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 too, well this is a secret I want to share with all of you today. Today I’m sharing Batch Cooking 101 as a guide. I’ve been batch cooking or doing some form of meal prep for my entire week ever since I was a freshman in college. Back then, my busy schedule of jumping from one class to another, internship, work, and 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 Saturday’s right after I finish my grocery shopping haul in the mornings/afternoons) and have some fun cooking! No freezing required for any of your batch cooking as you’ll be eating this throughout the week and cycle this every week.
In your entire week (168 hours/week), 1-2 hours/week of cooking is not much! Especially if you’re currently coming home from work every night cooking on the spot which could easily add up to 30-60 minutes/evening, 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, what if your case is going through a drive-through, picking up fast food, or dining out because you have nothing prepared to come home to. Again, batch cooking will save not only your health from avoiding all those questionable ingredients (yikes!) put into fast food establishments, but also money spent!
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 it to be 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 you’ve identified and gradually build upon the days/weeks worth 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 keep you on track!
- Takes the mental “burden/obligation” off your mind of thinking “What am I going to make for dinner *sigh*” or “I still have to cook *grunt*” etc.
- Consistency is key when making and achieving your health and wellness goals; what’s more consistent than having your meal prepared and planned for you a week in advance?
- Fun way to diversify your food and meal choices throughout the day and week
- Ziploc sandwich and snack-size bags
- Kitchen appliances (oven, stove, crock pot, etc.)
- Fresh ingredients from the local farmers markets, grocery store, CSA’s, etc.
- Time and patience (especially you’re 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…
Kale for Massaged Kale Salad
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 home made granola in the oven, etc.; but that’s fun right? Batch cooking is a bit of a therapeutic time for me, it’s were I can get in (what my family and friends call) “the zone”, turn on some tunes, and cook, blend, and bake till my little heart desires. You too will find your groove in the kitchen and start to develop your own go-to’s in batch cooking.
Another reason why batch cooking rocks, all items are home-made, therefore you control 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.
- Stripped Green Smoothies!
- Protein shakes/smoothies
- Oatmeal (rolled oats, steel cut oats, buckwheat, etc.)
- Hard boiled eggs
- Protein pancakes/waffles
- Sliced fruit in snack-size ziploc bags
- Large tossed salad (hold the dressing for now)
- 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, guacamole, baba ganoush dip, salsa, Classic Cashew Cheese, fruit butters and jams
- Nut butters (almond, walnut, cashew, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, etc.)
- 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.
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”, the sauces, dressings, dips you’ve made, 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. Have you ever tried batch cooking? How do you meal prep for your week ahead? I’d love to hear your strategies below! Happy meal prepping, McKel