The basic concept of once-a-month cooking is to invest a set amount of time, whether it’s one day, or maybe two, in preparing enough meals to last throughout an entire month, which will save time, money, and energy in the long run. For some, especially those just starting out, the idea can be a bit intimidating, so here is a list of tips to help guide your way into what can be a fun and fulfilling new practice in your home.
Select 20 recipes
This should provide enough meals to last a family of four approximately four weeks when you allow for pre-determined “cook from scratch” nights, eating-out nights, etc. Try to choose recipes that represent a range of choices such as casseroles, soups & stews, pasta dishes, or breakfast for dinner (it’s very simple to make a large quantity of pancakes, waffles or muffins to freeze, then simply add eggs cooked as per your families preference, and fresh fruit on the appropriate night).
Prepare a list
This is an extremely important step, and you’ll want to compile a master, comprehensive list that includes every last thing you’ll need to prepare all of the dishes you’ve planned. Include non-food items such as aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and storage bags if necessary, and don’t forget to figure in things such as flour, salt & pepper, sugar, margarine, olive oil, etc. Once you’re finished listing, go back and check off any items that need to be purchased so you’ll be prepared when you head out to do the grocery shopping.
Begin crafting your own cookbook
Print off your recipes or write them by hand on standard copy paper. This will make them the correct size to fit into plastic page protectors which you can then store in a binder when not in use, and tape up around your work space in the kitchen on cooking days.
Sort out logical steps
Read through each recipe and pick it apart into steps such as chopping onion, garlic & veggies, grating cheeses, browning & draining ground meats, simmering soups, stews & sauces, and so on. On the big day, perform similar tasks at the same time in logical and sequential order. Start with recipes that require the longest cooking time, then move on to casseroles, which you’ll want to assemble and then carefully wrap so that they can be placed at the bottom of the freezer.
Clearly label your creations
Make sure to add permanent marker to your shopping list if you don’t have one around the house. Regular ink pens won’t be legible and non-permanent markers will run, so neither of them are sufficient for labeling the outside of the freezer-ready meals. Prepare a slip of paper that contains heating instructions and number of servings to slip inside the outer layer of wrapping for each separate meal.
Get an early start on cooking day
Plan ahead – perhaps you’ll wish to take all day on Saturday – and make sure to dress for the occasion. Wear comfortable clothes that are practical for kitchen work, as well as comfortable, supportive shoes. Clear your countertops to create a maximum amount of workspace, and tape up each of your recipes where they will be easily visible.
Evaluate the experience
Take detailed notes – you might wish to record verbal notes as you work which can be transcribed at a later time – mention things such as any changes that you would make to the original order of preparation, cooking times, etc.
Clean up when you’re finished.
There’s no doubt that you’ll be tired, but, please know that it’s much better to go ahead and get the cleaning up out of the way, than to leave it and have to face it the next day. Get the family involved in the process to help speed things along. Last of all DON’T COOK dinner! You definitely deserve the night off after the long day of work you’ve just concluded. If the budget doesn’t allow for ordering pizza or heading out for a burger, or your family just happens to prefer avoiding fast food (a great idea) then plan to throw something simple in the slow cooker at the beginning of the day, so you’ll have a good meal waiting for you that evening.
Once a month cooking can be a huge time and money saving practice. You might not think you’re up to it, but please do try it at least once, and you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at how great things turn out.
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