How to Make Your Once a Month Cooking Plan Work

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Imagine cooking from scratch just 12 times a year, but serving healthy, home-cooked meals every night of the week. Once-a-month cooking lets you do just that. This schedule is also known as freezer cooking because you freeze the meals you cook in advance. Although the thought of cooking a month’s worth of food all at once can be daunting, allowing yourself a few days’ lead time to create menus, plan a cooking schedule and organize your kitchen helps cooking day go smoothly.

Things You'll Need

  • Freezer storage products
  • Supermarket sales circulars
  • Recipe collection
  • Large work area
  • Cookware
  • Large freezer compartment

Before You Start

  • Inventory your collection of freezer bags, plastic storage containers and aluminum baking pans.

  • Take stock of your pantry to see which staples are in short supply, and restock during your regular shopping trips. Staples include broths, flour, sugar, seasonings and other dry ingredients.

  • Schedule one day to research sales and plan your menus, one day to plan your cooking, one day to grocery shop and one day to cook.

Plan Menus

  • Browse sale circulars from local supermarket and list sale items. Group sale items by such categories as meats, starches, vegetables and pantry staples.

  • Create menus from your lists. Start with meats, as they're typically the most expensive items. Choose varieties you can use for several different dishes. For example, you can use ground beef for hamburgers, meatloaf, chili, meatballs and tacos or enchiladas. List each meat across the top of a sheet of paper, then write meal ideas beneath them.

  • Start a new list, this time with meal ideas as the categories. List the ingredients, with measurements, you need for each meal and jot down recipes. Write recipes even for dishes you know how to make. You'll use the recipes to plan your cooking day.

  • Determine what storage containers, freezer bags and foil trays you need to store your meals. Add any you need to purchase to your grocery list.

  • Prepare a shopping list from your meal list. Use the ingredient measurements to determine quantities you need to purchase.

Cooking Day Game Plan

  • Plan your ingredient preparation. Organize tasks, using your recipes as a guide to ingredients and preparation techniques. For example, plan to wash all the vegetables at once, then trim and peel them all, then chop them all. Also plan to rinse, trim and cut all the meat at the same time and measure such items as dry ingredients and seasonings. Create an ordered list of preparation tasks, with a note about which recipes correspond with each.

  • Create a cooking plan that makes efficient use of your time. Use your recipes to organize cooking tasks by ingredient and technique. For instance, make all your dough at once. Simmer all soups and sauces at the same time. Saute, steam or parboil all vegetables, fry or brown all meats you cook on the stovetop and roast all meats you cook in the oven. Prepare an ordered list of cooking tasks and note the corresponding recipes.

  • Note the kitchen equipment you need for each meal. Include dishes and bowls to hold raw and cooked ingredients until you assemble your meals. Also, list storage items you need to freeze the assembled meals. If you need to purchase additional items, add them to your shopping list.

Shopping Day

  • Make space in your refrigerator and pantry for groceries. Create additional work space in your kitchen with a folding table or a table from another room.

  • Organize the groceries you purchase by such types as fresh vegetable, fresh meat and baking ingredients.

  • Prepare fresh ingredients before you put them away. Wash, trim and peel vegetables. Trim and cut meat. Shape and freeze burger patties.

  • Set up table space for each recipe and lay out the dishes and bowls you'll use for the ingredients, meal assembly and storage.

Cooking Day

  • Finish your pre-cooking preparation.

  • Cook the meals according to your cooking plan.

  • Assemble and freeze meals for one recipe at a time. Divide the food into meal-sized portions. Pack each portion in a storage bag or container. Date and label the bags and containers before you freeze them.

Tips & Warnings

  • Rather than prepare 30 different meals, make several recipes that your family can eat several times throughout the month.
  • Defer some cooking by planning slow-cooker meals. Prepare the ingredients, including liquids, and freeze them as a kit. Defrost meat before adding it to the slow cooker.
  • Keep raw meat and other perishables in the refrigerator until you need them.
  • Prevent spoilage by freezing meals as soon as they've cooled.

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