Saturday, January 3, 2009

Your how-to and why-to guide to Once a Month Cooking (OAMC) -- Part 1

Part 1

Why would anyone want to do this, to ruin a perfectly good day by spending the entirety in the kitchen? Well, because that's the end of slaving in the kitchen for the whole month! Imagine coming home and having a great dinner either waiting for you or ready to pop in the oven for a few minutes while you have a glass of wine with the one you love...every day for a month!

Sound like a fairy tale or like something only Martha could pull off? Not at all. Think you'd have to buy tv dinners to have this sort of convenience? Definitely not at all. Once a month cooking (OAMC) recipes allow you to put wonderful, tasty, nutritious meals on the table, even taking into account your family preferences and needs like organic, whole food, gluten-free, etc.

The biggest secret to doing OAMC successfully is to plan plan plan. The better organized you are, the more likely you'll end up liking it. Don't give up on the idea, though, if you don't happen to be a really organized type. You can start smaller, with Once a Week Cooking (OAWC). It's done the same way, but may be less daunting for you to start out with. For all intents and purposes, OAMC and OAWC are so similar, that from now on when I refer to OAMC, you can just assume that I mean OAWC as well :-)

Here are the basic steps:
1 Choosing the time
2 Planning and shopping
3 Cooking
4 Labeling and freezing
5 Adapting recipes

Chose two days and mark them on the calendar. Two days for NOT try to do your planning, shopping, and your cooking all on the same day. You will end up exhasted, frustrated, and hating the whole process.

If you can just get past the planning part, the rest of it becomes much easier. Everyone ends up developing the system that works best for them. Some folks make up a monthly calendar with the exact meal written on it for each day. Some just know that there will be a chicken meal on Thursdays and pull an appropriate package out of the freezer the night before. Whatever works for you: that's why I suggest starting small and working up to the full month plan.

For planning day, you mostly want to pull out the recipes that you're going to use, decide how many times you'll repeat each, and create a shopping list from them. Remember that there will probably be left-overs, times that you'll eat out, special occasions, etc, so you won't need a full meal for every single day. Also on your shopping list, you need to add basic pantry items that you might be low on, and freezing supplies which we'll discuss later. Not all recipes are equal in terms of freezability! We'll discuss this later too.

Think about how you want to organize your recipes for future use too. I like having mine in plastic protector sheets since I'm kind of a slob. You can also use colored dots or some other system to keep track of when you'll use them.

When you go to do your actual shopping for the whole month, your list is going to be huge! Don't let that throw you: you'll often be able to get much better deals shopping in bulk. And since you're not going to shop and cook on the same day, you'll have time to visit more than one store if you need to for the best prices. Maybe some of the things you need would be best found at a BJ's, Sam's Club, or other discount shopper. Even if you're just hitting your local grocery store, larger-sized containers tend to be better bargains. And don't forget about local farmer's markets and farm stands when the season permits. Also, don't forget to buy(or rent) those bribes that you're going to need later!

Tomorrow, Part 2, where we'll cover the second day's activities!

Image: Stock.xchng

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