Boomer and I had the pleasure of partnering with the author’s behind The Big Cook for a book review and giveaway.  We both found The Big Cook concept fascinating and wanted to learn more about how the author’s began solving the dinner dilemma.  I spent some time chatting with author Lorelei Thomas last week about how The Big Cook can help people save time and money.

Tell us about the inspiration behind The Big Cook

Between the three of us we have 11 children, and finding the time to cook healthy meals while balancing a household full of activities was becoming a real challenge for us.  We decided to get away for a day together to prepare a few meals “en masse” so we had some healthy meals on-hand for those busy days.

We ended up preparing about 30 meals in 6 hours that day and brought home 10 meals each.  The idea really took off, so when those 10 meals ran out we decided to get together again, but this time we prepared 60 meals and brought home 20 meals each.  We got faster every time and finally got to the point where we could prepare around 200 meals in an 8 hour period, which gave us each about 2-3 months worth of already prepared meals.

Preparing 200 meals sounds like a lot of work. How does this save people time?

The one thing that we found is that if it takes 15 minutes to prepare 1 meal, it will only take 17 minutes to prepare 8 meals of the same recipe.  That’s the power of preparing food in bulk.  By having already prepared meals in your freezer, getting dinner ready is as simple as throwing something in the slow-cooker in the morning before work, or popping it in the oven or microwave when you get home.

We spend about 8 hours every 3 months to prepare 200 meals, taking home about 70 meals each.  I would estimate that we save ourselves an hour a day with The Big Cook.

Buying food in bulk saves quite a bit of money too, right?

Definitely.  In the book we give you all of the measurements for each ingredient so that when you’re shopping for The Big Cook you can take advantage of buying in bulk.  When you’re shopping at Costco, for example, you can buy a 1.5L bottle of ketchup for $5.99 or you can pay $4.99 for a bottle half the size at another grocery store.

We also call in our meat order in advance.  Not only do we receive a bulk discount, but we have developed a good relationship with the butchers and now they cut and wrap our meat into the portions we need, which saves us even more time on our preparation day.

It’s not just about buying in bulk though, think of all the money you save by always having prepared meals on-hand.  No more last minute fast food trips or ordering take-out.  With my family of four boys, it would cost us at least $70 for dinner at a restaurant.  With The Big Cook, each dinner costs less than $10.

What are some tips you can recommend for people trying The Big Cook?

Do your grocery shopping the day before your Big Cook and even do some preparation that night.  As I said before, call your meat order in ahead of time and see if they will divide your meat into the exact portions you need.  This will save you a lot of time.

Use a weigh scale, they’re inexpensive and extremely handy to have around when working with a lot of ingredients.  You can download our free grocery list that matches up with all 73 recipes in our book.

Even if you aren’t doing a Big Cook, never make just one meal…make at least four of the same dish and throw the other ones in the freezer for a later date.  For smaller families, pick 4 recipes and prepare them on a Saturday afternoon.  It will only take a few hours and you’ll have 16 meals prepared for when you need them.

What’s next for The Big Cook?

We’ve already sold over 40,000 copies of The Big Cook, which is available at Chapter’s stores across Canada and in Costco.  We’ve been on The Shopping Channel four times promoting the book and the concept.  We have a very engaged Facebook group who are constantly giving us feedback on recipes and ideas.  We’re taking all of this feedback and are putting together the next edition of The Big Cook, which features 120 recipes and will hopefully be available closer to Christmas.

Time for a giveaway!

If you’d like the chance to win your own copy of The Big Cook, here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Leave a comment about how you get dinner on the table while managing a busy schedule (1 entry)
  • Like Boomer and Echo on Facebook (1 entry) and join The Big Cook Facebook group (1 entry)
  • Follow us on Twitter (1 entry)
  • Subscribe to our blog via RSS or Email (1 entry)

You have 5 chances to enter The Big Cook book giveaway.  If you already like us, follow us or subscribe, just leave a comment to let us know.

The deadline to enter the giveaway is 5pm MST on Wednesday July 20th, 2011.  We will announce the winner on Friday July 22nd, 2011.

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