Whether you’re a Once a Month Meals newbie or a dedicated fan, there are some shortcuts and tips I want to share to make the process a bit easier for you. I’m all about making life (and motherhood) as simple as possible! Here are my top 10 tips for making the once a month freezer cooking process as efficient as it can be.
10. Use all 15 available slots on your menu. In order to get the maximum value out of your freezer cooking session, you’ll want to take advantage of shopping for and prepping everything at once.
9. Account for leftovers, dining out, church pot lucks or any meals you won’t be home for. You don’t have to make all 15 meals on your menu dinners! I like to do 12 or 13 dinners, which leaves some nights to eat leftovers. Then I add a few breakfasts, since I am not a morning person!
8. The bag holders they recommend do come in handy. But if you don’t have them, you can use a pot, like this:
7. Empty your freezer as much as possible before you go grocery shopping. This might go without saying, but your freezer will be filled to the max and anything extra in there, even an ice cube bin, will take up too much of your precious space. If you have a chest freezer, I’m jealous! 😉 If you normally eat frozen vegetables, maybe use canned or fresh your first week of these meals until you can spare the freezer space.
6. Make a meal plan based around your dinners, then arrange your meals in your freezer so you’re not digging around too much when you go to grab something. Someone suggested this online and it’s a great piece of advice. I didn’t do this and got frustrated with all the rearranging and stuff practically falling out when I would open the freezer door. No bueno.
5. Think about thaw time when creating your meal plan. They give you a thaw sheet and I suggest using that so you know about how long your meals will take to thaw. Instant Pot meals can be made from frozen, so you don’t have to worry about remembering to thaw those. But you also don’t want a bunch of stuff thawing in your fridge at the same time. Find a good balance and alternate the serving day cook methods.
4. Speed up the prep work when possible. Use a food processor, Instant Pot, or other kitchen gadgets if you have them. You can grate a whole block of cheese in no time with a food processor, or cook some chicken breast in minutes flat with your Instant Pot. Buy pre-cut veggies or these new real bacon bits. You have to decide how much of this your budget will allow. It’s okay to take shortcuts if you can.
3. Consider cooking a recipe before you use it in one of your freezer cooking menus. Overall, I have liked the Once a Month Meals recipes, but there are a couple I wouldn’t care to make again since the kids weren’t fans. Most of the recipes also have a “Make It Now” option. I would do that first if you are iffy about any of the recipes. You don’t want to waste money and time on prepping ingredients for a meal (two meals, actually) you don’t really like.
2. Thaw your Instant Pot meals just enough to pop them out of the container by running them under water. If you are making Instant Pot meals, they suggest you use these half gallon size freezer containers. But, the food needs to be thawed enough to come out of the container. I suggest turning it upside down and placing it in the sink under warm running water for a minute while you get your Instant Pot set up. When you’re done, the food should be ready for you to pop straight into the pot.
And my #1 tip for your Once a Month Meals freezer cooking session is…
Follow the tips and suggestions on their website!! They are the experts, the pros, the people you are paying to tell you what to do! They have mastered this process and are there to help you. I’ve even seen the very gracious CEO and founder, Tricia Callahan, responding to questions and helping people. Did you know they have forums as well? They also do Facebook Live events where they cook meals and show you how to maximize your time. These ladies are the real deal and they love sharing their knowledge. They also love to encourage you! I really appreciate excellent customer service, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
I’d say the two things that have helped me most are:
- they suggest to do your grocery shopping and prep on a different day (or days) than your cooking day (the day you assemble your meals)
- that you include at least 7 or 8 items (so, half of a menu of 15 meals) that are quick assembly so you don’t get too bogged down on cooking day.
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