Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mercy for Mealtime: Once-A-Month Cooking

When we look at where the hours go in a day, meal prep and cleanup take up a big chunk of our time. What would you do if you had those hours free? Would you miss your kitchen or would you welcome the break?

Once-a-month cooking (or twice-a-month cooking), a friend recently shared, saved both her time and sanity when her children were small. She said it's made such a difference in their home, and she thought it would do wonders for me if I gave it a try. While it requires a large time investment on cooking day, you spend very little time in the kitchen the remaining days. (I don't know about you, but I really struggle with clean-up after dinner. By that time, I just want to go relax...not spend another half hour in the kitchen.)

So I got myself a copy of the book (ha ha, notice the Sam's Club sticker!), looked through it, and am excited to give it a go.

However, I think I might make some modifications:
  • The grocery list for the 2-week plan (and the month plan) would have you buying everything in one shopping trip. This means very few of the meats (and other items) would be on sale. I get nauseous about buying meat full-price (I'm exaggerating slightly) :) So I think when there's a great sale on say, london broil, I'll stock up and make the london broil recipes in the book, and stick those in the freezer. (You could also become familiar with the other ingredients you'll need and stock up when you see they hit loss leader prices in the sale ads. For those who aren't familiar with this term, the stores take a loss on the advertised items, hoping that will get you in, and they'll make money on your other purchases)
  • Some of the recipes are meals I might make for a splurge now and then, but are not very economical. You can substitute with recipes of your own. You'll just have to modify the suggested shopping lists and instruction lists.
  • Other once-a-month cooking books have you making fewer meals in double or triple quantities. I really liked Don't Panic - Dinner's in the Freezer: Great-Tasting Meals You Can Make Ahead for this approach. Great recipes.
If you don't want to take such a big step, here's an easier idea:  when you buy your meats at rock-bottom prices, spend a few extra minutes when dividing them up to add marinades and spices. This way you can just take something out of the freezer, put it in the Crock-Pot, and voila, hours later your house smells great and dinner's ready.

Have you ever tried once-a-month cooking? What do you think about it? How do you make it work for you financially?
Let me leave you with a recipe I'm excited to try!
Slow Cooker Fall Pork Roast
1-2 lb. pork tenderloin
3 c. apple juice
1-16 oz. can whole berry cranberry sauce
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
-Place all ingredients in 1-gallon Ziploc bag. Label and freeze.
-To cook, thaw, place all ingredients in slow cooker and cover. Cook 6-8 hr. on low
-Serve with sweet potatoes (or butternut squash, and I think broccoli would be good too!)


  1. You know, I've always wanted to try this. I know Rachel was big on this at one time too. Hum. Its a great idea, but I hear you with things on sale. I usually cook whats on sale, and stock up my freezer. Right now Smiths has bay scallops for $3 a bag. My kids LOVE scallops! So I got 4 bags of those the other day. Yummy with noodles and veggies and a sauce. I may have to think about getting that book!

  2. I want to know if you tried the Fall Pork Roast yet. It does sound delicious.
    I haven't ever done cooking "theory" .. I too think I would like to try the "Don't Panic Dinner is in the Freezer" book bigger quantities and freeze.
    I almost always make double... leftovers can be a life saver! I figure it saves on time, money, clean-up & energy (mine & resources!)