According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends as many as 49 hours a year just shopping for food, and an additional 288 hours per year preparing that food.
So it comes as no surprise that Once a Month Cooking (OAMC) has become an increasingly popular way to save time and money. The basic premise is simple: devote just one day a month to cooking in bulk, using your freezer to extend the shelf-life of your prepared meals.
But does OAMC cooking live up to the hype? Can it really save you a significant amount of time each month? And is it really cheaper than cooking several times per day? Here are the pros and cons of this method of cooking.
What’s the Deal?
Once a Month Cooking allegedly offers a couple of benefits. Aside from the obvious conveniences of having a freezer stocked full of all your favorite foods, there’s something to be said for making a commitment to cook meals by the multiples, as this makes you more likely to purchase goods in bulk. Since buying in bulk is almost always cheaper, planning meals on a large scale can actually work out to be slightly cheaper than making a larger number of much smaller meals.
Unless you have a very small family (read: you’re single with two cats) it is pretty hard to get all this cooking done in a single day, so many OAMC cooks view a single weekend as their once-a-month cooking date. And no matter how you cut the numbers, only having to cook twice a month is pretty awesome. Reheating food is definitely easier than compiling a full meal and cooking it from scratch.
Once a Month Cooking (OAMC) has plenty of benefits for both big families and working singles. By committing to buying and cooking in bulk at home, you can reap several rewards.
1. Shop just once a month
As the hourly breakdown in the beginning of this article showed, we spend almost an entire working week EVERY YEAR just shopping for food. While this number is lower for men than it is for women, the fact remains that shopping is a major time suck. By making one big trip instead of dozens of short ones, you save a ton of time. And gas.
2. Perfect for busy families
Maybe you have a commute that’s over an hour, limiting your available cooking time drastically by the time you actually walk through the door. Maybe you have a family that rarely eats together due to work, sports, or other after-school activities. Regardless, having a stockpile of ready made meals in single servings is a great way accommodate busy schedules.
3. You extend the shelf life of fresh meats, seafood, and produce
If you are freezing all your meals and ingredients, this means that you can extend the life of perishable goods that might otherwise slowly deteriorate in the back of your fridge.
4. A great way to spend time with family
Cooking is a great way to bond and build relationships with your family, and there will be plenty of need for extra hands in the kitchen when you are cooking enough food to last for 30 days.
5. Surprisingly convenient for new parents
OAMC is actually great for new moms: baby food is super easy to make in massive batches. Tricia of the blog “Once a Month Mom” says she got her start in the realm of OAMC “while on modified bed rest with my first pregnancy…With the technical help of my husband, I was encouraged to take my once a month cooking skills and apply them to a blog. It seemed like a great way to share my created menus with others….I have taken this love into the baby realm and started preparing once a month baby food menus as well. I…am so blessed to be able to stay home with my little one, to be learning how to save money, trying to make the most out of life, and doing the “chores” once a month so I can enjoy more time with my family!”
Not everyone is a fan of OAMC, and many argue that the benefits are overrated when you examine the drawbacks inherent in this style of cooking.
1. Your freezer is probably too small
Here’s the thing about freezing meals. Yeah, your home freezer has a decent amount of space…but once you start using it TO freeze, rather than to KEEP food frozen, you will find that it takes a long time to chill down. You generally want to limit the amount of new food you put into a freezer at one time to 2 pounds per cubic foot, which means you run out of room quick. Unless you have a stand alone chest freezer, or can pony up the dough to invest in one, this is a big problem. Even if you make enough food, where do you put it?
2. Organizing is a pain
You need to clearly label all foods, and also date them to ensure proper rotation before their shelf life is up. And organizing your shopping list and cooking schedule can be just as tedious. You’ve only got a set number of burners and oven space, so maximizing your cooking area and cooking time requires forethought.
3. Hidden costs
Clean up is a breeze with OAMC, as many foods can be warmed in their storage containers. However, you may spend more money on disposable pans, foils, butcher paper, etc. In addition, you may face added energy costs due to the electricity required to run a large enough freezer to store the frozen dinners.
4. OAMC is limiting to people with adventurous palates
Not all ingredients freeze well, limiting you as to the types and styles of cooking you can enjoy while sticking to OAMC.
OAMC is a perfect fit for some families, and despised by others. Experiment with it on a trial basis to see if it’s right for you. Maybe, just maybe, it will be the time-saving hack you’ve been looking for.
Resources and Further Reading