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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/

      More by this author

      Tucker Cummings

      Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

      The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It? The Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right for You to Boost Productivity? How to Diagnose the “Phantom Cursor” Issue on Your Mac Extreme Minimalism: Andrew Hyde and the 15-Item Lifestyle 6 Easy Tips for Living with 100 Items or Less

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      Last Updated on March 13, 2019

      How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

      How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

      Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

      You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

      Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

      1. Work on the small tasks.

      When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

      Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

      2. Take a break from your work desk.

      Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

      Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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      3. Upgrade yourself

      Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

      The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

      4. Talk to a friend.

      Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

      Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

      5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

      If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

      Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

      Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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      6. Paint a vision to work towards.

      If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

      Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

      Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

      7. Read a book (or blog).

      The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

      Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

      Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

      8. Have a quick nap.

      If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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      9. Remember why you are doing this.

      Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

      What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

      10. Find some competition.

      Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

      Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

      11. Go exercise.

      Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

      Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

      As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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      Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

      12. Take a good break.

      Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

      Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

      Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

      Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

      More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

      Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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