Batch Cook to Save Precious Weekday Time and Have a Smooth Week
Preparation and planning ahead are essential ingredients to success, especially as it relates to our eating habits. During busy days, it can be tough to make nutritious meals from scratch. Enter batch cooking, a meal planning strategy where you pre-make common ingredients in large quantities, or even prepare full dishes so you can enjoy meals and snacks throughout the week without much effort. Our schedules get full, so you need ways to stay on track.
Eating at home is a powerful tool to turn around your health - it can reduce the risk and even help turn around chronic diseases, like type 2 diabetes and obesity. And batch cooking makes eating at home quick and easy, which takes the guesswork out of what and where to eat. It’s all too easy to pick up take-out on the way home from a busy day, but restaurants promote consuming excessive calories, fat and sodium, so batch cooking helps to avoid this.
Batch Cooking in 3 Easy Steps
Create a meal plan. Choose several meals or recipes that have interchangeable ingredients. Do several call for beans? Do a couple include the same veggies? Start by choosing 2 - 3 meals that share some common ingredients.
Choose a batch cooking day. Don’t worry, you only need 1 - 2 hours to batch cook, depending on your level of experience and how simple versus complicated your meals. (If you’re new to this, start simple.) Use this time to pre-chop or roast veggies and batch cook staple ingredients, like grains or legumes, or even make full dishes.
Store prepped ingredients and cooked food in usable portions. During the week, assemble quick meals with pre-chopped and pre-cooked ingredients. Portion out full meals into single serving containers for easy grab-and-go dishes during the week.
Buy dried beans and prep them at the start of the week. Dried beans are less expensive than the canned variety and they are tastier too. Beans are great on salads, bowls, wraps and other meals, or just to grab as a filling snack. If pressed for time, canned beans are a great back up option and still relatively affordable.
Buy bagged frozen fruits and chopped greens, like kale and spinach. Divide into individual smoothie kits and store in freezer bags for a fast and easy morning breakfast. Frozen produce also saves prep time, since ingredients don’t have to be washed or chopped.
Very short on time? Opt for pre-chopped produce like onions, celery, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, and ginger.
Save time in the kitchen by using different methods to prep and cook at the same time: slow cooker for oatmeal, stovetop for grains and soup, oven for roasted veggies and potatoes.
Cook your grains for the week: with a base of quinoa, brown rice or another cooked grain, you can quickly make a meal with fresh or roasted veggies and a sauce on top (like, quinoa with broccoli and a lemon tahini dressing).
Get your family or housemates involved: include your family members or roommates to reduce some of the workload. And, it’s a great opportunity for quality time together.
Glass containers are a great option, as food stays fresher longer and you can reheat meals in the same container. Mason jars are especially good for salad dressing as well as soups, overnight oatmeal, and smoothies.
Freeze vegetable broth in ice cube trays, then store frozen cubes in a plastic freezer bag. These small amounts of broth are great for sautéing veggies or adding flavor to dishes.
Short on freezer space? Store soups, broth and tomato sauce in tightly closed plastic freezer bags, lay flat and stack on top of one another.
Create a back-up supply of meals: double up the recipe and freeze a portion for another week when you have less time to prep and cook.
If cooking is not yet part of your regular routine, this may seem like a large chunk of time to spend in the kitchen. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll find the up-front effort pays off - saving you time, money and setting you up to make good decisions and stick to your plan. Add the health benefits on top and you’ll find batch cooking is one of the best habits to keep.
Choose a day and schedule about 2 hours to prep and batch cook for the week ahead.
Try cooking multi-serving meals: 1 breakfast recipe, 2 lunch/dinner recipes.
Portion out enough servings for 3 - 4 days of meals, and freeze the rest.