20 Great Once-a-Month Cooking Recipes
Once-a-month cooking is a popular strategy for those looking to have affordable, convenient meals prepared in advance. Some people use it as a way to maximize freezer savings by baking in advance, while others break down large bags of a single product from their latest bulk buying run into packets that can be combined to create other meals. For example, small containers of shredded mozzarella and bags of pre-cooked beef can form the basis of a homemade pizza, while pork loins sliced into medallions can be tossed onto the grill for a quick dinner along with potato foil packets and a salad.
Me? I land somewhere in the middle of these two strategies. Here are some of my favored once-a-month cooking recipes, ranging from minimal-effort spice blends to hand-crafted appetizers. (See also: Batch Cooking for the Rest of Us)
1. Hot Buttered Rum
This is more of a cold-weather item, but it’s one of my favorites. Follow the recipe in my once-a-month cooking for the bar article, then store the mixture in the freezer until you have company. Then you add a spoonful of the mixture to a cup full of hot water and a shot of rum. Great for holiday entertaining.
2. Freezer Falafel
If you’re looking for sandwich ideas you can incorporate into a plant-based diet, then falafel is a great budget solution that’s full of flavor. You can enjoy falafel on its own, on your plate as a dinner side or meat replacement, or in a pita sandwich with chopped vegetables and tahini sauce. This falafel recipe for the freezer is a great recipe to start exploring with.
3. Cake Mix
If you frequently have to make treats for classrooms, family dinners, and book club meetings, then you may want to keep a bulk batch of DIY cake mix in your pantry. You can use it to make layer cakes and other inexpensive desserts like cupcakes and jelly rolls.
4. Pizza Sauce
Large cans of tomato sauce or puree from Costco combine affordably with Italian seasoning to create large batches of pizza sauce you can freeze in small serving containers or ice cube trays for use throughout the month. You can use it on English muffin toaster treats and in calzones, or set some aside for a family pizza topping party at the end of a busy week.
5. Bread Mixes
Are you the type of family that enjoys soups, stews, and other crock pot meals a couple of nights per week with a loaf of freshly baked bread? Then consider adding bread mixes to your collection of once-a-month cooking recipes.
6. Icebox Cookies
There’s a reason the refrigerated and frozen cookie dough products fly off the grocery shelves. Sliding pre-made dough into the oven speeds up prep time exponentially for busy moms. Try out this recipe for butterscotch icebox cookies and see if the concept works for you. If you decide you like having after-school treats on tap, then there are many other varieties online for you to explore.
7. Mexican Potato-Topped Casserole
A popular family dinner option is using prepared potato puffs as a topping for simple casseroles. One of my favorite Tater Tot casserole ideas involves combining Mexican-style ingredients with crispy potato topping for a homespun meal that’s a hit with a variety of eating styles. A simple one involves just a base of chili with potato puffs on top. You can add cheese or not, and choose between regular or vegetarian chili to suit your family’s preferences.
8. Broccoli and Rice Casserole
Hey, it might be hum-drum, but incorporating a broccoli and rice casserole into your home’s collection of frozen broccoli recipes is an easy way to expand your assembly cooking routine and ensure you always have a flexible side dish on hand.
9. Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers
Having frozen dishes on hand that are worthy of serving to company makes last-minute entertainment obligations markedly less stressful. These stuffed green peppers from 5 Dollar Dinners are hearty and satisfying, and would look great on a plate with a fun sauce and some sliced scallions.
10. Chicken Fried Rice
It doesn’t get much easier than reheating a batch of this stuff on a Tuesday night. It doesn’t get much cheaper, either. Using extra meat from a prepared bulk bag of chicken leg quarters, leftover rice, scrambled eggs, and your seasonings of choice creates a dish that is quite literally pennies per serving. Serve with soy or hot sauce for a quick one-dish dinner.
11. Shredded Beef
Any self-confirmed carnivore will tell you that shredded beef is a seriously flexible food item. Perfect for barbecue sandwiches, cowboy quesadillas, and French dip sandwiches, you can easily whip up a large batch whenever you prepare your once-a-month cooking recipes.
12. Cuban Black Beans and Rice
If you like Cuban food and are partial to enjoying beans and rice on a regular basis, then you may want to actively consider incorporating this one into your repertoire. A single batch of Cuban black beans and rice can easily be flexed to feed whatever sized crowd you’re planning to accommodate. This Cuban black beans and rice recipe from Yahoo! is a decent place to start. Personally, I think I might want to freeze the cooked rice and black beans separately and heat up the actual dish with freshly sautéed vegetables when I'm ready to enjoy this dish. That way, my options for creating other dishes with the beans, such as burrito bowls, are preserved.
13. Pie Crust
Whether you’re a summer pie baker or need to have your pie crusts ready for the winter holidays, having bulk pie crust in your freezer is a good idea. I typically freeze the recipe in individual patties that I can roll out later. That way, I don’t have to know in advance if I’ll need a one crust or two crust pie. By the way, you don’t have to save pie crust for holiday gatherings. You can also use this recipe to create fun and frugal dinner pies throughout the year.
14. Seasoning Prep
As with the bread mix idea above, not every once-a-month cooking recipe needs to be for the freezer. Another powerful and simple assembly cooking strategy is to pre-assemble a variety of spice blends and grinds that you use on a regular basis. For example, this shakable vegan Parmesan cheese substitute takes just a minute in the blender after pre-toasting your walnuts, and it tastes great with a pasta dinner. Other ideas include homemade zatar, a cinnamon-sugar blend for toast, and DIY taco seasoning. One thing I like to do each month is to prepare pad Thai add-ins and store them in canning jars. Crushed red pepper flakes powder up nicely after a turn in the blender, and chopping up some dry roasted peanuts for a protein topping are two very simple things that take me minutes and get me through MANY batches of one of our favorite Thai dishes.
15. Gourmet Butter
If you host a big family sit down once a week or know that you’ll be entertaining frequently on any given month, then having a fun flavored butter on hand for baked treats and dinner rolls will have you feeling like Martha Stewart. There are tons of flavor pairings out there online, but this chive butter recipe for the freezer is a simple way to start.
16. Pot Stickers
When people stop by unexpectedly, it’s nice to have a few fun foods at the ready. One popular recipe is pot stickers. People are used to seeing them at restaurant buffets, and the ingredients are fairly affordable.
Chutneys provide an interesting gourmet twist to anything from a crock pot pork loin to a roast chicken dinner. This recipe for freezer peach and pepper chutney can be prepared inexpensively enough, provided you watch your summer grocery sales or have your own peach tree.
A fun topping idea for baked potatoes is beef stroganoff. This freezer recipe for beef stroganoff from Moms Budget has a fairly short ingredient list, which is always a good idea when considering time and budget.
One of my husband’s favorite meals is a toasted meatball sub. Making large batches of meatballs ahead of time ensures you can always pull off a hot sandwich or a hearty spaghetti dinner with ease. This vegetarian meatball recipe posted by the New York Times is a great resource for the plant-based diet crowd, but there are a number of carnivorous options provided online as well.
20. Turkey Sloppy Joes
Lower fat than their beef counterparts and super affordable, turkey sloppy Joes are an easy mid-week dinner that can be prepared ahead by cooking up some ground turkey with your sauce of choice and freezing for later use. Serve on bulky rolls with veggie sticks and corn chips for extra fun factor.
So how about it readers? Does anyone have any other once-a-month cooking recipes they’d like to share? I’d love to see what creative ideas are lurking out there that haven’t made it across my radar yet.