If better meal planning is at the top of your New Year's Resolutions, then this post is for you! Batch cooking will seriously change your life, so keep on reading for all the tips, tricks, and recipes you need to make meal prep a breeze.
We know, we know. Meal planning and prep isn't the most thrilling topic OR the most fun way to spend a few hours on a Saturday. But hear us out! Taking a little extra time on the weekends means you'll actually have more time to do the things you love, even on those crazy weekdays!
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If you're new to batch cooking, don't worry. We're about to teach you the ins and outs. In no time, you'll be a shelf cooking, batch cooking champ! Ready to get started?
WHAT THE HECK IS BATCH COOKING?
If you've followed our blog for a while, then you probably know what shelf cooking is by now. Batch cooking is like a close relative to shelf cooking. Essentially, it's just like it sounds– making a big batch of food to eat later.
Here's where the magic happens! When you combine the powers of shelf cooking and batch cooking, you'll quickly discover how easy it is to make affordable, healthy, and filling meals, no matter your budget. You'll save time, you'll save money, and you'll waste a whole lot less food.
We suggest picking one day per week (or month, if that's more realistic for you) and setting aside two hours to make ahead ready to grab or heat food you can use throughout the week. Are you onboard? Let's do this together! We've got ideas GALORE coming your way.
QUICK TIPS: HOW TO GET IN THE HABIT OF BATCH COOKING
Change is hard! So, if you're used to cooking your meals one at a time and you're not totally sold on the idea of cooking everything in batches, we get it. Here's the thing. It's okay to start small! Here are a few quick tips to try:
- Clean & Organize Your Freezer – Before you get started, make sure your refrigerator and freezer are in tip-top shape. You'll need somewhere to store all that food, and keeping it organized makes things easier. And don't worry, we've got all the freezer organization tips you need.
- Double and Freeze – The easiest way to start batch cooking is to make two of whatever you're cooking. Double the recipe and freeze one for later!
- Cook Your Meat as Soon as You Buy It – We like to cook a big batch of meat as soon as we buy it and then portion it out and store it in the freezer to grab as we need it. Learn how we make ahead and freeze ground beef and shredded chicken!
- Chop Your Fruits & Veggies Ahead of Time – Here's another trick! It makes meal prep faster but also keeps your fruits and veggies lasting longer. Go ahead and chop them up after you buy them, then store them in an airtight container with a little bit of water.
Even implementing one or two of these tips will make your journey to batch cooking so much easier! So, go ahead and take baby steps if you need to. Commit to doing one of these things over the next month and see what happens. Spoiler alert: you're gonna love it!
BREAKFAST RECIPES TO TRY
If mornings are as crazy in your house as they are in ours, then we think you'll want to bookmark or print this list! No more manic Monday mornings for you! Try one (or all) of these batch cooking breakfast recipes:
- French Toast Sticks – These crunchy french toast sticks are SO easy to make, and everyone will love them.
- Overnight Oats – Okay, you guys. If you haven't gotten on board with the overnight oats trend, you need to. So dang good! Mix and match the flavors so you can have a different kind every morning. Plus, who doesn't love eating breakfast out of a cute mason jar?
- Breakfast Burritos – We've been known to make enough of these to last a month. You can't beat that, right?! Grab the recipe for our favorite freezer breakfast burritos.
- Egg Cups – Here's one of our favorite ways to use what we've got! Gather up your leftover produce and whip up a weeks' worth of breakfasts in just a few minutes. These egg muffin cups are the easiest!
- Breakfast Sandwiches – You don't need to waste money on the overly processed frozen breakfast sandwiches! This copycat egg sandwich recipe is easy as can be and oh-so-cheap.
Do yourself a favor and make a couple of these batch meals this weekend. And while you're at it, let's plan some lunches, too!
MAKE-AHEAD LUNCH RECIPES
Tired of wasting money on takeout lunches? Sick of going through the drive-through or packing the same sandwich day after day? These make-ahead lunches will help get you out of a rut:
- DIY Lunchables – Our kids love Lunchables, but we secretly do, too. (Any 90s kids in the house?!) Instead of buying them, learn how to make your own Lunchables. This is the perfect thing to make in batches!
- Mason Jar Salads – Not only are mason jar salads healthy, but they're also pretty darn gorgeous.
- Pulled Pork Sandwiches – Fire up the crockpot and let's make some pulled pork! One batch = several sandwiches.
- Egg Salad – Here's a versatile food to make in big batches! Serve it on bread, a leftover bun, or over fresh greens. Make this SUPER fast by “hard boiling” your eggs in the Instant Pot.
- Broccoli & Cheddar Soup – We love making soup because you can stretch it so far! And this broccoli cheddar soup is hands down one of our faves. Make a pot or two during your next meal prep session. Did we mention this one only takes 30 minutes?!
Pro Tip: If you're looking for ways to keep warm foods warm (without them getting soggy), head on over to this post about packing warm lunches. We've got tons of advice for taking your favorite comfort foods on the go.
BATCH COOKING DINNER RECIPES TO TRY
Are you ready to take the stress out of dinnertime? Making any of these dishes ahead in a big batch will save your sanity this week:
- Rice Bowls – It doesn't get much more filling than a rice bowl with your favorite veggies and protein! Learn how to make your own rice bowls so you'll have meals for days.
- Tamale Casserole – Our kiddos LOVE this tamale casserole. It's picky-eater approved and also freezes beautifully. Perfect for batch cooking!
- Whole Chicken – Smoke a whole chicken and turn it into several meals. So many possibilities!
- Lasagna Roll-Ups – These lasagna roll-ups are everything, and they're begging to be cooked in bulk. Make a batch for this week and one for another time, too!
- Sheet Pan Fajitas – Whip up these quick and easy 5-ingredient fajitas in no time, and you'll be ready for a fiesta when the mood strikes!
Well, we're officially hungry now! It might be time to grab a snack. And speaking of snacks, let's talk about how to make them in batches!
GO AHEAD AND MAKE SOME SNACKS, TOO!
You never know when you might find yourself getting a little hangry, so it's always best to have snacks at the ready. Instead of reaching for chips or cookies, try one of these healthy make-ahead snacks for your next batch cooking session:
- Smoothie Packs – Grab some spinach and fruit and get to sorting! These smoothie packs are so easy to assemble and make for yummy on-the-go snacks.
- Hard-Boiled Eggs – Learn how to make the perfect hard-boiled eggs! It's always great to have a batch in the fridge for quick snacking.
- Fruit Leather – Instead of buying the overpriced, overprocessed stuff, make a batch of homemade fruit leather. You'll probably enjoy it as much as the kids will!
Pro Tip: Don't go broke on snacks! Learn how to organize your snack food and help your kids help themselves.
Batch cooking doesn't have to be time-consuming or overwhelming. In just one or two hours each week, you can prepare days worth of meals and snacks for your family. Go ahead and whip up your sides, too. Steam or roast some veggies, mash some potatoes, and mix and match your meals. Try it, and see how much time, money, and sanity you end up saving!
Let us know how it goes, and be sure to comment below and tell us about your favorite meal to cook in batches. You can also join the conversation in our Shelf Cooking Facebook group.
Looking for more hacks that will make meal planning a breeze?
- Check out these 10 clever kitchen organization ideas.
- Learn why cooking together as a family is so important and get tips for making family meal prep a reality in your home.
- How much money do you spend on groceries each month? Learn how to save! Here's how to set a grocery budget.
Have fun batch cooking!