If I had to guess what one of the biggest unnecessary expenses is in the average American family, I would assume it is eating out, takeout, and store bought fast food. In addition to being less healthy than what you can make at home, the cost of these are significantly higher than if families would cook everything from scratch, at home.
It’s understandable, though, why people spend so much money on fast food – cooking takes time, and not everyone has time every day to be able to cook 2-3 meals a day for their family. Some people, even if they have the time, don’t necessarily have the energy or aren’t interested in spending a chunk of their day preparing food.
Once a Month Cooking is a concept invented by people precisely in such a situation. They don’t want to or can’t cook every single day. Instead, they take one day of the month, usually a Saturday or Sunday, and spend the entire day cooking food that will be enough to last them for the entire month.
Freezer Meals are a Good Way to Save Time and Money
Cooking takes time, but part of what takes the most time is figuring out what to make, traveling to the store, shopping for the necessary food, making the food, and cleaning up the kitchen after making the food. With once a month cooking, much of this time and energy is eliminated, as the process is streamlined, assembly line style, when cooking such large quantities at once.
There are websites that have menu plans of various types already ready for you, even with the required shopping list, so you don’t have to figure that out yourself. These sometimes charge a small fee, but they are still far cheaper than buying takeout. Alternatively, you can make your own menu plan and shopping list and reuse it from month to month. Be sure to include only recipes that are freezer friendly – some foods get ruined once frozen.
Let’s Get Cooking
Once you have your menu plan and shopping list, you are ready to start. Streamline the process by chopping all the vegetables at the same time. For example, if you need carrots for 10 different meals, peel all the necessary carrots, and chop them up at the same time. It’s more efficient to do things assembly line style. If there is pasta for various dishes, or lots of ground beef crumbles being used in different recipes, cook and prepare all of them at the same time as well. Whatever you can do in one batch instead of little batches will make it easier and faster. Additionally, it’s a good idea to serve the same dish a few times in the same month so that you can make a larger amount of the same food and divide it up for the various meals instead of cooking many different types of dishes separately.
Some meals should be cooked first and then put in the freezer in meal sized portions, either in Tupperware or disposable aluminum tins. Other meals should be prepared and frozen raw, ready to pop into the oven. Label them well, and then post the menu plan on the freezer door so you know what to serve for each meal.
Once a Month Cooking means that when you’re hungry, instead of popping some store bought freezer meals into the microwave or oven, or traveling to McDonald’s, you pop out a healthy, cheap, home cooked meal from the freezer, place it in the oven and you’re ready to go.
Penny is a mom, wife, the face behind the Penniless Parenting blog and a contributor to the CareOne Debt Relief Services blog, a provider of debt consolidation in North Carolina.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons by armigeress.