Prepping and Batch-Cooking: Five Steps Towards Easy Weekday Meals

Ahhhh, Autum!  We are now back into our routines, the days are getting shorter and chillier and we are finding ourselves busier as the days go on.  On our ever-changing resume’s we find, chauffeur, housekeeper, note-taker, executive, accountant and, of course, chef.  As the chef of the household, or even the sous-chef, we strive to make meals that are tasty and easy.  If you have some of the items prepared in advance, you will find endless creativity flows your way!

What is batch-cooking?  Well, we all know what cooking is, heck, it’s on our resume’s.  The philosopher in me feels the need to define terms for you, so here goes…Webster’s dictionary defines batch as:  the quantity produced at one operation.  Thus, you will be cooking mostly one time.  You will do the bulk of your cooking at one time, thereby lessening the time you spend cooking during the other times.  For example, you know your teens like to sleep in on Sunday mornings.  GREAT!  You get up, make some tea and off you go on your batch-cooking adventure!  Here are some tips:

  1.  Invest in an Instant Pot or some type of crock pot or pressure cooker.  I was blessed to have my Instant Pot gifted to me by a friend. (THANK YOU, Christine!)  If you aren’t lucky enough to know Christine, then, sorry, you’ll have to buy one of your own.  I recommend the Instant Pot because it can be used as a crock pot OR pressure cooker OR rice cooker AND can be used to make yogurt!  Whew!  How’s that for a sous chef?  You can make a batch of lentils, wheatberries, rice, beans, barley, etc. on a Sunday (or other day) morning (or other time, you choose) using the pressure cooking setting.  In two hours, if using the pressure cooker, you can make pots of a few of these.
  2. Decide what you want for the week before shopping.  Meal planning should go hand-in-hand with batch-cooking.  Take a few minutes to sit down and decide what you’d like to make.  This isn’t written in stone and it can, and probably will, change, but at least you have some ideas.  Now, make your shopping list and head out the door.
  3. Batch-cook recipes that are versatile.  There’s nothing worse than making an entire crock pot full of soup and having to eat the same thing every day.  Your kids will not thank you, at least, my kids wouldn’t.  Try making recipes for the week that can be transformed.  A crock pot full of chili can become tacos or burritos.  It can top baked sweet potatoes or tofu dogs or can be turned into Mexican lasagna.  (Don’t forget, you have the rice you’ve cooked to add to it!)  Look at this!  You’ve created a week’s worth of delicious meals in one pot and no two meals look the same.  In addition, everything was prepped for you, you just need to heat and serve.
  4. PREP. So prepping the remaining ingredients for your meal is as important as the meal itself.  It’s no fun to come home to a pot of chili and then have to chop all of the fixings for the burritos, etc. Take time while your sous-chef (aka your Instant Pot) is cooking the main courses, to chop your produce.  Chop cilantro, basil and other herbs, greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.  Be prepared for salads and mix-ins.  Chop fruit for the week, as well.  Trust me, you’ll find yourself reaching for that chopped watermelon before those cookies if it’s readily available.  PS:  Remember to use your crock pot setting to reheat meals like soups, chilis, stews that have already been cooked.  You’ll come home to a meal that’s ready and your home will smell great.  (Check your settings and use the one for reheating or reheat on low.  You may have to add extra liquid.)
  5. Batch-cook and prep for all meals.  Remember, we typically (and should) have our three meals a day.  Don’t just batch cook dinner and then drive yourself crazy prepping breakfasts and lunches.  While your chopping greens and produce, chop enough to make everyone lovely salads or veggie sandwiches for lunch (add some hummus that you’ve taken five minutes to make on Sunday, as well).  Keep the salads fun by adding beets, artichokes, the beans you’ve cook (even some of that chili), tofu, seitan, etc.  Breakfast’s are important.  We all know the mornings where the alarm didn’t go off or little Timmy lost his shoe.  If you’re prepped for breakfasts, you’ll have more time to tend to those “ut-oh” moments.  During batch-cook time, chop fruits for the week, separate them by how much you would need for one smoothie or for smoothies for your family.  Package them accordingly.  Now, on a hectic morning, you pull a container out of your freezer, put the contents in your blender with whatever liquid you desire and blend away.  (Add some PB2 powder, flax or hemp seeds before blending, if you like and are not allergic.)  Rinse the blender, put it in the dishwasher and you are out the door in five minutes, hopefully, with everyone’s shoes.  Another great breakfast idea that can be prepped is overnight oats.  You place your oats in a mason jar with desired liquid and some nuts, spices, dried fruit, let sit overnight and grab and go.  These are great eaten cold, but if you need to heat them, since they’ve been soaking, they will heat up in two minutes or so.  Don’t dismiss the quick salad for breakfast or overnight oats for lunch, either.

Doesn’t sound so difficult, does it?  By carving out a little time (one-time, an hour or so), you’ll have easy cooking days ahead.  You can minimize the time spent batch-cooking and prepping by recruiting your family to help.  Little ones love to chop and sort, have them put salads together or separate fruits for smoothies.  Put someone in charge of the pressure cooker, another in charge of the lists, another in charge of overnight oats.  You’ll have fun and you’ll thank one another during the week when you’re eating delicious meals and have time left over to, ummmm…do HW, play board games, take a walk, etc. Happy cooking!!!!