How to cook once a month and have a delicious home cooked meal ready for your family every night

Click here to view the full magazine article

My friend Mimi and I came up with a way to cook once a month and serve a nice meal for our families. We came up with a meal planning book, that includes a monthly shopping list, monthly dinner menu, a list of storage supplies needed, and freezing and cooking instructions. Our book, Once-a-Month Cooking was a hit right away.

Here is it got started: we were both two moms with three young children, each writing magazine articles together. The venture wasn't lucrative, but tons of fun. One day the creative and very hospitable partner (that would be Mimi) called up the writer partner (me) to say that she had devised a way to prepare 30 dinner entrees at a time and freeze them. She asked "Why don't you call the Denver Post and see if they wanted us to write an article on it." I thought Mimi was out of her mind, and suggested that she make the call.

That is how it all started. They sent a reporter and photographer to her home to do a food feature. This resulted in people calling Mimi to explain over the phone how to do it, so you might say we wrote the first edition of Once-a-Month Cooking to get people off Mimi's back. Frankly, it has been a couple of moms' great adventure. The joy of Once a Month Cooking is that a) it works, b) it saves families lots of money and effort, c) it streamlines the food prep so that families and friends can gather for good stuff around the table.

With Once-a-Month Cooking you grocery shop one day or evening, then the next day you assemble either two weeks' or a month's dinner main dishes (the book provides menu cycles for both) and freeze them. Imagine having your freezer stuffed with delicious entrees as you approach the arrival of your baby. If that event is past (for awhile?), imagine not having to bundle baby(ies) in and out of the grocery store multiple times a week. Imagine not stressing over what's for dinner tonight. Imagine shaving your food bill by approximately 20 percent.

Mimi has frequently cooked "the method," as we refer to it, as a baby gift. She'll give the expectant mom the shopping list and once she has purchased the groceries, Mimi will go to her home and prepare a month's entrees for her freezer. How about that for a baby gift?!

The book has a complete section dedicated to getting started, but here is a special abbreviated version for the Utah Baby Guide readers:

Getting Started

Keep in mind that as you tiptoe up to the concept of cooking ahead, you don't need to be a great cook or a particularly organized person to do this, nor do you need a separate chest freezer. The book takes you by the hand and guides you step by step through the process. Here are some tips to get you ready for success:

  • Find a friend or family member who wants to cook with you, especially for the first time. You can either divide up the food cost and the entrees, or cook once at your home and once at hers. You'll have someone to talk to all day, to tend the kids, wipe the counters, and make it more fun. This is work! But it saves hours in the kitchen over the course of the month.
  • Carve out space on your calendar your shopping day/evening and your cooking day. These should be back-to-back but not on the same day because you won't have energy for both tasks. Don't expect to do anything else on cooking day. Avoid agreeing to drive carpool or taking other appointments if at all possible, because once you get rolling, with food spread across the counters, you'll want to complete the process.
  • Budget toward this venture. Although you should save a significant amount on your food bill for the month, it takes the largest chunk up front.
  • Read through the book and select the menu cycle you want to try. There are two month options and three two-week options.
  • Plot out your grocery shopping trip as you look at the grocery list in the book. You may want to shop for meats at a wholesale food club, for example, and the rest of the items at a supermarket.
  • On cooking day wear shoes that will give you good support on your feet all day, open the window, play your favorite music, and enjoy what you're providing for your family meal by meal.

Enjoy the Benefits

Return to July 2008 list of articles