2. Once a Month Cooking Day:
I start about two weeks in advance by searching through my recipe books for menus. I try to find things I know my family will eat AND that will freeze well. I will give you some resources for this later, but I have always just used my own cookbooks (I am partial to Southern Living!)
After I have finalized my recipes, I make a master ingredient list that I will later use as my shopping list. I go through the ingredient list and cross out items I have already or adjust amounts accordingly (maybe I have 2 cups of shredded cheese already, but my recipes call for 6 cups).
Then I start looking through the weekly grocery circulars to find as many of the items as I can on sale. Inevitably, there will be things that I do not have a coupon for, or that are not on sale. In those cases I buy the store brand (which is usually cheapest). It is rare that a name-brand can of diced tomatoes has a coupon--the store brand was $.39/can, and really, can you tell a difference in CANNED tomatoes? Overall, I try to keep my budget to $100-$150 (including meats) and I will generally be able to make 10-12 recipes.
Once your shopping is done and help enlisted, prep any OAMC items the night before-chop, shred, dice veggies, etc....this will help your day to go faster. Get up early and get started! If you have crock pot meals, start them first so they can cook all day while you are cooking other things.
I don't use anything special for freezing--just my Tupperware or Gladware containers, freezer bags or aluminum foil (for meatloafs, etc...) What you MUST do, though, is LABEL everything. I label the item with it's name and the date it was frozen. This is very important if you make, say, a Chili and a Spicy Black Bean Soup. Once frozen, you won't know which one is which!
I have condensed it here, but I cannot stress enough the importance of PLANNING. As with couponing, organization is the key to being successful. My last cooking day I even finished earlier than anticipated!
3. Resources and tips
Here are some great websites for OAMC/Freezer meals:
Once a Month Mom: gives you everything you need including menus, shopping lists, cooking order and even printable labels. Click on Cooking.
MomsBudget: gives you downloadable forms for planning your cooking day
MomsbyHeart: has a nice OAMC tutorial
Recipe books I love:
I use this one ALL THE TIME
Frozen Assets--there is an entire series of these books. They are considered the "Bible" of freezer cooking.
- I split my recipes to get more for my $! Since we have little kids and most recipes serve 6-8 people, I will freeze them in two parts to get two meals out of one recipe. For soups and stews I can sometimes get THREE meals out of the recipe.
- These are great "take to work" options as well. Those items that are precooked, but just need reheating the day of eating it, take them out of the freezer the night before. In the morning, throw them in your lunch bag and reheat them at work. I love this for my husband (and no cooking for me!!)
- I keep a list on my fridge of the items I have in the freezer as well as how many servings I have of it. As I cook them I cross them off my list!
- Although this is called OAMC, I often get 45-60 days worth of food. Between leftovers, eating out twice a month and the occasional McDonald's treat, these meals last us.
- I make breakfasts and lunches as well as dinners. Don't limit yourself to dinners!