If you’re always scrambling to get dinner on the table during the week, or often find yourself resorting to takeout, consider batch cooking to simplify your life, ensure you’re nourishing your body with the most nutritious foods, and save precious hours during the week.
What Batch Cooking IS
Batch cooking is simply the act of preparing and/or cooking larger portions of different foods, meant to be mixed and matched to create versatile meals throughout the week. It’s typically done on a Sunday, to prepare for the week ahead.
While it will generally take about one and a half to two hours on the weekend, during the week, when you are simply pulling out meals to reheat or put the finishing touches on, you’ll forget the time you spent cooking it on Sunday and feel like you have a Fairy Food Mother coming to the rescue to save you from crappy takeout.
When we cook our meals at home, we know exactly what’s going into them, and can ensure we only use the best, most nutritious ingredients.
Examples of simple batch cooking steps that will save you time during the week:
- wash and pre-chop vegetables, so you don’t waste time doing it during the week. (Make sure to dry them well so they don’t spoil!)
- roast veggies, so they just need to be reheated during the week.
- cook grains and legumes- rice, quinoa, lentils, beans, and other grains and legumes store well and can easily be reheated during the week.
- make dressings, which store well and jazz up your dishes
What Batch Cooking ISN’T
No icky-leftovers here. While you could eat the same thing every day…some fitness fanatics are notoriously known for eating endless amounts of chicken and broccoli…you don’t have to! You can batch cook and still have very versatile meals every day.
How Batch Cooking Will Change Your Life
When you start batch cooking, you will:
- Save time during the week – You’ll free up more precious after-work hours to do things you love
- Save serious money – compared to take out, you’ll save serious bank
- Never have to worry about what to eat – no more staring blankly into an open fridge without a clue
Batch Cooking Guidelines
There aren’t many rules when it comes to batch cooking, but there are a few things you should know.
The important part is that you pre-cook the core ingredients, particularly the ones that take a long time to cook on their own (for example brown rice or roasted sweet potatoes), and then dress them up with different sauces, add-ons, or combinations.
For example, if you made large batches of broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, black beans, and brown rice, one day you could add them to curry sauce for an Indian twist, another you could stir fry them with garlic and ginger for a Chinese-inspired dish, and a third you could make it Mexican by topping with salsa and guacamole. Same core ingredients, but 3 distinct meals.
Likewise, you could keep the dressing or add ons, but rotate the veggies or protein. For example, you could have a garlic ginger bowl a few nights in a row, but some nights swap fish for beans or beets for broccoli.
While the options are endless, here are some guidelines to ensure you have variety and don’t get bored. You can either plan out full meals, or simply mix and match to build a well balanced bowl or plate:
- Cook at least 3-4 veggies – to rotate and have variety
- Have at least 2 animal-based protein options – for example eggs and fish
- Have at least 2 plant-protein options – for example chickpeas and quinoa
Some things to note:
- Fish is generally best cooked fresh, as it doesn’t reheat well
- Some quick cooking veggies, like chopped broccoli or sliced delicata squash, can be pre-chopped on the weekend, but then roasted or prepared at the time you want to eat them, so they are at peak deliciousness.
- Don’t forget your healthy fats! Avocado, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils should generally be added just before eating.
Batch Cooking Plan
- Plan out your meals for the week – Decide which meals will be home cooked: All dinners? Only lunches? OR the whole shebang, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner? You can either use the general guidelines above to mix and match veggies, proteins, healthy fats, and optionally grains OR look for specific recipes. Generally, I like to make grab and go lunches that don’t require any additional cooking, while for dinner, I’ll cook recipes that take 20 minutes or less.
- Make a Grocery Shopping List- Once you know what you’re going to make, make a list of all the items you will need. Do a quick scan of your kitchen, so you’re aware of what’s already on hand, so you don’t buy anything you don’t need. You may want to pick up some extra fruit, veggies, and dips for snacks.
- Grocery Shop – Head to the farmers market or grocery store on Saturday or early Sunday morning to pick up what you need. I highly recommend you get your fresh produce and animal products there, however, if you want to save some serious cash, purchase all your non perishables online. My favorite online grocery store is Thrive Market, which I calculated saves me over $1,500 a year!
- Batch Cook & Prep – Saturday afternoon, turn up the Google Play Music or your favorite podcast, and start washing, chopping, and cooking the things that will save well. (Keep in mind things like fish and chicken typically taste like rubber when reheated- so are best cooked as needed. Roasted veggies reheat well, as do soups, most grains, lentils, and beans.
- Reheat or Put the Finishing Touches on During the Week – Since you did the heavy lifting over the weekend, it’s smooth sailing during the week. Your meals should be ready to go, or quick to prepare.
- Find something to do with all your newfound free time during the week 🙂 No more sweating over the stove for an hour after a long day at work.
If you want to eat at delicious and nutritious meals at home more often, but would prefer all the planning be done for you – including laying out your meals for the week, itemized shopping lists, and step-by-step batch cooking plans, check out my EatHEALTHY meal plans. They will save you time and money, while helping you feel more confident in the kitchen.
Maria Marlowe is a holistic nutrition and wellness coach who uses real food to help her clients improve their health, weight, and skin. She offers a healthy eating meal plan that teaches you how to batch cook, as well as one to clear up acne. She has ongoing group workshops both in NYC and online, and writes healthy and delicious plant-based recipes for her popular blog. She is also the author of the #1 New Release on Amazon, The Real Food Grocery Guide, the most practical guide to selecting the healthiest foods, without going broke, which has been praised by Dr. Oz and InStyle magazines. You can find her on instagram @mariamarlowe.