Meals for a month, 30 days of savings!
In light of school starting on Monday, I reverted to a time and money saver I haven’t done in years- Once a Month Cooking. Yes, it’s possible to cook enough meals for thirty days, utterly destroy your kitchen, ransack a grocery store and recover all in a single weekend.
For those of you unschooled in the Meals for a Month method, it’s a highly organized culinary and budgeting experiment only the hardy should attempt. However, it is well worth the time invested. “Once-a-Month-Cooking” by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg, is my Bible of this adventure. I suggest, if you’ve never tried mass meal preps before, to use either this cookbook or another pre-planned guide, rather than attempt this stunt solo.
Think how many times you run to the store a month for “just one thing” and come out with a cart full. To stick to budget, making less grocery stops saves money-period. There are those nights when you’ve run the family to Cross Country events, cheerleading, and parent/teacher meetings and have yet, hours of homework help and dinner to cook. How lovely would it be to know there is a host of meals, awaiting you in the freezer?
Not only do meals for a month style cooking save you time and money in obvious ways, there is the added benefit of nearly zero waste. Cook chicken and debone a few pieces for a casserole and a pot pie. Make massive pots of Marinara sauce to use for five separate meals.
In short, less trips to store, meals on hand, and no waste- what’s not to like?
The only thing in my book that is a slight negative is the loss of an entire weekend. It has never taken me less time. Maybe there is some woman out there able to conjure the whole deal up in a day, but it’s not me, folks.
Here’s what I do:
Day 1- Planning-though the books have clear grocery lists laid out; I use coupons for as many items as I can. Allow one day to sort, hunt online and match coupons and sale ads with your list. I saved $60.00 on this process by doing so this weekend.
Day 2- Shop- I start at the generic (cheap) stores for as many items as possible. Even with coupons, you’ll never beat some deals at stores like Aldi’s. However, their variety is limited, and I do have some coupons that give me a buy-one-get-one-free, which typically trumps their super low costs. For some items, though like flour, sugar, etc, off brand stores are the best. I work my way around to as many stores as I need to in order to satisfy my list. This weekend, it meant three stores. Weigh the cost of store hopping versus gas spent if there’s distance involved. There’s some prep with the food when you get home depending on which menu option you choose. Follow instructions for dicing, marinating or whatever is required on the “pre-cook” day.
Day 3- Cook- Batten the hatches and begin the process. Clearly laid out in the Once-a-Month Cooking manual, are assembly orders that make a military operation out of your cooking. You’ll feel at hour three like a Navy cook, feeding the crew of a destroyer. Stick with the task. Employ those sluggards known as children and husbands as helpers if possible. For women with young children, it’s suggested by this veteran mom to secure the youngsters in the care of another human for the day. You won’t feel like kissing boo-boo’s and settling squabbles while your 9 pounds of chicken are simmering on the stove and your marinara sauce is bubbling over. Trust me. It’s safer for their well being and your mental health. When my kids were young, I traded with another “meals for a month” mother for this opportunity. The authors, accurately deemed cooking day as “eat out” day. I agree. A pizza after laboring in the room formerly called the “kitchen” (now called “FEMA disaster site) is good practice.
Day 4- Clean up. No matter how I do this, clean up always seems to encroach upon a half day the next morning. My friend, who I affectionately call, “Mrs. Perfect” had all her dishes done, gunk scraped off counters and floors mopped in the same day as cooking. I am not quite as methodical. There’s not a genius out who can create whilst staying clean, is my motto. Somehow, cooking for five or six hours doesn’t motivate me to clean another two hours in the same day.
Rest, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labor all month. You’ve earned it. Saving money does take a little advance time, but in the long haul you will reap thirty days of benefits. If you’d like to sample this adventure or have little freezer space, there’s a two week version as well to try. Even a couple of week’s worth of meals is a savings in time and cash. Bon Appetite!
You can find Once-a-Month-Cooking on Amazon.