I’ve decided to make the Weekend Cooking meme, hosted by Beth Fish Reads a regular monthly post at Book’d Out. Cooking is something I enjoy and I have been making more of an effort again lately, so I am looking forward to sharing some of my culinary adventures.
Title: Once A Month Cooking
Author: Jody Allen
Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin Au June 2014
The basic principle behind Once A Month Cooking is that you cook all your main dishes for a month in one day, freeze them, and then have an assortment of home made meals ready when you need them. The benefits of the plan outweigh the initial work involved in that it not only do you have more precious time during the busy week previously taken up by shopping for, preparing and cooking meals daily, but you can also save money when you purchase and cook in bulk.
Allen begins by offering advice on planning, shopping, cooking and freezing for Once a Month Cooking. Planning is an important step in the process and one that can involve the family in choosing what meals will be served during the month and take into account their schedules for the weeks ahead. Plan for a variety of meals but not so many that you end up cooking 30 different dishes, batch up favourite recipes that the family would be happy to eat once a week. Keep in mind what utensils and cookware you will need for the dishes you choose, and make sure you have plenty of storage items such as good quality ziplock bags in a variety of sizes, baking paper, plastic wrap, foil and foil/plastic containers plus a permanent or freezer marker. Make a comprehensive shopping list, be specific about amounts of food needed, and watch the budget. Source local when you can and look for bulk deals on ingredients. For the day of cooking, Allen suggests choosing a time when you won’t be distracted by young children or other commitments. Have your recipes accessible and start with prep eg dice onions, brown meat, blanch vegetables, boil eggs etc in amounts that work for all your recipes not just one. Assemble recipes that use a similar cooking method so you can have, for example, 3 different casseroles in the oven at once or so you can easily monitor foods cooking on the stove top. Clean as you go so you don’t run out of dishes and utensils. Allow foods to cool before placing in the freezer, ensure the meal is labelled with a name, the date it was frozen, a use by date and the dish size. You can also add instructions for reheating. Don’t forget to make a master list of the meals you are adding to your freezer for easy reference.
There are over 150 freezer friendly recipes in Once a Month Cooking, ideal for a busy family, and not just for dinner. Allen includes recipes for breakfast meals, like Banana Bread, Bran Muffins and Pancakes, soups such as Bacon and Potato Soup and Thai Pumpkin Soup, snacks like Pizza Scrolls, and Frozen Banana Pops, and deserts, cakes, slices and biscuits like After-dinner Mint Ice-cream Slice, Teacup Baked Cheesecakes, Lemon Lunchbox Squares and Sticky Date Caramel Slab. There are also recipes suitable for vegetarians and those with food intolerances or allergies, like Lentil and Pumpkin Lasagne and Gluten-free White Chocolate Cake. The recipes for the main meals use a variety of meats and include recipes for Coconut Curry Sausage Casserole, Beef Chow Mein and Chicken Filo Parcels. The recipes are largely unfussy, using common ingredients simply prepared, but could easily be tweaked to suit individual tastes. Though many are familiar to me, I found the details about freezing and thawing the meals very useful.
The presentation of the cookbook is a little disappointing, while the spiral bind is useful, the cardboard cover is fairly flimsy and I would have preferred a sturdier cover. There are no images accompanying the recipes, though a few pages of photo’s are included in the opening chapter. The recipes are well set out with a list of ingredients (metric measurements), and have clear instructions for prepping, cooking, freezing and thawing each meal, but they lack serving size suggestions, or advice for doubling up or ‘batching’ the recipes, and and an overall indicator of prep/cooking time.
I’ve been pre-planning weekly meals for a few years now, our busy family of six is on a tight budget and I really have to carefully manage both our time and expenditure. I’d love to be able to shop, prepare and plan a month ahead but unfortunately it’s not possible financially, and I don’t have a freezer big enough, however the same principles of Once a Month Cooking can be applied to a weekly or fortnightly (bi-weekly) schedule. Last weekend I cooked up a double batch of the Chicken Casserole with Cheesy Damper Top (I doubled the recipe so we ate one that night and I froze the other) plus a double batch of Bolognese Sauce (with my own tweaks) , and garlic bread. This weekend has been very busy so I’m making a double batch of Mexican Minced (ground) Beef (for Nachos and Burritos) and Honey Chicken Stir Fry tomorrow. I’m also planning on making some of the snack and slice recipes such as the Clinker Slice, Milo Balls and Fruit Salad Cake through the week to freeze in advance of my son’s birthday party in two weeks time – I never would have thought of it previously.
Once A Month Cooking is a good resource not only for someone interested in adopting the practice, but also for busy and budget conscious families who are simply looking for easy and tasty recipes that can be prepped ahead. I know I will be using it a lot!
Once A Month Cooking is available to purchase from
and all good bookstores.