Once-a-month cooking made easy

Stephanie Cornais found a cooking method that saved time and money, but it left her exhausted.

Stephanie, who blogs about parenthood and healthy living at Mama and Baby Love, would cook a month's worth of meals in one day, then store them in the freezer.

It's an idea that's been around for awhile. In fact, J.D. wrote about it back in 2007. By batch cooking, not only do you have healthy, home-cooked meals when dinner time rolls around, but you also can save money by buying in bulk and not relying on convenience foods.

“I buy my beef and chicken straight from a local farmer, and buying beef in bulk saves me a good amount money,” says Stephanie. “And I save money by always having my freezer full of food and never having to rely on take out, fast food, or processed frozen foods from the grocery store.”

Once-a-Month Cooking Is a Lot of Work!

Stephanie was saving money and had a freezer-full of home-cooked meals, but once-a-month cooking was problematic.

For one thing, Stephanie experienced a lot of anxiety leading up to the big cooking day. “I was still learning how to cook, I was afraid of messing up, and I was afraid of feeling the emotions that came up in the kitchen,” she says. “My mother suffers from mental illness and being in the kitchen brought up a lot of painful memories of not having a mother who really took care of me and nourished me.”
Also, the cooking marathons were physically exhausting. A once-a-month cooking session requires a lot of planning. “Between the juggling of cooking and childcare, the prep work, organization, and scheduling, it can be overwhelming,” she says.

And don't forget, you're doing a month's worth of cooking in one day. “I would be making a bunch of all kinds of different meals (fajitas, meatloaf, casseroles, etc.) that all required chopping, assembling, cooking on the stovetop or oven, and then freezing,” she says. “So I would be in the kitchen all day long and have a huge variety of dinners to freeze.” Then there's the cleanup and scrubbing of pans. No wonder it took more than 12 hours, even with a friend helping out. “My feet would kill me!” says Stephanie.

Make Once-a-Month Cooking a Snap With a Slow Cooker

About six years ago, Stephanie bought a slow cooker.

“No one taught me how to cook growing up, so I had to teach myself,” she says. “The slow cooker was the perfect beginning point. I never messed up anything in the slow cooker, it gave me confidence to try other things. I could just chop and dump and run the hell out of the kitchen.”

So after experiencing the drawbacks to once-a-month cooking, Stephanie tried a new method using her slow cooker. “Basically, all I was did was chop vegetables and assemble ingredients,” says Stephanie. “I just dumped the veggies into the gallon-sized Ziploc bags, then added the meat, then added the spices.”

She still enjoyed the money-saving benefits of once-a-month cooking, and because she was using her foolproof slow cooker, she had a lot less anxiety leading up to cooking day.

The new method also saved her a lot of time. “Now it takes about two hours,” she says. “Before there was lots of time spent coordinating grocery shopping and tasks, but now I probably spend about 15 minutes getting my grocery list ready. I simply chop and assemble, then immediately freeze. This way cuts the cooking down by 75%, but it's only slow cooker meals.”

In fact, Stephanie got so efficient with this process that she wrote an ecookbook to show others how to do the same. “I group my recipes by three and include grocery lists in the beginning of the book,” she says.

“If you are making a fresh, made from scratch meal every night, this will blow your mind,” says Stephanie. “It will save so much time.”

How to Make a Freezer-to-Crockpot Meal

To see how freezer-to-crockpot meals work, check out Stephanie's recipe for orange-beef stew.

Each bag makes about 6-8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 4 pounds of chuck roast (or any other kind of roast)
  • 2 cups of beef broth
  • 2 cups of orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon of rapadura sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of arrowroot powder/flour
  • 2 tablespoons of minced garlic
  • 1 bunch of scallions
  • 2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes ( I scrub them good, but leave the skins on)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Label 1 one-gallon freezer bag.

2. Chop sweet potatoes and scallions, then add to freezer bag.

3. Add sugar, arrowroot flour, soy sauce, garlic and orange juice.

4. Mix well, then lay bag flat and place in freezer.

5. Day of cooking, add contents of freezer bag, roast, 2 cups of beef broth, salt, and pepper to slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.

6. Serve with fresh salad and sourdough bread, if you have it.

Of course, this once-a-month method isn't for everyone. “Some people don't like to have slow cooker meals for most of the week,” she says. “So the other [once-a-month cooking method] is perfect for a wider variety of meals. But for me, this was a way to make a month's worth of meals that were actually healthy in just two hours. I don't use canned condensed soup or processed ingredients, so even though I am just chopping, assembling, and dumping into my slow cooker, I can say I made dinner from scratch!”

And even Stephanie doesn't eat crockpot meals every day. “I usually make one dinner a week fresh, based on what's in season and inspires me,” she says. “Then we usually go out to eat once a week, too.”

Personally, I could see myself having a few of these frozen meals in the freezer, just for those days when I don't feel like cooking. But what do you think? Is this something you would try?

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MM
MM
7 years ago

We’re trying a hybrid of this in our house. Basically, on the weekends, I’ll make a double batch of soup. We’ll freeze most of it. I also made some meal components: shredded chicken cooked in salsa, taco meat, etc. and freeze those. It’s not as intensive as once a month cooking but it covers us when the Thursday night takeout urge hits.

Peach
Peach
7 years ago
Reply to  MM

I like the shredded chicken cooked in salsa idea. I already bake chicken breasts, slice them and put them in the fridge to add to whatever meal I choose. But adding salsa to shredded chicken would be great for the times I make rice, pasta, and am looking for something quick and spicy to add to it. Great idea!

Marsha
Marsha
7 years ago

The slow cooker is a great tool, but I get tired of slow-cooker type meals easily. I only use it a couple of times a month. What I do frequently is to make a freezer meal or two while I’m cooking a regular meal, usually on the weekend. If I’m making meatloaf, for example, I’ll make 2-4 of them at the same time, cook one for dinner that night, and freeze the rest for future weeknights when I’m too tired or busy to cook. It’s generally cheaper to buy the ingredients in bulk, too, so the marginal cost of each… Read more »

Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
7 years ago

I am impressed by stuff like this, but I always wonder how big people’s freezers are! I’m trying to do more batch cooking, but so far am only to the point where I can get about 5 days ahead of matters.

I’d love it if someone could recommend a resource for good vegetarian slow cooker meals. Chili and bean soup can get a little tiresome after a while.

EXK
EXK
7 years ago

I know, my freezer only has room for a few meals, definitely not a month’s! I also store frozen uncooked ingredients though (frozen vegetables, fruit, dough, big bags of mozzarella cheese, and ravioli), if I only kept pre-cooked stuff I could at least fit a couple weeks’. Maybe if you have a stand freezer, or buy things ONLY for specific meals the day that you prepare them?

Miser Mom
Miser Mom
7 years ago
Reply to  EXK

If you freeze food in large ziplock bags so they’re thin and flat (like a square pizza), then you can fit an *amazing* amount of food in the freezer. Use some pans while you’re freezing things to keep the bags lying flat, and they stack up like pancakes. I used to do once-a-month cooking, back when I had only the freezer on top of my fridge.

Sheryl
Sheryl
7 years ago

I do a little bit of batch cooking when I make my regular meals (we try to freeze leftovers so we always have options) and the meat that we buy in bulk and for my family one of the keys to being able to do this was buying a chest freezer.

Over the course of time, even with the freezer purchase, this has helped us save money by buying food in bulk and reducing our eating out costs.

OneEC
OneEC
7 years ago

Robin Robertson has 2 books that your should be able to get from your library … Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker and Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  OneEC

Robin Robertson is my favorite veggie cookbook author. I have the vegan slow cooker one and it is great. There is also another one called The Vegan Slow Cooker by Kathy Hester that is good.

Honestly, though, it is hard to go wrong with a slow cooker. Just throw a bunch of things that sound like they go together in there with twice as much spice as you would ordinarily use and you are good to go! I make improv-soups all the time.

Kendra
Kendra
7 years ago

Great book with tons of slow cooker recipies (vegetarian and non-vegetarian) is the Fix It & Forget About It cookbook. It has everything from soup to beverages to casseroles, breads, and desserts to try in your slow cooker. 🙂

karmen
karmen
7 years ago

You need a good chest freezer AND a vacuum sealer. Yes, the vacuum sealer bags are a little pricey, but if you are already buying in bulk it is well worth the investment. In the long run, it will beat double-wrapping and Ziploc bags.

Katie
Katie
7 years ago

Isn’t it supposed to be dangerous to put frozen food directly into the slow cooker? I thought frozen food didn’t come up to temperature quickly enough to keep it safe from bacteria.

Marla
Marla
7 years ago
Reply to  Katie

People disagree, but I think as long as your slow cooker is hot enough, and as long as you cook it long enough, and the chicken reaches an internal temp of 170, you’re in the clear. If you aren’t comfortable and will worry, then don’t do it, but I find it convenient and haven’t died yet. 🙂

Jessica
Jessica
7 years ago
Reply to  Katie

The booklet that came with my slowcooker said that you can put frozen food in you just need to heat up a cup of whatever liquid you are putting in and add an hour to the cook time. I do this all the time and I’ve never had any problems.

MissJubilee
MissJubilee
7 years ago
Reply to  Katie

You could alternatively add one small step: When you go to put today’s ingredients into the slow-cooker, also take tomorrow’s bag out of the freezer and put it in a bowl/plate to thaw in the fridge. 😉 I enjoyed cooking every day and putting single-servings of leftovers into the freezer duing Fall Break, since I’m single and it’s easier to cook a meal that’s 3-4 people-sized than single-sized. Unfortunately, during the regular work week I just eat the same meal 3-4 days in a row since I can’t be bothered to cook every night, and my freezer is much too… Read more »

Peach
Peach
7 years ago
Reply to  MissJubilee

Great idea!

Michelle
Michelle
7 years ago

I am always wondering about batch cooking! This is something that I’ve wanted to do more regularly. I’ve done it once, and it went well, but I need to put more effort into it.

I hate coming home and being too tired to make dinner, and then going out to eat and spending too much money.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago
Reply to  Michelle

Just cook something big in the weekend and refrigerate, no need to go overboard with the ice blocks. A roast, a stew, etc.

Tina in NJ
Tina in NJ
7 years ago

I love my slow cookers (yes,plural). I make a big batch of soup and freeze the leftovers, although I usually have to add water or broth to thin it out a bit. I just made a large batch of turkey broth and we’ll have turkey and rice soup tonight. Even 1-2 freezer meals a week saves time and money.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago
Reply to  Tina in NJ

If you’re going to eat within the week, why freeze when refrigeration suffices?

Katie
Katie
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I read that as her freezing 1-2 meals a week, not consuming the meals the same week.

EXK
EXK
7 years ago

Interesting idea, but probably best for people who want the cooking out of sight, out of mind! I really like cooking, and just make enough extra for one or two more meals to freeze or eat throughout the week. Also, the slow cooker gets monotonous if you cook vegetarian, which is one of our big frguality strategies (as city dwellers we don’t have the freezer space or budget to buy meat from a local farmer). There are only so many mushy-vegetables-and-legumes meals you want to eat in a given week. On the other had, a vegetarian stir fry or pasta… Read more »

Sheryl
Sheryl
7 years ago
Reply to  EXK

The method of pre-preparing and freezing can still work for that. If your veggies are already chopped and set up for you it’s even faster to turn it into pasta or stir fry.

Katie
Katie
7 years ago
Reply to  EXK

I agree; I do make extra and freeze (mostly for work-week lunches, but also sometimes components of dinner dishes like bolognese sauce or cooked beans), but what has really helped me most is having a stable of quick, tasty dishes that can come together with ingredients I have on hand.

Holly
Holly
7 years ago

If childcare is an issue and a friend must help her with the cooking, I have to wonder where the child’s father is in all of this.

Slow cookers are wonderful, but even with a diverse set of recipes I agree it can be monotonous. Everything comes out soft, and I enjoy some texture (something crisp, something that crunches) as part of my meal.

Jen
Jen
7 years ago
Reply to  Holly

I think that’s where the salad comes in. Or you could just have raw veggies to go along with it, or cut up fruit.

Alison Wiley
Alison Wiley
7 years ago

I admire the industriousness of this! I would not do it myself, though, both because I don’t want to spend a whole day in the kitchen, and I’d rather base my dinners around something fresh, like a big stalk of Brussels sprouts,for example. But your method makes sense for good-sized families.

FYI, I’m doing a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card, for folks who do my five-minute survey on what they like to read online. Stop by if you’re interested; there’s not much competition yet :).

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago

I have a tip that might be old news to many of you, but I just discovered them two years ago – frozen chopped onions! They’re in the frozen food aisle with all the other frozen veggies. So much easier than chopping up onions. And unlike fresh onions you can often find a coupon or buy one, get one on them. I’m not kidding myself that they’re saving me a lot (if any) money over fresh onions, but I just love them for convenience sake.

spiralingsnails
spiralingsnails
7 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

Oooo, I need to look into doing this. Normally I buy a nice cheap fresh onion, use part of it for one meal… then throw the remaining 2/3s away since it molds before I need it again.

Angie
Angie
7 years ago

Can you just chop and freeze the leftover 2/3 onion instead of letting it get moldy/unusable? I’m guessing that would be cheaper than buying frozen, but I could be wrong.

I use an average of an onion a day in my cooking, so I can’t sympathize 😉 It’s by far my favorite vegetable!

Budget and the Beach
Budget and the Beach
7 years ago

I’m not 100% sold on the batch cooking yet, but I do want to try using my slow cooker, and then freeze a couple of meals. I have yet to use it (thankfully it was donated to me).

CW
CW
7 years ago

We only do batch cooking on a weekly basis (this is already hard enough). On the weekends, we cook 3 different meals good for myself and my wife. We pack/freeze the meals to 10 individual containers Each container is good for 2 people, so this will be good for 5 days for me and my wife. If we get bored with the taste, we just cook easy meals. We don’t always finish all 10 containers per week. But we repeat the same process every week, cooking for 3 meals in 10 containers. With time, you will have a good mixture… Read more »

Peggy
Peggy
7 years ago

Another method of making meals ahead is to can them. It is a lot of work initially, but the meals keep for a much longer time than frozen foods do. I felt very rich when we had jars and jars of cooked meats and beef stew in our pantry.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago

I use our slow cooker all the time (you can even do chowder-style soups in them if you have an immersion blender, which is not very expensive and which changed my whole cooking life), but I doubt I’d do this. Jake actually likes a lot of the frozen convenience stuff (and there are a lot of things I like too, though not as many), and our freezer isn’t very big. So most of the space is taken up and we don’t have room to freeze anything we make from scratch. I do use the fact that Jake won’t eat leftovers… Read more »

skeptic
skeptic
7 years ago

This “article” reads like an advertisement.

Deacon @ Well Kept Wallet
Deacon @ Well Kept Wallet
7 years ago

My wife does once-a-week cooking and she works full-time. She has felt overwhelmed with trying to cook food ever week so maybe we will give this a shot. Thanks!

HKR
HKR
7 years ago

Thanks so much for this link! I love the slow cooker because it is so easy even I have trouble screwing it up (and I can burn water…), but I only know a few recipes and often don’t feel like I have time to assemble all the ingredients. A step-by-step guide to making batches like this is a huge help for me. Goodbye pizza and tuna helper 🙂

Andrew
Andrew
7 years ago

This is all a bit too dutiful, assembly-line and joyless for my taste. Food preparation should not be a source of pointless anxiety.

Also, honestly, given the Increasing unreliability of the electric grid here in the northeast, I don’t want to have to throw out several weeks worth of food every time the power goes out (or depend on a gas-powered generator when all the gas stations may be closed.)

Lucille
Lucille
7 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

I have to agree here. I had a chest freezer with meat I bought in bulk and frozen things. I had to empty it out completely twice in just over 2 years—once for Hurricane Irene and just recently for Sandy. It is PAINFUL to see all of that food go to waste. A generator isn’t an option for me (pricey to buy, pricey to run). And the point about the gas is imp. The gas shortages around here were bad. My chest freezer is now actually empty because I can’t bear to fill it up again. I have started to… Read more »

Michael
Michael
7 years ago
Reply to  Lucille

A chest freezer should keep food frozen without electricity at least for a day, especially if you don’t open it.

Once it’s thawed it doesn’t rot immediately, think how long you can leave raw meat in the fridge, for example.

So even with the power out for a couple days, you can cook the raw foods and re-freeze it and it’ll probably be fine.

That’s what I would do anyways.

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  Michael

A while back we lost power for about 5 days in record breaking heat. Our friend who had bought a whole cow just saw it as an opportunity to have a kick ass barbeque. Lemons into lemonade, I guess.

Amy J
Amy J
7 years ago

I bought stephanie’s ebook a couple of weeks ago it was recommended on another blog (I don’t know her at all). Last week I made 4 different recipes and was able to put 8 dinners in the freezer for use whenever we don’t have the time to cook. We have had two of them and they are delicious – not your average slow cooker meals – great flavor and the whole thing from shopping to freezer took me like three hours – I could never do Once a month cooking because my limit in the kitchen is a couple of… Read more »

Emily @ evolvingPF
Emily @ evolvingPF
7 years ago

I’ve been on-and-off with batch cooking for the last couple years. Since I switched to Paleo eating I haven’t had as many slow cooker recipes at my fingertips (though there are many, I just need to find ones I like). I love using my slow cooker but I almost never freeze meals after I make them, just package them up to eat within the next week. I don’t mind eating the same thing every day! I don’t think month-long cooking would work in my house because of the size of our freezer – which is the same reason why I… Read more »

Stephanie
Stephanie
7 years ago

We do this because our kids activities bring us home just in time for a late dinnner every day. No time to cook. Each week, we make 1 meal, but 5 batches of it and freeze 4. We also cook fresh on shopping day and get take out or eat out once a week. Over time, we buibuilt up a portfolio of recipes. We actually have 2 slow cookers in case one is dirty or in use. We make stews, chilis, roasts, soups, casseroles, stir frys, curries and others. The one thing we noticed is that you need to defrost… Read more »

Patsy Adams
Patsy Adams
7 years ago

I loved this article. I’ve been doing this for years (bulk cooking, not using the crockpot)/….hamburger goulash, meatloaves,beef stew, chicken soups, mock pot pies, and others; freezing them in one and two portion bags. One thing I also do for cutting down on prep time is to cut up vegetables when they’re in season (zucchini, onions, tomatoes, celery, etc.) place about one cup into each baggie and then freeze and label them, so whenever I do want to cook, I already have my vegetables already to go and don’t have to prep that day for most things. I also find… Read more »

KSR
KSR
7 years ago

I’m wondering if this is just a MN thing. We have a place, “Let’s Dish,” http://www.letsdish.com/ that is really cool. You go in, compile 12 meals from their already prepped stations (each meal serves 6, meaning more than enough for way over 12 meals for a family not of 6) for about $200, and it’s kind of a social thing for us busy ladies, though my hubby loves the entertainment too. You take it all home, labeled and ready to go, and pop it in the freezer. Then we have really excellent and healthy gourmet meals on demand when we… Read more »

Random Hangers
Random Hangers
7 years ago
Reply to  KSR

We used to have Let’s Eat here in Florida, but the last one closed a year or two ago. I guess they couldn’t do it profitably. The meals were more expensive than what I’d typically pay at home, but when I factored in the social time, like you mentioned, the lack of having to do clean-up, and the somewhat-exotic recipes, it was worthwhile.

A friend and I tried switching it up by doing the same thing at our own houses, but it just wasn’t the same.

LeRainDrop
LeRainDrop
7 years ago
Reply to  KSR

Yup, they still have some of these type of things in Atlanta — Dinner A’fare is the one that comes to mind. My boyfriend and I used to go every now and then. Not as pricey as the one you mentioned, but still creative, fresh recipes that were easy to assemble.

Marcy
Marcy
7 years ago

The website http://www.moneysavingmom.com has an excellent series of articles on freezer cooking. (Just look in the right column where it says, “Best of…”)

Jennifer
Jennifer
7 years ago

With our first baby due in the next 1-2 months, we are working hard to stock up on prepped food in our freezer. It will be interesting to see which preparations, foods, and meals work best when reheated or thrown in the slow cooker later. I don’t have energy in this third trimester to do it all in one day, but I love the idea of it. 12 hours of cooking once a month saves a ton of time compared to cooking a few times a day everyday of the month, but it does take a lot of energy. It… Read more »

thethriftyspendthrift
thethriftyspendthrift
7 years ago

Yikes. I agree with the person who said this read like an advertisement.

I would love to batch things but I hate cooking and we don’t have a huge refrigerator. Where we are going to move has the tiniest of kitchens so I don’t even have the space to set-up for this stuff. The joys of apartment life, I guess.

Paularado
Paularado
7 years ago

I cook meat this way and then freeze. I just cooked 6 pounds of ground italian sausage yesterday. I use a crock pot liner, so when it’s done, just poke a hole in the bottom and drain.

I also do this with ground beef and chicken.

I also packaged a spiral cut ham into 9 meal-size portions and put in the fridge.

It’s great to have a lot of meat cooked. That way it’s easy to cook a from-scratch meal on weeknights.

Another strategy as someone else mentioned is to just double whatever you’re making.

Sam
Sam
7 years ago

I’m trying to get myself up to actually cooking once a month. But, since we used the slow cooker in our T-Day preparations, I’m up for trying it again to cook something just for us. I’ve looked up a slow cooker recipe for veggie chili and I’m committed to trying it out soon.

Tie the Money Knot
Tie the Money Knot
7 years ago

I can see batch cooking for a few meals a week, but not more than that. But we’re all different in our tastes. To me, a few times a week but would enough to help me save some time overall, especially on very busy days, while not being a bit too much.

Peach
Peach
7 years ago

A couple of questions. If you don’t want the vegs to get mushy, does it work to shut off the slowcooker an hour or so early to avoid that?

And, does anyone use the plasic liners you can buy for crockpots to keep cleanup afterward to a minimum?

Paularado
Paularado
7 years ago
Reply to  Peach

I use the crockpot liners purchased from amazon for a whole lot less than the ones in the grocery store.

I use them primarily to cook ground meat in 6 pound batches. I just poke holes in the bottom to drain. It’s so easy.

Don’t know about vegetables; they don’t cook properly in a slow cooker at 9000 ft elevation where I live, so I never bother. Very frustrating actually.

jxm
jxm
7 years ago
Reply to  Peach

I can’t vouch for the liners as I try to shy away from heating up plastics that make contact with my food. I’ve never had an issue soaking the insert and lightly scrubbing as I would a normal ceramic baking dish. Just be diligent about wiping up spills as you go and they won’t cake/bake onto the insert.

As for the veggies, consider adding them 30-45 minutes before the cooking time expires. This way, they won’t have the chance to turn to mush for having been in the pot for 4-6 hours.

HJ
HJ
7 years ago
Reply to  Peach

We love the crockpot liners. One tip is to be careful about removing food from them so you don’t make a hole in the liner. For years I would refrain from using the crockpot because clean up was a chore, but the liners make it a snap now. When we have small amounts of leftovers – beans, peas, carrots, etc. we put them in a big freezer container. When it is full, we make vegetable soup in the crockpot.

Kelly@Financial-Lessons
7 years ago

Wow, I can’t even imagine doing a month’s worth of cooking in one day. That must have been hectic, messy and very stressful! The slow-cooker is seriously the best kitchen tool ever. Not only do you save time cooking because you just throw it into a pot and let it sit for 6 hours, but all it takes to make a delicious meal is a cut of meat, some veggies and a can of soup or broth. If you don’t use a slow-cooker, getting the same amount of savory taste takes a lot of work. Thanks for the post!

jxm
jxm
7 years ago

I’m an avid hobbyist in the kitchen and see my time in there as time spent honing a skill; and batch cooking doesn’t really offer many instances to experiment. I only have to feed two mouths including myself, but I typically cook enough for 6 servings. That way, we can have a serving immediately with the options of 1) having seconds and for lunch the next day or 2) have lunch for the next day and a serving for whenever (freeze if much later) — it’s usually the former! I see myself mirroring what my mother did for the family… Read more »

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
7 years ago

I’ve actually had a lot of fun lately with “batch cooking” (as I call it). I’ve been dating a woman for several months now. We don’t see each other during the week — only on weekends. And neither of us likes to cook during the week. So, we’ve started spending a part of each Sunday afternoon doing batch cooking. Every week, we each pick a recipe to prepare. I make six servings of my recipe, and she make six servings of hers. This week, for instance, I used a leftover Thanksgiving ham hock and a bunch of beans to make… Read more »

Megan
Megan
7 years ago

We do a shorter, smaller version of batch cooking. Every Sunday, I try to make one thing in the crockpot and one item that can be popped into the oven, like lasagna or enchiladas. It’s a LOT of work just to make two meals at once; I can’t imagine doing much more than that in one go!

clara
clara
7 years ago

I generally enjoy cooking a meal at dinner time, even if it is very simple (and most of my meals are quite simple). However, when I do make something, I will make extra and freeze the balance,especially soups and spaghetti sauce. So, in general I keep a bit of a freezer stash that can be pulled out easily when I need something. Kind of the lazy person’s way to a freezer stash, I guess. I also keep a list of very quick and easy meals for those nights when I run out of steam. It reminds me of what is… Read more »

EmJay
EmJay
7 years ago

I love this idea. I’ve been using my crockpot 1-2 times a week lately, which has been a huge help in having food ready when I get home and am so starved that I can’t think clearly enough to put together a decent dinner. I’ve been intrigued with the batch cooking idea for a while, but haven’t done it because I don’t have the foresight to thaw things and don’t like to eat food that was cooked and then frozen (talk about mushy!). I’m going to test this out this weekend– but instead of getting the ebook, I’ll just find… Read more »

WiserPerCent
WiserPerCent
7 years ago

I actually made four of Stephanie’s freezer meals about six months ago. Each one made two gallon ziplocks and fed my family of four for two full meals, and usually a couple of lunches. I think the next time I would cut the recipe in half but still make two bags so there are less leftovers, and add more spices. We found her recipes to be pretty bland, but when we added some herbs and spices, we liked them very well. Also, this WAS very easy. El Nerdo said to just make something on the weekend and reheat, and I… Read more »

Wm
Wm
7 years ago

Like some people have mentioned, while I was a grad student, I used to do once-a-week cooking on the weekends, including the gravies and side-dishes. And, on the super busy weekdays, I would just do the main dish like heating up the bread or boiling the rice. Later I started cooking everyday and man! It can really zap your energy and stress you out. I really wonder how my parents were able to cook fresh food everyday and still take care of their professional lives smoothly. I’ve read a lot of positive reviews about the slow cooker and would like… Read more »

tracylee
tracylee
7 years ago

I don’t do well with leftovers, especially things from the freezer, so I think I would be horrible at once a month cooking. I like the ritual of making a meal at night, too. I do try prep ahead, though, if I can – like chop the whole onion and store what I don’t need for the next recipe. I’m surprised no one has mentioned a rice cooker/steamer. We are in a small condo for a few months with the tiniest kitchen – pretty much just one small counter that’s mostly taken up by the dish drain and coffee pot,… Read more »

Holly S
Holly S
7 years ago

I do NOT do once a month cooking because: It actually eats up at least 2 LONG days (1 shop & prep, 1 cook) I miss MANY weekly deals at my stores & pay WAAAAY too much for some stuff I just do NOT like certain dishes reheated like stir fry’s I like to change the plan if/when I find a manager’s special at the stores I DO once a week cooking. I get whatever is on sale in meats and veg, plan to eat something 2x in the week and freeze 2-5 additional servings. After a month or 3… Read more »

CincyCat
CincyCat
7 years ago

I don’t do once a month cooking, but if I’m feeling energetic, I’ll cook 2 meals at once and freeze the 2nd meal for a later date. Example: Cooking pasta for tonight’s dinner, and also a roasted whole chicken (or two) in the oven at the same time. (Since chicken takes a good 90 minutes to cook this way, it isn’t a practical option for a week-day meal unless it is cooked ahead of time.) I prep the chicken while I’m waiting for the pasta to cook, and throw it in the oven while we’re eating & cleaning up. Chickens… Read more »

Priswell
Priswell
7 years ago

I do batch cooking of certain things, but I don’t cover every single meal for a month or week – it would be too physically demanding for me. I’ll make a huge batch of spaghetti sauce, eat out of it one night, then freeze the rest. Maybe in 2 days I’ll make a huge pot of chili beans, eat out of it one night, and freeze the rest. Make a big meat loaf, serve it one night and either freeze or refrigerate the rest. So, if I can, I’ll double or triple a recipe, eat out of it one night… Read more »

jxm
jxm
7 years ago
Reply to  Priswell

I’m with you on the pressure cooker. I love using mine and use it often for making stocks or recipes that call for long braising times.

I tend to only use my slow cooker for holding food at temp during parties. I’ve used the slow cooker for a few recipes, but the flavors and textures always come out muddled and mushy. I’m just not a fan of the quality of food that comes out of a slow cooker.

Karin
Karin
7 years ago

Absolutely! I don’t cook for a month at a time – freezer too small, and I doubt I’d enjoy the pressure – but always make enough for two to three family dinners when I cook, and freeze the remainder in convenient portions. It’s a great way to be frugal and healthy AND to save time 😉

Chris
Chris
7 years ago

I’m not a big fan of casseroles, and I also find what I feel like eating at the end of the day is not necessarily what I’d planned from the freezer. So like others mentioned above, I do pre-cook components, mostly the meats. I prefer my veggies and side dishes freshly prepared. Most of what I cook on weeknights takes 15 minutes or less. I can thaw some meatloaf and steam some veggies and/or cook some rice in 15 minutes. I can make some pizza dough in the morning (using the no knead method) and then toss some leftovers on… Read more »

Adrian
Adrian
7 years ago

I love this idea. I never learned how to cook either. My mom worked full time and was a big fan of TV dinners, so I never had anyone to teach me. My husband does most of the cooking, because I’d be happy to eat cereal or grilled cheese sandwiches every night. I really should try this once a month cooking idea. It sounds much better than cooking every night and I would like my family to eat healthier meals. And it sounds like the crockpot makes it even easier.

Bonnie
Bonnie
7 years ago

I do a single person’s version of this – not so much because I don’t have time to cook, but more so I can take advantage of buying in bulk. Most of my hacks revolve around meat – – I buy a few trays of chicken wings or meat. When I go home I joint/chop them up and mix them in some sauce or honey and mustard (the meat gets chopped up and threaded onto skewers). They get portioned out into meals for 1 and stacked in the freezer where they continue marinading. When I get home I just tip… Read more »

Earl
Earl
7 years ago

Another tip – don’t do it by yourself. Just two families working together can make it a lot easier – we’ve done that.

Our church does once-a-month cooking – MUCH larger batches, with 8-10 families, making 10 recipes (each family takes two batches of each recipe). Some prep work by individual families the day before, followed by one morning with a lot of work in the large church kitchen, and you’re done. 20 meals may not take you through the whole month, depending on your lifestyle, but it goes a long way.

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