As a busy mom, I sometimes feel like I spend hours in the kitchen each day and that I finish cleaning up from one meal just in time to prepare the next. Meal planning has greatly reduced the amount of time I spend figuring out what to cook and buy at the store, and learning about batch cooking has saved a lot of time in the kitchen.
What is Batch Cooking?
The idea of batch cooking is as simple as the name suggests, batching the food prep and cooking in a time-saving way so that individual meals do not take as long to prepare.
I prefer to do this on Saturday when the kids are usually happy to play in the back yard with friends and I have a few hours to spare.
Batch cooking takes a little trial and error to get used to, but once you give a try, you’ll love the time you save and the simplicity.
I’ve also found that batch cooking really increases the chances of sticking to a meal plan, since most of the food is already prepared and there really isn’t any excuse not to eat it. Also, you’ll feel like food is going to waste if you don’t eat the foods you spent time preparing.
Note: I did not include breakfast on this list, since we have a simple 4-day rotating breakfast meal plan that involves various proteins and vegetables and I make those each day.
Batch Cooking Meal Plan
Lunch: Chicken salad over lettuce with carrot sticks
Dinner: Shrimp stir-fry (In skillet or wok, heat 4 TBSP butter. Add 1 pre-cut onion and 1 pre-cut pepper, cook 2 mins. Add pre-cut zucchini or squash and cook 2 mins. Add 1 lb frozen broccoli, cook 2 mins. Add frozen shrimp and cook until veggies are tender and shrimp is heated. Add desired spices (garlic, basil, salt, pepper, etc). Right before eating, add ½ package of cream cheese and stir until melted (optional).
Lunch: Leftover stir fry wrapped in romaine leaves
Dinner: One sliced, grilled chicken breast, 1 sliced pepper, 1 onion, reheated on greased cookie sheet. (optional, 1 baked winter squash, reheated) Salad.
Lunch: Leftovers from night before in romaine leaves with avocado
Dinner: Chili (reheat) with sour cream and cheese (both optional) over spinach or with side salad
Lunch: Leftover chili by itself or wrapped in romaine leaves with cheese and sour cream
Dinner: Reheat eggplant pizza, salad
Lunch: Leftover eggplant pizza or chicken salad
Dinner: Fajita salad (in skillet with oil or butter heat remaining sliced chicken breast, one sliced onion (or more) remaining sliced peppers. Add 1 TBSP cumin. Serve over spinach or lettuce with avocado, salsa, cheese and sour cream (optional)
Lunch: Fajita tacos with leftover fajita meat wrapped in romaine with avocado, salsa, cheese and sour cream
Dinner: Reheated meatballs and salad
Lunch: Tuna salad on spinach or carrot sticks
Nuts, deviled eggs (mix yolks of hard boiled eggs with ½ avocado and mash. Add small amounts of mustard, dill and spices to taste. Put back into eggs and top with bacon crumbles(optional)), sliced cucumber, celery sticks, carrot sticks, tuna salad, small amounts of fruit.
Batch Cooking: Cooking Day Instructions
It will simplify your life tremendously if you can pre-cook most of this so it is available on-the-go when you need it. I try to pre-cook everything on Saturday so it is ready for the week. To get all the prep done in about 3 hours, do the following:
Bake all chicken in buttered dish with spices and butter on it.
Hard boil 6-8 eggs (per egg eater in family)
Pre-slice zucchini, squash, onions, peppers, cucumber, etc and store in separate containers or bags
Once chicken is done, cube 2 of them and slice three.
Bake winter squash-cut in half, scoop out seeds, put 1-2 TBSP butter in and spices (optional). Bake open side up on cookie sheet (same as one for chicken) at 325 until soft. Store in foil for re-heating.
Make chicken salad. Store in fridge in closed container.
Make Chili (1 lb ground meat, 1 can diced tomatoes, ½ can tomato sauce, 1 chopped onion, cumin and other spices to taste)
Make eggplant pizza- peel eggplant, cut into ½ inch slices. Cook on greased cookie sheet at 375 until well browned on both sides. Top with small amount of tomato sauce (add whatever spices you want) top with cheese and chopped onions, peppers, etc.) Store in foil to re-heat. This is also fast to make fresh if you don’t want to make ahead.
Make meatballs with 1 lb ground meat and spices (parmesan, garlic, Italian, basil, etc.) coat in pasta sauce. Store covered in fridge.
Make salmon or tuna salad by mixing well-drained fish with ½ package of cream cheese and dill (optional) and spices. Store closed in fridge.
Batch Cooking Shopping List
This shopping list will give you a rough idea of what to buy for a week. Adjust as necessary. It is designed for two people, so just double (or triple or quadruple) depending on family size.
1-2 lbs almonds (raw if possible)
1 lb walnuts (optional)
2-3 dozen eggs
2 (or more) heads Romaine lettuce
1 big bag spinach
4 large sweet peppers, any color
1- 3 lb bag onions
any fruit you want, stick mainly with berries or grapes to start off (optional)
2 medium zucchini or summer squash
1 lb frozen shrimp (or fresh, just pre-cooked)
2 (1 lb) bags frozen broccoli
1 block of your favorite cheese (this is optional on everything, so just get what you want)
1 can (organic) diced tomatoes
1 BIG (15 oz or bigger) can of tomato sauce
Cumin (spice, if you don’t already have it)
1 bag carrot sticks
1 package cream cheese
1 can salmon or 2 cans tuna
1 large eggplant
1 winter squash
1 lb butter
1 container (8 oz or bigger) of full fat plain regular or greek yogurt (organic)
1 package bacon (optional)
2 lbs ground beef or turkey
5 chicken breasts (or boneless thighs if you like them-cheaper)
sour cream (optional)
1 jar of pasta sauce (check ingredients, no added sugar or grains)
1 jar salsa (check ingredients)
I’ve found batch cooking to save me hours of time each week. If you’re as busy as I am (or even if you’re not but still want to save time!), I definitely recommend giving meal planning and batch cooking a try!
Have you ever tried batch cooking? How much time did you save? Share below!