Cooking for yourself quickly becomes a chore. With seniors who are living alone poor nutrition is frequent and can lead to other health problems. Also, if you are a distant loved one, frequent visit are not possible. Batch cooking by the senior or by a loved one can be easily done in one day per month.

Also, cooking once a month can save both time and money. Not only do you take advantage of sales by buying in bulk, but you also give yourself more free time on a daily basis by cooking in bulk. And if you’re creative enough, you can fit thirty meals in a standard freezer. So put on your apron, play your favorite music, and clear the kitchen–once a month, you’re a lean, mean cooking machine.
Make a menu. Collect recipes from various sources. Read several once-a-month type cook books for ideas. Choose recipes that are “hits” in your household, and that you’ve cooked successfully before. When you’re making large batches, you don’t want to experiment with new recipes. Assuming you’re only making dinners, you don’t need to cook thirty different dishes. You can cook several batches of the household favorites like pizza (up to four, if you like a particular dish enough to have it once a week)
Think of some “master recipes” that can be adapted to several different dishes. Take a large amount of cheap, normally tough meat, for example, and put it in a slow cooker until it’s tender, then shred it and use it in hot sandwiches, enchiladas, etc.[1]
What you decide to cook will also depend on what you found on sale. Many once-a-month cooks base their “menu” around which meats they found for a good price.
Soups, stews and casseroles are the easiest to cook ahead of time, but make sure you don’t go overboard on these. Keep the dishes varied. Make a big batch of empanadas and/or wontons. Make a pot of tomato sauce with meat in it (or pesto), cook some pasta, and freeze both (stored separately).
1.    Avoid foods that don’t freeze well. That includes:
o    Sour Cream (becomes thin/watery)
o    Mayonnaise (separates, but is fine if mixed into a recipe)
o    Cream Cheese (becomes watery and texture changes)
o    Cheese (crumbles, but is fine for shredding or in recipes)
o    Fried Foods (lose crispness or become soggy)
o    Egg Whites- cooked (become tough & rubbery)
o    Cream Pies (become watery or lumpy)
o    Cream Fillings (texture changes)
o    Frostings (texture changes)
o    Icings made with egg whites (become foamy)
o    Potatoes don’t taste good after being frozen, whether in soup, stew, or     casserole.
2.    Keep in mind how some foods respond to freezing.
o    Raw Vegetables (lose crispness, but if prepared correctly can be used for         cooking or stews & soups.
o    Yogurt (may change texture)
o    Heavy Cream (will not whip when thawed but can be used for cooking)
o    Pastas & Grains (softer after freezing/reheating- undercook before     freezing to counter-balance)
o    Seasonings, onions, green peppers, herbs & flavorings (flavor may     increase or diminish with freezing. Add afterwards when possible)
o    Thickened sauces or stews (may need thinning after thawing)
o    Gravies or Fat-based sauces (may separate & need to be recombined)
o    Don’t thicken stews until you’re ready to eat them. Liquids with cornstarch     or flour added can separate after freezing and the texture isn’t quite right.     Thicken after thawing..
o    Soups. Freeze the components of soup separately (broth, chicken,     blanched onions, celery, and carrots) rather than freezing the assembled     soup. Put the ingredients together when preparing the meal.[3]
3.    Schedule an entire day (or two half days, back to back) to devote entirely to cooking. Let everyone know that your sole focus for that day is cooking–not errands, playing, walking the dog, etc. Be prepared to order pizza or go out to dinner, as quantity cooking can be tiring.
4.    Make a grocery list and go shopping using the recipes selected. Look at all your ingredients lists and consolidate them so you know exactly how much of each ingredient you’ll need. Shop the day before the cooking session. Gather flyers from your local grocery stores and supermarkets to see what’s on sale. Visit any wholesale clubs in your area; you can get deep discounts if you buy in bulk, especially when buying meat. You can also save money at farmers’ markets. Don’t forget to stock up on storage containers and supplies (sealable bags, plastic containers, aluminum foil, plastic wrap).
5.    Set out all the cooking utensils and pans the night before in preparation for the tomorrow’s cook-a-thon. You may also want to do some of the minor food preparation. A good example would be to chop onions using a food processor and then refrigerating the chopped onions for later use. Print and tape the recipes to the cupboard doors for ease of reading while cooking.
6.    Follow the cooking and freezing directions for each recipe. Think of your kitchen as an assembly line. Efficiency is key.
o    Start crock pot recipes and preparing whole chickens first.
o    Do common kitchen tasks all at once. For example, if several of your dishes will require ground beef, cook it all at once.
o    Blanche vegetables before you freeze them to preserve color, flavor, and texture.
7.    Freeze the meals. Always seal, label and date the prepared meals. It’s no fun playing the guessing game when finding the mysterious freezer dinner.
o    Freezer bags – Remove as much air as possible. A vacuum sealer is highly recommended. Soups and stews can be poured into freezer bags, sealed, and stacked flat; once they freeze, you can store them vertically like books on a shelf
o    Use aluminum pans or line cake pans or casserole dishes with heavy aluminum foil so they can be removed from them once they’re frozen; later, you can put it back inside that pan or dish for thawing and serving.
1.    If you have limited freezer space or are just starting out, consider mini sessions. A mini session typically prepares 10 to 14 days worth of meals.
2.    Cook according to what is on sale. Some cooks will have chicken session, a beef session or a breakfast session. The advantage to this method is the shopper can purchase what is on sale at the grocery store.
3.    For freezing some vegetables (Green beans, carrots, etc) they can be blanched in boiling water for a few minutes then dropped in a bath of ice water. They are then safe to freeze.
4.    Wear comfortable clothing and shoes, as well as an apron.
5.    Share the cooking session with a friend. Split the prepared meals and share grocery costs.
6.    Consider using pre-chopped onions, bell peppers or other frozen bagged veggies. This can cost a bit more but sometimes saving time is worth the extra cost.
7.    Wash the dishes as you cook.
8.    Plan to use a couple slow cooker recipes as part of the cooking session. The night before, start a slow cooker recipe and allow the food to cook overnight. The next day use the slow cooker for second batch of food.

This Senior health tip is brought to you by the HomeChoice Network, a senior-care service in the Sandhills North Carolina communites of Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen, Whispering Pines and others.  We serve all of Moore County.