Once a Month Cooking
Looking for a way to save money, time in the kitchen, and still have healthy, home-cooked meals for your family? Love the convenience of pre-packaged foods, but worry about the sodium and preservatives? Then Once a Month Cooking, or OAMC may be for you.
Once a Month Cooking is a method of planning, shopping, and preparing several meals over one or a few days and stockpiling them in the freezer for later use. Once your cooking is finished, you have all of your favorite staple dishes prepared and frozen in ready-to-heat serving sizes, so that all you need to do at dinner time is pull out a dish, heat it up, and sit down to dinner.
Many who use Once a Month Cooking extend this method not only to cooking, but to preparing sauces, mixes, and seasoning blends for use over a month or more.
People who regularly do once a month cooking report they have more time, and save tons of money on groceries. Some even say they save up to $400/month off their grocery bill. Buying food in bulk makes a big difference in cost, and reduces waste that you may have when you make only one meal at a time. Also eliminated are those additional trips to the store for items needed for ingredients. The shopping is done once, which saves time, money, and wear on your car from multiple trips. To add to the convenience, cost savings, and time savings, some choose to join a co-op, where each person prepares one dish in many portions, and frozen dishes are swapped like a cookie swap.
How It is Done:
Most people cook their dishes either once a month, or twice a month, but some even prefer weekly. Many follow a general plan of spending one day planning, one day for shopping and preparing foods like vegetables that need to be chopped, or meat that needs to be marinated. Then the last day (usually about 8 hours or so) is spent cooking. You will need some large cooking pots or crock pots in order to use your time as efficiently as possible. Some also like to break their cooking sessions up into segments, cooking breakfast foods in one session, dinners in another, baked goods in a third.
The only limitation to Once a Month Cooking is that not all foods freeze well. Sour Cream is a good example of a food that gets tricky when it comes to freezing. The good news is that there are multiple resources online to help you decide what can be frozen with success, so you don’t have to just go along, trial and error and waste a lot of time and money.
How to Get Started:
First, think of the regular meals that your family enjoys. This is a great place to start. Then look for some online resources to help you convert your recipes to OAMC. This website http://www.realfood4realpeople.com/freeze.html is a great guide to get you started. It provides a list of foods that don’t freeze well, and several tips to convert the recipes you already use to Once a Month recipes.
If you’re a little unsure whether you can cook for 8 hours straight, or whether you want to commit to one large grocery bill vs. four, try starting off small. It isn’t that hard if you begin by choosing one dish that your family loves, converting the recipe, and making a double or triple batch. Freeze the extra, and if you do this once a week, after just one month you’ll have nearly 20 pre-made dishes already in your freezer.
Now the fun begins. Plan how many meals you will make, what the cost will be, and how much time each recipe takes to make. You can add to the cost savings and efficiency by making several recipes that share a single ingredient at once. For instance, ground beef or turkey could be bought in bulk and used to make meat sauce, turkey burgers, turkey chili, or Swedish turkey meatballs. Make sure you have space in your freezer and plenty of freezer bags, wax paper, and labels. Label each item with the name of the dish and the date it was prepared. For guidelines on how long you can store foods in the freezer, check here: http://www.doityourself.com/stry/storefrozenfood. Now you can spend less time cooking, and have more time having fun with your kids!