Many of us wish we just had more time. Between work and commuting to and from work; getting the kids to their after school activities as well as running errands it seems like we barely have time to get a few hours of sleep before it’s time to get up and do it all over again.
While everyone understands the importance of eating healthy, there is a reason that convenience foods are so popular; who has time to cook? Well, what if we told you that there is a way that you could have healthy meals and only have to cook once a month? Would you laugh? Can’t say as I would blame you, but there really is a way to cut down your cooking time significantly. It has been a total life saver for me and my family. I am not even all that busy, I just hate to spend more time than necessary on stuff I don’t enjoy.
I do not enjoy meal planning every week. I do not enjoy wondering what to cook for dinner. I do not enjoy eating out because I did not plan well. Okay, yes I DO enjoy that but my wallet does not. Enter once a month cooking and problems solved. I can spend my evenings with my family stress free.
How to Cook Just Once a Month
Before you get started on once-a-month cooking there are a few things that you are going to need.
- One thing you are going to HAVE to have is freezer space. If you don’t have a large freezer already, look into purchasing a stand-alone freezer (you can get them second hand if you check the newspapers).
- Another thing you are going to need is freezer-proof storage containers. Most people choose between gallon size plastic freezer bags and reusable plastic containers meant for deep freezing. Whichever you choose, make sure that you have enough for at least 30 meals worth. I am not big on plastic as you may know so I like using glass freezer dishes when it is feasible.
- All the food ingredients for the meals you will be creating.
- You are also going to have to have one free weekend a month. This will be your cooking weekend and you won’t be able to schedule much else this weekend.
Once you have the things you need, the first thing you are going to need is to organize your life; or at least your menu plans. The easiest way to do this is to create a weekly menu. Yes, I know that this is boring, but it when it comes to once a month cooking, a weekly menu is imperative. So, take a pen and a piece of paper and create a weekly menu for yourself.
Or you can do what I do and that is use a menu planner that specializes in once a month cooking. My all time fave (and I have tried a few) is Once a Month Meals. This month I made 30 meals from their Spring Instant Pot Freezer Meals menu (15 meals doubled). I chose to go with Instant Pot meals because I can set it, forget it, and have the meals cook fast. Slow cookers are nice but I am not home to get a meal started that way.
With Once a Month Meals I have the ability to view the menu, subtract a meal I know my kids won’t like, and then add another from their vast collection of recipes. I can choose the number the people I want to feed and then it calculates all this and creates a shopping list, prep day plan, and dinner instructions for each meal. It can be daunting so I recommend you read over the list and plan 2-3 times completely so you can get a feel for it and avoid multiple trips to the grocery. After you get it though, you won’t ever want to go back and your wallet will love you. Yes, you spend more on one huge shopping trip but then you have little else you need to buy the rest of the month besides the fresh stuff, like milk and eggs. I LOVE it!
If you are not using a tried and true menu plan then make sure when you select your menu that you choose things that freeze easily. For example; stir fry ingredients (sliced beef, chicken etc), meatloaf, one-dish casseroles, and ground beef for things like spaghetti, tacos or burritos.
Now, all you have to do is remember to take the food out of the freezer the night before you plan on using it and putting it in the refrigerator and you won’t even have to worry about defrosting time when it comes time to prepare your supper. Or if you use a plan like the Instant Pot menu I mentioned above, you don’t even need to do that. You can cook from frozen.
Another aspect I love is that you can get the whole family involved on cooking day, even friends (but I recommend returning the favor). You can gather, chat, chop, blend, dice, and cook your way through the meals for a whole month in only a few hours. What doesn’t sound amazing about that?
Yes, you will have to make an investment in dinner size containers, but it pays off the more you use them. Once you see how much stress you relieve and healthier your family is eating it will be well worth the initial cost, I promise.