As we begin another year, I’d venture to say that many of us have food-related goals. Perhaps we want to eat healthier. Maybe we have a goal to prepare more home-cooked meals, or to get more organized. How about something that combines all three of these things? I know I want to work on planning and preparing more healthy home-cooked meals. Let me fill you in on a secret – one of the ways to accomplish these goals is with batch cooking.
Batch cooking is the method of preparing large amounts of food to be better prepared throughout the day, week, or even month. This method of cooking forces you to plan ahead, which is proven to help steer you in a healthier direction. No need for last minute fast food runs. Dinner (or any other meal) will already be prepared – it just needs to be heated up.
There are a lot of ways to do batch cooking, but my secret weapon is to have one big prep day where I choose the main ingredient that will serve as the protein source for that week’s meals. Then I change it up the following week.
For example, let’s say you want to prepare seven meals that involve chicken. If you begin by cooking three whole chickens, the possibilities for meal ideas are endless. I would recommend using one of them for that night’s dinner, then use the second and third chickens to cut up or shred for casseroles or other dishes. If you use 9×13 casserole dishes, you should easily be able to fit two chickens in the oven at once.
To get more bang for your buck (and your time), try cooking the chickens with root veggies so you have a side dish prepared as well. It doesn’t take a lot more time, and it will have you on your way toward a week’s worth of dinners planned out and made in advance. You can even use them to scatter in a couple of vegetarian meals.
To make batch cooking a breeze, give these tips a try:
- Ask for input: The night before prep day, ask your family for meal suggestions. This takes away the pressure of coming up with it all yourself. If you are batch cooking chicken that week, ask everyone for their favorite chicken meal idea.
- Cool it: Before storing your prepared food in the fridge or freezer for the week, be sure to let it cool completely on the counter. This safe food-handling method helps to prevent the contamination of your prepared meats.
- Label it: Make reheating easy by labeling your batch cooking well. Leave yourself a little note on each food container using painters tape and a permanent marker. Be sure to include the contents, the date prepared and any special reheating instructions. If you are super organized, you could even label which day of the week it is intended for. This is also helpful in case another member of the family is in charge of dinner for the night.
If you spend a couple of hours in the kitchen one day each week, your time spent prepping and cooking throughout the week will be minimal. You will also end up with some awesome meals that you may not have otherwise had time for on a busy weeknight.
This content was created in partnership with Kroger Family Stores using free products provided by Kroger.