Batch Cooking GuideOct 07, 2021
My Batch Cooking Club members know I have a weekly "date" with myself every Sunday to batch cook. As a busy, working mama, batch cooking makes my time in the kitchen more efficient during the week, allowing me to get dinner on the table quicker and with less effort, lunches packed in less time and breakfast served with almost no cooking involved.
This weekly 2-hour session with myself has transformed my weeknights and enabled me to have healthy and delicious food at the ready all week long. It also streamlines my grocery shopping into 1 trip during the week. Are you sold yet? I'm going to walk you through how to batch cook and make it a seamless part of your meal planning routine in this Batch Cooking Guide.
What is batch cooking
Batch cooking means you prepare meals or recipe components ahead of time to eat later in the week. In a perfect batch cooking world, you would meal plan and prepare your grocery list together once during the week (for example, on Thursday), grocery shop once on another day (for example, Friday) and reserve time on Saturday or Sunday to batch cook.
When creating my meal plan for the week, I identify which ingredients I’ll batch from my recipes and schedule a time on Sunday to cook them. By prepping dressings, sauces, vegetables, snacks and grains ahead of time, meal preparation during the week is streamlined and effortless.
You can also prepare complete meals during your batch sessions and store them to eat at another time. Not every meal can be batch cooked and you don’t need to cook all your food for the week ahead of time. Instead of cooking everything for the week, I sync my schedule to use my batch cooking to help me where I need it most during the week.
That could mean preparing a couple of things for lunches, a batch of muffins to eat for breakfasts throughout the week and components such as a sauce and marinated protein for 2 dinners…or it could mean a soup, casserole and components for 2 dinners for the week. I typically select about 5 recipes to prepare and these could include full meals such as soups, stews or pasta casseroles, as well as ingredients such as roasted vegetables, sauces, dressings and marinated proteins.
What to batch cook
The foods you decide to batch cook depend on your menu for the week. I aim to always have a few dressings and staples ready to go to make lunch quick and easy. I also make a snack or muffin that my family will eat all week long. Prep meal components to help you speed up packing lunches and preparing dinners. Some of my favorites include:
- Brown Rice/Quinoa
Make a pot of quinoa or brown rice (or any whole grain), and you can throw together a burrito, bowl, or vegetable sushi roll any time during the week.
- Marinated Tofu
Cube, toss and store your tofu in the fridge and add extra protein to salads and bowls for lunch.
- Roasted Vegetables
Roast a variety of veggies to use as side dishes, stir into salads, and fold into wraps or bowls.
Add a store-bought sauce to noodles for an easy dinner and toss it with raw veggies and dressing for a delicious salad.
- Veggie Burgers
Cook a stack of burgers to crumble into salads and fold into wrap, as well as sandwiched between a hamburger bun.
- Roasted Chickpeas
A batch of these goes a long way all week to stir into salads, eat as a snack, and sprinkle in bowls.
- Soups and stews
A delicious soup makes great leftovers for lunch. Chilis and stews aren't just for topping spooning into a bowl. You can ladle them on top of hot, baked potatoes and stir into pasta.
Setting up your kitchen
Once you know what you're going to batch cook for the week, it's essential to set yourself up for success with a well-stocked kitchen and the right tools and equipment. These are some general guidelines for organizing your pantry:
- Take inventory of each shelf. Empty it all on your counter one shelf at a time. Consolidate and organize. Take things out of packages. Store in baskets and bulk bins.
- Label everything!
- Organize onto your shelves once everything is labeled. I like to do this by category (kind of like a grocery store) so I can look in one place for similar types of ingredients. For example, all of my grains are stored next to each other. My canned goods are on one shelf. Baking supplies are on another, etc.
- Place things you don’t use all the time out of reach. Make sure the things you access all the time are easily accessible. Sounds like a no brainer, right? I used to store my juicer on a shelf I needed a step ladder to reach… and I use this several times a week!
When it comes to what to keep stocked in your pantry, these are some of my staples:
- Oils and Vinegars
I organize liquid seasonings on small “Lazy Susans” that I purchased at the Container Store. That way, I can rotate them to get to what I need.
- Canned Goods
My cans are stacked on tiered shelves (also purchased from the Container Store). I try to organize them by type and keep beans together, soups, sauces, etc.
- Flour and Thickeners
- Pasta and Grains
Get my complete "Stock Your Pantry" Checklist here.
Organizing your batch cooking plan
Before you head into your 2-hour batch cooking session (or whatever time you've blocked off for yourself), organize the things you plan to cook so that you're time in the kitchen is most efficient. You don't want to be waiting around for water to boil or vegetables to roast.
Structure your batch cook recipes so that your time in the kitchen is always active. Prep foods that need to marinate, bake or roast first. While those foods are in the oven, complete any stovetop cooking. While those foods roast and cook, blend and mix sauces and dressings.
Before getting down to batch cooking business, I set up "stations" for each of the recipes or meal components I'm going to make. I place cutting boards out with the specific ingredients per recipe. I set them out in separate areas so I can fluidly move from one recipe to the next.
Want more help with batch cooking? Download my free batch cooking planner to help you get started with all of the above or try my weekly Batch Cooking Club membership for just $1, which includes our signature Getting Started Guide as a free bonus.