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Get Started: Budgeting for Your Once A Month Cooking Day

How much will a month of once a month cooking cost? is one of the most frequently asked questions we receive here at Once a Month Mom. Many people are sold on the idea of preparing a month’s worth of meals and are anxious for the time they know they’ll will save throughout the month, but when it comes down to it–cost can be a deterrent.

Earlier in the getting started series we gave some tips on saving money on your once a month cooking costs, but how much will a month’s worth of cooking actually cost?

Tricia shared the details of one of her monthly cooking experiences in which she and a friend prepared 60 meals for a grand total of $171.90, giving credit to some savvy shopping tips like shopping sales and purchasing manager’s specials. Another month she and two friends prepared meals for three families of four (or 12 people) for just $218.11–averaging to $72.70 for each family and Christina reported her recent OAMM experience cost her $191.57 for a month’s worth of meals for her family of five.

While I can’t give you an exact number as it’s going to vary a depending on the menu you choose, the region you live in, how you shop, and how big your family is, BUT most of our reports from test cooks, readers, and Facebook fans are sharing that shopping for a monthly menu costs them between $150-300. That averages out to be around $5 (or less!) per entree. I know I can’t even feed my family on the fast food dollar menu for that price, so for healthy, homecooked meals, PLUS the already-prepared convenience, I consider it a great deal.


Budgeting for the big cooking day can be a bit overwhelming as well. For those of you that are on tight food budgets, coming up with $150-300 for next months groceries can be quite the challenge. Here are some ideas for getting started.

  1. Start Small -Choose several of the months recipes to cook. Perhaps basing the choice on the meat sales at your local grocer? Or perhaps even the recipes that are meatless? This will help you to have back up meals in the freezer so you are tempted to eat out or stop at the grocery for unnecessary items.
  2. Half Month – doing a half months worth of recipes will be a little more than half the estimated prices ($75-150). This doesn’t require as much up front money and will allow you to save up a bit for the next month when you can do a whole menu.
  3. Dive in – If you don’t shop the sales the whole month and just go shop and then cook all at once you can use the current months menu and reap the benefits immediately.


If you’ve recently prepared a OAMM menu, let us know in the comment section how it went for you, including dollar approximations. Your feedback and insight continually helps make the site better.

29 Responses to “Get Started: Budgeting for Your Once A Month Cooking Day”

  1. Mandy says:

    DH and I both get paid monthly–on the same day. It can be really frustrating. This is about the only time it is sort of a perk, since I have my entire monthly food budget available at once.

  2. Jane says:

    Hello, could you explain how you got 60 meals from the last post? DId you doulbe some recipes? Thanks so very much, Jane

    • Kelly says:

      Jane, if you read through the post, they made 60 meals total. Therefore there were two people cooking for two full families. Each family took home 30 meals for the freezer. Does that help?

    • Jane says:

      OK Kelly… I am so sorry that it is taking me a little while to get this. I only see recipes for 6 dinner meals. So are you including recipes from the traditional, whole foods, vegetarian, and gluten free. Sorry I want to do this… fantastic but don’t understand how you got 30 meals.Jane

      • Tricia says:

        Here is an explanation of the whole foods menus (http://onceamonthmom.com/whole-foods-once-a-month-freezer-cooking/) we have several other explanations of menus. Also, in each menu post (and on recipe cards) there is an explanation like this one:

        “The Whole Foods menu is designed for you to enter the NUMBER OF PEOPLE you are cooking for. The menu will yield you approximately 6-10 breakfasts, 8 lunches and 14 dinners. Throughout the month you will be eating each entree 2 times. No, this is not enough to feed you for every meal, but it should be enough to get you most of the way, after all, we still do eat out or eat with friends on occasion. If you are willing to eat the same meals up to 4 times each month (lunches and dinners) you can double the number of people that you are cooking for and you will get the quantities needed for each. For more details and examples please see the printable WHOLE FOODS June 2012 Recipe Cards first page, instructions.

        It isn’t enough for 30 total dinners but it is quite a bit of food for the month.

  3. Jessica says:

    I recently started the OAMM (did my first big cooking day this past Sunday). We get our income once a month, so I did all my shopping at once, buying the meat and big bulk items at a wholesale club, and the produce, etc. at our local grocery store. We have a LARGE family. My fiance and I, plus our SEVEN teengagers, so we go through a lot of food. My total grocery bill was about $800, but it included supplemental meals throughout the month, as well as snack foods and lunches for when the kids are home throughout the summer. All in all, it worked out to each entree costing approximately $3! It may have been painful to pay all of the grocery bill up front, but I definitely can’t feed such a large family for $3 a person anywhere else!

    • Tricia says:

      Oh WOW! That is quite a testimony. And quite a few mouths to feed. Thank you so much for sharing this with others. This will help them A LOT!

    • Aron says:

      Thanks for posting this. I want to get started with our large family, but was a bit afraid of breaking the bank.

  4. Chelsea says:

    I just made my first month of meals for my family yesterday and the day before. Although it was a huge project, I am so excited to have it all ready to go! I used both the Traditional Menu and the Toddler Menu, and I spent $217 on the food for both menus which is not bad at all! I made all of the meals and have figured out that it equals out to be about $4.34 per meal for all three of us (or $1.50 per person :)). I am so relieved to now have such a variety of quick and easy meals for my toddler! I work a part time job and don’t get home until after 7pm so I know this will really help! Thank you!!

    • JP0408 says:

      Thank you for posting this. How many people
      do you have in your family? I have 2 toddlers
      I too
      Would do the traditional menu but worriedly
      Kids won’t eat it.
      I have a lot of anxiety about buying all this making it and then my kids not eating.
      This sounds like such a project. I really
      Used to love cooking. It was my therapy but now I work part time in a daycare and I’m tired by the time my shift is over and get my kids to bed. I too work until 7 sometimes even 8:30. I’d love to have meals ready to go for my husband and kids and not worry

  5. I’ve been on the fence about once a month cooking for awhile only because I live with such picky eaters! With the holiday season in full swing, I’m going to take the plunge today because there’s so much appeal to having meals already prepped in the freezer. And from the comments, it looks like people are saving quite a bit of money. I think that alone has got me sold!

  6. maryann van sickle says:

    I just started this for the first time in March and I am a family of five. I shopped at Winco and then got my meat from our local grocery store that my husband works at and we spent about 260.00 for all recipes in the traditional this was great and saved me money and time. Definately doing again in April

  7. Rachel says:

    I tried the mini plan last month- 5 freezer meals doubled (10 meals) and it was THE best thing as I work two jobs and with a small break in the day I am able to throw it in the crockpot and then several hours later come home to a delicious meal- easy as pie! I did do the shopping, chopping, and assembly all on one day which I wouldn’t recommend- but I was excited! This month I am doing a full month’s worth (april diet) and did it as suggested. I shopped one day ($130 or so for 4 servings!) and chopped today, so cooking tomorrow! I’m so excited to incorporate once a month cooking!!! Thank you!

  8. Natalie Gibbs says:

    A few years ago, a “Dinners done right” opened near my home. I loved going there. I had the option of spending about 2 hours preparing up to 12 meals at a time for cheaper than I could buy the ingredients. Unfortunately, that place had to close, and I’ve been researching OAMC ever since. Right now, I’m recovering from surgery, and on medical leave for another couple of weeks, but then it’s back to 10 hour days, 4-5 days a week. With two special needs kids, it’s hard to carve out time for anything. I’m going to put away as many meals as I can now for when I go back to work. I’m thinking that 2 days spent preparing everything will not only help with time management, but save us money as we’re not eating convenience foods or fast food. I’ve made a commitment that I’m going to stick to only eating at home for the next 30 days. I’m sure we’ll save money and I know we’ll be eating much more healthy food.

    Thank you for this site. At 8 bucks a month, it’s quite the bargain. I’ve spent the last week researching on the web and in cookbooks, looking at menus and recipes, and the task of trying to make a shopping list and organize everything is quite daunting. You’ve made it so easy for me, and I’m feeling quite confident. I’m going to break it down into a few more days than you’ve planned it out, only because I am recovering from surgery and I have the time right now to spend.

    Thank you for a great website, and I will update you through my process!

    • Kelly says:

      Thank YOU for such a wonderful testimony! We’re here to help and if you have any questions as you get through please do not hesitate to contact us info at onceamonthmom.com

  9. Michelle B says:

    Today was my second cooking day. Two weeks ago I picked 2 mini-menus to try it out. Keep in mind that we live in Hawaii so our food prices reflect the cost of living here, where I have paid $8.00 for a pound of ground beef. We are a family of 6 we pay on average $1000.00 a month on groceries here. We did our shopping in 1 day buying meat and some produce at Costco and the rest at the Commissary (we are a military family). We spent about $700.00 this time! Cooking day is a blessing we all work together! My older kids also dont mind doing the dishes knowing they wont have major dishes again for a month. We are moving back to the mainland soon and will have our house packed two months before we leave. I plan to have plenty of meals stocked so we wont spend a fortune eating out! Thank you this website is a life saver!

    • Kelly says:

      What a great savings Michelle! And way to be prepared for the weeks ahead! Best of luck to you in your move. Thanks for your membership.

  10. Vicki says:

    Does your OAMC meals that you make on the menu include a months worth of breakfast lunch and dinner? My budget is tight. I think I can do it for about $300 but I need to know if that includes all meals or do I have to shop seperately for the other meals. I want to use the traditional menu but the breakfast and lunch recipes dont look like there are enough even doubling for 30 days.

  11. crystalbean2 says:

    I started this last month…on the September menu. I spent almost $300, but didn’t stop to think about any sales ahead of time. Also, it being my first time trying it out…I found it incredibly difficult! I have two small children running around me, and I also made the mistake of choosing the whole foods menu (which probably took more time than any of them). After 3 days, I still wasn’t done cooking and I ended up freezing half of my chicken. :) I’ll try it again though…it’s a great idea!

    I would have liked it better if the thaw / reheat instructions were right on the recipe card.

    • Katie says:

      Hi Crystal! Yes, the first time is the hardest and the Whole Foods is the more time consuming as well. :) It does get better though. And yes, we are in the process of moving the the thaw/reheat instructions back to the recipe cards along with the labels. I can’t wait to hear how you enjoy the recipes!

  12. Alicia says:

    I did my shopping all at once for the first time a few weeks ago, starting with the January 2014 diet menu. I spent about $250 in Missouri, and I paid no attention to sales nor did I shop around. I was surprised that I had most of the items on hand already! So far my family is a HUGE fan of OAMM… MY husband works nights, so eating healthy is nearly impossible with our 4 & 22 month old daughters being so busy!

    • Lisa says:

      Alicia – Thank you so much for sharing! We truly love hearing how OAMM helps your family gather around the dinner table, and save money as well!

  13. Brittany Parrish says:

    I just finished my first big cooking weekend, and boy was it good to sit down! I just wanted to let you all know how much it cost me for this month’s meals, as this thread helped me out before I went shopping! I chose 5 vegan dinner entrees to eat 4 times during the month, to make a total of 20 nights of freezer meals for 8 people. Between going to our local grocery outlet for as must of the grocery list as possible ($150) and a full price grocery store ($202)for a total of $352 for all the vegan weekday dinners! That boils down to $17.60 a meal, $2.20 each serving. That number includes the freezer bags, saran wrap, aluminum foil, and aluminum pans.

    The meals I chose were:
    African Coconut Chickpea Soup
    Sloppy Vegan Joes
    Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Broccoli and Walnuts
    Chickpea Pot Pie
    Vegan Enchilada Casserole

    • Katharine in Brussels says:

      Sounds great, Bethany! What an amazong savings you’ve done there with time and money. How is it going for you now? Is it less hassle than cooking meals daily?
      I cook large batches of recipes one at a time, but have never attempted the OAMC due to a small freezer. I can do OAWC though :) I cook for my two toddlers, #3 on the way, and for me with vegetarian meals. Sometimes DH will eat them, but he has very different tastes from us. We got a medium upright freezer today (yes!) so OAMC is on the menu now!
      You might like to try the crockpot veg lasagne soup posted here some time ago, which uses vegetarian crumbles. There might be a vegan option of this in your area. I have tried it with TVP but it didn’t taste right, even when the TVP was steeped in bouillon for more flavour. If you find meltable vegan cheese this soup is really out of sight, it’s a family favourite for us. The other plus is you can dump all of the ingredients, go to work, return 8hrs/so later and add the pasta for 20 minutes then it’s done! So that’s one less dish to cook on the big cooking day.

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