One of the most common struggles people face when learning how to eat a whole food plant-based diet is the extra time this healthy lifestyle requires in the kitchen. Chopping all those veggies can be epic!
Batch cooking is a great solution. In this Heartbeet Journal article, we’ll give you the scoop on how and why to incorporate batch cooking into your weekly routine so you have more time to play.
The Full Story
Eating healthy is one of those things that is great in theory but tough in practice. Life gets busy! And when your calendar is full, it’s hard to find the time to cook 3 healthy meals a day, every day - especially when those meals require a lot of chopped veggies. Even if you do have the time, do you really want to spend it all in the kitchen? We’re guessing no.
The good news is you don’t have to, thanks to batch cooking. It’s just what it sounds like -- cooking in large batches.
Why would you want to cook a bunch of food at once? Hear us out...
3 Reasons to Batch Cook
1. Batch cooking means you cook less often
With batch cooking, you cook a lot of food once so you can have quick and easy healthy meals throughout the week. You can focus on fewer recipes and spend less time in the kitchen (and more time doing the things you actually want to do).
Batch cooking is how restaurants keep up busy dining rooms. Food is prepped or cooked in advance and then either heated or assembled to order. Restaurant kitchens have huge containers of diced garlic, sliced mushrooms, sliced tomatoes, cooked noodles, and ready-to-eat soup so when you order the cooks can throw it all together fast.
2. Batch cooking makes your food processor and a good chef knife worthwhile
When you batch cook, you’ll need to chop way more veggies than you would for a single meal; but on the bright side, you can finally justify owning a food processor. Preparing large batches of food at once tips the scale of energy it takes to chop vs. energy it takes to clean your kitchen appliance. So pull out that processor!
Almost any vegetable can be chopped, diced, or minced in a processor in seconds — except softer produce like tomatoes, greens, peaches, bananas, and avocados (they get mushy fast).
If you don’t have a food processor, that’s OK! Some say chopping and peeling can be meditative :). “Knife skills” are something good chefs brag about so your whole food plant-based diet is a great excuse to buy yourself a nice chef knife and learn how to use it. Here is an awesome video to get you started.
3. Batch cooking helps save money (and the environment!)
Now that you’re cooking in bulk, it’s time to buy in bulk. Not only will you save money on produce and other bulk items, but you’ll also reduce the amount of wasteful packaging your kitchen generates.
And by all means, freeze your leftovers! Freezing leftovers will reduce your amount of weekly food waste. Each American household wastes up to $2,200 of food each year. Yikes! (Get more tips for reducing your food waste here.)
Ok, so now that you know why it’s time to start batch cooking, you’re probably wondering how the heck you get started, right? We’ve got you!
How to batch cook (2 ways)
1. Batch cook a complete dish and freeze it
Best for long-term meal planning — and a great alternative to takeout and TV dinners.
Next time you whip up your favorite lemon lentil soup, double or even triple the recipe. Save a few servings to eat throughout the week and freeze the rest in single or double portions for consumption later on.
Pro tip: Don’t freeze the entire batch together! You will end up chipping away the portion you want from a frozen mass or defrosting more food than you can eat.
There are a few different methods you can use to freeze your dish in single portions.
- The first is the simplest: Spoon single portions of your dish into freezer baggies. Stack your bags one on top of one another in the freezer to save space. Make sure not to place baggies directly on coated wire shelving because it will settle between the cracks and freeze there! Try setting your baggie on a piece of wax paper or cardboard.
- The second batch cooking freeze method is to use muffin tins. This works best for liquid dishes. Think soups, sauces, and stews. Freeze your dish portioned out in muffin tins then transfer the frozen cups to 1 large freezer bag. This way you can decide at the moment how much soup you want to defrost and you will stay organized by having the portions together in one large bag.
- The third batch cooking freeze method is to use ice cube trays. This works best for freezing oil-free salad dressing, curry paste, dairy-free pesto, minced garlic, minced ginger, or minced fresh herbs. Remember to always date and label your freezer baggies. Once frozen you can remove items from the ice cube trays and store in freezer bags for single use. We especially love this for fresh garlic or herbs. Process in large batches, put in trays, freeze, and then pop them out and store in freezer bags for single-use garlic cubes you can use every time you cook. No more chopping 4 cloves of garlic at a time!
- The fourth batch cooking freeze method is to use wide mouth mason jars. Large wide mouth mason jars are fantastic for freezing soups, sauces and stews. They’re cheap, sustainable (no plastic) and stack in your freezer well. Bonus points for mason jars because you can grab one in the morning, take it to work and your soup should be thawed in time for lunch at your desk (while keeping everything else in your lunch bag chilled). Note the wide mouth jars are easier to fill and empty than the narrow mouth ones.
Pro Tips: Keep a roll of masking tape and a sharpie in your kitchen and label your food before you pop it in the freezer. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what that mystery red sauce is. Defrost your meals in the refrigerator for a few days before eating or cook it on low heat in your oven, microwave, or stovetop pot.
2. Batch cook an ingredient
Best for short term weekly meal planning.
This method also gives you room for creativity. Here's how it works:
- Pick base ingredients. At the beginning of the week choose a versatile base ingredient like brown rice. Instead of making 1 cup, make 5 and incorporate it into dishes throughout the week. Stuff it in peppers, use it to soak up curry or stir-fry sauce, mix it with raisins, cinnamon, and almond milk for breakfast, or use it in a burrito bowl.
- Mix and match throughout the week. While you're making stuffed peppers, chop a few extra peppers up for the curry, stir-fry, and burrito bowl. Might as well chop up some extra onions, while you’re at it. And save some of those black beans from your stuffed pepper for your burrito bowl later on in the week. Get the gist? Buy, cook, and prep an ingredient in bulk and repurpose it with different flavor profiles and recipes.
- Stay organized. Keep a list on your fridge of what pre-prepped ingredients you have to work with so no food goes to waste. If you go a little overboard with batch cooking an ingredient, freeze it for later! This strategy works best for those who enjoy the creative aspect of cooking but want to save a little extra energy, time, and money.
Don’t want to cook at all?
That’s a-OK. Cooking can be a pain! And while batch cooking saves time in the long run, you still have to dedicate a solid part of at least one day to get it all done. Not everyone has the time, energy, or desire to do this. But no worries — MamaSezz cooks and delivers ready-made and plant-based meals to your door. All you gotta do? Heat and eat the prepared dishes and be on your merry way.
If you can carve out a few hours at once, batch cooking helps you:
- Save time, money, and even reduce your food waste
- Stock your freezer with ready-made meals to eat later on (you can freeze in freezer baggies, muffin tins, or even ice cube trays!)
- Stock your fridge with cooked ingredients for easy meal-building throughout the week
And if you don’t want to batch cook, you can still have prepared meals in your fridge thanks to MamaSezz meal delivery.