Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Once a Month Meals

So after I had a baby and went back to work at 6 weeks, we spent a lot of time trying to get into a recipe of batch cooking.  We tried to find good recipes, to come up with shopping lists and prep plans and finally I just broke down and paid for Once a Month Meals.

So I would like to post a review that is basically all of the questions my husband asked me to try to figure out why we were paying for this service:

  • What are you getting?
    • You get: 
      • A menu plan that you can swap out the dinners you don't like for ones you do 
      • A shopping list
      • A prep list (things you need to do to be ready to batch cook)
      • Cooking instructions (what order to cook everything in) 
      • Freezing instructions 
  • Can't we do this ourselves?
    • The only things we were successfully able to do ourselves was create a menu plan (which was not very creative) and a shopping list.  Even keeping the cooking instructions organized was complicated because everything came from different sites.  
    • Batch freezer cooking resources for vegetarians that understand protein are few and far between.  All the lists on Pinterest of freezer meals to make are just chicken and beef with different sauces.  
    • Batch freezer cooking for the crockpot vegetarian recipes are downright impossible to find.  
  • Isn't this really expensive?
    • Really expensive becomes relative.  $16 a month saves us from ordering takeout or going out to eat, which we do more than we used to, and from eating more expensive frozen dinners from Trader Joe's or the grocery store.  Basically, the cost of OAMM is the same as one emergency takeout dinner.  
  • Isn't it still a lot of work?
    • Yes - you still have to do all of your own prep and chopping and assembly for freezer meals.  It's a ton of work if you follow the site the way it's written, which is one twelve hour day and a ton of prep work the night before.  That is a lot of work that I can't do with a toddler.
    • If you do the custom menu and select mostly "easy assembly" meals, you can cut the prep time in half.  I have twice now prepped and assembled meals in 2-3 naptimes and post-bedtime cooking stretches.  
  • How much food does it make?
    • So this is the downside.  We have found that the portions are a little light, probably because the site isn't designed to build you a dinner that will allow you to have two servings for leftovers the next day.  
    • Each menu makes a set number of dinners, lunches, and breakfasts.  It winds up being something like 16 dinners I think, which is less than half of a month, but we find that with a few routine quick cook meals, like fish, and then our usual dinner out at least once on the weekend and our weekly pizza night, making even as few as 6 dinners a month has been enough that we always have reserve in the freezer.  
  • Are the recipes good?
    • There have been a few duds, but for the most part we have liked a lot of the stuff we have made and have either ranked it "definitely make it again" (tonight's spicy seitan flautas) or "do we really have to eat the second one of this?" (tempeh mushroom stroganoff).  The only downside really is that if you've already made two of something, the other one is lurking in the freezer.  
  • How do you fit it in the freezer?
    • Timing, excellent Jenga skills, and not hoarding your freezer meals.  I tend to save freezer meals for a rainy day and our freezer was PACKED.  We started to eat the freezer down more routinely and not only has it made an actual noticeable difference in our lives, it means that by the time another month rolls around we are ready to batch cook again.  
    • You can treat it more as a make-one-freeze-one idea, so save 3-4 of the meals you make in the fridge to eat the week after your once a month cooking day.  
The thing I will say is the most awesome is over the summer, when we had something like 2-3 weeks worth of CSA that we had done nothing with, I created a menu to use up all the eggplant, zucchini, sweet potato, etc. and we took care of all of the produce we had.  

If you are on the fence about signing up, I would definitely recommend giving it a shot and see how you like it.  

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