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Batch Cooking 101

Advice, Wellness

Batch Cooking 101 Meal Planning, Nutrition Stripped

Have you ever heard of Meal Prep Mondays, meal prep, batch cooking, or bulk cooking? Surprisingly, some of you may not have a clue what I’m referring to, but I’m sharing my secret with all of you today. Today I’m sharing the Batch Cooking 101 Guide. I’ve been batch cooking or doing some form of meal prep for teh entire week ever since I was a freshman in college. Back then, my busy schedule of jumping between classes, my internship, and work combined with maintaining a social life primed me for the future of a busy schedule. Undoubtably, batch cooking helped me tremendously and still continues to be a life saver in reaching my health goals and saving time, all while keeping the enjoyment when cooking.

Batch it, baby.

What is batch cooking? Basically, it’s preparing most or all of your meals and snacks for the entire week on 1 day out of the week. Simply make a date with your kitchen for about 1-2 hours, 1 day every week (in my world, it’s on Saturdays right after I finish my grocery shopping haul in the mornings/afternoons) and have some fun cooking! No freezing is required for any of your batch cooking since you’ll be eating your meals throughout the week.

In your entire week (168 hours/week), only 1-2 hours/week of cooking is not much time! Especially if you’re currently coming home from work every night and cooking on the spot, which could easily add up to 30-60 minutes every evening. Add that up and that’s over 7 hours a week! We all can use that extra 5 hours a week we’d save batch cooking to enjoy our time with loved ones, play more, take walks, engage in our beloved hobbies, and decompress. On the flip side, instead of coming home and cooking you may be going through a drive-through, picking up fast food, or dining out because you have nothing prepared once you come home. Again, batch cooking will save not only your health from avoiding all those questionable ingredients used by fast food establishments, but also will save you some serious money from eating out!

How to Meal Prep and Plan Ahead | Batch Cooking 101

At first, you may feel a tad overwhelmed with all the foods you want to make for an entire week, so I suggest starting out with 1 meal that you find you’re most pressed for time or poses the most challenge for cooking. For example, most people I coach find they’re most pressed for time with dinner or breakfast, especially if you’re getting the kids and yourself ready for the day. Therefore, the first step is asking yourself, “What meal time is really difficult for me to cook?” or “What time of day am I most in a time crunch to eat something healthy?” Start with that meal and gradually build upon the days/weeks when you’re feeling more comfortable or jump right in full force! I promise you the more frequently you batch cook and meal prep, the better and more efficient you become at it. Before long, you’ll be a master meal prep machine.

Why batch cook?

  • Save you time from cooking throughout the week.
  • Keeps you on track with your health goals.
    • This is especially important for those of you who have a specific health goal that’s high priority: weight loss, muscle gain, fitness/strength goals – this will help keep you on track!
  • Takes the mental “burden/obligation” off your mind from thinking “What am I going to make for dinner ” or “I still have to cook”, etc.
  • Consistency is key when making and achieving your health and wellness goals. And what’s more consistent than having your meal prepared and planned for you a week in advance?
  • It’s a fun way to diversify your food and meal choices throughout the day and week.

Common supplies needed:

  • Airtight glass containers
  • Ziploc sandwich and snack-size bags
  • Vitamix or high-speed blender
  • Several large mixing bowls
  • Fresh ingredients from the local farmers markets, grocery store, CSA’s, etc.
  • Time and patience (especially if it’s your first time!)
  • Music to dance and sing really loud to
  • Friends or loved ones to join in (or do it solo like I do!)
  • Sunlight (always makes it more enjoyable)
  • And a mug of hot tea…

My kitchen typically looks like a bit of a disaster while batch cooking with veggies galore on the cutting board, soups on the stove, hummus in the blender, quinoa in the rice cooker, sweet potatoes and homemade granola in the oven, etc. But that’s fun, right? Batch cooking is a bit of a therapeutic time for me. It’s a time when I can get in what my family and friends call “the zone”. I turn on some tunes and cook, blend, and bake as much as my little heart desires. You too will find your groove in the kitchen and start to develop your own go-to recipe and groove in batch cooking. Another reason why batch cooking rocks – everything you’re eating is home-made, therefore you get to choose what goes into your food and ultimately what’s going into that beautiful body of yours! To start off, here are some of my favorite ideas that I incorporate into my week. I like to call these items meal components because you’re basically building meals from these simple ingredients throughout the week.

How to Meal Prep and Plan Ahead | Batch Cooking 101

The staples:

Breakfast

Lunch/Dinner

  • Large tossed salad (hold the dressing for now to keep it from getting soggy)
  • Massaged Kale Salad
  • Homemade salad dressings
  • Homemade marina sauce
  • Carbohydrates:  Brown/wild rice, quinoa, millet, sweet potatoes (baked)
  • Animal proteins (if you choose and following the Nutrition Stripped Philosophy): chicken salad, egg salad, tuna salad, chicken breasts/strips (baked, grilled, boiled), etc.
  • Vegetarian proteins: Lentil, chickpeas, black beans, navy beans, black eyed peas, tempeh, organic tofu,
  • Soups: home made tomato, vegetable, chili, butternut squash, split pea, chicken, bone broth, etc.
  • Dips:  hummus, guacamolebaba ganoush dip, salsa, Classic Cashew Cheese, fruit butters and jams
  • Nut butters: almond, walnut, cashew, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, etc. (store bought with whole food ingredients or homemade)

Snacks

  • Homemade trail mixes (i.e. raw, unsalted varieties of nuts/seeds, dried fruit, shredded coconut, etc.) Trust me, you’ll be saving yourself from eating fillers, preservatives, extra sodium, and fat that your body doesn’t need.
  • Snack size bags of fresh cut veggies and fresh fruit
  • Snack size bags of homemade granola, of your favorite gluten free crackers
  • Small tupperware full of your home made hummus, salsa, etc.

How to Meal Prep and Plan Ahead | Batch Cooking 101

Finishing touches

As you cook these foods, cook them NAKED or as simple as possible (i.e. no dressing, no oil, no sauces, limited seasonings, etc.).  Then when meal time rolls around, you’ll simply re-heat on the skillet/oven/or even microwave. Also, at this time you’ll add on what I like to call your “toppers”. These are the sauces, dressings, dips, fresh seasonings, herbs, dressings, etc. This is where all the fun and variety happens. Lets take a look of an example below using just 1 meal component from your staple batch cooking list with “toppers”.

Several ideas using Quinoa for dinner:

  • Monday | Quinoa stir fry. Warm quinoa in a skillet with “toppers” of reduced sodium tamari sauce (a.k.a. soy sauce), sliced veggies, scramble a few egg/egg whites, and top with crushed cashews or sesame seeds.
  • Tuesday | Taco night. Use quinoa as a base in a corn tortilla taco with “toppers” of protein and veggies from BC list OR use quinoa as the base of a “burrito bowl”.
  • Wednesday | Italian. Use quinoa with “toppers” of marina sauce with veggies and a protein from your BC list.
  • Thursday | Simple side. Use quinoa as a side dish with “toppers” of  veggies and protein  from BC list.
  • Friday | Breakfast for dinner. Warm quinoa with “toppers” of unsweetened almond milk, cinnamon, fresh fruit and nuts or seeds.

I hope you find this technique as helpful as I do. If you need additional support, sign up for the NS Society to get ready made meal plans, shopping lists, healthy recipes, workout videos, and wellness guides. Learn more here.

xx McKel

Share your thoughts

  • Alissa

    I do batch cooking and have for the past few years. I love it and the odd weekends that I don’t do it I feel lost all week! I typically do my batch cooking on Sunday afternoons…after I get home from doing my food shopping. I work in an office so I take my meals with me and like to be prepared so I can stay on track with eating right.

    I often prepare a big veggie fritatta or “quiche muffins” in the muffin tin. Then I freeze a few portions for the later part of the week. Just transfer it from the freezer to the fridge the night before and its all set to be heated up in the morning. I often have a slice of Ezekiel toast with it….or another batch cooking item: a slice of my paleo banana bread 🙂

    For lunches I usually make 5 big salads and they keep just fine for Mon-Fri. Don’t put any dressings or protein on the salads. I keep those seperate and in smaller tupperware containers to take with me for that day.

    I find that for dinners I usually make up to 2-3 days worth at a time and then cook again. I love batch cooking and really enjoy that time in the kitchen…prepping for success!

    • Thanks for sharing! It is amazing how batch cooking and meal prepping keep you on a healthy track! Thanks for stopping by and come back soon 🙂

  • fati

    how do you store it to make it last all week ?
    mine tend to go bad after 2-3 days 🙁

    • Hi Fati,
      First, it depends on what you’re cooking. Second, as I note in the post, it’ll stay more fresh if you’re cooking things completely plain with no sauces, etc. so that the texture stays great. Third, make sure your fridge is at the right temperature and very cool. Fourth, make sure you’re using great tupperware that will keep everything air tight! Hope that helps, mine lasts about 5-7 days for years and I follow these steps! 🙂

  • I am SO wanting to get in the groove of doing this regularly. Thanks for the tips!

  • Jamie

    I had to laugh when I read your description of your kitchen looking like a disaster. Mine looks exactly the same, I’ve got at least three or four things going at once. It is such a peaceful time for me although anyone else looking at my kitchen in the midst of it would probably die. It takes me more that two hours but I enjoy cooking for the week and it is comforting to know that my vegetables and proteins are ready. On Mondays my fridge is so full but it all disappears during the week and then I get to do it again. And I have to agree with another poster who felt lost all week when she doesn’t prepare ahead.

    • Haha Jamie, exactly! Hard work = beautiful messes right? It takes a little time to get used to, but before you know it you’ll be efficient with it 😉

  • Mandy

    This is great! Where do you do most of your grocery shopping? I feel that is my biggest challenge and end up going many times during the week.

  • sofia

    Dear McKel,
    Congratulations! This is an amazing post!!! And so helpful…
    Thank you so much!
    Sofia

  • Adriane

    I love batch cooking! Today I did quinoa garbanzos black beans roasted butternut squash and carrots hummus and lentils

  • Nicola

    I notice you include rice in your batch cooking, something I’d love to do as it takes so long to cook, but I’m hesitant about because of the risk of food poisoning. Do you have any advice for ensuring it’s safe?

  • Tired of eating junk

    I have GOT to start batch cooking, I am out of control, because of lack of food prep, eating junk! I’m just 10 lbs over weight but I’m miserable just because I can’t seem to get myself organized with my eating. Every week, same story.

    • Get on the batch cooking train! I have guides on how to do it in the Shop! You got this! xx

  • Maggie

    How do you store this food? Does it go bad? Some things make sense to freeze, I guess.

  • Maximilian

    I would like to try this awesome method! Does this save money?
    Biggest love x Max.

    • McKel Hill

      It has the potential to save you money if you purchase foods in bulk- I do! But it’s really a huge time saver! 🙂

  • Bron

    I second Nicola’s question – I’ve heard rice can cause food poisoning if left cooked for too long. How do you overcome this?

    • McKel Hill

      Food poisoning occurs with bacteria and unkept food at the wrong temperatures or improper food handling, if you’re practicing common sense and safe food practices you’ll be more than okay! I’ve been doing this weekly for the past 9 years and have never had an issue!

      • Bron

        Great 🙂 thanks!

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