How I Once a Month Cook: Kristi
I’m the contributing writer for the vegetarian menu a stay-at-home mom of two toddlers, ages 1 and 2 1/2. For me, Once a Month Cooking is almost always spread across several days to allow me to take advantage of the kids’ sleepy times. I also try to do my cooking on the weekend, minimizing the impact of any unexpected wake-ups. I start my preparations the night before our weekend starts and continue the process early in the morning, at naptime and after the kids go to sleep.
Spreading my Big Day over three days allows me to cook Once A Month style without having to plan a big stressful day of keeping the kids away from me all day. It allows me to enjoy my family more, while getting all the benefits of Big Day cooking! I split my menu in two, cooking half the recipes one weekend and the other half the next weekend (7 to 8 recipes each session).
OAMC Big Day(s) Pre-planning
- Choose 7 to 8 recipes (1 to 2 overnight recipes preferred) from the month’s menu. This is about half the menu for a total of 14 to 16 meals.
- Create Ziplist grocery lists of each recipe; we keep separate grocery lists (using the ColorNote app) for our day-to-day groceries. The separate Ziplist grocery list allows us to shop sales for the OAMC recipe items.
- If I’m adding in or substituting my own recipe, I create a tab for that recipe in my Recipe Cards document, so everything is in the same place. I don’t go into all the detail of the standard OAMM recipe cards, but simple paste in the ingredients and directions.
- Decide whether to use store-bought or homemade meat substitutes and update grocery list accordingly.
- Check grocery list ingredients for allergies or disliked items and make appropriate substitutes and update grocery list accordingly.
- Decide whether to use whole foods in lieu of cans and check my CSA box (current and incoming) against the grocery list.
- Check pantry against grocery list and update grocery list accordingly.
- Shop sales and likely alter plans accordingly, some examples:
- Seitan on manager’s special for 99 cents? OK, I’ll buy that and not make homemade this time.
- Fresh pumpkin on sale? Use that in lieu of canned pumpkin.
- The kids ate all the pears from the CSA box? Add pears back to the grocery list.
- Ooh that market corn looks delicious? Replace canned with fresh corn.
- Get some nectarines in the CSA box? I could use these nectarines instead of buying peaches.
- Didn’t get breadcrumbs yet, but I have stale bread or masa? I can substitute the masa or make homemade breadcrumbs.
Key Points: Regularly evaluate your list to suit your needs and budget. Don’t just stick to a rigid list for the list’s sake and spend
more time and money than necessary.
Don’t use ingredients that you or your kids hate just to stick to the plan. Be Flexible. No one’s grading you!
Day 1: After Kids’ Bedtime
- Start rice cooker(s) with rice and Lentil and Rice Ground Beef Substitute
- Chop vegetables, keeping my scraps bag for Easy Slow Cooker Vegetable Broth right next to the chopping board for easy use
- Bag and label chopped vegetables (storing in salted water when necessary), reusing store produce bags when possible
- Clear out a crisper drawer if possible and place all of the OAMC chopped vegetables in that drawer
- Finish Lentil and Rice Ground Beef Substitute in oven
- Bake or boil seitan, if necessary
- Start any dry beans needed for overnight soaking in crock pot
Day 2: Morning
- Rinse beans in crock pot and start cooking process
- Chop fruits, adding lemon or lime juice to store, if necessary
- Plan which 2-3 recipes to cook during naptime
Day 2: Kids’ Naptime (About 2-3 hours)
- Cook recipes 1, 2 and 3
- Refrigerate or flash freeze prepared recipes
Day 2: After Kids’ Bedtime
- Can any beans not to be used immediately with pressure canner
- Cook recipe 4 (preferably an overnight crock pot recipe or a quick rice cooker recipe)
- Start Easy Slow Cooker Vegetable Broth from the vegetable scraps from this week’s meals
- Package, label and freeze recipes 1, 2 and 3
Day 3: Morning
- Plan order of remaining recipes, focusing on what’s not possible to make while the kids are up (do these first), leaving what could be done with the kids up for last
- Can or freeze Easy Slow Cooker Vegetable Broth in pint batches
- Package and freeze recipe 4
Day 3: Kids’ Naptime
- Cook recipes 5, 6 and 7
- Refrigerate or flash freeze (if time allows) prepared meals
Day 3: After Kids Bedtime
- Package and freeze recipes 5, 6 and 7
- Start slow cooker recipe for recipe 8 (optional)
Day 4: Morning
- Cool, package and freeze recipe 8, if necessary