Once-a-Month Cooking

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As someone who feeds 6-10 on a normal night and cooks mostly from scratch to provide tasty, healthier food for my family, I often feel like more than half of my time and energy goes to planning and then preparing meals. Anyone who relates with me probably agrees that this meal system sounds like an absolute dream! The basic idea of Once-a-Month Cooking is that you take one large grocery shopping trip, spend one day cooking many different entres, store all the meals in your freezer, and then simply heat a meal each night. If you are thinking that this sounds like a nice idea but you’re not organized enough to implement it, then put those thoughts aside, because Mimi Wilson and Beth Lagerbor have done all the groundwork for you. Each of the cookbooks follow a virtually identical layout, but contain very little overlap on the actual menus, which provides you with plenty of new recipes between the two titles! An introduction at the front provides an overview of the system, tips for simplifying grocery shopping, food storage, and cooking day, and a list of required equipment. The remaining chapters each cover one cooking cycle. The original cookbook includes plans for 2 one-month cooking cycles and 3 two-week cooking cycles. The Family Favorites edition contains 2 one-month cycles and 5 two-week cycles. Of the two-week cycles, one is gluten-free, one is a special summer cycle which includes recipes suited to grilling and picnics, and another is a gourmet cycle which features a little more up-scale fare. In case you’re not counting, that’s 100 recipes in the first book and 130 more in the second – treasure troves in themselves! The recipes vary in terms of serving size, generally between 4 and 8 servings with a few larger meals to have on hand for company. Expect to spend about 5 hours on a two-week cycle cooking day, and 8 if you’re cooking for one-month (which may sound like a lot in one day, but pales in comparison to the 30+ hours you would otherwise spend cooking in a month!). Each cycle chapter starts with a complete grocery list – things you’ll need to buy, a pantry list – things you probably have on hand but need to double check, and a list of needed containers for freezing. It continues to provide the order in which you should prep everything on cooking day, starting with chopping the herbs, fruits, and vegetables, and moving through the assembly, cooking and bagging up of each meal to store in the freezer. These are listed in steps, with the actual recipes following in order of assembly. Because you will need some items fresh the week of serving, such as produce or baked rolls, you can expect to still make a quick trip to the grocery store each week. These items are contained in the shopping list but marked with an asterisk so you can buy them fresh the week of. Also, you will sometimes have a little prep the night of dinner to prepare sides while the main course is heating in the oven (cooking pasta or rice, slicing fresh produce, etc.), but the huge bulk of the work will already be done, making these grocery trips and prep times minimal. Each book includes a neat section entitled “Table Talk Questions” at the end that may be used to kindle dinner conversation in your home. The original cookbook contains a bonus “accompaniments” chapter that holds various recipes that you may enjoy with your meals including different seasonal vegetables, dressings and salad ideas, and a few cookie recipes. A note in the introduction of the Family Favorites edition highlights a new, downloadable Menu Chart available from their website. This makes the system even easier by helping you organize your additional weekly shopping lists, select entres based on people you are serving and time you’ll have to prepare that night. You’ll also have a place to write in sides to serve with the entres and giving you a space to check off meals you have used so you can see what meals you still have left in the freezer. The benefits of Once-a-Month-Cooking are many and include money savings, healthier meals, time saving dinners, and “ready to share” meals for others in need. It is also easily adaptable if you need to scale differently or add some of your own favorites to the mix. A final tip from the authors: make cooking day fun by cooking with a friend, and then split the meals between you - the work will be faster, lighter, and more enjoyable! – Steph

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Once-a-Month Cooking Item #: 022850
Grade: Adult
Retail: $15.99
Rainbow Price: $11.25

Once-a-Month Cooking Family Favorites Item #: 053231
Grade: Adult
Retail: $15.99
Rainbow Price: $11.25

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