Occasionally, I’ll stumble (hint: it’s almost always from my sister, Erika) across something that I think I’m going to love, and I do, but it takes me ages and ages and ages to figure out that I love it. Twitter was like that. “I don’t get why people tweet . . . it is just plain stupid,” I lamented one afternoon, only to be brought low when I wanted to enter a contest for a new camera bag. Of course I would start tweeting if I got a few more entries. There have been a few books along the way, purchased and then forgotten about until months later, including Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze CookbookYet another idea I can thank my sister for.

When I first bought the cookbook, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it other than there was a pan of manicotti on the front cover. I leafed through it, looked at a couple of recipes, read the helpful tips . . . and then promptly set it aside for a few months. Once-a-month-cooking, or OMAC in case you are looking for tips on-line, became something that I would pin on Pinterest, but it just seemed too time consuming. It made so much sense, but why did it look so damn hard. Maybe I’d try it, and slowly life resumed as normal. Come home and cook something, rather come home and look in the fridge for something then decide that it’s too late to make XYZ because I forgot something so may as well go run through a drive-thru or order Domino’s. Every once and a while, I’d get ambitious and write out a menu for the week, only to be derailed a few day laters.

Over Christmas break, I blew the dust off of Not Your Mother’s cookbook (yes . . . literal dust; I’m also a shitty housekeeper), and I decided to give it a whirl. Turns out that cooking for an entire month in one day takes some planning and thought, but there was light at the end of the tunnel. Because I realized that I wouldn’t have to cook for another four weeks.

Have there been some stumbling blocks along the way? Sure, but that’s to be expected. Here’s what I found out along the way just in case you are interested in either this cook book or OMAC.

  • Be sure your family is on board. It’s just Dave and me since the girls are on their own. I can see how a family of four might get tired of the same foods, but for us, it wasn’t a problem.
  • Make a really good list and group it according the the aisles in your grocery store. If you have an Aldi’s near you, almost everything in this book can be found there, so the meals might also cost you less, too.
  • Buy your groceries on one day and cook on another. Trust me, you will be tired at the end of your cooking day, and grocery shopping before hand will only make it worse. I learned this the hard way the first time I tried it.
  • Whomever will be eating with you, make sure that you all agree on the meals ahead of time. It doesn’t do you any good to make a beautiful shepherd’s pie if only one person will eat it.
  • Figure out which recipes give you the most bang for your buck. Meatballs are great, but Dave and I are more prone to enjoy meatloaf. Luckily the recipe for meatballs can be halved, or you can split the batch into meatballs and meatloaf (win-win!).
  • If you find that you enjoy this type of cooking, create one menu and just recycle it month after month after month. Works great for us since I tend to cook the same foods every Friday (frozen pizza) and Sunday (my chili).
  • Work in times to eat out. Because honestly, you’ll want to . . . even better, schedule it on day that you need to go grocery shopping.
  • Keep a list of items that you need to pick up fresh to finish off certain meals. The grilled shrimp tacos need a little cilantro to make it just right, but that doesn’t stay fresh terribly long. Chances are, there are other things that need to be picked up, too. Make one trip, and you’re saving on gas, too.
  • Change the recipes to suit your taste. Personally, I think the salt level is too low, which is saying something because I under-salt everything. If I don’t have the right kind of fish on hand, I’ll sub in whatever I have available.
  • Check on your freezer stock every so often. According to my calendar, I should have cooked last weekend, but after checking in the freezer, I had enough food to get me through another week.
  • Take the food out of the freezer you’re planning on eating the night before so it thaws. Otherwise, it’s to the drive-thru you might go.
  • Invest in plastic Zip-Loc bags. You’ll need them. And, yes, I draw the line at washing them out. If your grandma did, awesome! I don’t.
  • Organize your freezer. You’ll thank me for that one.

That’s about it. Every month, I make the following out of Not Your Mother’s cookbook: tandoori chicken, spicy dijon chicken, meatballs and meatloaf, shrimp tacos, hoisin glazed salmon, almond-lime tilapia (it’s not the fish called for, but it’s what I had on hand), taquitos, and my chili. In addition to that, I’ll supplement it with garlic bread (it’s cheaper to buy the fresh ones at Aldi’s, cut them in half, and freeze them), pasta, and precooked chicken sausages. Add in some pasta sauce or pesto, and we’re set.

This month, I added ginger-pork lettuce wraps to the rotation. If the small taste that I snuck on Sunday is any indication, I’m pretty sure that it will stay in the rotation. I’m not too sure about the stuffed chicken parmesan, garlic-butter lemon chicken, and salmon packets with red onions and sun-dried tomato pesto will stay, but I’m willing to try . . . because it sure beats the drive-thru.

If you give it a whirl, let me know how you make out. I’d love to add your ideas!

“Feed the Tree” by Belly