How To Batch Cook for the Week

Hello all you California lovers!  I am very excited to be writing this post, as batch cooking is something I’m very passionate about and something I’ve come to be quite good at over the years.  In short, it will save you tons of time, tons of money, and will likely result in healthier eating!  But first, let’s start with the basics:

What is batch cooking?  

Batch cooking is when you make a ton of food all at once so you don’t have to do it later.  I personally batch cook every Sunday afternoon and make enough food for the next five days, Monday through Friday.  The most common question I get asked about this is if I freeze anything, and the answer is no!  I pretty much never use our freezer for anything other than ice cream.  I’m personally not a fan of frozen food, and I’ve never had anything go bad in just 5 days if it’s stored properly.

I already admitted in a previous post that I never used to be a very organized person.  It still doesn’t come 100% naturally for me, but I have figured out a bunch of tiny life hacks that make everything a lot more manageable.  Batch cooking is one of those things.  The tradeoff is a no-brainer to me – spend 2-4 hours in a row cooking on one weekend day so that I can come home and relax (or do other things) during the week!  I never feel pressure to come home and prepare a meal, or spend part of my work day worrying about what’s for dinner because it’s already at home waiting for me.

veggies

Batch cooking can work for any size family – just you, two people, eight people… it just takes a little simple math to scale up or down.  In this post, I thought I’d share my method for you in hopes that you might be able to adopt it for yourself.  If you can integrate batch cooking into your life, I promise that the “weekly grind” will feel a lot less stressful, because you’ll have a little extra time to yourself after work to do whatever you want 🙂

ballglass

STEP 1:  PLANNING

The first thing you need to do when batch cooking is put your menu together!  I happen to love this part, but if this stresses you out, I have some tips for making it a little bit easier.

Firstly, if you have a cookbook collection like I do, chances are there are a ton of recipes in there that have gone unnoticed or have been forgotten about.  What I’ve done is get out every single one of my cookbooks, flip through every single page, and make a master list of all recipes I would be interested in cooking, broken down into course categories (appetizers, entrees, sides, etc.)  Each listing has the name of the cookbook and the page number.

This does take some time, but once you do it you’ll never have to do it again, and from then on you’ll have an easily-accessible, organized list of recipes to choose from each week.  Every Sunday I get out my list, choose one recipe from each category, and voila!  A menu is born.

veggies2

Maybe you don’t have cookbooks, or you’ve made everything on your list already (or nothing sounds good!)  This is where the world wide web comes in.  I would highly, highly recommend Pinterest to anyone who is thinking of getting into batch cooking. I would also recommend it to anyone for any reason, because Pinterest is f^%&ing amazing.  If you’re somehow not familiar, Pinterest is an app available for both iPhone and Android that allows you to create virtual “pin boards” for inspiration. Essentially you scroll through beautiful photos and pin anything that catches your eye.  Those pins lead to websites!  The cooking section of Pinterest is full of delicious food photos that lead to recipes – see where I’m going with this?

I would recommend making a cookbook directory, as well as starting a recipe Pinterest board so you have the most options possible.  On Pinterest, you can type in anything you want to search for; vegetarian dinners, low-carb desserts, savory breakfasts, healthy meals… whatever you want!  Fill your board with appealing recipes so they’re ready for you when the weekend comes.

The last part of planning is getting your shopping list together.  Pull up every recipe you’ve chosen for the week and write down every ingredient on a fresh list.  I use the “Notes” app in my iPhone, which is useful while shopping in the store.  Once I throw an ingredient into my basket, I delete it from the list.  There is an oddly satisfying element to seeing the list get visibly shorter and shorter!  (Pro tip: If you want to be really organized about it, separate your shopping list into sections of the store – that way, you won’t have to trek back and forth for everything.)

kitchen

STEP 2:  COOKING

I’ll admit, I don’t have a ton of tips for making the cooking part go as fast as possible, the main reason being that I really look forward to my batch cooking time every week!  I pour myself a drink, turn on a chick flick on my computer (usually something I’ve seen a million times, like Clueless or Legally Blonde) and pour my heart into the dishes.  My mother’s love language is feeding people and I think it has passed on to me a little bit 🙂  All this to say, you should know that batch cooking does take some time.  I would set aside 2-4 hours just to be safe – but think of all the time you’ll save for yourself after work days when you’re exhausted!  So worth it.

One thing to be aware of is that batch cooking requires a lot of tupperware.  For a while there, I felt like I was buying a new set every week.  Now, my collection is pretty sufficient!  I would recommend taking a look at what you have and comparing it to your recipe list – do you see there being enough containers for everything?

peppers

Another thing I do before cooking is clean out the fridge to make room for all of the new food.  This usually involves simply cleaning out last week’s containers, but you might go so far as to take all of the contents out and wipe it down, depending on how ambitious you’re feeling.  I don’t detail the fridge nearly as much as I should, but this is a great time to get that done!  Plus, a clean fridge makes the food you cook all the more appealing.

The main tip I have for batch cooking is to always have 2 – 3 things going at once.  This can take some practice if you’re not used to cooking all that much, but it’s easy to get the hang of.  If you think you might get stressed, or forget about some things, you can always utilize multiple timers.  Regardless, always be cognizant of what’s on which burner, how hot the oven is, how hot it needs to be after you take whatever’s in there out…  once you get in the groove, you’ll feel like a spectacular orchestral conductor, waving your spatula around, making the sauce pans sing as steam escapes the dancing lids…  (Pro tip:  Feeling tired and you’ve still got 3 recipes to go?  Drink more wine! [Just kidding {but not really…}])

potatoes

STEP 3:  STORAGE AND CLEAN UP

What I do is store each dish as it finishes cooking and cooling.  Sometimes I get too excited to put it away before it has cooled, but if you refrigerate a hot dish in tupperware it will damage the container, as well as create tons of condensation both inside and out.  Best to let it cool completely.

If you cook some of the more sizable dishes last, you may need to play a little Tetris with your containers in the fridge at the end of the session.  Once it’s all in there though, organized and ready to be eaten throughout the week, I promise you’ll feel a wonderful sense of freedom and accomplishment.  And if you’re me, you’ll have a little buzz on from all the wine!

spices

If you don’t have clean up help, it is absolutely crucial to clean as you go.  Once I’m all done with a pan, a spoon, a measuring cup, whatever, I wash it immediately and put it away.  We don’t have a dishwasher, but I personally prefer to wash as I go while batch cooking because you won’t feel like there is a ton left to do once the cooking part is done.  Or, if you’re lucky and can goad your significant other, child, or roommate into helping, you can put them on dish duty.  But you’ll likely end up doing most of it yourself like me, so trust me, clean as you go.

In conclusion, batch cooking is awesome.  It’s what allows me to blog after work, to go to barre class afterwork, to come home and do nothing after work.  Knowing I have healthy food waiting for me and my boyfriend every day makes me happy, relaxed, and motivates me to do it again the following week.  Just for fun, I’ve included a real menu of mine from one of these past weeks, with links to the corresponding cookbooks!  If you try batch cooking out, let me know in the comments how you liked it. Tell me what worked, what didn’t, what you would do differently next time, etc.  Thanks for reading!

tupperware

SAMPLE MENU

Breakfast:  Pesto green eggs & avocado toast

Snack:  Carrot and ginger soup

Lunch:  Herbed falafel bowl with tahini dressing

Dinner:  Ahi poke bowl with brown rice

2 thoughts on “How To Batch Cook for the Week

  1. When I was working massage jobs, which often meant working into early evening, I’d do batch cooking, too. I love left overs, so I’d cook a big batch of some main dish on Sunday afternoon, put some in containers in the fridge, freeze some for a variety on another week, and have my dinners cooked for the week. I would sometimes make a big batch of waffles, too, using lots of nuts, dried fruit, whole grained flours, and freeze these to pop on the toaster for breakfast when I was tired for smoothies.

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