I came across the Once a Month Mom blog through Pinterest. I was looking for ideas on how to stock up our freezer with food. There are days when I just don’t feel like cooking. There are days where our fridge is very empty because we haven’t found time to go shopping. And usually these days end up with us getting fast food after we put Maya to bed. She’s easy to feed… grilled cheese, macaroni, scrambled eggs. Add a few fresh fruits and veggies and she’s set. She doesn’t think it’s weird to eat peanut butter toast with a side of frozen peas. But I needed to find a more long term, adult solution that didn’t involve us eating junk food.
The website I found creates a menu, shopping list and step-by-step directions for cooking an entire month’s worth of meals in one day. Everything is packaged and frozen, with a handy label attached that tells you how to prepare it. You enter how many people you want to cook for into the spreadsheet, and it automatically adjusts the shopping list and recipe cards. Each dish you make gets split into two portions, so you will eat the same meal twice during the month.
It sounded awesome. And crazy. Simon thought it sounded like a great idea, and we were both excited to stop with all the fast food. I really enjoy cooking when I have the ingredients on hand, few distractions, and the space to move around. Scraping together a meal with a whining toddler at my feet has not been fun. So we decided to print out the 2.5 page shopping list for the Traditional April 2012 Menu and go for it.
One of my major concerns was that this was going to cost us a LOT of money. But buying in bulk is much cheaper! The $20 package of chicken was 5 times the weight of the $7 package of chicken I would usually buy. And with such a long list, we didn’t have time or energy to “shop around” and fill our cart with cookies or chips… this saves us money and calories! We stopped at Costco first, and then on to Superstore. We spent just over $175… not that much more than our usual 2 week grocery bill!
Everything was unpacked onto the kitchen counter. We gave the kitchen a good cleaning and cleared off all available counter space. That night we also chopped all the vegetables and put them into individual containers in the fridge. Ground meats were browned and refrigerated. I filled the slow cooker with chicken and set it to run all night.
By morning I was ready to go and couldn’t wait to get started! Everything went really smoothly and took less time than I’d expected. I was in the kitchen from 9:45am until 4:45pm, with about a 20 minute break for lunch. I made 10 breakfasts, 8 lunches and 12 dinners… all enough to serve 3 people.
- Having the veggies chopped beforehand was a lifesaver! It was so easy to just measure out how much I needed
- The kitchen scale is a MUST for this kind of cooking. Especially when you live in Canada and packages are marked in grams… you don’t have to convert every little thing. Just toss it on the scale and go!
- Having a sink full of hot soapy water to quickly wash or soak any dishes
- Putting the ziplock bags into large measuring cups before filling them up. So much easier than wrestling a half-full bag of chowder!
- Baking the bacon in the oven the night before. I can’t imagine pan-frying 1kg of bacon! Yikes!
What Didn’t Work:
- I really hated having to wash dishes almost constantly, despite having the sink of hot water. It really slowed me down! Ideally there would be someone who would just wash dishes for me all day. Any volunteers?
- Next time I will get printable labels to use. I just printed them onto paper and taped them on. It worked, but took a lot of time.
- I will READ THE RECIPES before I begin! I had to cook 2 of the meals the next day because I didn’t buy chicken breasts which were required for those meals.
- Simon was really busy with work (he works from home) and with Maya, which meant he couldn’t help as much as I would’ve liked. Next time I will do the cooking on a weekend so he can help out more when Maya naps.
I loved it! It was a crazy day, but that is how I work best. I can’t depend on having energy every day, but I can handle just one day of madness. All of the food we’ve eaten so far has been delicious! And it is much more balanced and healthy than what we were eating. Maya is also totally on-board. She’s happily eaten everything from the menu so far, and she loves having family dinner times again… not us eating burgers in front of the tv once she’s in bed!
So yep, I will be doing it again next month. I’m already looking forward to seeing what’s on the May menu!
If this sounds like something you might want to try, head on over to the Once a Month Mom site for their FREE menus. They have Traditional, Whole Food, Diet, Vegetarian, and Gluten Free options. There are also mini-menus if you just want to stock your freezer with 5-10 days of dinners, and see if this kind of cooking is right for you.
And if you know a friend or family member who is expecting a baby, stocking up their freezer with meals is THE BEST gift you can give them! Simon’s mom and grandma filled our freezer (which my mom purchased for us) before Maya was born and it was amazing to have a hot, home-cooked meal at the end of a busy day.
Have you tried once a month cooking? What meal planning works for your family?