Batch cooking meals might seem like a lot of work, but if you do it right, it can be easier than you think. And the benefits are many. Batch cooking can help to prepare you for making healthier food choices throughout the week, and also save time in the process. It’s a win-win.
In this article, you’ll find the benefits and tips for batch cooking, as well as prepping ideas, tons of recipes, how to stretch your meals further, and much more. You can also download this FREE “Batch Cooking PDF” for quick tips discussed in this article.
And if you haven’t already, be sure to check out this article for “Plant Based Substitutions“, which will help you learn healthy plant-based substitutions.
What is Batch Cooking?
Batch cooking involves prepping and preparing meals in large quantities at a time. When you prep and make everything all at once, you have those “leftovers” ready ahead of time for the week, or have ingredients prepped enough where it doesn’t require much effort to prepare.
The goal is, after meal prepping and batch cooking in advance, you can ideally get dinner on the table in 5-10 minutes each night. Sounds good, right?
Other benefits of Batch Cooking:
There are many other benefits to batch cooking that are worth mentioning:
- Saves trips to the grocery store. Not only can you save time cooking, but you can also avoid any extra time going back and forth to the grocery store.
- Cleanup is easier. Because you’ve already done the prep work in advance, there are less dishes to clean during the week.
- Eat healthy, more consistently. Because you aren’t waiting until the last minute to decide on dinner (and possibly making a poor choice), you already have a healthy option ready to throw together.
- Minimize waste. If you do it right, you only buy what you need for the recipes you’re making. And the more practice you get at batch cooking, the better you’ll get and the less food you’ll waste.
- Save money. Since you aren’t wasting as much food and only buying the foods you need, you’ll save money. Batch cooking also works well with foods such as dried beans or grains, which are much cheaper than most processed foods.
- You can still have variety. Some people don’t want to batch cook because they don’t want to decide too far in advance what they’ll be eating. But the good news is- you still have plenty of room for variety. For example, instead of a planned soup, you can opt to make tacos or a grain-bowl using the same or similar ingredients instead.
Tips for Batch Cooking
- When it comes to batch cooking, practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. Try it out for a week, access what worked and what didn’t and go from there.
- Find a block of time that works for you. Generally, you can count on roughly 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours to batch cook. You might go grocery shopping on Saturday and meal prep on Sunday. Or if you can’t swing it on the weekend, choose 2 weeknights instead.
- Make room in the fridge. Before you get started, make sure to have quite a bit of room in the fridge, as planning for the week will take organization. Invest in a variety of glass/plastic containers to store/reheat your food. These Rubbermaid Food Storage Containers are great and safe in the dishwasher, microwave and freezer!
- Plan accordingly. Cooking grains takes longer but are way easier to prep, so start cooking grains first and chop veggies in the meantime.
- Plan out multiple ways to use the same ingredients. Make a couple bowls (Asian/Mediterranean, etc), soups and salads, tacos, chili, etc.
- Try a theme. One idea is to choose 2 different types of cultural themes (such as Mexican or Asian) and plan your meals around those.
- Try it with a friend. Have a batch cooking party, where each person brings a couple ingredients and you work together to create meals for the entire week. Not only is it really fun and good for connecting with others, but it’s lot easier because the burden is not all on you.
Some cooking techniques perfect for batch cooking:
- roasting or steaming veggies
- cooking beans, lentils or soups
- chopping vegetables
- making sauces
- cooking grains such as rice, quinoa, millet, bulgar, etc.
- Freeze grains- Make rice for example, in the Instant Pot or rice cooker. Distribute into 1 or 2 cup portions and freeze in freezer bags/containers. You will always have rice on hand and can easily warm it up for all types of meals.
- Wash, dry and chop vegetables, and place in airtight, sealed containers. Chop up veggies that are versatile in many dishes, such as bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions. You can also set aside vegetable scraps for vegetable stock later in the week.
- Soak nuts and seeds if required. Prepare fruit pastes, such as date paste, which is super easy to make (using dates, water and a blender). You can add this paste to sweeten oatmeal, smoothies, and more.
- Prepare a versatile dip or dressing that will last in the fridge for a few days, like Miso-Peanut Sauce (shown in the photo below) or Sweet Tahini Sauce, and add to different dishes during the week.
Another thing you can do is prepare a salad bar for the week.
Chop up different lettuce, spinach, or a mix of greens and add to separate containers. Add vegetables, beans, sweet potatoes, veggies, sunflower seeds, tofu, etc. Make 2 different dressings so you have variety during the week. It’s a great way to use up leftovers too.
To prepare your own stir-fry, get your vegetables ready (which should be prepared in advance). Stir-fry COLD rice in a wok (not warm- cold rice will provide a better texture) with a bit of vegetable stock or oil to avoid sticking.
Then remove the rice and stir-fry the hardest vegetables in the wok. Add the rice back to the wok, along with the remaining vegetables/greens and finish with your favorite sauce and garnish as desired.
Recipe Ideas for Batch Cooking:
- Tofu Sweet Potato Bowl with Tahini Sauce– the tahini sauce can also be used for other dishes or this Kale-Quinoa Salad. Use leftover sweet potatoes in black bean tacos with a simple avocado sauce.
- Make a big batch of Slow Cooker Soy Chorizo Chili with crackers, bread, etc. For additional meals, enjoy the chili over a bed of quinoa or rice, or on top of a baked potato.
- Super Easy Black Beans and Rice– this simple recipe can be easily modified. Try in tacos with sliced avocado/salsa. Or add to enchiladas, or a tofu scramble and sprinkle with nutritional yeast.
- Cook up a batch of Instant Pot Chipotle Black Beans (or use canned beans) and add to Mexican Black Bean Bulgar Bowl. Add the same ingredients to tacos or any other Mexican-style dish.
- Cinnamon Almond Date Bites or Chocolate Coconut Energy Bites– These are great to make on Sunday nights, to eat as a snack or a light breakfast throughout the week.
- Crushed Lentil Soup. This soup is great for leftovers. If you have extra cooked beans or grains, you can add them to the soup.
- Shiitake Black Bean Burgers with Spicy Aioli (shown below) can be made and frozen in advance for easy reheating later.
- You can dice tofu and season in many different ways, like this Crispy Sesame Tofu paired with this Cauliflower Rice Stir Fry Bowl.
- Extra brown rice? Sprinkle on salad.
- Cooked grains? Add to a tortilla or a wrap, then top with salsa and vegetables for a quick lunch. Add grains to cold salads for added texture, or cooked green lentils to your pasta sauce.
- Cooked beans: Add to soup or stew.
- Grilled or roasted vegetables: reheat and add to stir-fries or grain bowls; top with your favorite sauce.
- Freeze grains: If you don’t finish your beans or grains throughout the week, put them in an airtight freezer container, or bags, and freeze up to 3-6 months. If you need them, they can be quickly thawed.
As you can see, there are so many different options for batch cooking, but the only way to see if it works for you is by trying it out. =) Enjoy!