Once a month cooking is a very popular topic. There are entire web sites devoted to recipes, hints, and rules (and my first cookbook, Everything Meals for a Month you can buy at Amazon.com. If you have an reliable, large freezer and want to devote one weekend a month to a marathon cooking session, OAMC is an excellent way to save time.
There are a few ways to tackle OAMC. You can cook double batches of your favorite recipes and freeze them in smaller containers; you can cook 20 individual recipes and freeze them; or you can buy a large quantity of meats and ingredients, cook a large batch of starter foods (meats, spaghetti sauce or chili) and then make lots of different casseroles and entrees from the starter.
You have to be very organized to cook such a large amount of food at one time, keep it safe and package and label well. These plans are called 'meal plans'. I like to triple five to ten recipes at a time; that way, we eat the same meal three times a month, which is very acceptable.
There is an excellent program at Once a Month Meals that I would recommend to learn how to cook this way. Simply choose the recipes you would like to make and the program makes a shopping list for you, offers menus and cooking processes! You need the cookbooks they recommend to make the recipes. But if you are planning to make this cooking method a part of your life, this program and the books are a great tool. Also, in my book, there is an entire chapter listing recipes, a shopping list, and a detailed plan for shopping and cooking that you can use as a learning plan, then expand to include your own favorite recipes.
- Get Organized!
You have to write down all your plans in advance. Find the recipes, plan amounts, then make your grocery list. The best sites around the internet have grocery lists included - check them out! Make sure you have enough heavy duty freezer bags (I always use zip lock bags) or freezer containers to hold all your finished casseroles. Make sure you keep a notebook or tablet by your freezer to keep track of all the dishes you have prepared. This way you can make sure you have eaten all your chicken recipes before embarking on another cooking session. These lists also help you plan your month for the most varied and healthy diet.
Never cook on the same day that you shop. Shopping for this quantity of food is very difficult, and you'll be exhausted if you try to cook too. Remember, we want this to be a fun experience and one you'll repeat!
- Divide Chores
Some plans recommend shopping on one day (Friday evening), doing major prep work on Saturday, then finishing and freezing all the meals on Sunday. This is a great idea because you won't get too overwhelmed with a lot of work. OAMC is kind of like exercise; don't do so much at the beginning that you never want do it again!
You may want to cook with a friend or relative to add to the fun and cut down on the work. Even if you only get 15 meals out of the deal, that's two weeks with no cooking at all!
- Scale Down
If you're just starting out in OAMC, consider trying just a week's worth of make ahead cooking and freezing. Make only one quarter the amount of a month's cooking plan and see how you like it.
- Have Fun!
Throw some tunes on the stereo, have a nice lunch ready to eat, take frequent breaks, and above all have a good time! I think having a partner is the best way to tackle this chore, because the time will fly when you're having fun with a pal.
Once a Month Cooking Meal Plans
- Frozen Casserole Recipes
Be sure to follow Freezing Tips when you make these delicious casseroles.
- Freeze Ahead Holiday Foods
The months before the holidays are one of the best times to stock your freezer. These delicious and special recipes are welcome anytime.
- Freezable Vegetarian Recipes
With the growing popularity of vegetarian meals, these recipes are welcome in any household.http://busycooks.about.com/cs/makeaheadmeals/a/makeahead.htm
- Make Ahead Meals
Marinated Steak, a turkey casserole with wld rice, and chili rice casserole are just some of the delicious meals in this collection.
- Overnight Casseroles
Casserole dishes are great to freeze. Cool them for an hour at room temperature, then chill in the fridge. Freeze until firm. Then when you want to eat, thaw one overnight in the fridge, then bake until bubbly.
- Using Chicken
Follow this plan and you'll not only have excellent casseroles your family will love, but bonus chicken broth and tender cooked chicken.
- Vegetarian Plan
Vegetarians in your household? They won't be left out if you follow this superb plan for cooking vegetarian once a month.
- OAMC Starter Recipes
This list of recipes is a good starting point for starting your OAMC adventure. The site also has lots of tips and advice about cooking this way.