We require a lot of food, as humans. Don’t we? I’m glad we do. If we didn’t, I’d be out of a job. And I love to eat. Love love love to eat. But, food requires cooking, which requires time, ingredients, money… you know, stuff we all have tons of. So what if we tried to save on all of these things and cook just once a month?
Wait! I don’t mean cook once a month and eat out the rest of the time. Silly. You didn’t think that’s what I meant, did you? I meant cook once a month to make aaaaaaall the meals for the month.
Could you do it?
To be honest, I don’t know if I could. I enjoy cooking too much and I’d feel like I was missing out.
Reasons why this is a good idea.
1. You would work hard for a day or two (we’re talking full days of cooking), but your evenings for the rest of the month would be easy breezy.
2. I wonder if you’d save money by doing this. You’d grocery shop once for all the big stuff (or twice if you’d rather cook twice a month and do two week stints), then leave a small budget for the extras (milk, eggs, honey, etc). This would eliminate the common groceryshopaholic syndrome*, with the symptoms being: going to the store every day, shopping while starving, not sure what you’re going to make for dinner so you buy too much.
3. You’d produce a lot less wasted food. You would know how many portions a meal will make so you can properly plan and won’t have to throw out as many leftovers.
4. If you have unexpected guests for dinner, no problem, you’ve got two lasagnas in the freezer. (That was a bonus. We were just thinking about feeding your family. Now you can be all “Oh ya, dinner tonight at our place? No problem. I’ll just throw something quick together.” And then you present a lasagna, homemade by your own two hands… three weeks ago… shhhh they don’t need to know that last part.)
You’re gonna need some supplies.
- freezer safe food storage containers
- tin foil
- parchment paper
- freezer bags
- a sharpie
- baking pans
- baking sheets
Freezer safe food storage containers – Plastic or glass work for me. Use what you prefer. If you have a plastic brand that you like and are willing to part with them, you can use them to give a meal to someone who has just had a baby/hospital stay/tough time/death in the family… and they don’t have to worry about returning it and finding the lid that matches with it. (If you can’t part with it, just write your name on it and hope that they return it. 😉 )
Tin Foil – To cover the tops of those casseroles in the freezer and in the oven. If you like to put plastic wrap under the tin foil, don’t forget to remove it before baking (maybe leave yourself a little note – even if it seems silly, there’s almost nothing worse than baking up your perfect lasagna only to find that you’ve accidentally baked the plastic in… ok, there’s a lot worse than that… you know what I mean).
Parchment Paper – This goes between raw hamburger patties to prevent them from sticking together. Of course you can also go the “freeze on a baking sheet first” route. That’s fine with me. But then you have to take them off the baking sheet and wash the baking sheet and I’d rather be done a long time ago and on the couch watching
Veronica Mars something educational and important.
Freezer Bags – Great for storing liquids. They will save you tons of space. Just be sure there are no holes and that the bag is completely sealed before storing (unless you had been planning to clean your freezer, like now, or didn’t really like the Roasted Butternut Squash Soup that you spent hours making).
Sharpies and Tape – Your labeling system. I like to write on the tape: what the contents are, the date they were prepared, and sometimes how much is in there and when/who they are for. It’s also good to note thawing/cooking time and baking temp, so you don’t have to look it up.
Baking Pans – Disposable ones can be given away. They also don’t use up your cute Le Creuset or Pyrex baking dishes. (Plus, bonus, you don’t risk shattering your glassware in the oven – on that note, I’m wary about putting a glass or ceramic dish that’s just come from the fridge or freezer into a hot oven. When they go from hot to cold (or vice versa) too quickly it’s called thermal shock and the pan could shatter. Could. No guarantees that it will or won’t, just something to be aware of.)
Baking Sheets – Some like to freeze fruits, veggies, burgers, cookies… etc, on a baking sheet before placing in a bag or container.
You’re gonna need to plan your menu.
You read parts 1, 2, and 3 of my menu planning tips series. Right? If not, take a few minutes after you read this to read those. They will help with the planning. (You’re welcome. And I love you too.)
What types of meals do you want? Breakfasts, lunches, dinners? Here are some ideas for all three:
- breakfast burritos (cooked and assembled except for things like salsa and yogurt)
- waffles (cooked)
- cornmeal pancakes (cooked)
- savory french toast
- bread (baked and sliced)
- granola bars
- burritos (cooked and assembled except for things like salsa and yogurt)
- uncooked burgers (or these Fennel Pollen Burgers)
- grilled chicken breasts
- chicken pot pie
- shepherd’s pie
- shepherd’s pie of the South
- soups (if they include pasta cook and freeze pasta separately) – these five soups are favorites: Vegan Roasted Cauliflower and Potato Soup, Leek and Potato Soup, Spaghetti Soup, Roasted Tomato Soup, Mashed Potato Soup
- pasta sauces
- chicken and rice casserole
- pulled pork
- beef stew
- lentil stew
- tuna casserole
- mac and cheese
- potatoes (squashed twice baked or mashed)
- cooked veggies in bite sized pieces
- stir fry (uncooked veggies cut into bite sized pieces, sauce made and frozen)
- cooked beans
- pie crust
- ground meat (for tacos, burritos, lasagna, pasta sauce)
- shredded chicken
- fruit in bite sized pieces
- granola bars
- cookies (pre-baked or raw)
- fresh herbs
Let’s get started!
Anyone want to give it a try? If you do, let us know how it worked for you! Maybe you have some tips and suggestions. Feel free to leave them in the comments section so everyone can benefit from what you’ve learned.
If you want to make it a little more interesting, I’ve heard of people doing this and I think it could be fun: Invite 7 friends to do a meal swap. Each person finds and prepares 4 great recipes (multiplying each one times 8, because you’re keeping one for yourself). Make some space in your freezer, and get together to swap your delicious meals. Now you’re set for a month.)
Ready? Let’s cook!
*This is not a real syndrome. I made it up. Just want that to be clear. Ok. Phew. Now that that’s out of the way…