If you follow me on social media, you know one of the main things I harp on is doing a meal plan. It makes your life so much simpler to only think about the week’s meals one time each week! I had been wanting to do more freezer cooking so decided to give Once a Month Meals a look. If I only have to put thought into dinners once a month, that simplifies my life even more!
If you’re not familiar with them, OAMM is an online service for those who want to do ONE big cooking session each month to stock the freezer. I was a little intimidated when I first heard of them! But I have been following them on social media, particularly Instagram, for quite awhile and thought the recipes looked tasty and doable. In addition, I saw that the Once a Month Meals team is incredibly kind, helpful, and supportive! So in the interest of streamlining my mom duties even more, I decided to give it a shot.
As a Once a Month Meals affiliate, I received a trial membership so I could try the system and accurately talk about it and recommend it (or not recommend it, if it is not something I would suggest for my readers). OAMM did not ask me to do a review, and all of my posts and shares about this topic are my own honest opinions. My goal is to help readers decide if this is a service they could benefit from.
Because I am so detail-oriented, this post is pretty long. I hope you appreciate all the little nuggets of info about my experience. If you don’t have time right now, pin this post for later, then scroll down for a TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) version.
How It Works
It’s actually quite simple, but in typical Andrea fashion, I was overthinking it.
- You login to the Once a Month Meals site, choose from a pre-made menu or look through their recipes to make your own menu. You can have a max of 15 and pick from any category (breakfasts, dinners, sides, etc.).
- You download a grocery list, prep sheet, cooking day directions (this is the day you assemble everything), and the recipes with instructions for each meal you selected (includes the directions for serving day also). They also provide labels for each bag/container with the necessary serving day instructions but I didn’t use those since my printer is almost out of toner.
- Buy your ingredients.
- Follow the prep sheet to get all your veggies chopped and meats cut up.
- Take a day to assemble all your meals and get that freezer stocked!
- Thaw and/or cook on serving day. Done!
Once a Month Meals Recipes
There are over 6000 recipes in the Once a Month Meals database! Some of them are variations of each other (lunch portion vs dinner portion, slow cooker vs Instant Pot, microwave reheating or traditional). It took me awhile to go through everything because I was learning how to use the search function and filters.
You can sort by:
- diet type (paleo, keto, real food, GFDF)
- meal type (breakfast, snack, side dish)
- cooking day cook types (this is assembly day – stovetop, bake, easy assembly)
- serving day cook types (the day you eat – bake, Instant Pot, slow cooker, grill)
- any tags they might have added for that dish (a TON of allergy-friendly tags such as AIP, low FODMAPS, low histamine, GAPS, nut free, etc., plus Trim Healthy Mama and Weight Watchers designations)
I ended up choosing 13 dinners (double that for 26 dinners, and I like to do a leftover night once a week so this was perfect) and 2 breakfasts (I love to find new baked recipes that I can freeze for later).
I did modify some of them, with varying success. The recipes are very good as written, so I would suggest sticking with that if possible, or seeking out a recipe that specifically caters to your dietary preferences. One example: I used coconut aminos instead of teriyaki in one dish, but I then found the rest of the spices to be overpowering. That’s because the recipe was written using the stronger flavor of the teriyaki sauce, so the spices would have been just fine if I had not made that substitution.
Once a Month Meals puts this suggestion on your menu page:
“A well-balanced menu contains at least half easy-to-assemble recipes. A full menu of 15 recipes includes 7-8 easy assembly recipes, and no more than 3 baked recipes, 3 stovetop recipes or 2 slow cooker recipes to be used on your “Cooking Day”. This is to ensure you complete your menu in a timely manner.”
I fully believe this to be true! You really do need at least half the recipes to be ones where you just throw everything in a bag after chopping and mixing. Otherwise you may not finish.
I did complicate things since I was modifying as noted above, and because I already had some of the meat on hand. It confused my little not-mathematically-inclined brain. If you stick with exactly what their system spits out for you, no worries! No math needed. Also, because I make a lot of sauces from scratch, I had to remember to add those ingredients to my grocery list. The Once a Month Meals grocery list provided has everything you need, even down to your spices, flour, butter, WATER…all the little things that tend to be forgotten when you do a meal plan and make your shopping list from it (which is why I suggest using the actual recipes to create your grocery list when meal planning). I used the OAMM grocery list, added in what I needed to make the sauces, subtracted what I already had on hand, and did a Walmart pickup for what I still needed.
The total came to about $300 (including items for other meals that coming week), which scared me a bit because we usually spend a little more than half that in a week, depending if we need paper products or baby products. BUT, I rationalized, hey, I’ll have a MONTH of dinners plus a few breakfasts, plus probably some leftovers for lunches. That is really good actually.
I ended up spending another ~$450 over the course of the rest of the month. However, I started buying hubby’s nicotine lozenges during grocery pickup, and those are $33 a pop. So, overall, I would say once a month freezer cooking didn’t necessarily save us money, but it didn’t add to the budget, either. It may have saved us some money on eating out, actually! We did MUCH less of that this month.
Prep and Cooking Day
I started prepping some things the day I did the grocery pickup so I could cook the following day. I started in the late afternoon and worked off and on around other things like dinner, bedtime, and the little ones waking up.
I got most of it done that evening without getting stressed. That’s a big deal for me. I got stressed going into this because it’s just me and the kids — hubby works so much that I didn’t want to rely on him being home to deal with the kids so I could do the meals uninterrupted. But it was honestly no biggie.
I started the morning by making Apple Carrot Muffins. It’s a paleo recipe and it didn’t go well. I couldn’t get the muffins to cook through because my muffin pans are oversized. They were in the oven almost an hour. I just gave up on them so I could move on. It was disappointing but I forgot how paleo recipes really need to be cooked EXACTLY how the recipe is written. Take note!
I moved on to the Buttermilk Bacon Cheddar Biscuits. These were quick and easy and turned out to be very filling; I’ll be using this one again! I did do them like drop biscuits, instead of rolling them out, to save time.
Moving on to the dinners. I had another snafu that worked to my advantage, kind of. I had ordered the recommended freezer containers but because it was New Years, they were delayed, by two days! I was peeved at the time but my freezer was very full and I couldn’t have fit more in there after cooking day. Unfortunately, I got busy doing other things and didn’t make it a priority to get the last two meals done. A roast and some produce went bad in that time frame, so there ended up being one meal I did not complete.
The process went pretty smoothly aside from those issues! I chose a good amount of recipes where you literally just put meat (cut up, or like whole chicken thighs), chopped veggies, spices, canned items, and sauces into a gallon freezer bag. It could not be more straightforward. I was happily surprised by how easy it was to just get it done!
Overall, it took three days to get everything finished between prep and assembly. Because I had spaced things out more than you normally would for this, it did make it so I could reorganize my freezer a few times to get it all puzzled together. I had too much in there beforehand, despite trying my hardest to clean it out prior to getting started. To give you some insight into this type of stuff, I put together another post with tips and tricks that will be of help to you on cooking day!
Now for the easiest part. Making the dishes for dinner. You do need to remember to thaw everything (use the provided thaw sheets!) except the Instant Pot meals and some of the baked items like the biscuits. Make a meal plan and alternate what type of device you’ll be cooking with so you don’t have too much thawing in your fridge at one time. We have enjoyed all the meals except for the one I made that substitution with. I admit the kids weren’t a fan of everything, but they’re kids and I try to push them to at least try new things. It can sometimes be hit or miss with cooking from frozen, and some online recipes are just not well put together, so I have been happy with these turning out as they should. Definite kudos to the recipe creators at Once a Month Meals!
It has been a month since I did my freezer cooking session and I’m gearing up to do another one probably next week. My favorite recipes have been:
- Honey Bourbon Chicken (a favorite of many OAMM users!)
- Unstuffed Cabbage Roll Soup
- Three Cheese Chicken Alfredo Bake
- Instant Pot Teriyaki Meatballs
- Buttermilk Bacon Cheddar Biscuits
Benefits of the Once a Month Meals Membership
As a Once a Month Meals member, you can adjust the number of servings for your menu before you download your lists and recipes. It defaults to 4 and non-members cannot change that. We are a family of 6 but with young kids and a husband who doesn’t usually eat dinner with us, 4 servings ended up being perfect (with leftovers sometimes but not always – which is what I want!). As the kids start eating more or hubby’s work hours calm down, we will size up to 6.
You get access to the full library of recipes and menus, whereas if you don’t have a membership, you can see around 1000 of the recipes. Members also have forums to chat with one another about the recipes and finetuning the science of once a month cooking.
You can choose from a monthly or yearly membership and they have free mini menus that you can sign up for so you can test the waters and see if freezer meals are right for you. If you have dietary restrictions, they do offer those on the mini menus to give you a sampling of what types of menus are available inside the membership.
- You pick your meals out of the thousands of recipes on the Once a Month Meals site. You will create a menu, then the site spits out your grocery list. Print it, add anything else you need, and go shopping.
- Use the prep sheet generated from your menu to chop, mix, pre-cook, etc. the night before your “cooking day” (day to assemble everything).
- Follow the cooking day directions to assemble all your meals.
- Freeze as you go. Rearrange your freezer. Rearrange again.
- Thaw and/or cook on serving day. Enjoy the time you did not have to spend in the kitchen that day!
- Check out my post featuring tips and tricks to use in your OAMM freezer cooking sesh.
- Utilize the resources available on their blog and forums to improve for next time.
- Yes, it saves time. It can be a wash as to if it saves money (we spent a little more but ate out a lot less).
If you want to give Once a Month Meals a try, click here to read more about how it works and sign up for a mini menu! I am happy to try to answer any questions you may have; just leave a comment. My landing page on their site will show a few of my favorite recipes and some suggested menus to try (including one that uses Zaycon chicken breast!).
Happy freezing! Now you can enjoy the time freed up each day that you would have spent slaving in the kitchen for these delicious meals. Your family can be healthy and happy with just one to two days of work a month. THAT is mommin’ made simple!
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