If you have a busy schedule, it can be challenging to cook three healthy meals from scratch. One time-saving and cost-effective kitchen hack is to cook an entire week’s worth of healthy meals. Healthy batch cooking allows your family to enjoy meals and snacks throughout the week without a lot of hassle. It also minimizes your chances of ordering takeout or eating out, and instead opting to eat healthily.
How to Batch Cook
Cooking in bulk can be a time-consuming task, especially when you have to batch cook everything at the beginning of the week. However, spending these few hours on meal prep will save you time later.
Batch cooking entails cooking large quantities of different kinds of foods that can be mixed and matched, or cooking a large batch of one or two dishes. It’s a simple process and much of your time will be spent on prepping what to cook.
Before you get started, be sure to have plenty of storage containers that are both freezer and fridge-friendly. Containers with lids are the most ideal, and clear containers are especially great since they let you see what’s stored inside.
Other tools you may need include:
- A slow cooker or instant pot
- A roasting pan
- Masking tape and markers for labeling your food items
- A blender for smoothies, sauces, dressing, etc.
- Large pots, pressure cooker, or sauté pans
Additionally, make sure you have enough space in your fridge and freezer to store all the food you plan to cook.
Here’s a simplified guide to getting you started on cooking healthy meals in bulk:
Pick Your Recipes
First off, you need a menu plan with recipes so you can design what you’ll be eating that week. This way, you’ll have all the bases covered and will know what to cook beforehand. Put everything into consideration, including your personal likes and dislikes.
You can find plenty of recipes on Instagram, food magazines, food blogs, and Pinterest for inspiration. But, remember to pick recipes that will do well in the fridge or freezer. Pasta bakes, soup, stews, fish, and meatballs are classic freezable foods.
When planning your meals, remember to list down batch cooking ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as snacks. This way, you’ll have everything covered.
With your list ready, it’s time to go to a grocery store to get everything you need. A list makes your shopping less tiring since you know exactly what to buy. Look out for offers to save you some money.
Certain items like onions are cheaper when you buy in bulk. Some stores even sell frozen chopped onions, which can be ideal if you don’t want an afternoon full of tears.
Preparation and Cooking
Now that you have all your ingredients ready, it’s time to get to work. Pick a day that you can spend at least two hours cooking.
Let’s break down the batch cooking process:
Start with the Grains
Whole grains like brown rice take longer to cook than their refined counterparts. That’s why it’s wise to start with them. A big batch of a dish like beans will save you plenty of hours if you just heat and eat, instead of cooking from scratch.
Cook the Vegetables and Protein Next
Vegetables are essential in every meal, not only for fiber but also for minerals and vitamins. However, vegetables don’t need a lot of heat, otherwise, they will lose all the nutrients.
Since you’ll be reheating the vegetables before eating, it’s advisable to undercook them. Other dishes you can undercook so they don’t go mushy include rice and pasta.
Cool Foods Before Freezing
Make sure your dishes cool to room temperature before freezing to avoid heating other foods in the heater. But don’t let the food stay out in the open for longer than necessary as this might encourage the growth of bacteria.
Before sealing your food, make sure you get as much air as possible out of the container. Doing so prevents ‘freezer burn’.
Label Your Dishes
Frozen foods are difficult to identify. To avoid cooking what you didn’t intend, be sure to label your containers and freezing bags. Most frozen foods keep well for up to three months, so remember to add a date to know when it’s past the expiry date.
Freeze Dishes in Sizeable Portions
Most likely, you won’t eat the entire portion of frozen beans once. Therefore, freeze them in portions that you’ll need for your meals.
Defrost Meals in the Fridge Overnight
If you plan to cook a certain type of dish the next day, defrost it in the refrigerator overnight. What if you forget to defrost the dish? Don’t worry. Simply put the food in a cold oven, straight from the freezer, and switch it on.
You’ll have to cook the meal a little longer, but it will defrost as the oven heats up. Remember to let the food heat until it’s piping hot before you eat it.
Don’t forget to make a sauce or salad dressing for accompaniment. Having a sauce or salad dressing ready in the fridge lets you add flavor and taste to your meals in an instant.
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