Eons ago I had done Once-a-Month cooking (OAMC) for my family all by myself. As time went on and I had more children, it just got trickier to do it. It wasn't impossible, just tricky. And, honestly it fell by the way-side. I began to do more Mega cooking instead (cooking more than 1 of a particular meal and then freezing the extras for later).
Recently, getting in on the couponing craze, I had a major wake up call after my best couponing week EVER. I had gotten close to $300 worth of "food" for a little over $50. As I stocked my freezer and pantry with the goods, the realization sank in that eventhough I had bought a lot of "food", there really wasn't much nourishment. It was a very sad moment but, I'm glad I realized the slippery slope I was approaching. Sure, the "food" was cheap, but we'd all pay for it in the long run with our health!!!
(Now, please don't think I'm knocking couponing. It has its' place and it's up to each family to decide how much or what is consumed. As for us, we still use coupons on things that are healthier or on toiletries. And, I know some couponers are able to get healthier foods with overages and such -- but for me, it just didn't happen that way).
In order to have healthier meals without the temptation to get fast food or eat junk after a crazy day, I knew I had to go back to freezer meals. A few hours of prep plus an all day assembly session seemed like a good choice. When my friend Jen, who is a veteran OAMC'er asked me if I was interested, it was a no-brainer!
For my family of 6 (with 3 hearty eaters), a cycle lasts close to 6 weeks. We generally use the leftovers to eat for another night's dinner.
From my cooking partner Jen:
"The prep really isn't bad- it saves a TON of money. We get 30 meals (which make leftovers) for anywhere from $140-$150. That's about $5 per meal which for my family of 5 equals $1 per person per dinner. CRAZY!
I've done coupons, Angel Food and just plain eating cheap junk- this beats them all. Plus, I like knowing that all our dinners are made from scratch with whole ingredients. Something I would not have the time to do on a day to day basis.
I have found added benefits of no clean-up during the week (a HUGE time saver), and no running out for fast food on those crazy nights- since something is always ready to heat and serve.
In our house we eat the leftovers for lunch, rather than another dinner, which saves me time and thought during the daytime hours, which are crazy busy over here. It certainly isn't for everyone, but if you have a largish family and are trying to cut your budget somewhere- this is a great way to do it.
We have a child on a gluten/casein free diet, plus 2 teenagers in addition to the two of us and our youngest, so our food budget is a bit higher at this season of life. Pre-OAMC I would spend about $175 per week on groceries ($700/month) . Now I spend $140 on cooking day and about $80 the other 3-4 weeks.( $380 per month). Well worth a couple days of work!"
For Jen's family of 5 (w/two teenagers), a cycle of meals last about 4+ weeks.
Our third cooking partner is Kelly. Kelly is our 'store-runner' on cooking days (when things are not measured properly or when a certain person (me) didn't double or triple the ingredients properly), helps with some shopping and works non-stop on cooking day.
Her family of 5 mostly eat like birdies, so these meals really stretch for her! Each cycle lasts about 6+ weeks.
There's so much I want to share about OAMC. The best way to explain it all to you, is to have your visit the Once-a-Month Cooking official site. There they have a FREE week's plan you can download and look at for yourself.
Tomorrow is our cooking day. We complied our list of 30 meals from OAMC, Mega-cooking, Internet websites, and our own cookbooks.... In the near future, I will post our menu, ingredient lists, tips and helps as well.
Let me put this out here now -- please don't ask me for specific recipes from books. These authors have spent so much time compiling, working out the kinks and publishing that I feel it would be stealing to share with others not in our cooking crew. I understand money is tight. I would encourage you to check out the free plan (link is above) and if it seems like you want to pursue OAMC, please support the authors by buying a book to share with your cooking partners.
So, check out the free week's plan on the OAMC website and go from there. I'm happy to answer any questions either left on this blog post, or, connect with me via Homeschool Circus on Facebook.
P.S. If OAMC doesn't look like it's for you, there are more ways to have some 'freezer convenience foods' that will help you cut down on your cooking time.
Also check out: Today's Once-a-Month Cooking Session
Once-a-Month Cooking Tips