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What is Batch Cooking and How Do You Do It?

October 04, 2017

What is Batch Cooking and How Do You Do It?

Eating healthy sounds really good in theory but it can be tough in practice. Whether you’re flooded at work, hitting the books, raising a family, taking care of aging parents (or all of the above), it’s hard to find the time to cook 21 healthy whole food plant-based meals a week. Not to mention, even if you HAVE the time, you may not want to spend it all in the kitchen. So does your health have to take a back seat just because you're not up for cooking every day? Not at all. Enter batch cooking. It’s just what it sounds like: cooking in large batches.

Why would you want to cook in large batches?

1. Batch cooking means you’ll cook less often

Don’t really like cooking or squeezed for time? With batch cooking, you cook a TON 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 with family and friends.

2. Batch cooking saves time and energy

Think dicing 2-3 times as many veggies as you normally would sounds like a lot? It’s time to pull out your food processor. This quantity of food finally tips the scale of energy it takes to chop vs. energy it takes to clean your kitchen appliance. Almost any vegetable can be chopped, diced, or minced in a processor, but avoid softer produce like tomatoes, greens, peaches, bananas, and avocados. This simple change will save you a significant chunk of time in the long run. If you don’t have a food processor, some say chopping and peeling can be meditative.

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 your produce, but you’ll also reduce the amount wasteful packaging that buying in small portions creates. And by all means, freeze your leftovers! By freezing leftovers you will reduce your amount of weekly food waste. Each American household wastes up to $2,200 of food each year. Yikes. Batch cooking can help you significantly reduce this unnecessary cost.

Ok, so you get the gist of WHY it’s time to start batch cooking. Now you're probably wondering how the heck you get started, right? There are two types of batch cooking, really:

1. Batch cooking a complete dish and freezing it.

This is best for long term, ready-to-eat foods. It's a great alternative to takeout and TV dinners. Next time you make your favorite lemon lentil soup or chickpea veggie patties, double or even triple the recipe. Save a few servings to eat throughout the week, and freeze the rest in single portions.

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 another in the freezer in order 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 works well for liquid dishes. Think soups, sauces, and stews. Freeze your dish portioned out in muffin tins, and then transfer the frozen cups to 1 large freezer bag. This way you can decide in the moment how much soup you want to defrost and you will stay organized by having the portions together in one large bag.
  • If you are freezing salad dressing, curry paste, pesto, or fresh herbs, use ice cube trays. Remember to always date and label your freezer baggies! 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 cooking an ingredient. 

Best for short term. And it gives you room for creativity. This batch cooking strategy works best on a week-to-week basis. Here's how it works:

  • Choose a versatile base ingredient like brown rice, for example. 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; use it in burrito bowl.
  • While your making your stuffed peppers, chop a few extra peppers up for the curry, stir-fry, and burrito bowl. Might as well chop up some extra onions, too. 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 in different flavor profiles.
  • Keep a list on your fridge of what pre-prepped ingredients you have to work with so that 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.

In the end, batch cooking is about taking a few hours a week to prepare healthy meals so you can then take it easy the rest of the week. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an email at hello@mamasezz.com or join the conversation in our private Facebook group for whole food plant-based beginners.

 

By Caroline DiNcola Fawley 




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