What is Batch Cooking
Batch cooking is when you cook several ingredients separately so that later you combine them to make actual meals. Essentially you are cooking individual foods (not meals) to save for later. This is an easy approach to help with making meals easier during the week.
As a dietitian, I have used this concept with many clients. It has been incredibly helpful to those who find preparing dinners (and other meals) stressful. These clients also find it easier than meal planning and meal prepping.
Benefits of Batch Cooking
- Less stress when it comes down to the actual meal preparation
- Takes less time because you already have food prepped or cooked
- More enjoyable because you do not eat the same meal over and over again
- Saves money since you are not eating out as much or needing to get meals last minute
- Less food waste because you are much more likely to eat food that is ready to go
- Helps you learn to cook without recipes
- Meals will be balanced and healthy
How it differs from meal prepping/planning
You are not making a full-blown meal, instead, you are preparing ahead of time some ingredients to make an actual meal later on. Examples are the photos above. Separately they are just individual foods, but together you can make some meals with them.
When you start cooking ingredients, you don’t need to know what your final meal will be. Essentially you will just throw them together to create a well-balanced and healthy meal.
This requires less planning and less upfront work than meal planning/prepping. And since you are not making full meals, there is less redundancy and more options for versatile meals throughout the week instead of eating the same meal for several days.
How to start batch cooking
Always think about food categories/groups. This will help you to be successful in preparing meals that are balanced, healthy, and satiating. The food groups for batch cooking to focus on are your proteins/fats, carbohydrates, and vegetables.
Start by selecting 2 – 3 different foods to prepare from each category. It would also be good to cook foods that you are familiar with in the beginning. No need to get complicated from the start!
As far as the quantity of each food calculates how many meals will you be making? Are you feeding 4 or 2 people? Do you want extra for leftovers or to bring to lunch?
For each meal, you will want roughly 6 oz of protein, 1 cup of cooked starch, and about 2 cups of vegetables per person. Of course, this is an estimate. Everyone requires different amounts of nutrients, but it is a good baseline to start from. After
Other ingredients that you want to have on hand to finish your meal include sauces, condiments, and toppings. This can consist of salsa, salad dressings, pesto, yogurt-based dressings, and tahini/peanut sauces. Any of these you can make ahead of time or purchase already made.
What meals to make from batch cooking
After you have the individual foods prepared, the sky is pretty much the limit in what you can make. You can create a meal that is as complicated or uncomplicated as you want.
Once you have your main ingredients decided for dinner all you have to do is add any sauce/dressing if you would like. I make a lot of rice and bean bowls, so salsa is one of my go-tos!
Tips for Batch Cooking
If you do not have time to cook the foods/ingredients, even pre-cutting them can save you lots of time. This can be pre-cutting your vegetables and storing them in air-tight containers so when it is time to cook, all you have to do is throw them in the pan.
Start with a smaller amount than you think. It’s easy when you first start to be over-ambitious and do not really know exactly how much you will eat. It is also very helpful and advisable to start with ingredients/foods you are familiar with.
Some kitchen tools will help make your batch cooking (or any cooking) easier.
Instant pot – I LOVE this for cooking beans, soups, chilis and broth.
– It is hard to find good nonstick and non-toxic pans. These are not only safe to use, but are also easy to clean! I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds the worst part of cooking the cleaning up.
Sturdy good knife
Glass containers for storing your cooked foods
Batch Cooking is a great way to have more structure for meals. You will save time, and money and have healthier meals to eat throughout the week. Batch cooking does not take as much time and planning as meal prepping and it is a great way to have variety throughout the week.