What in the world is once-a-month cooking?

You've heard of preparing dinners ahead and freezing them, or even purposely making too much of something to create "planned-overs." But once-a-month cooking? This is cooking ahead, taken to the extreme! The idea is that you plan, shop, and prepare a month's worth of meals at one time.

Here are some reasons why you might consider this type of meal preparation:

  • Planned-ahead menus are usually cheaper and healthier because they keep you from buying desperation fast food or pizza. Sometimes, by purchasing all the food at once, you'll save money by buying in bulk.

  • You can save time by doing all the prep work at once. For example, chopping all the onions for a month's worth of food at one time is faster and easier than cutting up an onion each day. Plus, you'll only have to do the washing up once as well.

  • Having prepared meals ready to use in the freezer is a great way to streamline your busy schedule.

To get started:

1. Clear your calendar for at least half a day - a full day is even better

If you have young children, decide how to work around their nap schedules or plan for child care.

2. Consider asking a friend, or two, to do this project with you

At the end you can split the cost and the meals. It's easier and more fun with partners.

3. Decide how many meals you want to make

Many people choose to do 20 meals, leaving 10 meals in the month for eating out or making meals from fresh ingredients rather than freezable items.

4. Search online for once-a-month cooking recipes and make a list of the ones you like

You can also use family recipes provided that they will freeze well. Usually, those designated for once-a-month cooking have been tried and are known to keep well in the freezer.

5. Compile a shopping list by going through each recipe's ingredient list

Use tick marks to keep track of quantities. Organize the shopping list by store (if you want to shop sales or visit a club store) and by department. Gather any coupons you want to use. Don't forget to include containers such as heavy-duty freezer bags or aluminum trays.

Are you ready for a fun challenge? Decide this week when you will schedule your once-a-month cooking session, then try it yourself to see if it's right for you. If you do decide to go for it each month, you'll see that with just a little extra planning, you can have a freezer full of meals ready to go when you need them.

Now brace yourself! It's going to be a long day on your feet, but when you're finished, you can revel in the fact you're done cooking for days to come!

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