If you’ve been keeping up with me (Lilith NoFair) and Derby Fuel, and like basically any heathy eating plan ever, you’ve likely heard about how great batch cooking is.
And that’s true.
Batch cooking is awesome. It helps you to have healthy options in your freezer even on your craziest days. It reduces food waste and helps you to save money. It forces you to plan meals in advance which improves your chances of eating healthy. But batch cooking does have a down-side. And the down-side is this:
IT CAN TAKE FOREVER!
But it doesn’t have to. Batch cooking can be simple and not take a huge amount of time out of your already busy life.
In Derby Fuel, we talk about making batch cooking a part of your shopping day routine – go buy groceries, come home, cook a bit and freeze stuff. Simple enough, right? Well, if even that seems like a lot or if you don’t have weekend time to spare, there are even easier ways to get yourself into batch cooking.
1 – Just make extra of whatever you’re cooking and set it aside to freeze.
Sure, you won’t accumulate massive freezer stash of meals right away, but you’ll have a few meals and some staples ready to go. For example, if you’re making chili for dinner, just double or triple your batch and then portion the remaining out into freezer bags or tupperware. Wait until the whatever you’ve cooked is cool before freezing. Also, this is where a slow cooker can be your best friend. Stews, soups, casseroles and tons of other dishes do really well in a slow cooker and are super easy to prep. Just toss all the ingredients into the slow cooker, set your temp, and leave the cooker to do its job.
2 – Make extra staples to freeze
Do you eat beans or veggies as side dishes? Well, you can totally freeze them and reheat them with very little trouble. Beans just takes a couple of minutes in the microwave (covered) to be ready to go! You can make a bigger batch in the same amount of time it takes to make a cup, and then portion and freeze the rest. You can also quickly blanche veggies, freeze them and make for much quicker cooking when you’re ready for them.
3 – Process ingredients that you’re going to use later in the week all at once
If you’re like me, there are ingredients you tend to use over and over again. Why not chop a little bit more when you’re prepping so that you have them throughout the week. For me, chopped onions and peppers are always going to get used. You can also wash, pluck and dry lettuce or kale in a salad spinner and ten store all of the leaves in a glass container lined with a kitchen towel and you’ll have lettuce for a week. You can also pre-cut tomatoes, carrots, celery, broccoli or cauliflower which will keep for 3 or so days. Bacon, chicken and most other lean meats also do really well when pre-cooked and refrigerated. Some things not to precook – anything that will turn brown with oxygen, so things like apples or avocado.
4 – Get to know your freezer
It’s important to know how long things will keep in the freezer. Most meat and seafood will last 3+ months in a fridge freezer and longer in a chest freezer. Veggies will last for up to 8 months, and most prepared meals (soups, stews, casseroles) will keep for about 3 months. To help, label the date that you froze the dish and freeze in the portion size you’ll eat.
5 – Be creative!
You’d be surprised just how many thing you can pre-cook and freeze, here’s just a little sampling:
- Smoothies – blend in a big batch, store in plastic bags and freeze
- Stir-fry veggies
- Pasta sauce
- Grilled meat – chicken, fish, steak
- Ground beef, chicken, turkey
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Soups, casseroles, stews, chili
- Quiche, frittatas, egg cups
- Bone broth – not sure how to make it? Check it out below!
Here are a couple of easy recipes that you can help to get you started on the road to batch cooking!
Ingredients: 4lb chopped beef bones with marrow, 2 chopped celery stalks, 2 chopped onions, 4 smashed and peeled garlic cloves, about 18C water, herbs of your choice
Instructions: Put all the ingredients together in a large pot to boil, then let simmer for 48h (or use a slow cooker or instant pot). After simmering, strain and store the liquid.
Ingredients: 1lb lean ground beef, 1 large chopped onion, 3 chopped carrots, 2C beef stock (made from 2 stock cubes), 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1.3lb (about 4 C) peeled and chunked potatoes, butter or sour cream, salt and pepper to taste
Instructions: In a large pan, fry the beef until browned. Add the carrots and onions and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the stock and Worcestershire sauce to the pan, add pepper if you want. Bring the pan to a boil, then cover and simmer to reduce the liquid and thicken the mixture.
While this cooks, boil the potatoes. When you can pass a fork through them, drain the water and mash them with some salt and pepper, along with butter or sour cream. Pour the beef into large, shallow dish and let the meat cool. If you don’t let the meat cool, the potatoes sink through. Spoon the potatoes on top of the cooled meat mixture. You can also add a bit of shredded cheese if you want. Cook at 400°F for 25-30 minutes, until the potatoes are golden-brown. Cut into serving portions, plate what you’re going to eat, and let the rest cool for freezing.