Episode 95: Whatcha Got Cookin?: Batch Cooking 101
It’s the most wonderful (read: jam packed) time of the year! With all the holiday festivities and subsequent responsibilities around the corner, figuring out how to get dinner on the table during the week quickly takes a backseat. That is, until batch cooking enters the picture. This week we’re joined by the batch cooking expert herself, Marcy Leaf. Marcy shares her secrets for how batch cooking can come to your rescue whether you go all in with once a month cooking, or just make an extra meal or two every week to pop in the freezer for when life gets hectic. She’s sharing her best tips, tricks, and tools for how to make batch cooking work for anyone and everyone just in time to save your sanity this holiday season!
What are the benefits of batch cooking?
Buying in bulk obviously saves money.
Less likely to pay to go out for dinner when there’s something ready in the freezer.
No weeknight prep
Less weekly shopping
How To Plan
Choose meats- either from preference, availability, and/or sales
Remember that meat comes in 8 -10 pound packages of pork loin and hamburger meat at Costco and plan accordingly; there are roughly 10 pounds of frozen chicken breasts in a package, etc.
Pantry inventory - Is there anything you need to get rid of that fits well with the meats you have chosen?
Try to plan a variety of flavors from the same meat to avoid boredom.
What recipes can be used a variety of ways (Tacos, salads, burrito bowls, etc.)?
Variety of cooking methods - throw on the grill, in the oven, simply microwave, slow or pressure cooker
Cost - Try to keep in mind what things will need to be added to each main dish to make a meal and keep cost to about $5 a main dish (average), knowing that you’ll have to add an average of $3 per dish to make a complete meal.
Recipe selection - Mix between tried and true favorites and Pinterest/favorite blogs for new ideas to mix it up.
**HINT: As you choose recipes, note how many meals it will serve your family. It might only make 2 meals for 2 adults, or one for a larger family, or may even need to be doubled for some families.
How To Shop
An organized list is key - buy as much, especially meat, as possible from Costco at bulk prices (frozen chicken breasts for easy grilling marinades, pork tenderloin, hamburger meat)
Total up how much of each meat you will need..
Then, buy the rest of the meat and anything that is available at Aldi or the local grocery story.
Organize your list by section of the grocery store, so it’s more efficient.
There’s an app called Recipe Keeper that automatically dumps electronic versions of recipes into a shopping list. You can then go through your pantry and spice cabinet and cross off what you already have. Then, you can organize the remainder of the ingredients into produce, frozen, dairy, dry goods, etc.
**HINT: don’t forget items like Saran Wrap, foil, dish soap, and Ziploc bags or aluminum baking dishes to freeze recipes.
How To Plan Cooking Day
Write down all vegetables that need to be prepped
Group like vegetables together and designate what recipes they go with on your list
Ex: 10 diced onions (1 for lasagna, 1 for enchiladas, 1 for chili, etc.)
Group like cooking method recipes together (ex: slow cooker, stove top, oven, marinades, etc.)
Write down what needs to be done to all meats - divide pork loin into one pound pieces, cook hamburger meat, etc. and designate what recipe the bulk meats go with.
Make a list of what can be done the night before - prep veggies, cook some meats in bulk, a slow cooker recipe, etc.
Create a list of what order you will cook the recipes.
Put slow cooker recipes on first to ensure they are finished by the end.
Start something in the oven, while that’s baking, be cooking something on the stovetop, etc.
I save marinades until the end, because they simply involve throwing ingredients in a Ziplock bag and freezing.
Put your recipe order list in a page protector on the refrigerator to easily check things off as you go.
Put all recipes in page protectors to easily wipe off spills and check off ingredients if you want as you go.
Put these recipes in order in which they will be cooked/assembled on cooking day and move into a completed pile as you work through them.
Make labels to go on completed items before putting in the freezer. Include Recipe Name, prep instructions, date, and possible side items (Optional)
How To Execute Cooking Day
Prep all vegetables and cook all hamburger meat at once, if any chicken requires cooking ahead of time, bake it the night before as well. Use a food processor and prep your veggies in bulk, too!
Throw an easy recipe or two in the slow cooker overnight
Make sure any meat that needs to be thawed has an opportunity to do that overnight.
Consider cooking as much of the meat as possible the night before.
Start with putting slow cooker recipes on.
Cook any meat that can be cooked in bulk and wasn’t cooked the night before.
Follow your recipe list plan.
After recipes are cooked, divide into portions/meals, label, and set aside until cool.
**HINT: Have a designated place out of the way for them to cool before putting in the freezer.
**HINT: Freeze as many things as possible in Ziploc bags, because you can freeze it flat, then store either horizontally or vertically in stacks in the freezer.
**HINT: Cook most recipes up to the bake phase, and freeze prior to baking. Then, you can thaw in refrigerator, and throw in the oven before serving. The texture and consistency of dishes does better baking on serving day rather than cooking day when possible (examples: enchiladas, lasagna, etc.)
How To Organize Freezer/Use Freezer Meals
Try to store meals with items naturally rotated, so you don’t have to dig as much, but sometimes you just have to get it all in there however you can.
Keep a list of what meals are in the freezer, along with what ingredients you will need to buy to make a complete meal, (examples: veggies, pasta, rice, salad, etc.)
Check off items as you use them, so you always know what is available when planning your weekly grocery list.
Have a weekly planning list that has what freezer meal you will use each night, along with what sides you will serve with it. This helps you plan around events, as well as plan your grocery list for the week.
**HINT: save crock pot freezer meals for evenings with an event, and meals that will need more bake time for evenings where you know you’ll be home in plenty of time to bake it.
Marcy’s Favorite Recipes
Crock Pot/Slow Cooker Recipes- cook these in your slow cooker on the day of your batch cooking OR throw all of the ingredients in a Ziploc and thaw in the refrigerator the week you want to use it and dump it into a handy crock pot liner to cook on the day you wish to serve it!
French Dip Roast Beef for the Crock Pot - I usually cook on cooking day and freeze with sliced cheese and buns, separately packaged.
White Chicken Chili - This one can be done on the stovetop or in a slow cooker.
Crock Pot Pork Tacos - 2 lbs. Pork tenderloin, 2 cans Rotel. I usually throw in some paprika, cumin, and garlic. You don’t have to though. Just the pork and Rotel will work for a versatile outcome that can be used in salads, tacos, quesadillas, or burrito bowls.
Boilermaker Chili - This one has a lot of ingredients, but makes a TON! Worth the work for sure!
Cajun Dirty Rice - Utilizes boxed dirty rice mix to make a quick and easy, meaty one pot meal sure to please!
Green Chili Enchiladas - Cook up to where it says bake; save baking for serving day. I usually make two meals out of this for a small family.
Spaghetti and Spinach Casserole - This can be multiple meals, as well, for a small family. Cook up to where it says bake on batch cooking day; save baking for serving day for best results!
Marinades- these are recipes that you just throw all the ingredients, along with raw meat, into a Ziploc bag. Then, they marinate as they thaw, and you can cook them however (grill, bake, skillet) you wish on serving day!
Kroger Easy For You! Scoop Meals