In case you haven’t noticed, grocery prices are climbing fast. Two weeks ago, I could buy a gallon of milk for under $3. Today it’s $3.48 at the cheapest store in town. Extreme times call for extreme measures and so, a few months ago when prices started to rise I tried my hand at couponing. Not the kind where crazy people buy 80 bottles of mustard for a dollar, but using coupons to purchase things I would normally buy and use. And while there were some good deals to be had (I once got 6 bottles of Spray’n Wash for $4), if you happen to live in a state without double-coupon deals, it’s a lot of work for a few dollars off. However, those dollars add up and there were times I saved close to 30% off my grocery bill. But I knew I could do better. I was still spending $400 or more a month to feed my family.
When I heard about Once-A-Month Cooking, I was attracted to the idea to save my time. I had no idea that it would cut my grocery bill in half. The book itself merely sparked an idea. I’m sure it has wonderful recipes but I didn’t try any of them (except a fall pork roast that was very good). My kids are picky so I knew if I tried this I would have to use tried recipes they’ll eat. Once-A-Month Cooking suggests you shop on one day and then rest. Then the next day cook for 8 hours and fill your freezer with food for the whole month. I’m a homeschooling mom of two very needy little girls. The idea of trying to cook for 8 hours gave me an instant migraine. To spare me a possible nervous breakdown, I decided to try cooking for just two weeks first.
I shopped for 10 days’ worth of dinners and spent $170. I went home, put the baby to bed and set the older one up with a craft and poured myself a big glass of red wine. The iPod was set on shuffle and I started cooking. I chopped up chicken into bite sized pieces and put them in freezer bags, I started spaghetti sauce, browned 6 pork chops, sauteed vegetables for lasagna and chopped up 6 sets of veggies to make stir-fries. Three hours went by and I was done! There was a lot of clean-up to do, but the food was all prepared or semi-prepared and ready for freezing for later use. I had two lasagnas, six stir-fries, a pork roast, six pork chops, three bags of spaghetti, two chicken potpies, and more. What I thought would last 10 days lasted 22. I got through almost an entire month on $170. The only trips to the grocery store I made over the next few weeks were for butter, milk and eggs.
Next: The other benefits of cooking ahead…