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Batch cooking is a practice that has saved my sanity when it comes to feeding my family. Even though I have a family that is more than three times the average size, the principles that I use can be helpful to any size family.
I front-load as much of my work as possible at the beginning of the month right after I go shopping, and on weekends. By spending a chunk of time focused on food prep, I can quickly put together breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks and successfully avoid expensive and less healthy convenience food options.
Avoiding convenience food saves my budget, keeps us eating healthier, fresher food, and also helps me to spend less time cooking throughout the week.
I’m going to list out all of the foods that I batch cook or prep and the ways that we use them, and you can use this to spark your own ideas. Remember, my quantities are going to be much larger than yours (unless you also have a large family).
But all you need to do is adjust the quantities for your specific needs.
Batch Cooking: Ground beef
At the beginning of every month, I will buy two big packages of ground beef from Costco. There is generally 6-7 pounds of meat in each package.
When I get home from the store, I just pop one whole package into my electric skillet and it takes about twenty minutes to cook. I season it with salt and pepper, drain off the fat when it’s done, and once it has completely cooled, I portion it out.
I weigh out 12 ounces of ground beef per bag. This may seem like too little meat for my family size, but a lot of the time, I am adding an additional protein source to the meal.
We cook a lot of Mexican-style foods, so I always add beans to those meals. I also will do lasagna which has ricotta and mozzarella cheese. The kids are used to less meat when I serve pasta and meat sauce. I always serve pasta and meat sauce with a salad, and bread, so no one walks away hungry.
Being able to pull out a bag of frozen, cooked ground beef cuts at least 15 minutes off of dinner preparation. It makes spending a total of thirty minutes, once a month a very good use of my time.
Batch Prepping: Rotisserie Chicken
When I am at Costco at the beginning of the month, I usually buy three rotisserie chickens. One to eat with salad and croissants (also from Costco) for dinner that night. And two of them for future meals.
After we have dinner that evening, I sit down and pull all of the meat off of the two remaining chickens. Costco chickens are much larger than normal grocery store chickens, and they are cheap too, at only $5 per bird.
Take a minute to really consider that. Even when you purchase a whole uncooked chicken at the grocery store on sale (around 99 cents/lb) it still comes out to around $5.
You can buy a fully cooked, perfectly seasoned rotisserie chicken at Costco for the same price as a chicken that you still have to season and cook. This is a no-brainer for my family.
After I pull the meat off the bones, I will portion it out and fill about 5 sandwich sized bags with meat. Again, when I use meat this way it is generally in casseroles or another meal that is mixed with an additional protein source like beans, peas, cheese, etc.
The meals that I most often use this chicken for is baked tacos, enchiladas, chicken casseroles, and chicken and rice type dishes (there are several variations of these that I regularly cook including: Asian, Mexican, and Italian)
Batch Prepping: Lettuce
I buy a 6-pack of romaine lettuce from Costco. I wash, spin and chop all six heads and store it in a 2-gallon ziplock bag (I purchase these at Wal-mart).
I find that romaine lettuce lasts longer and stays fresher than spring mix. Some of my children prefer the crunchiness of romaine lettuce too.
I like to set out the lettuce and other salad toppings (sunflower seeds, Craisins, feta cheese, croutons) with most dinners. And the children know that they are welcome to have a salad with their lunches too.
Having a week’s worth of lettuce already prepared makes getting extra vegetables into the kids simple.
Batch Prepping: Raw Veggies
I try to keep a bowl or bag of at least one type of raw vegetable prepped and in the refrigerator for snacks and to go along with lunches and dinners.
My daughters will peel and slice about 10 cucumbers at a time, and those will last us a few days. We will also wash and cut celery stalks, carrot sticks, and pepper strips.
Whenever the children want an afternoon snack, they know that raw veggies or fruit is what they may have, this is another way to get extra vegetables into the kids.
Batch Cooking: Hard Boiled Eggs
I will hard boil a dozen eggs once or twice a week to be eaten with lunches, or to be grabbed for a snack. The eggs are most popular after a martial arts class when raw veggies just aren’t enough of a snack.
I currently buy a dozen eggs at Aldi for $.65 a dozen. That’s a fantastic value, considering how much protein is in an egg, paired with a little fat from the yolk, and you have a very satiating, nutritional food choice that is also very inexpensive.
Batch Cooking: Beans
I will cook up 6 cups of dried pinto or black beans twice a week, and the children will have them for lunch. Half of my children are crazy about beans, and the other half are resigned to their existence in the weekly lunch menu.
For the kids who really enjoy them, they are free to eat leftover beans during our smorgasbord lunches. One of my daughters would eat beans at every meal if I had them prepared and waiting.
Beans are another food that are so inexpensive, but pack a serious nutritional punch. The protein and fiber in the beans are very satiating.
Front loading as much of my kitchen work as possible is a huge sanity saver for me. It keeps me on track with serving a variety of healthy foods to my famil and keeps me on budget too.
If you find yourself always scrambling in the kitchen, let me encourage you to pick one of these foods, and give it a try. If you like the results, choose another and another until you find the perfect batch cooking/prepping combination for your own home.
Are you currently batch cooking anything? I’d love to hear about your own methods in the comments below!
Here are some additional batch cooking resources: