UNCOMPLICATED KITCHEN

BACKUP MEALS | Batch Cooking for Freezer Meals [9 mins]

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How to Prepare for a Batch Cooking Session

This section is relatively straightforward, although it may feel as though there are a lot of moving parts that come with preparing for batch cooking session! 

First up: what’s batch cooking?

Batch cooking is a chunk of time dedicated to cooking or preparing a bunch of meals at once, which will then be stored so they can be eaten/prepared at a later date. If we’re loading up our freezer with a bunch of meals, a batch freezer session needs preparation and a bit of planning before it can happen. 

What if I have like, zero time to do this? 

Well, I have two answers for you there. 

1: Plan for it anyway. Listen, mama, we’re all crazy busy. Like, really busy. I get it! To set aside a 1-3 hour chunk of time to make a ton of food you won’t even be eating that night seems like…. Yeah, no. 

But I’m telling you, if you can find that time in a weekend, you’ll be setting yourself up for success and a TON of saved time later on. 

I find that setting aside ~1 or 3 hours of cook time on a weekend can save me up to 6 hours that WEEK in making dinner. 

2. You’ll never HAVE the time. You’ve got to MAKE the time

There are a thousand and one things you could also do instead of batch cooking. But this is important. And you’ll never know how important/sanity-saving/helpful it is until you actually DO IT.

Think about it this way:

Instead of making dinner like this: 

  • Cajoling the kids out of the kitchen
  • Pulling out your knives, cutting boards, pans, etc
  • Getting all the ingredients for your meal out of the fridge/cupboard and ready to be prepped 
  • Cooking the meal (which could take up to an hour)
  • Serving the meal
  • Cleaning up the pans, cutting boards, knives, etc AND the plates, serving dishes
  • …and then doing it all over again the next night

Think instead of making dinner like this: 

  • Removing a thawed, mostly thawed, or totally frozen meal from your freezer 
  • Placing it the oven, Instant Pot, or crockpot 
  • Doing whatever the hell you like until that meal is cooked 
  • Sitting down to dinner with your fam jam
  • Washing ONLY the serving dishes and plates, silverware, etc afterward. 

Which option sounds more appealing at the end of a long ass day? 

Find the time to cook a batch of meals, my love. It’ll save you time, money, effort, and sanity. 

 

Step One: The Preparation

So here’s where we’ll get into prepping for the batch session and all that it entails.

Here’s what you’ll need:  

  1. Recipes for the meals you want to make

  2. Ingredients for the meals

  3. Appropriate storage containers, labels, and accessories 

  4. Chunk of time in which to cook and prepare 

(make sure you also have childcare at this time, even if it’s just your partner herding the kids out of the kitchen and distracting them in another room. Kids’ll make the batch cooking take 10x longer, as you may imagine. Or, if they’ll be genuinely helpful, keep them around and put them to work!)

  1. Bonus requirement: I like to load up podcasts, playlists, and audiobooks because it helps me pass the time faster.

 

Let’s break these steps down: 

  1. Recipes for the meals you want to make. 

If they’re not recipes I’ve developed myself, then I find my freezer recipes from a number of different sources. 

How many meals for one session? 

I can usually fit in about 5 meals at a time. If I’m working solo and have prepared well, this will take me about 2ish hours. I’d love to spend a whole afternoon and cook a month’s worth of meals but I just can never find the time to do so. 

In all honesty, If you have the time to make 5 meals, you have the time to make 10- so try to double up on the recipes you’re especially stoked about. But that’s about where I max out on time. Your mileage here may vary. 

If you’re super new to batch cooking, I recommend starting at 3 recipes. Try to double them if you can. Once you’ve got a few sessions under your belt and feel like you can nail a batch cooking session with more recipes, go for it!

What kind of recipes should I choose? 

Try to find a couple of recipes that have similar ingredients, like chicken thighs, tomato paste, etc. This is where a service like Once a Month Meals is really handy, since you can do a search in their recipe database for recipes containing a specific ingredient. 

I love the concept of dump-and-go meals, where you prepare everything for an Instant Pot or crockpot and then dump it in the pot to cook. So I tend to gravitate towards those. I’ll prep everything, then I use a couple of baggy racks (my lifesaver, that’s an Amazon link to check them out) and fill the bags up, seal them, and place them in the freezer at once. 

You can also check out the Prep School Pack, which is a starter pack for everything family-style meal prep. Each pack includes my go-to prep items, plus a meal prep plan to get you started. 

 

2. Ingredients for the meals 

Look at the recipes you’ve gathered and make a huge list of everything you’ll need. Like, everything. If you’re using one of the meal planner apps that populate a grocery list, this is a great time to do so, since that’ll save you time. Go down the list and cross off anything you already have. 

I really love online grocery shopping, since it means I can just peel through my list and get groceries ordered. I use Instacart, since they have a 2-hour delivery window in my area. If you’ve got something similar in your area, I really recommend it, 2-hour delivery or no! I’ll often order the big, heavy things online and then pick up things like produce, etc so that I can be a bit more choosy with quality. 

 

3. Appropriate storage containers, labels, and accessories 

I debated including this step before the grocery haul, because if you don’t have the appropriate containers, they’ll need to be added to your list or bought beforehand via Amazon or somewhere local. 

Once you’ve decided on your recipes, take a look at what you’ve got available to store all this food. 

My personal preference, with my love of dump-and-go meals, is freezer-safe ziploc bags. I’ve got a ton of them! I also like round tupperware plastic containers, since I can just dump a frozen round block of food in a round Instant Pot and press “start”. Other containers may include disposable trays. Remember, you can’t freeze a meal in a glass baking dish and then place it straight from the freezer into the oven, because it’ll shatter. Glass also won’t expand with frozen ingredients inside, and that can shatter, too. I love storing my meals in glass containers because I’m terrified of BPA, but I purchased a number of BPA-free plastic containers with snap-on lids that have been working great for us. (this is the set)

 

4. Chunk of time to prepare. 

This can be the trickiest part of the whole deal, I’m fully aware. But what’s a batch cooking session if you can’t do it all in one go? 

If you’re nervous about not having enough time, start small. Get one hour in and prep 2 meals. A few days later (or next weekend), squeeze in another hour. Once you see how awesome it is to get batch cooking done, you’ll be more excited to figure out the timing with your partner or family to get it done. 

 

Have you ever heard of Parkinson’s Law? Put simply, it’s filling the space we have with entirely. If you’ve got an hour to write a paper, it’ll take you an hour. If you have 30 minutes, you’ll find a way to make it take 30 minutes. If we create the space we need in our lives to get something done that it important to us, we’ll figure out the time, no matter how much it takes. 

 

5. Then, have fun! 

I call this the ‘bonus’ part: it’s where I find fun playlists, podcasts, audiobooks, etc to listen to while I cook. Or, I’ll open a bottle of wine and invite a friend over so we can cook together, split the work, and split the meals. 

 

If you make this fun, you’ll look forward to the process, not just the results. And that’s just as important as a fully-stocked freezer!