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Once-A-Month Cooking Family Favorites: More Great Recipes That Save You Time and Money from the Inventors of the Ultimate Do-Ahead Dinnertime Method Paperback – September 1, 2009

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Make It Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
"Make it ahead" by Ina Garten
Clear instructions for what you can do ahead of time, and how far in advance, so you can cook with confidence and eliminate last-minute surprises. Learn more | See related books
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

MIMI WILSON and MARY BETH LAGERBORG are authors and inventors of the Once-a-Month Cooking (TM) system. Both live in Colorado and have written other books.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


If this is the first time you’ve joined us, welcome to a new life, where you’ll have meals on hand without the every-evening stress of what to fix. You’re going to save money on your grocery bills and save time in the kitchen, so that you and your family can consistently enjoy together time over delicious, home-cooked meals, and perhaps share meals with others. If this is a reunion with old friends who have enjoyed Once-A-Month Cooking, welcome back. You’re in for more wonderful recipes and ways to spend meaningful time around the family dinner table.

As you launch into megacooking, we’re cheering for you! And here’s our promise: we’ll do all we can to help you not only realize your goals, but have a positive experience in the process. Whether you decide to cook a month’s dinner entrées at once, or two weeks’ dinner entrées, we’ll expedite your shopping and cooking. And we’ll even provide table-talk conversation starters to help you make the very most of that time when you’re gathered around the table.

What to Expect

For those of you who are new to the method, Once-A-Month Cooking is a different way to cook. You don’t have to be well organized or a good cook to successfully accomplish it. But you do need to expect and plan to

• Take a longer-than-usual shopping trip, preferably the day or night before you cook.

• Spend the bulk of your month’s food expense on this shopping trip (saving money over the course of the month).

• Cook with a partner for maximum efficiency and more fun.

• Cook half a day for a two-week cycle and a full day for a one-month cycle.

• Love the freedom and possibilities this will bring to mealtimes.

• Enjoy family-building times around the table.

• Take the stress out of having company for dinner.

A Look at the Recipes

The Recipesincluded in Once-A-Month Cooking Family Favorites have been selected for their taste, variety, ease of preparation, freezeability, and appeal to children as well as adults. Four of the menu cycles are classic, to use any time of year: two one-month cycles and two two-week cycles. Three additional two-week cycles are more specialized and add variety. The Summer Two-Week Cycleis for when livin’ is easy, grillin’ is big, and picnics are possible. The Gourmet Two-Week Cycleis more up-scale fare, on average, than the classic cycle entrées. And the Gluten-Free Two-Week Cycleprovides tasty alternatives for the person with gluten intolerance. We think you’ll find that the recipes in the Gluten-Free Cycle are every bit as tasty as the recipes in the others, and are perfect for the whole family where one or more members must eat gluten-free. As always, the person on a special diet should carefully check ingredient labels.

How to Get Started

If you have previously used Once-A-Month Cooking, you will find the same streamlined method with entirely new recipes. If you are new to bulk cooking, you’ll want to first select a cycle to prepare and read through the lists and charts that are your tools:

The new Menu Chartis your best Once-A-Month Cooking buddy. You will want to download and print a copy at www .once-a-monthcooking .com and keep it on the refrigerator, or taped inside a cupboard door. The more you usethe Menu Chart, the happier you will be because it will help you

• Incorporate into weekly shopping trips any fresh produce required.

• Select an entrée from your freezer to fit the number of people you’ll serve on a given night.

• Cycle through a variety of meats, poultry, and fish.

• Select an entrée for the day that will match your available time for final preparation.

• Write in ideas for what you will serve with each entrée. Following through with this important step will help you creatively use fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables and keep track of items that you will need to purchase on a weekly grocery-shopping trip.

• Check off dishes you have served so you know what you still have to choose from—and when you need to plan your next Once-A-Month Cooking day.

The beauty of the big grocery trip is that you can avoid the need for many stops for “just a few” items the rest of the month. Those impulse trips blow the food bud get. But we know that you really, really don’t want to get full swing into your cooking day and find you’re missing a key ingredient, so we’ll help you form a complete shopping list. If possible, plan to shop the day or evening before you cook; you won’t have the time or energy to do both on cooking day.

The first step toward this is to check the items that you already have on hand. The Pantry Listis our guess at items you already have. Check and see, and if you’re missing some, add them to your shopping list. We give the quantities you’ll need so you can be sure that you have enough of each ingredient.

Your Shopping List by Categorieshelps you whip through the grocery store without a lot of doubling back. Supermarkets predictably display the necessities—meat, dairy, bakery, and produce—along the walls of the store. That means you have to travel aisles of impulse items to get to them! We hope to save you steps and detours.

One caution: If you are a super-diligent shopper who likes to buy meats and poultry on sale, remember that it is not wise to thaw meat or poultry, create an entrée, and refreeze it unless the meat or poultry is cooked before it’s refrozen. When a recipe calls for precooked chicken, we often recommend purchasing roasted chicken and deboning it. If you do this, keep in mind for your shopping plan that often supermarkets don’t make roasted chickens available until the afternoon.

An asterisk (*) after an item in the shopping list indicates that the item will not be used until the day the entrée is served. When the item is fresh produce, such as a tomato, you may want to delay purchasing it until close to when you’ll serve the dish. These items are all listed on the handy Menu Chart so you won’t forget to purchase them before they’re needed. Incorporate these into a weekly grocery shopping list so that you can continue to minimize trips to the store.

Truly you can navigate through a Once-A-Month Cooking day with just a basic knowledge of cooking skills. If you are an experienced cook, you’ll sail along more quickly. Using the Assembly Order, you will prepare your entrées in the order listed, beginning with your chopping, slicing, and grating tasks. Don’t be discouraged with the time this step takes. Once it’s completed, the dishes will come together quickly.

Keep the vegetables, cheese, etc. that you process in Ziploc bags or containers on the counter, refrigerating them if they will be sitting out more than an hour or two. Refrigerate all meat, poultry, and fish that you process (slicing, cubing, etc.) until it will be incorporated into a dish.

Depending upon the size of your family, a two-week cycle with some entrées divided into multiple containers could last for a month.

A Few Days Before Cooking

Make room for the bounty by cleaning out your refrigerator and freezer. You won’t need a separate chest freezer, even for a month cycle, if you’ve cleaned out your freezer before you cook. It’s time to throw out those hard knots of mystery food. Purge items from the refrigerator that have passed their expiration dates, and clear space for food you’ll need to refrigerate between your grocery shopping trip and completion of your cooking day.

On the Night Before Cooking

At every turn in the pro cess of Once-A-Month Cooking, you’ll find that following through with the suggested preparation saves you time and inconvenience. The night before you cook, spend a few minutes preparing your kitchen. Remove from the countertops all appliances, canisters, and décor items that you won’t use on your cooking day. Set out all items from the Pantry List on a counter close to the stove. Now add to these the ingredients from your Shopping List that don’t need refrigeration. Take a few moments to label freezer containers (see bottom of each recipe). Set them out on a table adjacent to the kitchen where you can sit a few minutes while you prepare entrées for the freezer.

Equipment You’ll Need

Finally, get out the basic equipment you’ll need for your big cooking day. Depending upon the cycle you choose, they will probably include the following:


Crock Pot—Each menu cycle includes at least one recipe to be completed in a slow cooker on serving day. If you don’t have one, use a large, covered pot in a slow oven (300 to 325°F.).

Food processor—Banish onion tears by chopping onions, a few wedges at a time, “pulsing” with the processor

Mixer or blender—for combining ingredients


Baking sheet—for baking; for transporting to the freezer

Large pot with lid—for boiling soups, stews, pastas

Pizza pan—for baking and freezing

Roasting pan—for cooking meats

Saucepans—medium and small with lids

Skillets—large, medium, and small


Freezer containers—Ziploc bags and containers as described on the Pantry List

Mixing bowls—small, medium, and large; for combining ingredients


Apron—to save your clothes

Clean sponges, dishcloths, and kitchen towels—for wiping and cleaning up

Colander—for draining pasta and spinach

Coolers and ice—for dividing food, if you’re cooking with a friend

Cutting boards—One for nuts, fruits, and vegetables, and another for meats and poultry. Or carefully wash your cutting board before moving from one food item to another (always leaving poultry last)

Fresh breeze—whew! Lots of aromas

Indelible marker—...


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 8.2.2009 edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312534043
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312534042
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I originally bought this book for one or two recipes that was inside of it. My husband saw the Title and practically begged me to give it a go since this month (October) is our busiest month (I work a full time job, own another business and volunteer at a haunted house 4 nights a week) and he HATES cooking for just him and my daughter. SO, we started reading the "directions" on how to cook Once A Month - MAN! Let me tell you how super simple they have made everything!! Not only do they give you the shopping list, a staples list, AND several plans to choose from, they also tell you what ORDER to prepare them in! We decided to start with the two week plan just to see if it was for us!

This past weekend, my husband and I spent 1/2 the day TOGETHER in the kitchen, cooking as a TEAM and were able to turn out 14 meals!! We had a BLAST and even my 6 year old daughter got to help! So many new recipes (so far all have been truly amazing)- it was like discovering our kitchen all over again!

SO EASY - nothing complicated about preparation or cooking any of the foods - all basic skills and ingredients, save for a few spices that have now been incorporated to our cabinets.

We've really enjoyed being able to rush home after all of our crazy schedules and being able to have dinner on the table quickly instead of trying to figure out what to eat or where to grab something. I am definitely converting over to the OAMC club!
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By TinaT on September 26, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wow! I purchased the original OAMC book by the same authors several years ago, and almost didn't buy this one because I thought it would just be a re-hash of the same recipes. Man, was I wrong! Great recipes that have variety and spice, but not so "out there" ingredients-wise that your younger kids will turn up their noses...and several meal plans to choose from. I prepared "cycle A" two days after I received this book and will do "cycle B" in October. Also plan on buying several more copies for Christmas gifts.
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A neighbor and I did the 2-week gluten-free cycle together (not because of dietary needs, but because the recipes sounded good) a few days ago, doubling all quantities so we could each have the whole cycle, and with careful preparation the night before (the book tells you how to prep your kitchen), we were done AND cleaned up in 4 hours flat. We've eaten two of the meals so far, and my VERY picky kids have even eaten them! (One motivator for my doing this "project" was to get my kids to try more new foods by being able to tell them, "I KNOW you only like three foods in the whole world, but we have 14 meals in the freezer and THIS one is dinner TONIGHT, so like it or lump it, pick up your fork!" But instead, though we got the usual grimaces and stirring things around the plate, once they actually tasted the meals, they ate them! Huzzah!) My friend has only prepared one of her meals yet, but she said it was delicious too.

It was very fun indeed to cook with my friend, exceedingly satisfying to look into my full freezer and see all those meals lined up, downright miraculous to load empty dishes into the dishwasher, and exciting to be able to tell my husband, "While I'm at church, please, look on the menu list behind the cabinet door and pick what you'd like for dinner tonight, and get it defrosting." (Yes, we should've done that last night and defrosted in the fridge, but we're new!)

Hints for first-timers from a going-on-second-timer: read EVERYTHING ahead of time. Photocopy the recipe pages so you can lay them flat (this book ought to be in a spiral binding, if not a 3-ring - so far this is my one "con"). Follow the "how to get ready" instructions carefully; they cut LOADS of time.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this cookbook when pregnant with my second. I thought I'd get some meals in the freezer before he arrived and it would save some sanity in the beginning. I never got around to it, but a little bit after going back to work, I was finding it difficult and stressful to get dinner on the table in a timely fashion each night. So, I waited until we really needed to go shopping (I suggest doing this as some stuff is cooked and frozen, and other meals are prepared and frozen and defrosting and re-freezing is a no-no). The lists are already in the book, from the items you will likely have on hand, to the things you'll need to get, to the types of storage containers you'll need! It also maps out your prep/cook order for each cycle. i.e. chop 5 onions, slice two...while browning meat, prepare X, etc. I found it really useful. I looked into other bulk cooking books, but it seemed as though you had to pick your meals, compile a list, figure out the prep order, etc (too much work for me!) I will say, though, it's not for the faint of heart! It was EXHAUSTING to do, and I've only done 14 meal cycles. I was wiped at the end of the day, but the payoff of being able to pop something in the oven when I got home is great. Even if the cooking time may be 45 minutes, I don't have to do any of the prep, so I get that time back to spend with my boys. So far, we've liked all of the recipes, even my picky 5 year old is eating them (a feat in itself!) Some of the recipes even leave us with enough as leftovers for lunch the next day. I would highly recommend and am planning to cook this way more often!
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