Once A Month Meals Review


Around Christmas time last year I was listening to a favorite podcast of mine, Hungry Squared  and they did an interview with the founder and creator of Once A Month Meals (OAMM from here on out), Tricia Callahan.  I was intrigued, “I only cook once a month and my family gets to enjoy home cooked meals all month long?  Where do I sign up?”  I listened to the podcast, used their coupon code, read all the literature online and set my cooking date:  January 2, 2017 (the day I was off since New Year’s Day fell on a weekend).  Let’s start the new year out with a bang, right?

What is Once A Month Meals, Anyway?

If you are unfamiliar with OAMM, it’s a paid service that helps you plan, prep and cook a month’s worth of freezer meals in one cooking day.  You choose and modify a full menu or mini-menu to suit your family’s tastes, diet preferences and method of cooking, as well as, how many servings you need from each meal.  There are thousands of recipes in their collection, and they have all been tested by OAMM to freeze and thaw well.  OAMM then prepares a master grocery list, master prep list, cooking steps, freezer labels and thaw/reheating instructions.  It’s a lot – my monthly instructions were nearly 20 pages long.  

My Experience:

In the podcast, Callahan said again and again, first-timers shouldn’t start out with a full menu because they get overwhelmed and then never try it again, but who’s one to listen to warnings?  Not me.  I chose to go with a heavily modified full easy-prep menu, most of my recipes were dump slow cooker meals.  I did, however, listen to her warnings to shop and cook on separate days, in fact, I shopped on two different days and prepped on a third.  She was right, starting with a full menu was intense.  I chopped something like 5 pounds of onions, my eyes hurt so bad I ended up using swimming goggles to protect my eyes.  I lost one of the sets of directions, and so my whole prep/cook process was thrown off.  We lost power midway through and I had to stop prepping and cooking for a few hours until we regained power.  It was basically a disaster, I’m sure most of it could have been avoided if I would have heeded Callahan’s warning and made sure I had all the literature I needed to accomplish what I set out to complete.  Honestly, though, closing our freezer full of meals that evening was one of the best feelings of accomplishment I’ve had in awhile.

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I was so proud of how full our freezer was, both of meals for Doug and I and liquid gold for Livia.

 

 

Why It Wasn’t For Me:

In case you couldn’t tell from the above, January was the only month I’ve done OAMM for our family.  Aside from the easily and uneasily avoided mishaps, there were other reasons I chose to forego additional months.  First, I learned really quickly that prepping a ton of a meal neither I nor my family, have ever tried isn’t necessarily a good thing.  There was more than one recipe that turned out bad, either the texture was off, the flavor was bland or it just wasn’t something we enjoyed.  It’s a real problem when there’s no backup plan because all the meals for the month have been prepared and frozen.  Another issue is that OAMM doesn’t eliminate the need to cook during the month, all of their recipes had a protein, most had a grain but few included vegetables.  My family likes vegetables and I really like to have at least one green food on our plates at night.  This process left me scrambling to find a box of mac and cheese or a can of green beans in our house because, once again, I’ve already cooked our meals for the month.  Additionally, it’s a lot of work.  From choosing the menu to grocery shopping, to chopping five pounds of onions, to the freezing everything correctly – it’s an entire weekend gone.  Sure, I probably saved time, but I lost sleep and sanity over it and it wasn’t worth it for me to complete again, and who wants to spend an entire weekend slaving over meals?  Finally, I relearned how much I actually enjoy cooking during the week.  There are days I would love nothing more than coming home to a prepared meal cooking away in the crockpot, but as an everyday part of my life I really missed the satisfaction and relaxation cooking brings me.  I love spending time cooking in the kitchen while visiting with Livia or watching her stack cans of tomatoes.  And, honestly, the time I was saving I was just sitting on the couch and watching Netflix, so it wasn’t really a huge win.

One caveat to my whole experience, I am toying around with the idea of completing a few mini menus before this baby comes in December.  I’ve started working on my list of freezer meals to stock our freezer and it seems easier to just let someone else figure out how many chicken thighs I need to triple this recipe or the best way to freeze this casserole.  I’m still early in my second trimester and I don’t plan on doing any freezer stocking until after 30 weeks so I have plenty of time to make up my mind, and I’ll probably let you know how that all works out.

My Takeaway:

Once A Month Meals is a fantastically developed program – the interface, instructions, and community are all top notch.  However, it’s a ton of work at one time.  Try grocery shopping for all of your food for an entire month in one go, it’s a lot of food and I was really stressed out about getting enough of everything, and accidentally skipping an item on my list, thus throwing everything into disarray.  You may not mind chopping a potato or two, but when you need to dice five pounds of potatoes you get really bored, and, then imagine you have to dice another five pounds of onions on top of that.  For my family, the effort wasn’t worth the return.  I have the time to cook in the evenings right now and I enjoy cooking, it helps me decompress from a day at work and it helps Livia develop an interest in cooking.  I’ve streamlined my meal planning and grocery shopping process, and I discussed it here, and it really works well for us at this moment in our lives.  But, if we were a busy family, with multiple kids doing multiple extracurricular activities or sports, I would probably be much more inclined to try again.

Have you ever tried freezer cooking?  What system works best for you?

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Podcast Favorites

Probably listening to Sawbones and Snapchatting during break time at work.


I don’t listen to the radio – I’ll risk sounding a little old, but music these days could be the worst.  But, I have to spend about an hour and a half to two hours each day commuting back and forth to work, what’s a girl to do?   Listen to the same songs I’ve loved for the last few years or try something new; I tried something new.  I discovered podcasts about two and half years ago when my commute was much shorter and I’ve been a podcast enthusiast since then.  Currently I have 70+ unplayed episodes downloaded on my phone, and I’ve probably listened to over 800 hours of podcasts in the last two years.  Any time someone asks for podcast recommendations, I jump at the opportunity to share these gems with everyone I know.

My favorites are always changing, whether it’s due to my interests changing or growing tired of one podcast.  So here’s a snapshot of my favorites this month. (All of the descriptions are lifted from their description in iTunes.)

  • Let’s Not Panic: “Have you ever dreamed about quitting your job, horrifying your family and road tripping for an indeterminate amount of time? Well, that’s exactly what we’re doing.  Follow Maggie and Adam as we drive from San Francisco to Tierra del Fuego, and all our panic attacks along the way.”
    • It’s a newer favorite of mine, the chemistry between Adam and Maggie is endearing (they are obviously married) and their crazy move is gutsy and interesting.
    • I suggest this for anyone who likes travel, personal diaries or comedies.
    • http://www.letsnotpanic.com/
  • Freakonomics: “Have fun discovering the hidden side of everything with host Stephen J. Dubner co-author of the best-selling “Freakonomics” books.  Each week, hear surprising conversations that explore the riddles of everyday life and the weird wrinkles of human nature – from cheating and crime to parenting and sports.”
    • I watched the Freaknomics documentary a few years ago and was fascinated.  Once I became interested in podcasts, Freakonomics was one of the first ones I downloaded.  It’s a fun, informative listen that covers everything from Aziz Ansari to whether or not there is a mattress store bubble.  It can be jargon-y at times, but it’s great for the days when I want something a little more substantive to sink my proverbial teeth into.
    • I suggest this podcast to anyone who questions why things are the way they are.
    • http://freakonomics.com/
  • GymCastic:  “GymCastic Podcast is a weekly gymnastics talk show.  The hosts interview people who love gymnastics almost as much as we do, discuss the latest news, events and offensive leotard fashion.”
    • Do you like gymnastics?  This podcast is for you.  Do you hate the way NBC covered the Rio Olympics? This podcast is for you.  This is one of my top three favorite podcasts, I’m a huge gymnastics fan and I feel like I’ve finally found my people.  Funny and incredibly professional when needed, its the gymnastics show NBC wishes it could produce.
    • I suggest this for anyone who likes gymnastics at all.  It’s the best part about Wednesdays.
    • http://gymcastic.com/
  • Thinking Sideways:  “Investigating things we simply don’t have the answers to.  Sometimes you have to think a little sideways to come up with a plausible solution to the mystery.”
    • From the Tsavo man-eaters, to the Voynich Manuscript, to whether or not Queen Elizabeth I had a child – Devin, Steve and Joe summarize an unexplained event and then debate and discuss theories explaining that event.
    •  I suggest this podcast for anyone who loves the offbeat, or good conspiracy theory.
    • http://thinkingsidewayspodcast.com/
  • The Birth Hour: “Blogger and Podcaster Bryn Huntpalmer interviews a different mother each week sharing their pregnancy and birth stories of all shapes and size including natural birth, homebirth, waterbirth, VBAC, cesarean, twin birth and more!”
    •  After Livia was born I was obsessed with sharing her birth story, and I loved hearing others’ birth stories.  I happened upon this podcast very organically after becoming more interested in the online birth community.
    • I suggest this podcast for expecting moms, people interested in the birth community or anyone looking to have a happy cry on the way home from work.
    • http://thebirthhour.com/
  • Homesteady: “Homesteady is a show that focuses on living a more sustainable life. We talk about all the ways a modern Homesteader can put food on the table, from the fields, streams, gardens and woodlands. Our roads may be rocky, but with the rights skills and knowledge we can make Homesteady.”
    • I found this podcast after it was advertised on another podcast and I was immediately interested.  One of these days, Doug and I will get some chickens and I’ll have Austin Martin to thank for half of my knowledge. Austin hosts this podcast showcasing topics like “Goats – Should you bring these animals onto your farm or homestead?” or “Chickens 101 – Eggs, Coops, Breeds, Meat, Feeders and Fencing and Much More!”  With excellent production values and legitimate advice, Homesteady is a must listen for anyone who wants to attempt more sustainable living.
    • I suggest this podcast to anyone interested in sustainable living or livestock.
    • https://www.thisishomesteady.com/
  • The Way I Heard It:  “All good stories have a twist, and all great storytellers are just a little twisted.  Join Mike Rowe for a different take on the people and events that you thought you knew — from pop culture to politics from Hollywood to History…The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe — short mysteries for the curious mind with a short attention span.”
    • Mike Rowe is an amazing storyteller in this podcast.  Half of the reason I listen is so I can hear his voice.  Reminiscent of the late Paul Harvey and “the rest of the story,” it’s a quick, entertaining, feel-good listen.
    • I suggest this podcast for fans of Mike Rowe, Paul Harvey and happy endings.
    • http://mikerowe.com/podcast/
  • The History Chicks: “Two women. Half the population. Several thousand years of history. About an hour. Go.”
    • Beckett and Susan are serious about their women’s history.  I’ve listened to a good many history podcasts, but this is the most well-researched podcast I have on rotation.  I love history and I love strong, amazing women and this covers both.  This one is definitely on the long side, and is best enjoyed in small doses.
    • I suggest this podcast for literally everyone.  Everyone could use a little more knowledge on exceptional women in history.
    • http://thehistorychicks.com/
  • Lore: “Lore is a bi-weekly podcast (and upcoming TV show) about the dark historical tales that fuel our modern superstitions.  Each episode explores the world of mysterious creatures, tragic events and unusual places.  Because sometimes truth is more frightening than fiction.”
    • Aaron Mahnke hosts Lore, the best-produced podcast on the Internet.  Chilling, true tales from history that are just scary enough to make you want to check under the bed.  For me it’s the perfect blend of legend, storytelling and fact.  It’s the first podcast I listen to every other Monday.
    • I suggest this podcast for those who love to be a little scared (but not terrified) and those who frequent Atlas Obscura.
    • http://www.lorepodcast.com/
  • Spilled Milk: “Each week on Spilled Milk, writers/comedians Molly Wizenberg and Matthew Amster-Burton start with a food-related topic, from apples to winter squash to Korean junk food, and run with it as far as they can go — and, regrettably, sometimes farther.”
    • Matthew and Molly are the funniest food duo alive.  They keep me chuckling while listening and I’ve learned a fair bit about food along the way.  Don’t miss their episodes on milk shakes and energy drinks.
    • I suggest this podcast for food lovers and food snobs everywhere.
    • http://www.spilledmilkpodcast.com/
  • Gravy:  “Stories about the changing American South through the food we eat.”
    • The Southern Foodways Alliance backed podcast has some of the best stories about regional Southern food and how it tells the story of that place.  I love hearing about how Cracker Barrel is creating an idealized version of the American South or the chicken radically changed Springdale, Arkansas.  Insightful and thought-provoking, it is in my top three list.
    • I suggest this podcast to foodies, Southerners and those who believe the we are truly shaped by the food we eat.
    • https://www.southernfoodways.org/gravy-format/gravy-podcast/
  • Sawbones: “Join Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her husband Justin McElroy for a tour of the the dumb, bad, gross weird and wrong ways we’ve tried to fix people.”
    • Part of the massive Maximum Fun network, Sawbones is the perfect intersection of funny and informative.  Medical history has always fascinated (and slightly terrified) me, so this has been one of my favorites from the very beginning.
    • I suggest this podcast to those who love medical television, medical history or human anatomy.
    • http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/sawbone

Did I miss any of your favorites?  If none of these pique your interest, what would you be interested to listen?  If you listen to any of these, what do you think of them?  Let me know in the comments!