Eating out, while convenient, can be both expensive and time consuming. While most people think of eating out as a way to relax and save time, they typically don’t account for the time it takes to drive back and forth to the restaurant as well as the time to order, sit and wait for the food, and eat. Don’t forget the sometimes endless wait for your check. All told, you could spend 1.5 to 2 hours for one meal out.
We used to love eating out, but as our family grew, so did the expense of eating out. When our last two children were born just 17 months apart, we decided eating out with three kids was just too expensive, not to mention slightly unpleasant. Have you ever tried to entertain a 2 year old and a 6 month old while waiting for a meal to come? Not fun.
Still, I missed the convenience of eating out and not having to cook at home. One strategy I used to make dinner time more bearable was to begin making freezer meals.
How to Get Started with Once a Month Cooking
I’m not going to lie, the day you actually do the cooking for a month is tiring. You may be cooking for 4 to 8 hours, depending on the recipes you choose. But, you only need to clean up once, and when the day is over, you’ll have meals for the next 30 days. I love that part.
What Recipes to Choose
Care must be taken with the recipes that you choose for once a month cooking. If you make something with pasta or rice in it, the meal often comes out soggy. Instead, I add the pasta or rice on the day I reheat the meal.
If you’re not sure which recipes would work, there are plenty of places you can look to find recipes. For instance, food.com has over 700 freezer meal recipes. Simply type “OAMC” in the search bar, and you will find them. OnceAMonthMom.com has freezer meals posted every month, and you can look through the archives. Also, Pinterest is a great place to search.
How to Save Time on Cooking Day
One way to save time on the actual cooking day is to prep all of your vegetables the night before. For instance, maybe for the 8 recipes you’ll be cooking, you need a total of 8 onions and 16 carrots chopped. Do those the night before, and then when you’re cooking, you simply dump the ingredients in and keep working. You don’t need to stop and cut the vegetables before you can continue.
What Tools Do You Need?
You should have freezer bags and several large pots. I freeze almost all of my meals in a freezer bag. To conserve space, I lay the bag flat on a cookie sheet and freeze it that way. Then I can stack my meals in the freezer.
Easier Ways to Have a Freezer Cooking Session
If you really dread the idea of doing all of your cooking for the month in one day, there are other strategies you can use. For instance, if you’re using a slow cooker for a meal one night, simply double the recipe. Then you can freeze half of the prepared meal to have another night.
Likewise, if you’re making lasagna one day, why not just make two pans? Making two won’t take much more time, and you can put the extra one in the freezer. If you double every meal you make for two weeks, you’ll have two weeks’ worth of meals in the freezer when you’re done.
I find freezer cooking saves me time on busy week nights and saves us hundreds of dollars each month because we’re not tempted to go out to eat. I simply reach in the freezer for our meal the night before and cook it that night for dinner.
Have you tried once a month cooking before? If not, what’s stopping you?
I must try these tips, I love cooking and experimenting different menus. Surely for doing this it will avoid us to eat out and can save more.
I haven’t done a lot of once-a-month cooking, but I do it occasionally. Last month I made a huge pot of lentil soup and froze it into three different dinner portions. It was really convenient to heat up for dinner the last few weeks!
You’re right on. Between the time you spend getting there, ordering, waiting, etc, eating out is just as (or even more) time consuming than doing you’re own cooking. I don’t do the once a month thing. But I will cook enough for three or four meals which usually wind up as lunch.
I’ve always regarded the freezer as my ‘friend’ (don’t worry, I have a couple of human ones too). Without the option of freezing food it would be impossible not waste at least 20% of what I cook for myself and my brother.
As for eating out, I personally find that experience more stressful and the cost of items of the menus is alarming. It’s nice to go out with the family once in a while though. It can prove to be a real joy on occasion, but with a baby and a toddler it’s no doubt much easier to control in your own home 🙂
Alex–Once we had two kids 17 months apart, we started eating at home more. Going out with a toddler and a baby is brutal!
Thinking about food makes me hungry. I actually cooked dinner for once tonight and it was decent. I usually order take out to save time and avoid cooking at all. But once in a while it’s nice to make something at home.
I haven’t done once a month cooking, but I’ve done once a week cooking. When I do it, I fire up the grill on Sunday, and cook a ton of meat. Then I pair it with side dishes and BAM, I’ve got my lunches as well as some evening meals ready to go!
Brock–That’s a nice alternative to the amount of time once a month cooking takes. We like to stock up on food on the weekends,too.
I like this idea! Even if not for one month, could be great to have some meals prepared two weeks in advance. Our freezer is very small (only two shelves inside, not even drawers) but it will change when we will move in to the new place in the end of March. Then I guess I will give it a try 🙂
We are hosting the Jan 28th festival of Frugality. I know that you submit regularly, but the submission process seems to be short-circuited right now. Could I include this post as part of the festival? You do not have to resubmit it, but you can contact me at the email in my signature with comments or questions. I will check back here before Monday night.