Batch cooking can seem overwhelming for beginners, but it’s really a simple hack to make dinner time a little less chaotic!
If you’ve spent more than half a minute on Pinterest, no doubt you’ve seen article after article teaching you how to cook ahead, prep freezer meals, or cook only once a month.
There’s nothing really wrong with that. I’m all for it if that’s what works for you.
But I get super overwhelmed with it all. Spending an entire day cooking is not my idea of a good time. Those tutorials are great, but each of them usually involves cooking a bunch of meals that I’ve never made before and I don’t even know if my family will like.
I’m not about to spend all day cooking food that I’m not even sure my family will appreciate. Not to mention, it takes me a million times longer to cook a recipe when I’ve never made it before.
I’d much rather stick with what I know and what I know my family likes.
So rather than focusing on having a bunch of meals completely put together and ready to eat, I prep my food the lazy way!
Enter, batch cooking!
What Is Batch Cooking?
Don’t worry if you’re a beginner to batch cooking. It’s really quite simple. You cook a meal, and make a lot more of it than what you family can eat for one meal. That way, you can freeze the rest to have a quick, easy meal some other night.
The Best Meals to Batch Cook for Beginners
When you’re a batch cooking beginner, it’s not always intuitive what the best meals are to use for the process.
Honestly, there aren’t very many meals that you can’t freeze!
But for best results, I look for recipes that:
- Don’t contain a ton of fresh ingredients. (We obviously can’t freeze a salad!)
- Are easy to make in large portions.
A few examples of meals that I like to make when I batch cook:
- Spaghetti or stroganoff (just the sauce)
- Pulled pork
- Taco meat
- Sloppy joe meat
- Any kind of soup
How Batch Cooking Works
Make a List of Everything You Already Know How to Make
The simplest way to start batch cooking when you’re a beginner is to start with what you know. Look through the cookbooks or Pinterest boards that you reference often when you cook dinner now. From that list, try to identify what meals you can make a lot of easily that also might freeze well. That way you won’t have to learn how to cook a new recipe in addition to learning how to batch cook.
Double or Triple the Recipe for Batch Cooking
When you make your shopping list, be sure to get twice (or three times) as much for the ingredients than you normally would. Then when it’s time to cook, just whip up twice as much as usual!
Allow the Food to Cool
After the food is cooked, give it a chance to cool down to room temperature. They say that putting hot food in the refrigerator or freezer can cause salmonella to grow. I also don’t think its healthy to put hot food into freezer bags, which is how I store my frozen meals!
Transfer Batch Cooked Meal to Freezer Storage Container
My favorite way to store soupy or meaty freezer meals is in large, gallon sized freezer bags. I like to lay them down flat to freeze, and then stand them up next to each other once frozen so they’re more easily accessible.
If I make an extra casserole or lasagna, I put it into a disposable aluminum pan instead of a glass one, cover it with foil, and freeze it that way!
Make sure you write what’s in the bag or pan as well as the date you cooked it. You think you’ll remember, but you won’t!!
How to Defrost a Batch Cooked Meal
Most frozen meals are good for at least a couple of months. If you leave them frozen for much longer than that, you might start to notice that it doesn’t taste quite right.
When you’re ready to use up a meal that you’ve batch cooked as a beginner, the best thing to do is to pull it out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator the night before. That way it has plenty of time to thaw safely.
But let’s be honest, we’re not always that organized or forward-thinking! So if dinner time is upon you and you need a freezer meal now, you can always put the bag in a pan of cool water and it should defrost within half an hour.
Reheat in a pot or pan, and voila! You have a perfectly delicious meal with almost no effort and minimal clean up.
Casseroles are a bit more tricky if you wait until the last minute to thaw. Definitely don’t put them in a pan of water, and don’t defrost in the microwave if you’re using an aluminum pan! Simply plan to leave them in the oven for a bit longer until the middle is no longer frozen.
Benefits of Batch Cooking for Beginners
Obviously some batch cooking recipes are going to be healthier than others. The healthiness of the food that you batch cook is kind of up to you! Regardless, whatever you make is most likely much healthier than the takeout you might be tempted to get if you didn’t have a freezer meal handy.
Batch cooking is great for your budget
It’s commonly known that it’s cheaper to buy in bulk. If you’re planning a batch cooking session, then it’s easier to justify buying the giant jar of spaghetti sauce (which is cheaper per ounce than the smaller jars) when you grocery shop because you know you plan to use all of it and it won’t go to waste.
Batch cooking also reduces waste in general. If a recipe calls for half a jar of pesto, the other half might be wasted if you only made the regular portion. But when you double the recipe, suddenly you need the whole jar, and nothing gets wasted!
That’s money in your pocket.
It saves time
Batch cooking yields two (or three!) meals for the time of one. Sure, it might take you a couple extra minutes to chop up a few more veggies or opening an extra jar or two. But it’s so worth it when you can just pull a meal that’s practically ready to go with very little prep and minimal clean up.
Batch cooking makes me a better mom
Batch cooking doesn’t just save time and money. It saves me energy and stress that surround cooking a meal from start to finish. Instead of slaving in the kitchen, I can spend the time I saved batch cooking to play a game with my kids or squeezing in a quick workout before dinner. Those things make me happier and healthier, which makes me a better mom to my kids.
When to Use Batch Cooked Meals
Sometimes I have a difficult time actually letting myself use up my freezer meals. I love having my stash, and I hate to see it shrink!
There are some times that it’s obvious that you should use your freezer meals: like if you’ve just had a baby or if you’re sick.
But making every day life easier is a worthwhile reason to use your freezer meals, too!
I try to give myself permission to include one of my freezer meals in my meal plan for the week. It makes our evenings with 3 little kids much smoother to not have so much chaos surrounding the cooking and cleaning that preparing a meal requires, so it’s definitely worth it.
To keep my stash up, I try to also plan one meal a week that I can batch cook to freeze for another week.
Bonus Tip: Freeze Ingredients!
If you’re not into batch cooking full meals, you might like batch cooking single ingredients.
There are lots of staple ingredients that I use often. Anytime I find myself in need of, say, cooked and shredded chicken, I’ll cook up the whole bag of frozen chicken in my pressure cooker. I shred it all at once, then separate it into freezable portions.
You can do the same thing with ground meat, bell peppers, onions, or beans that you cook yourself!
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