Monday, March 14, 2011

Once A Month Cooking: Saving You Time AND Money!

One of the best ways I know how to save money as a person who lives alone is by cooking things in bulk and freezing them. This saves me money because:
1.  It eliminates the temptation to buy (more expensive) pre-made food;
2. It saves me time; (and time is money, right?), and
3. Food doesn't go bad if it's frozen (unless it's been in the freezer for longer than 6 months.)

Chicken rice soup, beef barley stew, burritos, and a stack of small  homemade frozen pizzas chillin' in my freezer.
I'm a big fan of once a month cooking (OAM). If you can spare one Saturday a month, you can cook up and freeze enough food to last you for four weeks. I helped my friend fill up her freezer this way a few months back, and we made her 60 meals on $100. A GREAT resource for OAM cooking is the Once A Month Mom website, which features a ton of great recipes, as well as help with things like flash freezing, organizing a full freezer, and so on.

If you're thinking about trying this out, here's my advice:

* A lot of bulk cooking recipes out there are for large families, and involve pre-making full trays of lasagne and whatnot. For those who live alone, cupcake tins (muffin pans) can help you make smaller portions of things like meatloaf and homemade macaroni and cheese. When freezing, put two or three portions in each ziploc bag, and you'll be all set for one night's dinner without having to commit to two pounds of food or eat the same thing for five days in a row.

* If you are storing your food in ziploc bags, be sure to double seal everything. Put however much food you're going to eat in a sitting in a sandwich-sized bag, and place these inside a freezer sized ziploc. This will help prevent freezer burn. You can also freeze things in plastic storage containers, like Gladware, which is great for things like soup. Just be sure that on the bottom of your containers, there is a snowflake picture (which means freezer safe).

* Make a variety of different food. When I do this, I like to make something that can be eaten with my hands, something that requires a fork, something spicy, and something that I can eat if I'm sick or not feeling well.

Here is some food that I have made in bulk, frozen, eaten, and recommend:
  • Taquitos - I got the recipe from once a month moms, but it can be found here . I  make mine with chicken and use half the jalapeno.
  • This quick meatloaf recipe: mix together 1 lb ground beef, 1 box of Savory Herbs Stove Top stuffing, 2 eggs, and 1 cup of water. Divide into muffin tins; cook for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees.   
  •  Homemade frozen pizzas. Use any recipe for pizza /pizza dough, but instead of making a big pizza, cut into pieces small enough to fit into a ziploc bag. Follow recipe directions, but when adding toppings, leave off the cheese. Cook the pizzas for half the time you normally would. Take out of the oven, add your cheese, and freeze. Re-heat at 300 degrees until cheese is melted. (The crust finishes cooking in the re-heating.)
  • Any soup you normally make from scratch. Instead of eating it all in one sitting, put it into plastic containers and freeze for later. I've made chicken vegetable soup and beef barley soup this way, and both turned out great. 
  • Homemade granola bars. Another recipe I swiped from the Once A Month Moms, who originally got it from here -- in the summer when it is 80 degrees at 6 am, these taste great frozen!-- Be sure to cut them and individually wrap them, though...otherwise they will stick/freeze together.
Best of luck to you in your cooking endeavors, readers! And here's to another week of saving money!


  1. Why isn't Ziploc capitalized? Gladware is. I'm going to try the taquitos. I love those!

  2. I suspect it's because I took off my Grammar Hat to put on my Saving People Money hat!

    The taquitos really are great. I've heard they're even better if you use tongs -- instead of burning all your fingertips in the process of making them--but I wouldn't know about that!

  3. the meatloaf tip is genius! muffin pans!!

  4. My mom actually used to muffin tin meatloaf when I was a kid (different meatloaf recipe, though, none of this quick stuffing business) -- she put cheese in the middle, which I highly recommend!