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Once a Month Cooking: Productivity Hack or Overrated Time Suck?

Once a Month Cooking: Productivity Hack or Overrated Time Suck?

    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.

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      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.

      Pros

      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.

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      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!”

      Cons

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      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.

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      Conclusion

      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

      http://onceamonthmom.com/
      http://onceamonthcook.com/

      Once a Month Cooking

      http://magnoliasouthc.blogspot.com/2011/01/solving-few-once-month-cooking-oamc-or.html

      Who would like to cook once a month?

      http://www.frugalmom.net/blog/2010/05/7-steps-to-once-a-month-cooking/

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      Last Updated on December 2, 2018

      How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

      How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

      Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

      The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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      The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

      Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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      Review Your Past Flow

      Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

      Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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      Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

      Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

      Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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      Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

      Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

      We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

      Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

        Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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