There is no doubt that the key to sticking to a real food diet is planning ahead. I like to call it “making your own convenience food.” Just imagine all those busy weeknights out at a late dance class or nighttime soccer practice and not having to worry about dinner (or resorting to the drive through) because you planned ahead. That’s what it’s all about!
But what if you could eat real food and only cook once a month? Yep, today I am here to introduce you to the Once a Month Mom (OAMM) website, which has taken planning ahead to a whole new level. OAMM offers meal plans where you can literally spend one day a month cooking and have enough food for weeks to come. We didn’t want to just take their word for it though so Kiran from our 100 Days of Real Food Team – who has 4 kids ages 9 and under by the way! – agreed to put the OAMM plan to the test for this sponsored post today. So I am super excited to share with you everything you could ever want to know from our very own first-hand “freezer cooking” experience!
By Kiran Dodeja Smith, 100 Days of Real Food Team
When Once a Month Mom was introduced to me, I was intrigued, to say the least. Cook just once a month and have your meals freezer ready for 4 weeks? It sounded too good to be true.
After signing up for a month, I watched this video in hopes that it would give me some insight as to how I would proceed. I then chose between 7 different plans; my choice was Whole Foods (not to be confused with the store – no correlation, actually, it’s just a plan with whole foods incorporated within).
How It Works
The directions seemed fairly straightforward: You get Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner recipes to last throughout the month. When it’s all said and done, I’d have 6-10 breakfasts, 8 lunches and 14 dinners. Sure; still sounded good to me. But what about the cooking part?
I started by looking at the menu for the month I was signed up for. In all honesty, while I’m open to new recipes, my kids are somewhat creatures of nature. Knowing them, I know that I can get away with different breakfast foods on the weekend but serving up something completely different during the week may not fly for them. So I opted to slightly tailor the menu by making the suggested Quinoa Carrot Breakfast Bars (a breakfast dish) to send to school in their lunches. I also made the Sun-dried Tomato and Sausage Egg Cupcakes (a breakfast) for use as lunch as opposed to the Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole Cups (a lunch). And last I decided not to make one of the suggested breakfasts (Slow Cooker Apple Pie Steel Cut Oats). For me, tailoring it to what I think will work for us and also trying to add some newness is key. To sum it up, with my changes I had 2 breakfasts, 1 lunch (I opted out of 3 others), 6 dinners and 5 “Add Ons” on the forefront to cook all in one day. Yikes.
Next I dove into some of the incredibly organized resources on OAMM by going over to the Recipe Cards. Members can adjust servings per meal (needed in my case) and also get directions for freezing (also needed for me).
The directions are outstanding. You are told exactly what to do the day before (chopping), if meat is needed to be cooked/thawed, etc. But never having done this before I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I was feeling so overwhelmed with what was up and coming.
The big day arrived and I was ready to roll. I had already planned to split my cooking into two days. I got geared up and was cooking and cleaning from 1 – 5:30 p.m. I was lucky enough to have a friend come to visit during this time; I put her to work and we knocked out half of the meals. My husband came home towards the end and helped with cleanup. Side note: we went out to dinner that night.
Day Two was much easier. Some meals are, as in real life, harder than others to cook. I specifically chose the harder ones for Day One to get those out of the way. I have to say that I was more than thrilled when I put the finishing touches on my final meal but even more so when I looked at my stocked freezer. OK, I really wanted to do cartwheels, that’s how happy I was. But of course I was too tired to do them!
As luck would have it, I got the flu the week after I cooked my meals. I couldn’t have been any more thankful to have prepared meals in the freezer that I could simply pull out and defrost. I was recovering from being sick and simply pulled out (the pictured) Garlic Lime Chicken the morning we were going to eat it and let it defrost. I stuck it in my slow cooker to cook and already had the brown rice, which I had also prepared and cooked on my big cooking day. I pulled out some broccoli and roasted it (yes, my kids eat it) and dinner was served. Anyone who has had the flu this year knows that it’s not a quick thing to recover from, so I was again thankful to have more meals to rely on that same week. We enjoyed a yummy Shepard’s Pie, which my husband was really nuts about.
While I was worried about the breakfasts being a hit with my kids, the few that I had made (Sun-dried Tomato and Sausage Egg Cupcakes and Carrot Quinoa Bars) ended up being some different and much appreciated changes in our routine. I stand corrected! They were also super simple to just pull out of the freezer and to have ready.
Since I didn’t have the meals every single night in a row, they lasted me for the full 4 weeks, which was FANTASTIC. I ended up cooking about once during the week otherwise and had leftovers which I love to have on hand.
In Summary and Tips
If you’ve ever been frustrated with not knowing what to cook, feeling like you need to cook each night or not having time to prepare what you really want to make, I would suggest watching this video to get a better feel for what this can mean for you. Yes, the cooking day is a lot, but if you are prepared for it, it’s a small price to pay for having the meals on hand for the rest of the month. With that being said, here are a few of my tips for prep day:
1) Mentally prepare to either spend a full day cooking or to split it into two.
2) If at all possible, do it while your kids are in school/with friends/family.
3) Having a friend (or spouse if they will help!) assist with the dishes can be a great help.
4) Do the prep work as suggested; it really will help!
5) Don’t plan to cook something for dinner on your big cooking day. You’ll be really mad at yourself if you do.
6) Be open to something new. After having success with meals I wasn’t initially so sure about, I was kicking myself for opting out of a few meals that I did. I guess there’s always next month!
We hope learning about our experience helps you decide if “Once a Month Mom” cooking is right for you. All new members who sign up for their monthly menus also get access to menus (past and current) and resources which include recipe cards, grocery lists, step-by-step cooking day instructions, labels and two OAMM ebooks (Survive Before 5 Toddler Meals and a Holiday Meals). Just think how happy you will be once you are stocked up with all those wholesome DIY- freezer meals!
Do any of you already do “freezer cooking” on a regular basis? If so, please share the details in the comments below.