamed up to cook five weeks' worth of meals in just one weekend, we think they may have just found a solution to all of our dinnertime woes.
Best friends, Melissa Hubbard and Rachel Nikcevich came up with a smart strategy to save money, save time, save washing up and win at meal time every night. Together they cooked 100 meals, all prepped and ready to pop in the freezer for quick reheat and eat dinners for their families, in just one weekend.
On the lookout for healthier eating options on a budget, the pair decided to get together one weekend for a bulk cook-up.
"We were having our usual daily chat and the subject of take away and junk food came up," they explained to Now to Love.
"So we decided we should get together and do a cook up for our families."
After their mammoth effort of 20 hours in the kitchen, ("The prep time was the most time consuming and the cook time was far less") Melissa posted a snap of all the meals they'd created, neatly packed in reusable containers, to the Facebook group Mums Who Budget & Save.
"My bestie and I had a massive cook-up over the weekend for both of our families," Melissa wrote on the post.
"100 meals so far not including the soups or sweet treats. All ready to heat and serve. Still a few main meals to cook."
Immediately comments flooded the post from inspired mums, tagging their girlfriends to line-up a similar batch meal cooking day.
"We were overwhelmed by the response," says Melissa, who is still replying to the hundreds of messages and questions on the post.
Melissa and Rachel shared their mouth-watering menu which included recipes sourced online, plus family favourites and treasured classics passed down from their mothers.
For the next few weeks their families will be enjoying chicken cacciatore, curry mince, spaghetti bolognaise, teriyaki chicken, pineapple pork ribs, homemade chicken schnitzel, gnocchi, slow cooked beef, veggie lasagna, spicy roast beef, pumpkin soup and chicken soup.
The pair also prepared a few sweet treats like red velvet cupcakes, chocolate rum balls and banana bread.
Melissa is cooking for a family of four, two adults and two hungry teens, and expects her meals will last around two weeks. Rachel has a family of three, two adults and an eight-year-old boy and thinks she'll get three weeks of meals out of her batch.
While 100 meals is an amazing effort, the best friends say they still have more meals to cook from their bulk buy.
"Our weekly total doesn't include the soups made or the remaining meals still to be cooked which we're in the process of doing in our own homes. We expect to have another 50 meals to come," they explained.
Like the many women commenting on their post we had a lot of questions for Melissa and Rachel, so we picked their brains for their bulk cooking and money save tips.
How much did it all cost?
Melissa and Rachel say through the whole process of bulk buying and bulk cooking they saved money. For 150 meals, Melissa and Rachel spent $397.74. As a way of keeping costs low, and to avoid food waste, Melissa and Rachel first turned to their own pantries and fridges to audit what they already had and could use before planning recipes and penning shopping lists.
"We used fruit and vegetables we already had between us and then shopped at our local green grocer and farmers market to top up," they said.
Meat made up the majority of the cost, but the duo saved money by buying in bulk from their local meat wholesaler.
How long did it take to cook?
This is the first time the two have cooked together and they say it won't be the last.
The women spent about 20 hours over one weekend cooking 100 meals, plus the sweet treats and soups.
"We really recommend cooking with a friend, sister or mum. Doing it together makes the time in the kitchen much more enjoyable!" they explained.
Their best cooking tip? Clean as you go!
Tell us about those containers and how you store the meals?
Probably the most asked question the mums' received on their Facebook post was if the containers they used for pre-packing and storing the meals were reusable, which they are! Even better, the containers they found on Catch Of The Day are microwave, dishwasher and freezer .
"We bought two lots of containers at 50 containers for $38.99," they explain.
And as for freezing all the meals, Melissa and Rachel both have two fridge-freezer combos each in their homes, plus they add that the flat containers stack well and save freezer space.
Although a whole weekend spent in the kitchen sounds like a big effort, Melissa and Rachel both say the positives outweigh any negatives.
"We've saved money and time. We'll now be eating healthier, have less food wastage and our families will be trying a variety of different meals. We'll have less dishes to wash and more time to spend with our families," they said before adding, "Plus we're creating more memories and having a laugh together!"
Melissa and Rachel have been so inspired by the positive response to their post that they are in the process of setting up a Facebook page and group called Mummie$ Money Melbourne where supported by Rachel's extensive finance knowledge – she's a licensed mortgage and finance broker with her own business Gforce Finance Solutions -- plus their experience as busy mothers they will share money saving tips and tricks for families.
You can start following them on Instagram here!