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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.

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      Last Updated on September 18, 2020

      7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

      7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

      Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

      Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

      1. Exercise Daily

      It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

      If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

      Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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      If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

      2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

      Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

      One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

      This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

      3. Acknowledge Your Limits

      Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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      Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

      Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

      4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

      Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

      The basic nutritional advice includes:

      • Eat unprocessed foods
      • Eat more veggies
      • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
      • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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      Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

        5. Watch Out for Travel

        Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

        This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

        If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

        6. Start Slow

        Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

        If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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        7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

        Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

        My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

        If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

        I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

        Final Thoughts

        Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

        Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

        More Tips on Getting in Shape

        Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

        Reference

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