On December 17, 2016 by Kim
It’s a new year. Everyone has new goals: get organized, save money, eat healthfully, and spend more time doing the important things. For many families, freezer cooking can be the solution to keeping these resolutions. At Once a Month Meals, our goal is to get you to the table with the people you love, stress-free.
Did you know that you can also save money with freezer cooking?
- Once a Month Meals provides custom menu resources to help you organize your cooking day including a grocery list and step by step cooking and freezing instructions.
- Your cooking day provides you an easy meal plan full of ready to eat meals.
- You can choose from among our nine different menu types to meet your health needs, or make a completely customized menu for unique needs.
- You spend one cooking session filling the freezer and all the other days enjoying what and who you love.
So your next question is, what is it going to cost me? You can check out prices for our monthly and yearly membership subscription here. To help you meet your goals of saving money, it’s our objective to keep the price of membership reasonable.
But the big question is, does freezer cooking actually save money?
First, let me ask you, what are you spending on groceries now? Here are some stats on the average American grocery bill, taken from this article.
- Unplanned grocery trips can add as much as 30% to your overall food budget.
- The average household spends 13% of their income on food-related purchases.
- Half of the money spent on food is spent on take out, fast food, and restaurants!
The USDA says that an average family of 4 eating healthy meals (no junk or sweets, fast food, or eating out) will spend anywhere from a thrifty $566 a month to a liberal $1110 a month on groceries. Last, the following items are among the most expensive in the grocery store (source):
Compare all of this with once a month cooking, freezer cooking, batch cooking – whatever you like to call it.
- Freezer cooking keeps you from making unplanned grocery trips.
- Freezer cooking keeps you from eating out because the refrigerator is empty or you just don’t feel like cooking.
- Freezer cooking keeps you from purchasing overpriced and unhealthy convenience items. (See the links above.)
- Freezer cooking saves you daily prep time, clean up time, and the daily stress of planning and decision making.
Let’s hear it from the experts. “To eat cheaply at home you have to make an investment of time to plan meals, grocery shop, cook and prepare the food,” says Tami Ross, a nutrition expert and author (source). While freezer cooking will certainly save you money, you may be considering whether it is worth the time commitment of shopping, prepping, and cooking. Time is valuable too! There are other options that may seem more attractive, for instance, a local meal service where I can plan and prepare meals in the store. There are food delivery services and network marketing companies that promise convenience and healthy ingredients.
Aside from the reasons we listed above (control over healthy ingredients, ability to fully customize menus, etc.), let’s consider the dollar amounts. The chart below gives you an at-a-glance comparison of five similar meals from different services – make and take, delivery, or network marketing party. We chose a marinated or seasoned chicken dish that was similar to our Greek Chicken Potato Packets. First, we calculated the cost per serving for each meal since each service offered differing amounts. For the network marketing options, we added 2 lbs. of boneless skinless chicken to the cost of the marinade or spices purchased. Then we figured out the price for four servings and calculated the difference when compared to the Once a Month Meals recipe. The Once a Month Meals meal came in cheaper than all of them, and we did not factor in any shipping costs or any additional meal items needed, such as side dishes.
For four servings of this one meal, the average amount saved by once a month cooking is $2.56.
That means that every time you cook a Mini Menu containing 10 meals, you save approximately $25! Every time you cook a full menu containing 30 meals, you could save upwards of $75!
Yes, these are just averages based on one simple meal. But, this should give you a basic idea of the cost difference when you cook at home. We find that our staff and members tend to spend between $250 and $350 for their cooking days. Sometimes we spend even less than that if we are cooking a smaller menu or creating custom menus to reduce costs (check out last week’s post for more info).
Costs vary based on the menu you choose. For example, specialty menus like Paleo and Gluten Free Dairy Free often cost a little more than the Traditional or Vegetarian menus because of higher meat content and specialty grocery items. Also, grocery prices and sales vary regionally.
Although you do make an upfront time commitment when you once a month cook, you do actually save valuable time in the long run. Typically, a cooking day will take 12-18 hours (including shopping and prep time). But if you consider that you probably spend 1-2 hours each day preparing and meals and cleaning up after them, you can do some quick math (multiply by 30) and see that you are actually reducing the time spent in the kitchen by half. And that doesn’t count all the time you save in the grocery store or the time you might spend waiting for someone else to prepare food in a restaurant.
Costs will always vary based on what you already have on hand, local prices and sales, and the type of menu cooked, but it is always encouraging to hear actual numbers from someone who has freezer cooked.
Here are a few quotes from actual people who once a month cook:
- Jenna at That Wife says in her post that she shopped at Whole Foods and Safeway and spent $384.41 for this Real Food Menu (she notes that the cupboards were pretty bare before she shopped). And she spent $355.87 on this Paleo Menu, shopping at Sprouts, Whole Foods, and Safeway.
- Katharine, a member from Belgium, told us in her member spotlight that she saves about $200 US per month.
- Reaghan told us on Facebook, “I am a college student who works full time and I recently got accepted into the RN program here in town. All together we made 102 meals with ingredients for one more recipe…and all ingredients cost less than $150.00 my freezer is now full and all portions were under 400 calories.”
- Brittany commented on a post: “I chose five vegan dinner entrees to eat four times during the month, to make a total of 20 nights of freezer meals for eight people. Between going to our local grocery outlet for as much 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.
- Staffer Erin says: “On my last cooking day in December, I cooked for six people GFDF and spent $247 and some change.”
Last, check out some of the resources we have created to make your once a month cooking day most cost efficient:
- Budget Freezer Cooking Tips
- 20 Budget Friendly Freezer Meals (use this list to create custom menus)
- How to Save Money on Real Food
- Paleo on a Budget
- Winter Slow Cooker Mini Menu Vol. 3 (designed to be budget friendly)
- Fall Pantry Staples Mini Menu Vol. 1
- Summer Easy Assembly Mini Menu Vol. 1 (try this instead of a Wildtree party)
- Summer Snack Mini Menu Vol. 1 (convenience items are some of the most expensive)
- Spring Ground Beef Mini Menu Vol. 1 and Spring Chicken Mini Menu Vol. 1 (for when you find a great sale or buy in bulk)
- Spring Better than the Freezer Aisle Mini Menu Vol. 1 (make your own freezer aisle favorites at home for less)
- Winter Traditional Mini Menu Vol. 8 (recipes with 5 ingredients or less to keep your grocery list short and simple)