Once a month cooking, also known as OAMC, batch cooking, bulk cooking, meal assembly, freezer cooking has regained popularity. Doing your meals this way is a great way to have good healthy meals when time is a factor such as long work days, soccer days… Cooking in batches also helps you save money because you’re buying in bulk AND you aren’t eating take out food.
So what exact is batch, freezer or once a month cooking?
You might be scratching your head trying to figure out exactly what batch (or any of the other names) cooking actually is. To put it simply, it’s preparing a meal plan for a certain time frame, say a week (typically a month) doing the shopping, doing the preparation and making the dishes ahead of time and stashing them in the freezer.
The monthly cooking works best if you own a deep freeze as you probably won’t be able to get a month’s worth of meals in the little freezer inside your refrigerator. But you can probably do a weeks worth at a time!
How to Prepare in Batches
Does it seem like way too much work to cook a month’s worth of food at one time? The way to do it is to set aside one day for the meal planning and shopping and the following day for the preparation and cooking. If you tend to cook the same meals time and time again, it’s no trouble really to just double up the recipe, or triple it, you get the idea. Some dishes can even be put into freezer bags in the freezer. (Tip: Squeeze as much air out as possible and lay flat on a cookie sheet in the freezer. Once it’s frozen it can be easily stacked.)
You can precook spaghetti sauce and freeze. Pre-roast chicken breasts or tenders. Pre-slice bell peppers… …
Once you lay out all the foods you want to cook for the week/month, you might realize that you need say ‘sauted onions’ in multiple dishes. Well you just cook the whole lot once and divide up among the different dishes. Or place into freezer bags and freeze in portion sizes.
Was chicken on your meal plan list? You can prebake the chicken, or slice into fajita shapes, or boil it all for shredded chicken that can be divided up among the different dishes. Same with ground beef. Face it, wouldn’t it be easier to have homemade tacos if all you had to do was dump a freezer container of pre-cooked ground beef into a skillet and add some taco seasoning?
Make your own pizza? If you can buy frozen pizza at the grocery store…. you can premake and freeze your own!
Those aluminum pans from the Chinese take out make good freezer containers for small dishes such as scalloped potatoes. You can find cheap aluminum casserole pans at the dollar stores and you can even use your regular casserole dishes (that are freezer safe.) However for the best use of space you’ll find that stacked freezer bags do best.
Don’t be Wasteful
For a lot of people batch cooking isn’t just about saving time, it’s about saving money. One should be a good steward of their resources. Don’t waste anything. Here are some helpful tips:
* Properly wrap your food to prevent freezer burn. Make sure you use a wrap or a freezer bag that is meant for the freezer and always squeeze out as much air as possible has been removed and it’s sealed tight.
* ALWAYS Label the item with what it in the container AND the date prepared. It’s sometimes hard to tell what a dish is once it’s frozen and dating the container helps you know how long something has been in the freezer. Freezer foods can get freezer-burn if left in the freezer way too long.
* Always cool the dish before placing into the freezer..
* When reheating, to keep food from drying out reheat at a slightly lower temperature than what you normally cook it on.
You don’t have to go ‘whole hog’. Start simple. Next time you make a lasagna, make two. One for dinner and one for the freezer. (and so on)… Then you can graduate to pre-making a week’s worth of meals… and then a month! You’ll save time and money.