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.


  1. Make a menu. Collect Handle Recipes on wikiHow from various sources. Read several once-a-month type cookbooks for ideas. Choose recipes that are "hits" in your household, and that you have cooked successfully before. When you are making large batches, you don't want to experiment with new recipes. Assuming you are only making dinners, you don't need to cook thirty different dishes. You can cook several batches of the household favorites like pizza (up to four, if you like a particular dish enough to have it once a week).
    • Think of some "master recipes" that can be adapted to several different dishes. Take a large amount of cheap, normally tough meat, for example, and put it in a slow cooker until it's tender, then shred it and use it in hot sandwiches, enchiladas, etc.
    • What you decide to cook will also depend on what you found on sale. Many once-a-month cooks base their "menu" around which meats they found for a good price.
    • Soups, stews and casseroles are the easiest to cook ahead of time, but make sure you don't go overboard on these. Keep the dishes varied. Make a big batch of empanadas and/or wontons. Make a pot of tomato sauce with meat in it (or pesto), cook some pasta, and freeze both (stored separately).
  2. Avoid foods that don't freeze well. That includes:
    • Sour Cream (becomes thin/watery)
    • Mayonnaise (separates, but is fine if mixed into a recipe)
    • Cream Cheese (becomes watery and texture changes)
    • Cheese (crumbles, but is fine for shredding or in recipes)
    • Fried Foods (lose crispness or become soggy)
    • Egg Whites- cooked (become tough & rubbery)
    • Cream Pies (become watery or lumpy)
    • Cream Fillings (texture changes)
    • Frostings (texture changes)
    • Icings made with egg whites (become foamy)
    • Potatoes don't taste good after being frozen, whether in soup, stew, or casserole.[1]
  3. Keep in mind how some foods respond to freezing.
    • Raw Vegetables (lose crispness, but if prepared correctly can be used for cooking or stews & soups.
    • Yogurt (may change texture)
    • Heavy Cream (will not whip when thawed but can be used for cooking)
    • Pastas & Grains (softer after freezing/reheating- undercook before freezing to counter-balance)
    • Seasonings, onions, green peppers, herbs and flavorings (flavor may increase or diminish with freezing. Add afterwards when possible)
    • Thickened sauces or stews (may need thinning after thawing)
    • Gravies or Fat-based sauces (may separate and need to be recombined)
      • Don't thicken stews until you're ready to eat them. Liquids with cornstarch or flour added can separate after freezing and the texture is not quite right. Thicken after thawing..[1]
    • Soups. Freeze the components of soup separately (broth, chicken, blanched onions, celery, and carrots) rather than freezing the assembled soup. Put the ingredients together when preparing the meal.[1]
  4. Schedule an entire day (or two half days, back to back) to devote entirely to cooking. Let everyone know that your sole focus for that day is cooking--not errands, playing, walking the dog, etc. Be prepared to order pizza or go out to dinner, as quantity cooking can be tiring.
  5. Make a grocery list and go shopping using the recipes selected. Look at all your ingredients lists and consolidate them so you know exactly how much of each ingredient you will need. Shop the day before the cooking session. Gather flyers from your local grocery stores and supermarkets to see what is on sale. Visit any wholesale clubs in your area; you can get deep discounts if you buy in bulk, especially when buying meat. You can also save money at farmers' markets. Don't forget to stock up on storage containers and supplies (sealable bags, plastic containers, aluminum foil, plastic wrap).
  6. Set out all the cooking utensils and pans the night before in preparation for the tomorrow's cook-a-thon. You may also want to do some of the minor food preparation. A good example would be to chop onions using a food processor and then refrigerating the chopped onions for later use. Print and tape the Create a Family Cookbook to the cupboard doors for ease of reading while cooking.
  7. Follow the cooking and freezing directions for each recipe. Think of your kitchen as an assembly line. Efficiency is key.
    • Start crock-pot recipes and preparing whole chickens first.
    • Do common kitchen tasks all at once. For example, if several of your dishes will require ground beef, cook it all at once.
    • Blanch vegetables before you freeze them to preserve color, flavor, and texture.
  8. Freeze the meals. Always seal, label and date the Start or Create a Freezer Cooking Group. It's no fun playing the guessing game when finding the mysterious freezer dinner.
    • Freezer bags - Remove as much air as possible. A vacuum sealer is highly recommended. Soups and stews can be poured into freezer bags, sealed, and stacked flat; once they freeze, you can store them vertically like books on a shelf.
    • Use aluminum pans or line cake pans or casserole dishes with heavy aluminum foil so the food can be removed from once it's frozen; later, you can put it back inside that pan or dish for thawing and serving.


  1. Thaw food overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Thaw food in the microwave oven, if the food is frozen in microwaveable containers.
  3. Never thaw food on the counter i.e. room temperature.
    • It is best to use Pyrex containers given the concerns of freezing hot foods in plastic containers, and microwaving-reheating due to BPA concerns. Pyrex can be taken from the freezer and put into a cold oven, saving time in thawing.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Wear comfortable clothing and shoes, as well as an apron.
  • 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 Make Slow Cooker Apple Crumble recipes as part of the cooking session. The night before, start a Make Slow Cooker Pork Chops recipe and allow the food to cook overnight. The next day use the slow cooker for second batch of food.
  • Consider using pre-chopped onions, Make Arroz Con Pollo 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • You can use a drinking straw to suck most of the air out of zipper bags. Just leave the last {{safesubst:#invoke:convert|convert}} 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.


  • Follow current safety practices when freezing meals.
  • If you have roommates, be sure the increased use of fridge and freezer space is OK before starting.

Things You'll Need

  • Freezer containers
  • Measuring spoons, cups, bowls, cookware
  • Extra dish towels
  • Counter-top disinfectant
  • Tape and permanent fine markers
  • Pot holders, hot pads, or trivets

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Sources and Citations