Thursday, January 28, 2010

THE Ultimate Dinner-Making Time-Saver

With spring on our doorstep (gardening, yard work, outside house repairs, outside exercise, etc.), I've been thinking more and more about what we ought to be doing while we have a little more time on our hands, to get some good dinner-making habits in place. I'm convinced one of the best favors we can do ourselves in terms of making family dinner hour possible, is to become skilled at once-a-month cooking--THE ultimate dinner-making time-saver!

Once a month cooking (also called once a week cooking or freezer cooking) is an incredible way to save money and time each month.  The concept is very simple - you cook all of your meals for the month in one day. It sounds overwhelming, but if done right, it's easy. The key is planning--your time, your menu, your grocery list. Here is an overview of the 4 basic steps:

Step 1 - Clean out your freezer.  It will fill up quickly with your creations, so you want to have plenty of room.

Step 2- Pick a day. Devote this day to just cooking.  Saturdays work well for many gals.  Choose a day when you will have the least interruptions and least amount of commitments.  

Step 3 - Gather grocery store fliers. Use these to plan your meals around what is on sale. A general rule of thumb is to try not to spend more than $2/lb on meat and poultry. Grocery clubs usually have the best buys because of the bulk packaging, although grocery store chains are getting competitive with them. Bulk buying works when you have a good system for packaging the food. IDEA: You might want to check out the Tilia Foodsaver Vac 550 vacuum sealing system which has a very high Amazon user-rating. Another IDEA: You might want to start this once-a-month adventure with a friend--share the work and share the food and food costs.
Step 4 - Plan your meals. Consider some sort of posting system: a magnetic dry erase calendar for the fridge, a traditional calendar, or just a piece of paper. This is where you would list your month's meals. You'll like being able to see at a glance what's cookin' (pun intended). 

Googling "once a month cooking" will turn up literally tons of websites and blogs on the subject. There's a LOT of expertise out there, so let's not try to reinvent the wheel on this. And let's talk to each other while we're at it. If YOU have ideas and tips on once-a-month meal prep, please share. We're all in this together, remember. So let's use the last drops of winter to get ready for the hectic days of spring and summer, and until next time, here's to making family dinner hour possible!


  1. This is a concept I wish I'd run into about 10 years ago when I had a passle of kids at my house all the time. I looked into it just recently as we were preparing frozen meals at our evening meeting this month and discovered how easy it really is using a crockpot, the oven and the stovetop.

    With just Norm and I at home, I could cook up a months of menus in a jiffy :)


  2. Alice, I also wish I had realized this years ago when my family was young. Great advice to follow and it surely would make life easier for working moms!