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Learn Once a Month Cooking in 7 Easy Steps

An Overview of Once a Month Cooking

What follows is a simple overview of once a month cooking. 

Once a month cooking (also called once a week cooking or freezer cooking) is an incredible way to save money and time each month.  The concept is very simple – you cook all of your meals for the month in one day (even diet meals).  Now that may sound overwhelming but if you do it right it is very easy.  In this section I will explain to you how I do my once a month cooking.

For a more complete explanation plus over 70 mom-tested (from our ownFrugal Moms!) once a month cooking recipes, get a copy of Frugal Mom’s Once a Month Cooking Cookbook.  Here’s what Stacy  had to say about it:

Just wanted to let you know that I LOVED this!! I made 8 meals on my first venture and 19 meals this past Monday. My sister in law and I did it together and in 5 hours, we did 38 meals – not too shabby! The Chicken Cordon Bleu was FANTASTIC – I served it with cauliflower mash!! Sweet and Sour Chicken was yummy as well, and we’re looking forward to having the Shepherd’s Pie tonight. I don’t love to cook, and I’m not all that great at it, but that has changed now! I’m a total believer – thank you!!!  -Stacy

The key to your freezer cooking success is in the planning.

You must plan your time, plan your menu and plan your grocery list.  If you properly plan before you start you will be more efficient and save more money with once a month cooking.

Step 1 – Pick a day.

This is a day that you can devote just to cooking.  Saturday works best for me because my husband is there to help with the kids.  Think through a day when you will have the least interruptions and least amount of commitments.  If you have to leave the house to run errands or take the kids to games then you will not get a lot done.  I have also done my cooking at night once the kids are in bed.  I don’t always get as many meals made as I would in an entire day but I can still get a lot done. Don’t forget to make room in the freezer, as freezer cooking for a month will fill it up quickly!


Step 2 – Gather grocery store flyers.

The purpose of the flyers is to plan your freezer meals around what is on sale.  In my area there are three main stores that I get flyers from:  Food Lion, Albertsons and Publix.  (Some grocery stores also put their flyers on their web page so if you aren’t sure what is on sale you can look online.)

Here is a very general rule of thumb that I use for buying meat.  I try not to never pay more than $2.00 per pound for meat.  Of course there are special occasions that I will pay more but I try to use this number as a top end.  Boneless chicken breasts can often be found for under $2.00.  Whole chickens, drumsticks and thighs can be found for under $1.00 per pound.  For ground beef I try not to pay more than $1.50 per pound.  Pork and fish tend to be pricier but I still try to buy them for less than $2.00 a pound.  We usually do our meat shopping for once a month cooking at a warehouse clubs.  While these prices may sound low, by buying in bulk, you can buy meat at substantially less than at supermarket prices.

Many people have a Sam’s, BJ’s, Costco or other wholesale clubs nearby.  I have found that buying meat in bulk at a wholesale club is a great way to get the low prices per pound.  And when you are doing once a month freezer cooking, buying in bulk is not a problem – it’s a good thing.  We come home and divide it up into freezer bags or vacuum sealed wraps. Speaking of vacuum sealing, it is really the best way to go.


Step 3 – Plan your meals.

I have a huge dry erase refrigerator magnet that is a calendar.  This is where I write down the meal we will be eating for each day of the month.  I bought it at an office supply store and it works really well for me because I can see at a glance exactly what I have planned for the day.  You can use a regular calendar or a sheet of paper to plan your meals.  I have put together different forms you may print out and use for your planning.  Click here to see the different forms.  (I made them in Word so that you can customize them to meet your needs.)  You can also view some of my favorite once a month cooking recipes that I use for my once a month cooking.


Step 4 – Make your Shopping List

When I construct my shopping list I leave a lot of room after each item so that I can add to it and don’t forget to add freezer bags, freezer wrap and aluminum foil to your list!

As I go through my freezer cooking recipes one at a time I will list the ingredients that I need.  Then as I go through more recipes I will simply change the quantity to reflect how much I will need.  One thing I have thought of doing  is constructing a master list.  This list I would be able to use each month and just put tally marks for quantities as I go through my recipes. This is not a bad way, but there’s a better way!

To help in your planning, here is a great Freezer Cooking Diet Cookbook with Instructions & Recipes for making your own freezer meals. You can have NutriSystem®, Weight Watchers®, South Beach® or LA Weight Loss® type freezer cooking recipes for less than half the costt!   This popular cookbook of diet freezer cooking recipes is available for immediate download with a 90-day money back guarantee!

Read our review of this book in our June edition of Frugal Mom News.


Step 5 – Go shopping

This is best done, if possible, before your actual cooking day.  The reason is that shopping for an entire month can take time (especially if you are visiting different stores to get the best prices.)  You want to be able to focus on just cooking when it is cooking day.  This is especially true if you are buying meat in bulk and need to cut it up.  Our preferred store in our local area is Aldi’s for groceries and BJ’s for meat.  We usually buy 2+ weeks of groceries and a month of meat at once.

We have also discovered that we can save about 25% of our total food bill by buying many of our products from an online grocery store.  We don’t buy perishables online, but on roughly 1/2 of our groceries that we are able to buy online, we save, on average, about 45%.  Oh yes, and we get free shipping.  That’s right, free delivery of groceries and we see huge discounts compared to the same products bought in a local grocery store.  We’re big fans of online grocery shopping; for the savings and the convenience.


Step 6 – Cooking!!!

If you don’t feel comfortable with combining steps then just do one recipe at a time.  This can be very easy especially if you’ve opted to make double or triple batches.


Step 7 – Freezing Food

There are different methods for freezing food that you may use depending upon what you have cooked.

  • Freezer Bags – I purchase bags that are specifically freezer bags.  I press out as much air as possible before sealing.  I use this method primarily for meals that have a lot of liquids.  When I freeze them I put them directly on the freezer shelf until their frozen form has been established.  I can then stack them on top of one another without worrying about them freezing together.
  • Foil and Plastic Wrap – Do not use this method until your foods have cooled down!  I use this method of freezing when I am freezing things such as meatloaf or lasagna.  It is for items that use a particular pan and need to keep a particular shape.  To use this freezer method you must begin by lining a pan first with foil .  Then put a layer of plastic wrap on top of the foil.  Make sure that you use enough wrap to cover the entire dish.  Put the food item into the dish and seal all the foil and wrap securely.  You don’t want to allow any air to get to the food.  Place the food, in the dish, into the freezer.  Leave it in there for a couple of hours or until the food is frozen enough to hold the shape of the dish.  Remove the dish from your freezer and leave the food in the freezer.  Now when you are ready to cook you can thaw the food slightly, remove the foil and plastic wrap and place in the baking dish to finish thawing.  This is a great method because you don’t tie up all your baking dishes in the freezer and your food fits perfectly into the baking dish when it is time to cook!
  • Vacuum Sealer

Label all the food that you put in the freezer.  I use post it notes (with extra tape) on the outside of each item or a Sharpie  pen.  I write what the meal is and the cooking instructions.  That way on serving day I don’t have to go back through my recipes to figure out how it needs to be prepared.


Freezer Tips:

  • Cool food before freezing.
  • Put the date on the meal so you know when it was frozen.
  • Wipe edges of containers clean.
  • Frozen cooked meat and poultry in sauces will keep 5-6 months.
  • Sauces and soups will keep 5-6 months.
  • Freeze as flat and thin as possible to make stacking in the freezer much easier.

Best wishes on your once a month cooking. Expect to save both time and money while making meal time much easier.  Once a month (or once a week) cooking also works great for camping trips and vacations when you don’t want to eat out too often.

Tags: , ,

Category: Freezer Cooking & OAMC

Comments (41)

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  1. 1

    [...] Learn Once a Month Cooking in 7 Easy Steps from FrugalMom.net breaks everything down, and looks like a great master plan. What do you think? Never done OAMC? Read the tips given from this lady after her first cooking session! [...]

  2. 2

    For those who want easy meals for one, but find OAMC to be too onerous, check out the recipe variations at http://makinglifeup.blogspot.com/.

    The Chicken and Beef Basics turn into different dinners every night for just a few minutes in the kitchen daily and one one-hour session once a week! You won’t believe how easy it is!

  3. 3

    [...] do this experiment again, I would buy all my food in advance and spend the first weekend cooking a month’s worth of food. When I was just out of college and making no money, my food budget was $80 a month, so I did once [...]

  4. 4

    [...] and encouraging articles. Name: Email: We respect your email privacy … … View post: Learn Once a Month Cooking in 7 Easy Steps : Frugal Mom ← How to Reduce Your Summer Electric Bill – Frugal Village Forums Be Frugal; Kick [...]

  5. 5
    Connie says:

    There are tons of different ways to do freezer cooking so if you’re reading this and it seems overwhelming, don’t worry. There are lots of other ways to do it. Find the method that works best for you.

    Enjoy!

  6. 6
    Melissa says:

    Check out this site for more great ideas on quick fix meals to make for the family with little effort, time and cost. http://www.frugalmom.net/cookbook/index.htm

  7. 7
    Heather says:

    Question- When using the foil/plastic wrap method, when lining the dish, is that done before cooking? Or is that just for uncooked meals that go into a casserole dish?
    Thanks!

  8. 8
    Candace says:

    Hi Heather,
    Use the foil/plastic wrap method for any dishes (cooked or uncooked) that you are going to freeze in a casserole dish. You will line the casserole dish with the plastic and foil, then flash freeze it. Once the casserole is frozen, you will remove the dish from the freezer, lift the casserole (which is wrapped in the plastic & foil) out of the dish, then return the casserole to the freezer without the dish. When you are ready to cook or heat the casserole, you will use the dish you originally used when flash freezing the casserole and it will be the exact same size and shape. Just unwrap the frozen casserole and set it into the dish for cooking. Does that make sense?
    Candace

  9. 9
    Anna says:

    I think Heather was trying to find out how you get a cooked lasagna
    with plastic wrap on it because you obviously can’t cook the dish with plastic wrap.

  10. 10
    Candace says:

    Thanks Anna – now I understand the question better. Yes, for something like a lasagna, you’d use wrapping method when you are assembling your lasagna.

    In a sense I do consider the lasagna a “cooked” meal because all of the components are cooked. I should have clarified what I meant by cooked or uncooked.

  11. 11

    [...] in advance theories (referred to as ‘freezer cooking’ by some), like this one at frugalmom.net, or the aptly titled onceaweekcooking.com.  It can seem overwhelming to begin with, but I promise [...]

  12. 12
    Jennifer Ogunfiditimi says:

    What websites do you shop online at?

  13. 13

    [...] that you need for that week. And if you really want to be ahead of the game, you can even try cooking for the whole month at one time or just using your crock-pot. Whatever method you choose is up to you, but it all starts with a [...]

  14. 14
  15. 15
    sg says:

    Your online shopping link has gone broke. What do you use now?

  16. 16

    [...] the baby. Then you can eat these tasty “leftovers” all week long.  There are dozens of blogs and websites providing recipes and strategies for cooking once a week or even once a [...]

  17. 17
    Baking Dish says:

    If you’re looking for a baking dish that features color rather than clear material, then Le Creuset is most certainly the best line of baking dish products out there. They are fully functional and highly rated on sites like Amazon. You can’t go wrong with Le Creuset.

  18. 18

    [...] Mom and Once a Month Cook . For a detailed explanation on how to get started freezer cooking go to Frugal Mom Share and [...]

  19. 19

    [...] some meals for the week. There are so many websites out there (like Once a Week Cooking) that will help you stretch a few ingredients into several unique meals. Freeze some and cook some [...]

  20. 20

    [...] of Moms around the internet are doing Once a Month Cooking Days where they make an incredible amount of food in a marathon cooking day and freeze it to enjoy the [...]

  21. 21
    Cassandra says:

    I definitely agree that cooking multiple meals at once is the way to go! Although I plan my menu for the month, I have never tried to cook for the month. I may just have to try that sometime! I often cook for most of the upcoming week. Tonight I am cooking four dishes that, considering leftovers, should get my family through five days. I hate having to cook when I get home from a long day at work, so I always try to have the weekdays covered!

  22. 22

    [...] would work great for soups and casseroles. Frugal Mom, has a great post outlining the process for once a month cooking. And of course, you should top off the meal with a Date Mates label for easy identification! Do you [...]

  23. 23

    [...] will ever know that it’s been frozen. If you want to do freezer cooking on a larger scale, frugal mom has some tips to get you [...]

  24. 24

    [...] groceries, we mostly shop Once a Month and do Once a Month Cooking.  So, our freezer always has chili, spaghetti sauce or browned hamburger for making such.  There [...]

  25. 25
    Cassie says:

    Great post. But sometimes cheap food, especially meat isn’t very economical- the cheaper you eat, the more you’ll spend in health care- cold medicines, tissues, doctors visits, etc.

  26. 26
    Jay says:

    I’ve been doing once-a-month cooking for a little while now.

    I use pint-sized glass mason jars (they’re labeled freezer safe) and stick with soup/stew/curry recipes. The jars stack well in my freezer, and I don’t have any container waste.

    You just have to take care not to overfill the jars, because the food expands when it freezes and can crack the jar if it runs out of space to expand.

    Originally, I was using plastic containers, but you leave your dirty ones out in a hot car a couple afternoons and you quickly realize how easily plastic can retain odors permanently.

  27. 27
    larry says:

    I don’t know where you live but decent quality meat is way more than $2 lb. even our costco has skirt steak at 4.99/lb
    Eating the cheapest bargain meet is just going to give you and your family health problems later in life.

  28. 28
    Eric says:

    Wait, so is this just a glorified ad for your cookbook? Because there is nothing new here. I was really hoping for specifics. How about produce in season? How about the best time of year to buy certain ingredients? This post is grocery isle ad fare from the 50s. Pass.

  29. 29
    Candace Anderson says:

    Hi Eric,
    This post is simply an introduction to OAMC. I like your other topic ideas for posts; perhaps I’ll write those in the future.

  30. 30

    [...] The Frugal Mom has it down to such a science that she cooks a month’s worth of food in one day. [...]

  31. 31

    This post is simply an introduction to OAMC. I like your other topic ideas for posts; perhaps I’ll write those in the future

  32. 32

    [...] gone before me braving a daring path of home efficiency. (Here’s one of my favorites and here’s another.)  To those who have posted before me, I say a heartfelt thanks.  I could never have done it [...]

  33. 33

    [...] road to developing expert cooking skills after reading and implementing the advice in this article.The best utensils are made of rubber, silicone or nylon. These should always be used with nonstick p…been damaged because ingesting it could be dangerous. Mushrooms will absorb the water like a sponge. [...]

  34. 34

    Healthy eating for smart weight loss…

    Dieting is all about healthy eating, not put yourself in a dieting prison. Most people are bafflement about consumption healthy and dieting regarding about to authority loss. For individuals struggling to lose cornucopia pounds, studies have shown a ad…

  35. 35

    [...] appealing . I started to research the topic and found useful how-to tips at Frugal Mom and a whole bunch of freezer cooking recipes at Budget Mom. I’ve decided to give it a try [...]

  36. 36
    Karima Wood says:

    Awesome information and points. Looking forward to reduce a couple pounds. I’ll provide some reviews right after i try this. With thanks!

  37. 37
    Faedra says:

    I’m a stay at home mom. I recently have created GroceryOrganizer.com to help people organize their groceries when going shopping. I think it could be helpful to the visitors of your blog.

    http://www.groceryorganizer.com/

    Sincerely,

    Faedra

  38. 38
  39. 39

    [...] I am excited to start a series of posts featuring “once a month cooking” (or freezer cooking) recipes, tips and tools.  If you are not familiar with O.A.M.C. it’s essentially a technique where you prepare 30 days worth of meals in one day and freeze them for later use.  It helps busy families save money, waste less food and prepare healthier  meals that are “drive-through” convenient on busy days.   If you are new to OAMC or want to learn more, here’s a quick tutorial. [...]

  40. 40
    flights says:

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  41. 41
    chad says:

    I’ve come across businesses very similar. you purchased your meals a week or month at a time, keep them in the fridge freezer and all you do is heat them up and serve. The savings are incredible. Never thought of doing it myself?