Tips on how to do once a month cooking
Cooking once a month can save both time and money. Not only do you take advantage of sales by buying in bulk, but you also give yourself more free time daily by cooking in bulk.
In addition, if you are creative enough, you can fit thirty meals in a standard freezer.
So put on your apron, play your favorite music, and clear the kitchen--once a month, you're a lean, mean cooking machine.
- Cool cooked foods to room temperature in open containers (or even trays) before placing them in their containers for freezing. You may choose to make this process even more gradual by refrigerating afterward and then moving items to the freezer. This helps to keep ice from forming over the tops of what you cook, makes operation of your freezer less costly, and keeps you from accidentally defrosting by proximity, foods that are already frozen.
- Cook according to what is on sale. Some cooks will have chicken session, a beef session or a breakfast session. The advantage to this method is the shopper can purchase what is on sale at the grocery store.
- Playing music while you cook can make the process more fun. Books on tape/CD/MP3 or online talk radio (such as NPR) can also help the time pass quicker.
- Share the cooking session with a friend. Split the prepared meals and share grocery costs.
- Blanch vegetables before freezing. Almost all vegetables need to be blanched before freezing to preserve quality. Check a cookbook for blanching directions. Chopped onions and bell peppers do not need to be blanched. Flash freeze them by spreading them on a jelly roll pan. Freeze until solid and then store in a labeled freezer bag.
- Plan to use a couple of slow cooker recipes as part of the cooking session. The night before, start a slow cooker recipe and allow the food to cook overnight. The next day use the slow cooker for second batch of food.
- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes, as well as an apron.
- Prepare dishes that mix well with rice. Rice cookers are commonly available and require no expertise to use, and rice only takes 15 minutes to cook.
- If you have limited freezer space or are just starting out, consider mini sessions. A mini session typically prepares 10 to 14 days worth of meals.
- Consider using pre-chopped onions, bell peppers or other frozen bagged vegetables. This can cost a bit more but sometimes saving time is worth the extra cost. Food processors are also a fast and efficient way to save time and money.
- You can freeze soups, stews and chili. Be sure to omit the potatoes in soup or stew as potatoes do not freeze well. The rest of the ingredients will freeze well.
- Fresh fruits may need processing by dipping them in acidulated water or by using Fruit Fresh to preserve color. Check a canning cookbook for further directions on how to prepare different fruits for freezing. Berries such as strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries can be flash frozen on a large jelly roll pan. Rinse, drain, and freeze. Once frozen, solid place in a labeled freezer bag.
- You can use a drinking straw to suck most of the air out of zipper bags. Just leave the last or so open, insert the straw so just the tip is inside the bag. Suck the air out and zip the bag closed as you finish and remove the straw. If this does not appeal to you or if you require a perfect seal, a vacuum-sealer can be found for very cheap at many second-hand stores. Also, contrary to what they want you to think--they work perfectly well with any old plastic bag. Just cut off the zip-top of the bags and they will work just fine. Meats and vegetables kept this way can last for well over a year in the freezer. (If they are freezer friendly, that is.)
- Wash the dishes as you cook.