One of the most organized women I know has five amazing kids, works a couple of part-time jobs, volunteers with several local organizations, and still manages to cook and sew. I once asked her how she did it, and her answer surprised me.
“I cook once a month,” she told me. “That means less cooking, less cleaning, more time. I couldn’t do it any other way.”
Had I been smart, I would have looked into this once-a-month cooking deal immediately. However, I was not smart. I was barely managing to find time with my own three young kids, so I put her advice aside. Several years and another kid later, time and money were more important than ever, and I had to do something to restore sanity in my household.
Crash and burn
My first foray into once-a-month cooking did not go well. Rather than jump full force into the OAMC universe, I decided to make a week’s worth of meals. Unfortunately, I did not budget correctly, did not have a dishwasher to use as I worked my way through the recipes, and chose foods to cook that my family didn’t particularly care for. Perhaps it was a sign that at the end of my first OAMC session, I was so tired we ordered pizza. I kept forgetting to thaw the food overnight prior to cooking, and I ended up throwing food away to buy better-tasting, prepackaged counterpart (e.g., Pop Tarts).
Another year passed. My husband bought me a dishwasher for Valentine’s Day (a welcome gift that went a long way toward improving our relationship) and our food budget tightened. I decided to give OAMC another shot.
OAMC was better the second time around. I found recipes online I knew my family would actually eat and enjoy (thank you, Pinterest). I spread the cooking out to two days over the course of one weekend so I didn’t make myself crazy. While not technically “once a month,” it works for me. I also managed to routinely put one casserole in the oven while putting the next day’s meals in the refrigerator to thaw. Because I’m not preparing a whole meal every night, cleanup has become quicker and easier, giving me more time to spend with the kids. And what’s the biggest surprise with OAMC? Whereas my family of six never ever had leftovers, OAMC stretched our food so that we’ve found ourselves having leftovers at least once a week. Bonus!
Where to begin
Are your ready to start OAMC? Here are a few steps I learned the hard way:
- Pick and choose your recipes based on your family’s tastes and preferences. It may sound simple, but it’s harder than you know.Cook from your cabinets first. You’d be amazed at what you can throw together from food you already have.
- Cook from your cabinets first. You’d be amazed at what you can throw together from food you already have.Make a comprehensive grocery list. Otherwise, grocery trips for forgotten ingredients will offset the time you save.
- Make a comprehensive grocery list. Otherwise, grocery trips for forgotten ingredients will offset the time you save.
- Buy aluminum pans with lids. You don’t want to freeze your meals in the same Pyrex pan you need to use for your daughter’s bake sale. Wash and reuse them a couple times if possible.The crock pot is your friend. Always.
- The crock pot is your friend. Always.If you have to, prep one day and assemble the next. There’s no rule against it.
- If you have to, prep one day and assemble the next. There’s no rule against it.Wash the dishes as you go. Your kitchen will be clean by the time you pop that last meal in the freezer.
- Wash the dishes as you go. Your kitchen will be clean by the time you pop that last meal in the freezer.Label the meals with the contents, date assembled, and cooking instructions. This prevents surprises later on.
- Label the meals with the contents, date assembled, and cooking instructions. This prevents surprises later on.Not everything has to be defrosted before baking. You can increase baking times
- Not everything has to be defrosted before baking. You can increase baking times on most foods and still be OK.Remember that time is money. Some products you can buy at the store are easier and taste better than those you may try to make at home.
- Remember that time is money. Some products you can buy at the store are easier and taste better than those you may try to make at home.
You can find OAMC recipes all over the internet, but here is one of my family’s favorites. Enjoy!
- 12 eggs, scrambled
- 1 pound sausage, cooked and drained
- 2 cups cheese
- 2 cups hash browns, frozen
- 24 six-inch flour tortillas
- Lay the tortillas on the counter. Place one spoonful of each of the ingredients on each tortilla. Roll up and place on a greased cookie sheet. Place in the freezer to flash freeze. Once frozen, remove from the freezer and wrap each burrito in a paper towel. Place in a freezer bag. To eat, microwave for 2 minutes and let set one minute. Serve with salsa.