In Depth: Batch Cooking

I thought I would give you a little more insight into my batch cooking that I first discussed as a great time saver here.  Today I amazingly got up before 6am and the Munchkin and Mr. stayed asleep until after 7:30am.  In that hour and a half I made 4 meals, my lunches and some veggies ready to go for the week.

I usually start with creating a list of the foods we have in the fridge and meals that I want to cook on the whiteboard.  This at least keeps me somewhat organized and I’m trying to cook food that we have in the house.  It is not the be all and end all of the list (I added a few things along the way and subtracted a few others) but it at least gives me something to work on.

Then I assemble my cookware.  A lot of stuff I can do in the oven all at once:

Some food I cook on the stove:

Then I pack it all up in various containers (these are mason jar salads I made with some of the chicken for my week’s worth of lunches):

Where it sits in the fridge waiting to be eaten (in all fairness I think I may be the only person in this house that looks at this list, but I guess that’s all that matters some days):

Today I ended up making: roasted chicken breasts, steak, cauliflower and zucchini mix, rice and quinoa mix (in the rice cooker), Asian tofu, soba noodles, and Mexican tempeh basically all before the rest of the house got up.

Basic directions for what I made today (I’m not so good with recipes):

The chicken, steak, cauliflower, and zucchini I just use olive oil, salt, and pepper to season and cook in the oven: 450 degrees for 10 minutes, flip, 10 more minutes (this has produced the juiciest chicken I’ve ever made).  I like to keep the flavor to a minimum because I may want to add something when we’re actually going to eat the food that doesn’t work with other seasoning.

The Asian tofu is just tofu sautéed with soy sauce and some sesame teriyaki seasoning the BFF got me for Christmas and a bag of frozen stir fry vegetables (the Munchkin LOVES water chestnuts at the moment).

The Mexican tempeh was sautéed with some oil, onions, and peppers.  Then I added diced tomatoes and diced tomatoes with mild chile peppers.  I’ll add some more seasoning later when we go to eat it but the Munchkin is still adjusting to spicy foods so I try to keep the heat to a minimum.  I’ll also add cheese when I warm it up and throw it on a bed of greens or in a tortilla.

The rice and quinoa I throw into the rice cooker: 1 cup rice, 1 cup quinoa, and 3 cups water.  I know the Munchkin will eat rice/quinoa so it’s an easy side dish to have in the fridge ready to heat and eat.  A lot of weeks I’ll also make steel cut oats in my rice cooker for the week so I can add them to a cup of yogurt and flax seed for quick breakfasts.

The soba noodles were a new addition today.  I cooked them according to the package directions and then put them in the fridge.  I hope they hold up over the course of the week.  The Munchkin has also been a huge fan of anything resembling a noodle, it is now her favorite thing to eat when we go out for any Chinese or Japanese food.

I was so proud of myself this morning that I went on to make homemade apple and rice sauce during naptime.  This is an easy treat to give the Munchkin after school or after dinner.  I originally made it when we were having an issue with her stomach and thought apple and rice are two components of the the BRAT diet so thought it would be a good way to get both in at the same time.  Neither one is nutritionally complete but I felt the rice added a little to the sauce to give her a more full feeling and I didn’t have to feed her twice.  If you have a kid who doesn’t like vegetables this also might be a good way to sneak in other foods camouflaged with the apples.  We are (currently) very lucky, the Munchkin eats everything we’ve ever put in front of her as long as she’s hungry.  She is currently not a huge fan of meat that is tough to chew (she prefers ground or lunch meat) but she’ll at least try it.

Having the fridge stocked with meals ready to go makes the evenings after work so much less stressful.  I’ve got to just pull something out and heat it up quickly and voila a meal is on the table.  Also, this method of cooking allows me stay away from the quick, processed box foods that are loaded with salt and not so good on the flavor side of things.  It allows me to enjoy those couple of hours with the Munchkin before bedtime and I’m not trying to fight with her and her obstacle course or whining.  I also don’t need to sit her in front of “Bubble Guppies” to get something accomplished….we get to watch “Bubble Guppies” together (or play, read, color, build with blocks, etc…)!

There have also been unintended consequences to this method of cooking that have been helpful.  This was originally a method I was looking to implement to save time and make sure we ate food but along the way there were some other benefits I found:

  1.  We don’t waste as much food: if it’s already cooked, it’s a lot easier to eat.
  2. Because we don’t waste food and we don’t default to ordering a pizza we also save money!
  3. It also drastically lowers the amount of dishes needing to be done during the week.  Because everything is heat and eat there really are no pots/pans that need to be washed so clean up is a lot better!

Saturday night dinner tends to be a “clean out the fridge delight” night to make room for the new groceries and the new meals that go in on Sunday.  I will say, this is probably the one habit that really makes a difference in my overall week.  This is a habit that helps me mentally and physically.  It takes something off my plate while the Mr. is sleeping and makes sure we eat food more often than going out/ordering in.  If you are struggling with evening time management I highly recommend doing some batch cooking.

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