You don't have to spend a whole day cooking meals for your freezer to take advantage batch cooking. You can adapt the concept of batch cooking to fit your lifestyle and schedule.
I use batch cooking as a frugal way of creating my own “convenience foods” to simplify dinner preparation on busy weeknights. Cooking basic ingredients, such as chicken, rice, and beans in bulk ahead of time allows me to quickly create dinners with minimal prep time.
How to Incorporate Batch Cooking Into Your Menu Plan
1. Look at your schedule and determine how many people will be home each night and decide how many meals you will need to prepare. Determine how much time you have to cook meals on those nights. I usually schedule six meals and allow one night for a leftover buffet.
2. Take a look in the freezer, refrigerator, and the pantry to see what you have on hand. Do you have chicken thighs or a pork roast that can be used as a base for several meals? Do you have a pound of rice in your pantry? Do you have root vegetables in your crisper?
3. Decide which meals can be made from the ingredients you already have. Also think about which ingredients you can use in multiple meals and start making your batch cooking and meal prep list.
4. After deciding what meals you have most of the ingredients for, start a shopping list for any additional ingredients you will need.
5. Check your grocery store circulars to see if there are some great sales on items that can be used as a foundation for other meals. Can any of those ingredients be used in multiple recipes? Add them to your batch cooking and meal prep list.
6. Decide which meals go on each day based on how much time I have to prepare dinner. Don't forget to plan to use the items you batch cook in a dinner the night of your batch cooking. I usually make that my most elaborate meal of the week, but some people prefer to make that a super simple supper.
7. If possible, go shopping on a day when you can come home and spend an hour or two doing your batch cooking and prepping vegetables. If that doesn't work, try shopping one day and do your batch cooking and vegetable prep the next day.
8. Plan your batch cooking based on how you are going to use the ingredients and the time you have available to prep for the weekly meals. Do you need shredded pork? You can use a slow cooker, pressure cooker, or the oven to roast your meat. Do you need thinly sliced meat? You will probably want to roast it, but you could also cook it in the slow cooker. Do you need diced chicken? Just about any cooking method will work, but broiling chicken breasts or thighs is the fastest way to cook chicken.
While you are batch cooking your meats, beans, and rice, you can prep your vegetables and shred cheese. You can also use that time to make homemade spice mixes, salad dressings, and other sauces to use through out the week if you wish.
9. Cut, slice, or shred your meat as necessary. Then store it in usable portions. Double check your recipes to make sure you set enough aside for each recipe. Store your rice and beans in usable portions. If you are going to use the items within 3 day, refrigerate it. If you are going to use it later, freeze it and then add a reminder to your menu plan to move it to the refrigerator the day before you need it. so it can thaw. Don't forget to label your containers.
Measure the chopped vegetables and the shredded cheese and store it usable portions. Label your containers with the name of the recipe the item will be used in. Then you can just grab it from the fridge and add it to the recipe without having to stop and measure it.
You can apply this meal prep technique to your recipes, but if you are looking for recipes that use batch cooking, check out Prep-Ahead Meals from Scratch. You can use this printable menu plan with shopping list to help you get started.