With planning, it's not so hard to cook once and eat for a month, says K-State Research and Extension agent Jodi Drake. | File photo
Cooking several meals at once saves time, money
Publication shares tips on how to cook once, eat for a month
March 30, 2020
MANHATTAN, Kan. – For some, cooking dinner every night can be a burdensome task. There are decisions to make regarding what to make, then carving out the time and energy to do the work.
There are other options.
A publication from Kansas State University can help home cooks plan a full month’s worth of meals for a fraction of the price and work. Cook Once, Eat for a Month! Is available for free download from the K-State Research and Extension bookstore.
The concept is this: Spend one full day preparing healthy, home-cooked meals in bulk. Then, freeze those meals individually and use them throughout the month to save time when the family’s schedule is busier.
“Preparing a month of meals in a single day seems like a daunting task, but it can be done,” said Jodi Drake, a family and consumer sciences agent in Pratt County.
Drake outlines a seven-step method to make the process go smoothly:
1) Choose the recipes. Foods that freeze well include those containing meat, poultry, fish, breads, baked goods and many soups, stews and casseroles.
2) Make a list of needed ingredients. Include all necessary storage containers, freezer bags, aluminum foil or other wraps.
3) Create a shopping list. Organize the list by putting like items together. The less time you spend in the store, the less money you’ll be likely to spend.
4) Go shopping. Be prepared to spend the bulk of the monthly grocery budget in this one trip.
5) Preparation. Before cooking day, clean out the freezer to make room for entrees. All prepared dishes should fit neatly in the freezer.
6) Cooking day. Plan on half-day if you’re cooking meals for two weeks, or the full day if you’re cooking for a whole month. Clean as you go for a smoother day.
7) Enjoy! Post a calendar on the refrigerator for the family to follow with a list of meals and side dishes.
When cooking, Drake says, keep in mind food safety basics, such as washing your hands, keeping your hair tied back and using a food thermometer to ensure foods have been cooked to the proper temperature. Consider cooking with a friend and sharing ingredients to save money.
Food should cool almost to room temperature before putting it into freezer bags, which could melt if the food is too hot when packaged.
“Perhaps the greatest benefit of this method is how it can encourage the family to eat meals together,” Drake said.
K-State Research and Extension has compiled numerous publications and other information to help people take care of themselves and others during the current pandemic. See the complete list of resources online.
Local K-State Research and Extension agents are still on the job during this time of closures and confinement. They, too, are practicing social distancing. Email is the best way to reach them, but call forwarding and voicemail allow for closed local offices to be reached by phone as well (some responses could be delayed). To find out how to reach your local agents, visit the K-State Research and Extension county and district directory.