If you are meal prepping, no matter what your motivation to do it, time is probably a big factor for you. Meal prepping is a wonderful way to save time throughout the week from the time you spend at the grocery store to the time it takes to cook dinner.
Not only do you save time with meal-prepping, but you save money, too. You probably already know that meal prepping can simplify dinner or lunch time for you, but did you know there are some ways that you can save time even when doing the process of meal prepping itself? With all the tips out there on how to save time with meal prepping, you may be wondering what works and what won't work for you. When being interviewed about my cookbooks Prep-Ahead Breakfasts and Lunches and Prep-Ahead Meals from Scratch, I am often asked what is the best way to save time when meal prepping. If I could offer one piece of advice for meal prepping, it's the following one simple trick to save time when meal prepping: Batch cook all of your proteins at the beginning of the week.
One Simple Trick to Save Time When Meal Prepping
Of all the advice about how to effectively prep meals in advance, the best one I can give you is this: cook all of your proteins for the week in one batch cooking session. You can do this in a short period of time if you use several appliances to cook your proteins at the same time.
That's it! It really is that simple!
Let's talk about how this can save you time and how you can do it.
How to Batch Cook all of your Protein for the Week
Do your cooking while you are planning to be home and will be doing other things- Since most of the batch cooking techniques such as slow cooking, roasting, and pressure cooking do not take much time to set up (in most cases, it's just placing it in the slow cooker with some broth and salt and pepper and turning it on), you can let your meat and beans cook with little supervision and do things like deep clean the kitchen while they cook. You can save yourself even more time later by prepping some of your vegetables and chopping them while your proteins are cooking. Here are batch cooking video tutorials, so you can see how easy it is.
Use the tools you have at home or invest in ones that are practical for you– I personally like to use appliances like slow cookers, Instant Pots, and pressure cookers in addition to my oven to batch cook multiple items at the same time. You can also use an indoor or outdoor grill to batch cook meats if you want a ‘grilled' essence to your food.
Buy protein in bulk to save money and time– Choose 3 or 4 types of sources of protein (including beans, lentils, quinoa, and rice as they are also an excellent source of protein and a perfect candidate for batch cooking) and make sure to get it in bulk. You will save so much money and time doing it this way because, with batch cooking, you can buy things like whole chickens and just quickly remove the meat later after it's done.
Plan your meals and then cook your proteins– You should decide what you will be making for the week so you can decide not only what protein you will be making, but also the technique. If the recipe would be better with a juicier chicken, then thighs might be the better option to use since they get very tender due to the higher fat content in them.
Have a storage option planned and ready– When your protein is cooked, don't make the mistake of just throwing it in one large container. Portion the meat, beans, and rice into usable portions, so you can easily use it later in the week.
The amount of time actually prepping this part of your meals is less than 1/2 hour to 45 minutes if you are counting only the time it takes to get it in the cooking appliances and portion it out afterward. Just think; in less than an hour of actual hands-on time, you could have all of your proteins and meats cooked for the entire week and ready to go!
Batch Cooking Session Ideas:
Broil chicken, cook rice on the stovetop and cook beans in a pressure cooker
Cook roast in a slow cooker, bake rice, cook beans on the stove top
Roast 2 whole chickens, cook rice in a slow cooker, cook lentils on the stove top.