What is Batch Cooking?
Batch cooking is cooking multiple meals in one “batch.” Generally, one day per week is set aside as a “Batch Cooking Day” (it doesn’t actually take all day) to cook all of the meals for the week. By cooking and refrigerating multiple meals at once, you free up time and energy for the future. A lot of time and energy.
Why do twentysomethings benefit from batch cooking more than others?
A recent study claimed that the average millennial thinks that cereal is too hard to prepare. The media (understandably) lost their mind. They couldn’t believe the magnitude of our generation’s laziness. But let’s be real. You’re guilty. Maybe not when it comes to cereal, but there’s something. You have something that takes less than two minutes and you still “can’t find the time.” I understand. There is a 5-month old pumpkin on my front porch.
Sure, twentysomethings might be lazy, but we also highly value convenience. Batch cooking might not be as convenient as a personal chef, but it does make real food more convenient than frozen pizza. It is the solution to our generation’s food apathy. It may not be easier than cereal, but it can radically change the way you relate to food without sacrificing convenience.
Let me highlight a few of the benefits of batch cooking.
Benefits of Batch Cooking
Batch cooking saves time.
Shifting your concentration from one task to another is a time-suck. Cooking a single meal is a time-suck. Doing dishes is a time-suck. Driving to McDonald’s is a time-suck.
Batch cooking saves money
There are two ways to lose money on food:
- Waste it. With batch cooking you’re never left asking, “What am I going to use this for?” All of your meals are already prepared and ready to eat. Very few things rot in the fridge. You’re not going to waste a perfectly good salad if it is mixed, packed with delicious toppings, and in a to-go container. Food waste isn’t a problem for batch cookers.
- Pay too much for it. Eating out is the biggest reason people give for not contributing to their savings. Batch cooking prevents overspending by keeping you out of the restaurant. It makes cheaper, homemade food more convenient than “convenience food.” Even the least expensive options at a fast food restaurant are more expensive than something you could make at home. My average meal cost is $2-3. An average meal at Taco Bell is around $5. My average meal also doesn’t leave me screaming on the toilet.
Batch cooking eliminates decision fatigue
“Decision fatigue” sounds like a made-up, white-people problem. And it probably is. But if it isn’t, decision fatigue is the stupidity that results from depleting your limited supply of willpower. If you overload yourself with too many decisions, it becomes increasingly difficult to make good decisions. Most bad food decisions are the result of decision fatigue, not laziness and gluttony.
Batch cooking allows for variety and experimentation
Batch cooking makes you conscious of your intake
Batch cooking tastes better than frozen and processed foods
Batch cooking can support the local economy
Batch Cooking Day is awesome
Disadvantages of Batch Cooking
Before I go on, I want to quickly address some of the difficulties and disadvantages of batch cooking. I think that every person would benefit from it, but there are some reasons to deviate from full-frontal batch cooking.
Reheating something in the microwave isn’t very sexy. That just-out-of-the-oven deliciousness goes away over time and it cannot be replaced by popping it back in the microwave. Convenience just has a cost. It’s nowhere near as significant as the loss in flavor found in processed foods, but reheated food doesn’t taste quite as good as it did when it was freshly cooked.
Time-consuming on the front end
How To Batch Cook
- Create a shopping list. Meal planning inside a grocery store (with an empty stomach) doesn’t work well. Take 10 minutes to plan your meals for the week before leaving for the (local) grocery store.
- Plan 3-5 different dishes that each produce 3-5 servings.
- 6 days of lunch and dinner = 12 meals (you’ll go out to eat once or twice)
- (3 dishes) x (4 servings) = 12 meals
- (4 dishes) x (3 servings) = 12 meals
- (5 dishes) x (2 or 3 servings) = 12 meals
- Keep it simple. If I’m cooking four dishes for the week, at least three of them are going to be very simple or familiar. I only attempt one new or difficult dish each week (if even). If you try to cook four brand new dishes in one week, you’ll give up quickly. Start out by cooking what you know and slowly introduce new things into your diet, if that’s what you want.
- Plan snacks. You’re going to snack. Plan a few so that they are healthy and tasty.
- Have a plan for breakfast. It’s kind of weird to batch cook for breakfast. If you do, awesome. If you don’t, have a plan for what you’ll cook in the morning. For me, breakfast is either leftovers or bacon and eggs. It eliminates the decision fatigue.
- Read nutrition articles later. There’s nothing that will make you feel worse than realizing that every food you love in life will give you cancer and diabetes. If you choose to change your diet, it will be a lot easier if you have already established a solid batch cooking routine. This way, you can easily introduce healthier meals one at a time. Save all of those articles for next month and focus on today.
Cook multiple dishes at once
Portion your meals
Mix it up
Tailor it to fit your lifestyle
Shop the perimeter
Don’t neglect taste
Use glass containers
Cast iron skillets are the bomb
A Simple Starter Menu
If you’re ready to give this batch cooking thing a try, here is a very simple menu to get you started. I like to cook at least one meal in the oven, one on the stove top, and one in the crock pot. This creates nice pockets of time where I can work on one dish while the other is cooking.
- Meal 1: Chicken Stir fry – 4 servings – stove-top
- 1.5 lbs. chicken breast
- 2 lbs. vegetables (frozen)
- 1 packet stir fry seasoning
- 2 cups of uncooked rice… that you eventually cook
- Meal 2: Pot Roast – 5 servings – crock pot
- 2 lb. chuck roast
- Red wine, water or broth
- Onions, carrots, green beans, potatoes, garlic, etc.
- Meal 3: Chicken, broccoli, and sweet potatoes – 4 servings – oven
- 6-8 chicken thighs
- BBQ or honey-mustard glaze
- 4 sweet potatoes (oven)
- Broccoli, olive oil, salt (oven)
- Breakfast: Oatmeal and sliced apples