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I Am Not Very Good at Once-a-Month Shopping

June 25, 2009 · Filed Under Once a Month Cooking & Shopping · Comments 

But I LOVE once-a-month-cooking!

My wife and I have been trying once-a-month cooking and shopping for a few months now and it has been a mixed bag.  Personally, I love the idea of only canvasing the grocery store aisles once a month and my wife loves the idea of only cooking once a month (and still having home-cooked meals the rest of the month).

The grocery store beckons…

Unfortunately, we just can’t seem to stay out of the grocery store. We are much better than we used to be but we fall quite a bit short of our once-a-month target.  I’m not 100% sure why we are having such a hard time with it.  It is not just that we have to run out occasionally for an item or two, either.  We seem to be coming back with fairly long receipts (and lighter wallets) whenever we go!

Part of it is poor planning maybe as we’re still trying to get our monthly list worked out.  Part of it is extenuating circumstances like guests coming over for dinner and similar events.  Part of it is simple logistics (we simply do not have enough space to store the amount of milk we drink in a month!).  I do need to be more diligent about analyzing the added trips to the store in order to continue to refine our process and get us heading back toward our once-a-month (even twice-a-month would be an improvement!) goal.

On the other hand, once a month cooking has been awesome

Though there are a few reasons for our inability to stay out of the grocery store, our normal meal cooking is not one of them.  My wife has done a fantastic job of planning for once-a-month cooking, buying everything that is needed in a single trip, and cooking up those 14+ meals.  Yes, I realize 14 is less than 30, but with leftovers, occasional dinners out, dinners with family and friends, we don’t need anywhere near 30 meals for a month.

I am really enjoying the cooking plan as it allows us to have a good meal (did you realize that not everyone considers taco night a “good” meal?  What’s up with that?) even on the days my wife works without requiring me to take a bunch of time from my job to accomplish that.  The single day of cooking is still a significant chore, but my wife has streamlined that quite a bit since our first try.  That first time, we both stayed up late Friday evening preparing food and then my wife and mother-in-law cooked ALL DAY on Saturday (early morning until dinner time).  This last time, my wife got up early on a Saturday morning and was finished cooking by approximately lunch time.

She has used the Once a Month Cooking book since she started down this road.  Though it’s not perfect, I do recommend it as a book to get you started.  In planning for this upcoming day of cooking, however, she has started to adapt some of her other recipes and incorporate them into the plan.  This obviously makes the planning more difficult.  The advantage is that she typically uses a great cookbook (great for me because the meals are quite tasty and great for her because they are very easy to prepare) titled The One-Armed Cook.  The recipes in this cookbook are much easier to prepare than in the other book, so hopefully this will save her even more cook time.

Of course, this is a still work in progress as she attempts to optimize the plan, integrate in some other recipes (and family favs), and figure out the best way to do all of this.  I’m trying to get her to write a blog on something – maybe this would be a good topic for her to add to the once a month cooking blogs out there.

So, in summary, we continue to optimize the plan.  The more I get into it though (we’ve done this for about 5 months now), the more I recommend both once-a-month cooking and once-a-month shopping (I just need to figure out how to be better at the shopping part!).

Some tips on getting started with Once a Month Cooking

1. Try it…but consider starting small – maybe try to cook a week’s worth of meals your first time instead of an entire month’s worth.

2. Get some help – childcare and/or cooking help.  My wife does most of the cooking but I usually tend to the kids and follow her around and clean pots, pans, measuring cups, utensils, etc as she cooks)

3. Follow a prescribed recipe pattern before you try it with your own recipes – this will help ensure that nothing is overlooked while you’re getting used to the process.

4. Make sure you set aside enough time (for planning and cooking)

5. Make sure you have enough space to freeze everything – it doesn’t have to be too crazy though because you can freeze most meals flat in Ziploc bags and stack them to save space.  This is another reason to start small.

6. Don’t shop too far in advance – the ingredients take up a lot of space so you don’t want them overrunning your kitchen for too long.

7. Look over the recipes beforehand to make sure there are no surprises

8. Take your family size into account – some recipes can be split in half to make two meals for smaller families or you may have to double everything if you have a big family (or teenage boys).

9.  Check out blogs for help – I found two blogs after a brief search, please comment below if there are other great ones to read.

10. Seriously, try it – you might like it!

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4 Responses to “I Am Not Very Good at Once-a-Month Shopping”

  1. liza on June 26th, 2009 3:43 am

    If you are looking for ways to save on your weekly grocery bill, grocery coupons could be the answer. you can save money on your favorite products and services with free printable coupons including baby, clothing, electronics, food, grocery, health, music, pets, shopping, restaurant and dining at

  2. Phil on June 26th, 2009 1:51 pm

    Nice, I’ve been thinking about trying this for a while… maybe I will start with your one-week suggestion, I think I can manage that.

  3. danielle on June 26th, 2009 5:04 pm

    i’ve never even thought of cooking just once a month. i don’t cook much because i’m single and i hate cleaning up after myself every time i cook. this is a perfect solution for singles! 🙂 great article

  4. John on June 28th, 2009 12:59 pm

    @Phil – you should definitely give it a shot. Make yourself some nice protein-laden meals to help with your triathlon training!

    @danielle – I have only really thought about this in the context of cooking for a family, but you are right, this would be a fantastic idea for a single person. I know exactly what you mean about not wanting to take the time to cook and clean up a big meal for “just one person” (was the same for my wife and I before we had kids – we rarely cooked). Doing it this way would work out really well for a single person or for a small family as well. Thanks!

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