Finding ways to save time and be more efficient is something we can all get behind. Even if you’re only cooking for yourself or you and a partner or roommate, cooking and meal prep can be really time consuming. From planning your meals to grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning up, and packaging your food, the time can add up, and it seems to be a never-ending cycle.
I do most of the meal planning and cooking in our house, and even though it’s just two of us (for now!), it takes up a lot of time. That can make the whole process feel less enjoyable, and then makes me resent cooking.
To counter this, I’ve been trying to find ways to make my time in the kitchen more efficient. Batch cooking has been a game changer, and in today’s post I wanted to share with you some of my best advice for using this hack.
What is Batch Cooking?
Batch cooking involves cooking a lot of food at once. This means you have less food prep to do throughout the week.
While you can certainly cook multiple recipes in one sitting to save time, I find that even cooking one or two things in large quantities helps me down the road.
The key is to cook more at a time so that you have less food planning, prep, clean up, and cooking time to do for subsequent meals.
How Do You Batch Cook?
There are a few different ways I’ve tried to batch cook my meals.
Simply Making Extra
One of the easiest ways to start batch cooking is to simply make extra food when you’re cooking. Whether that’s doubling a recipe, or making a full recipe of something you normally cut in half, the key is to have enough left over to pack for lunches, eat another night, or freeze for another time.
I do this so often that it’s rare for us to finish a recipe in one sitting. Most of the time, I make a large enough batch of whatever I’m cooking so that we can have at least two servings of leftovers which is one lunch for each of us.
Some of my favourite meals to make extra of are lasagna, shepherd’s pie and stir frys. They taste great heated up, and last a few days in the fridge without spoiling.
Meal Prepping in Advance
Another way to batch cook is to prepare meals in advance. In my case, this looks like making four lunch servings in one sitting so that I don’t have to prep something different each day.
Burrito bowls are a prime example. I’ll cook rice and seasoned ground turkey, portioning some of each into four lunch containers. I’ll then add black beans and corn to each one, and make little containers of pico de gallo and chipotle cream sauce to go on the side. It may take me an hour, but I get multiple servings done all at once versus having to prepare individual meals each day.
Another way to batch cook is to make freezer meals. This is a great way to stock your freezer for weeks where you have less time but still want to eat something homemade.
Slow cooker dump recipes are a great example of freezer cooking. Simply fill a large freezer bag with your ingredients (often some protein, vegetables, and sauce), label it, and toss it in the freezer. You can then dump it into a slow cooker when you’re ready to go, and make some rice or a side dish to go with it.
Another freezer cooking example is making extra of something but instead of cooking it, freezing it right away. I’ve done this with chicken enchiladas: I made a batch, put them in a casserole dish, covered it, and froze it. Then, I defrosted it the day we wanted to eat them and then cooked them in the oven. Lasagna can be another great example: just assemble it and freeze it before cooking. When you’re ready to eat it, thaw it out and then bake!
Last, you can cook meals fully and then freeze them. This is a bit more nuanced as some ingredients freeze better than others, but some good examples are muffins, loaves, chilis, and soups. Just make a big batch, leave some out to eat in the next day or so, and freeze the rest. This will also prevent you from getting sick of the meals and is a way to avoid waste if you’re worried you won’t be able to eat it all quickly.
Tips for Batch Cooking
Here are some ways to make the most of batch cooking.
Buy Products in Bulk
Buying your ingredients in bulk or in large quantities is a fantastic way to ensure you have the quantities you need, while also saving money.
Our truLOCAL subscription is one of the best ways we’ve found to get products in bulk. truLOCAL ships locally sourced meat, poultry, and seafood products right to our door and we love the quality. Our freezer is always stocked with the basics, making it easy to do batch cooking and avoiding extra trips to the grocery store.
You can read my complete review here (and use code KATEM10 for 10% off your first regular box!)
Another way to buy products in bulk is to simply buy larger quantities of staples or buy them in larger denominations. For example, we grab extra cans of tomato sauce when they’re on sale, buy large bags of rice, and hit up Costco for things like large bags of frozen fruit.
Leave Yourself Plenty of Time
While batch cooking can save time in the long run, the actual food prep can take a while since you often have more volume to deal with. For example, if you’re cooking a large shepherd’s pie versus a normal-sized one, you probably have to cut up double the amount of onion. You’ll still save time versus making the recipe from scratch twice. But the prep may take a bit longer than usual for some of the steps. Ensure you’re setting aside enough time to get everything done.
If you’re doing a lot of freezer cooking, it can help to label your containers. On a label or piece of masking tape, write down what’s inside and the date you made it. This helps you ensure you’re eating it in a reasonable amount of time.
Don’t Wait Too Long to Enjoy Your Meals
In most cases, you’ll want to eat anything cooked and then frozen within 3 months. Other recipes will have different best before dates depending on their ingredients and preparation.
Those are my best tips for batch cooking! Have you cooked in batches before? What are your favourite recipes to make in advance? I’d love to hear them!