I stumbled across Once a Month Meal (OAMM) planning on Pinterest (where else?) and couldn’t pull myself away from the idea of making a month’s worth of meals in one day for less than we normally spend on groceries. So, I put together a menu of suggested meals and doubled them to make meals for my family. I headed to the store on a mission and left with a cart full of groceries.
When I got home I immediately went to work making Freezer Burritos, Burger Patties, Veggie Pasta Shells, Stuffed Acorn Squash, Cranberry Chicken, Mongolian Beef, Apple Cinnamon Pull Apart Rolls and Breakfast Bars. I also bought ingredients for two other meals I never got a chance to put together because it literally took me 8 hours just to prep half of the above recipes for freezing. However, seeing a freezer full of meals ready to be eaten left me with a great sense of accomplishment.
My husband wasn’t quite on board with the idea of OAMM planning since he didn’t understand the idea of cooking ahead all at once, but I was sold on it especially since I wanted this to be a trial run for meals we might want to freeze before our new baby arrived! Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten a chance to do a Take Two (though I do plan on it soon) because our darling Mini Monster decide to make an early arrival! (You can read more about her delivery and stay in the NICU here)
Cooking for 8 hours while 6 months pregnant wasn’t easy to do and I pretty much yelled at anyone who dared to step in the kitchen while I was prepping, but over all the experience was worth while. We ended up trying a few wonderful meals (our favorites were the burritos and the cranberry chicken) and some other not-so-good recipes, but I came out of it with a much better understanding on how to go about Take Two.
Here are a few tips I recommend when trying OAMM planning:
- Don’t overdo it. For your first try, pick out tried and true recipes that you are familiar with and you know your family will love. The thing that took the most time was the back and forth and double checking the recipe because I wasn’t familiar with it and we ended up with a dish or two we didn’t want to touch, which made the OAMM planning experience less fun. I guarantee that your family favorites have a freezer version out there!
- Get Some Help! I was pregnant so I have an excuse for being hormonal and kicking everyone out of the kitchen, but if you can involve your kids in vegetable prepping or measuring and your significant other with packing, then things will get done a lot quicker! I did (eventually) let my husband help me pack and put away the meals I had finished because I exhausted and the next time I make burritos I’m going to let my kids put together their own.
- Label. The blog I read suggested writing on the bags with permanent marker, but I found that the marker wiped off our bags. I would suggest investing in some freezer labels and include all the instructions (time, temp, whether it needs to be thawed first, etc). Avery makes a simple freezer label that has extra room for reheating instructions, plus they’re dishwasher and microwave safe!
- Breakfast, Lunch AND Dinner. You might want to stick to just dinner meals for now. I tried to do some breakfast and snack options, but it was overwhelming doing it all! Once you get the hand of it and can manage your time, then try to add another meal to your planning.
- Keep Track! Write down all your ingredients and categorize them by each meal as your “shopping list”. Then go over your receipts when you are finished shopping and you can figure out the cost of each meal and each serving. Some of the recipes I picked weren’t really worth the time and effort. (I promise I will write up a post about how to do this as well)
In the end, whether or not OAMM planning is worth it will depend on you and your family. If you have the time to spend cooking fresh meals every night, then spend that extra time each day doing it. But for our large family (there are six of us, not including my parents) we have a very busy and tight schedule and being able to pop a meal it the oven or let the crock pot do the work during the day is a life saver!
Stay tuned for more OAMM posts including the recipes and costs for the meals mentioned above! Don’t forget to pin and tweet us so others can learn from my mistakes!