Helpful Hints Once A Month Cooking Getting Started On Freezer Cooking--
Chyrel's Recipes From Friends
Starting -- Before planning a session:
Double up dishes that freeze ( more later ) when you make them. Or
over doubling: Make a large pot of spaghetti sauce, freeze in meal size
portions. Do this a couple times a week for 4 weeks, and you have a
weeks' worth of dishes in the freezer already!
Do "meal starter" things, that don't take much extra time when
preparing, but save the time when making a meal. Examples: Brown
ground beef, have cooked chicken available, meatballs ( while shaping
them eats up some time, if you bake'em instead of pan frying, it
doesn't take much extra time! )
Other "not much time to prepare" items are to freeze your meat in a
marinade for grilling or broiling, pre slice your meat and package it (
in marinade too ) for stir frying. When you cook a large hunk of
protein ( be it a ham, turkey or roast beef ) you can take the
leftovers and prepare them into a dish you freeze, instead of being
condemned to 5 consecutive days of turkey leftovers. Turkey pot pie
sounds good if you haven't been eating turkey for the last 5 days!
Planning your first session and warnings on using other people's
Planning a successful session is three-fourths of the work. The very
worst thing that you can do is to fill your freezer with food that your
family might not like. Make a list of the foods that your family likes
and that you think would freeze well. Visit every web-site you can
find by doing a search on OAMC and on "freezer cooking" or "cooking for
the freezer." Post your recipes to the list for advice on whether or
not they are freezable and how to freeze.
Someone is bound to chime in to help you. Check your grocery ads and
see what's on sale. Start keeping track of prices on the foods that
you use most often. Pay particular attention to the meat prices. If
chicken is on sale, buy for what you'd normally make and make a double
or triple recipe and freeze the extra. You will have made a start.
Keep reading and studying and planning and perhaps the next week ground
beef will be on sale. You might want to make several meatloaves or
some meatballs or just precook some ground beef to make into something
later. Start small and your mistakes will also be small. If you try
to start too big, your mistakes could also be big and you could turn
your family off to freezer cooking forever!
Many of us do "batch cooking" where we cook one type of protein at a
time. This works better for many than true OAMC. Batch Cooking: When
you are ready for your first "session", do a bunch of RELATED items --
for example, spaghetti sauce, meatloaf, meatballs, chili. you can
brown the beef for the spaghetti sauce and the chili ( with onions and
peppers even ) at the same time, and make the same mix for the meatloaf
and meatballs. Then divide to finish the cooking. We do NOT do "batch
eating" and proceed to eat just that type of protein for the next
week! We alterante with the fruits of our prior batch cooking
sessions. When you get started, you will spend more for the groceries
that first week... then the second week you will be able to pull two
meals from your freezer, so it will be easier on the pocket book. After
doing this for many years, I now inventory the freezer occasionally to
see what's lacking and make that -- though I don't make it unless it is
I am not a big fan of OAMC as I think that it can cost more money than
session cooking based upon what's on sale at the time. BUT we all have
our own agendas. I'd rather spend four afternoons a month cooking with
what's on sale or what I have in the freezer that I bought on sale than
to stand on my feet for two entire days a month. But if I had small
children and I could get someone to watch them for those two days, I
might change my tune in a hurry.
Another factor in deciding how and what to cook is your motivation. Do
you want to save time? Do you want to save money? Do you have three
children on four different sports schedules and just no time? Do you
just want something to be able to pull and heat up to be ready to eat
or do you want something to taste "just made"? These will all be
factors in how and what you cook and put into the freezer.
I'd just encourage you to start small and then expand as you gain
experience and as you find what your family likes and what works for
your needs. You can start saving time and money immediately by just
buying what's on sale and using that to so some small sessions or
While other people's plans and books are tempting because they give
you what to do and when, many of us have found that one of the worst
things that happens in freezer cooking is when your family decides they
DON'T like freezer cooking because they DON'T like the food -- too many
new recipes, too much pepper/salt, too many tomato/sour
cream/mexican/whathave you. Every family has dislikes and likes, and
what works in Indiana may not play well in California. Personally, I
double the garlic in most recipes, while I know some people always cut
it in half... That said, READ THE PLANS! The organizational
techiniques you can glean from them were worth MY time.
There are a ( VERY ) few people who have been successful at OAMC
following someone else's plan for the month.
These people's families ate whatever was put in front of them, no
matter what they liked or not, and did not go raid the refrigerator
later for something else. They also had no allergies that would
prevent a dish from being cooked, AND they had no problems eating the
second pot of something they did not like the first time.
Those are few and rare families! Others were good at substituting on
the fly, and were not following a program step by step.
Most people that tried to do an OAMC session for the first time
complained that it took longer than they thought, and frequently they'd
run out of ingredients that they'd never thought of before, like they'd
use up the whole amount in a jar of a given spice.
This cooking ahead is wonderful stuff to do; however, I join the voices
of those who say " don't do it all at once ". What you like/dislike is
the most important part.
Practical Matters for your session: That said, and should you decide
to go ahead, here are some tips gleaned from many readers
These are set as "Rules". They are not. Do whatever you want, but it
is easier for me to put these in the imperative.
Don't try to shop for a month AND cook for a month the same day. BUT -
you can prepare certain things as you are putting them away, like
chopping onions, grating cheese, etc. This even applies if your are
doing a large batch session.
You can also cook chicken in the crockpot overnight for dishes
requiring cooked chicken. Boil hamburger. Etc.
Wear comfortable shoes. Write a plan. Write all the recipes, BEFORE
shopping. Make sure you have ALL the ingredients. Add up all those
onions, carrots, oil, garlic powder - if you need use 2 tablespoon of
garlic powder in each of 4 recipes, you need 1/2 cup and the small jar
from the store does NOT have that much.
Clean your refrigerator AND your freezer before shopping. Remember
that you will need to freeze things, and that you don't want to
overload your freezer with hot foods all at once, as they won't freeze
fast enough. Plan to freeze things during the cooking. One thing I do
is to cook a turkey, debone and refrigerate. I then assemble the
turkey meat dishes with COLD turkey, for the ones that do not to be
cooked further before freezing this works well.
Sinks: Some say to fill a sink with soapy water to put your dishes
in.. I like to have my sink available for rinsing vegetables, washing
chickens, etc, so I use a dishpan.
There's the "clean as you go" and the "wash each thing as few times as
possible" school.. if you chop onions in your food processor, and then
you have to chop carrots and all the carrots are going in dishes that
have onions, I don't bother to wash the food processor in between...
On the other hand, you will be re-using your measuring cups and spoons,
so washing as you go makes SOME sense ( as well as you don't have the
big mess at the end ). FOLLOW your preferences, but know that cooking
for a month or a batch cooking session WILL generate a lot of dishes.
There are several websites you can visit. You can do a search on any
search engine for "OAMC" or "megacooking" or "freezer cooking", etc.
But here's the one I urge you to visit first. Some good, basic safety
information from USDA:
Once A Month Cooking
Getting Started On Freezer Cooking--