Once-a-month-cooking is a trend among the frugal and stay-at-home mom blogs I love to read. The idea is that you set aside a day to prep a ton of meals and put them all in the freezer so that you can feed your family for a month without having to cook every day.
From a Hindu perspective this idea is a bit problematic. Leftovers are not considered good food. Ideally in a Hindu home, full meals are prepared fresh every day. This goes back to the concept of the gunas, the “qualities” in all things.
Sattvic: peaceful, blissful, fresh, light, in balance
Rajasic: manic, angry, lustful, rageful, hot tempered
Tamasic: lazy, slothful, tired, depressed, dull
Despite India’s reputation for spicy food, there are sects of Hinduism that do not eat anything spicy because it is considered rajasic. Leftover food or food that has been prepared and preserved then reheated would be tamasic. The aim is to be eating sattvic food, which supports a sattvic nature within the body.
However. Life isn’t always ideal. Modern life in America rarely allows for someone to be dedicated full time to preparing fresh meals. Brad and I cook at home a lot. It saves money and it’s healthier. We’ve been eating out less and less. For a while Brad was home full time when he got laid off, so he did lots of cooking. But now I’m at work all day and he’s at school all day. When we get home, we’re too exhausted to come up with an idea for dinner, let alone cook it. So too often we order pizza. That’s not very sattvic and it’s definitely not good for our budget!
I love to cook, but I tend to go through phases with it. Sometimes I’m super inspired to cook and other times I don’t even want to think about it. Particularly when I’ve been busy all day and I just want to come home and relax. So once-a-month cooking appealed to me.
Doing some research, all the stay-at-home mom bloggers are Christian and so the meals that they use for OAMC are usually packed full of meat.
I think a Hindu version of this can be done. (Why don’t Hindus eat meat? Well, some do. But here are some reasons why many do not)
Here are some potential recipes:
Black eyed pea curry (this is a crockpot recipe. You can prepare all the ingredients for the crockpot, put them in a ziplock bag, and then defrost overnight before you want to eat it and dump the contents into your slow cooker in the morning!)
Sprouted Mung Curry (a friend made a version of this for me recently and it was really yummy!)
Muttar Paneer (paneer freezes well, so you can make it yourself in a large batch and then add it to the dish when you’re ready to serve it)
Slow Cooker tomato sauce. Just cook, then freeze portions. Defrost in the morning and cook pasta for it to go with in the evening.
Cheese enchilada casserole (casseroles are fantastic for OAMC. I bought a bunch of alluminum loaf pans and stacked them in the freezer. I put one in our little Nu-Wave oven—Mother-in-law bought us this— for twenty minutes straight from frozen and it’s ready!)
There are a few OAMC blogs that have vegetarian recipes included:
SidesAloo and Green Bean
Slow cooker applesauce (start your day with this one and then at the end when it’s done, package it up and freeze it in portions).
Cream of Carrot Soup (I love cream of carrot soup. I usually substitute veggie broth and evaporated milk instead of cream)
Punjabi Mustard Greens (not sure how well mustard greens freeze, but you can experiment with this).
Breads freeze really well. You can freeze the dough and defrost the night before to roll out and cook, or you can roll out rotis or other flat breads and put a layer of cling wrap between them, then wrap them up and put them in the freezer.
Pizza dough (keep canned tomato sauce and cheese on hand, add toppings like green peppers, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, etc.)
Note: a lot of the recipes are from Manjula’s Kitchen, which is an old favorite of mine. She’s got the recipes written out and a video to go along with them. I’ve been learning from Manjula Auntie for the last five years! Another long time favorite is Show Me the Curry, run by two young Indian-American moms.
It’s a good idea to label your bags with Sharpie to say what everything is and leave instructions for cooking, if needed. I did a bunch of casseroles and didn’t label them, so we had surprise casserole for dinner a lot!
Not gonna lie, it was challenging. It was a very long day of being on my feet and my legs were killing me by the end. But it was all worth it. We had tons of meals ready to go and after work it took no time to decide to just grab something out of there and put it in the oven.
I did my shopping the same day and I would recommend doing the shopping one day and then the cooking the next if at all possible. I spent about three hours all together at BJ’s Wholesale and the Giant grocery store. I’m not much of a shopper and don’t have a lot of stamina for it, so this was really rough on me! In the future it shouldn’t take me as long, since I have leftovers of several of the ingredients and can make the same meals again.
I did plan all the meals ahead of time and made a list in Excel of every ingredient I’d need for every recipe. I printed out the list and all the recipes in a packet, then decided on the best order to tackle things in.
We have a pretty tiny freezer, but there are actually fourteen dinners in there along with veggies and bread. This effort proved so successful that Brad and I are going to save up for a deep freezer so we can store more. We didn’t make it to a full 30 dinners, but 14 definitely lasts a while (since we don’t eat dinner at home every night; sometimes we are over at friend’s houses who cook for us, etc.) I don’t think we can make more dinners until we get that bigger freezer!
Now we just have to figure out a system for lunches.
One interesting tip that I never realized before is you can chop up green pepper and put it in a bag in the freezer and then whenever you need green pepper, just pull it out. Preserves the veggie for much longer and it’s always available and already chopped! Pretty awesome.
My father-in-law happened to be in town, so he helped me out with some of the chopping…
If you do eat meat or are willing to use a lot of meat substitutes, this woman explains how she made 46 (!) freezer meals in only 4 hours with less than $100.