I'm well aware that the following concept may seem kinda odd to most families, and quite honestly, it seems kinda odd to ME to write about it ... because it's such a normal part of how we do things here in Gosselin Land.
About three times a year, typically in August before school starts, in November or December around the holidays, and sometime over spring break, I pull out the large mixing bowls, the huge stand mixer (I think I need a restaurant grade mixer because that thing is just never big enough!), and rally all of my willing kids and, almost, in the blink of an eye, together we turn into a full blown bakery! The goal is to fill our freezers with hundreds of prepackaged school lunch desserts! And that, with eight kids eating school lunches for about 180 days a year, is quite a feat! In fact, by my quick calculations, I pack 1,440 lunches each and every school year!
As a side note, I've never done that math before, and now that I've seen that walloping number, even I'm overwhelmed! Most of you know that one of my passions is creating delicious, healthy meals for my kids and for anyone that drops by for a visit. I'm always feeding people! It is a major way that I show my love and appreciation for those people that I care deeply about.
You may also know that, although I do a pretty good job in the baking department, it's not my favorite thing to do. And unlike cooking -- baking, in my opinion, is not really NECESSARY to survive. To get right to the root of the issue, if I bake, I'M GOING TO EAT IT! What baker doesn't sample one teeny morsel from each and every cookie tray that comes out of the oven, right? Totally normal! So, why then do I periodically find myself in my self-created flour-filled hell, I mean bakery, you ask?
Well, partly it's because my kids loudly overrule my "baking is not necessary to survive" opinion -- as all kids would (and no doubt, husbands, if I indeed had one!). But mainly because it all comes down to efficiency, love, and saving money -- three subjects that are of utmost importance to me in my kitchen and in my life as a whole.
"Baking Day" has become extremely streamlined here. We begin by choosing three to five kinds of cookies and desserts. We then take inventory of in-house baking ingredients, those that are needed, and then buy in bulk all ingredients that are in low supply. Next, I calculate how many desserts are needed for the next three or four months. Typically, I aim to bake and package in the 400 - 500 range.
Then, we get started! We methodically start mixing and plopping dough balls onto our 12 baking sheets and placing them in our two preheated ovens to bake. As the first load of cookies are baking, we load up the next trays and set the oven timer so that we don't get distracted! Focus then moves to spreading out cooling racks on every available kitchen surface, planning the next recipe to be baked, and preparing the hundreds of snack bags that will eventually be filled!
As my kids float in and out of the kitchen, it seems I always have a helper or a few if I'm lucky! Occasionally, Cara will man a mixer on her own and typically Leah and Hannah will sit and chat while opening piles and piles of snack bags to aid in the packaging process. The others will help in varying degrees, and they all know that baking assistants double as "taste testers" -- so typically it's not hard to find help here!
Hours later, in a kitchen lined with fresh baked goods, we end by packaging each cooled dessert into individual snack bags, then place exactly 40 packages, enough for one week of school, into plastic containers to be labeled and frozen for the coming months. From time to time, if necessary, I also use my food saver to save space, but still use the same process above. More than 400 individually packaged sweet treats use a lot of freezer real estate!!!
Once we are all finished, the big kitchen clean-up ensues -- and following that tedious task is the best part for everyone: sampling the leftovers for dessert that night!
This big baking day has not only saved a lot of money, but it has become, what I believe will be, a "stand out" memory for my kids' childhood memories. We are not only working together to fill their lunch boxes with a "healthy" sweet snack now, but I believe that we are also creating a long lasting family bond that will be "baked" into their memories for years to come!
Image via Kate Gosselin