A patient once shared with me about the 5 P's: Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. One secret weapon for planning ahead is to do more batch cooking or bulk cooking. Having more nutritious, homemade food on hand is possible and your health will benefit from your preparedness.
Initially, batch cooking might seem to take a lot of time because you have to invest time prepping and cooking up front. However, the time you can save the rest of the week or even month if you freeze things really pays off. When your kitchen is already getting messy making a recipe, consider doubling or even tripling the recipe. This can work for main dishes or baked goods. Make two pans of baked spaghetti or lasagna or chicken enchiladas. Cook one for dinner and freeze the second pan for another time. If you double or triple your favorite healthy muffin recipes, you can freeze the extra muffins to have on hand for snacks or "sweet treats."
A crock pot is also a great help when batch cooking. Fill the crock pot up when cooking soups and stews and freeze half when done or eat the leftovers throughout the week. Use the crock pot to make big batches of things like taco meat. To extend the meat, add beans and corn. Freeze the extra taco mix for future "taco nights." Keep on hand the rest of the fixings for a taco salad bar. You will have a really easy dinner with minimal prep as long as you remember to put the frozen taco mixture in the crock pot on low before heading out of the house in the morning!
Use the crock pot to prepare large batches of meat to be used later. Start with frozen or fresh meat (chicken breasts, ground beef or turkey, turkey sausage) and put it in the crock pot on high. Usually nothing needs to be added to the meat. As it cooks break it apart and the end result will be shredded chicken or cooked ground meat. Refreeze the meat mixture in two cup portions. Use this already cooked meat to throw into soups or use in other recipes. Here are some other ideas to help get you started in bulk/batch cooking:
- Hard boil eggs on the weekend to eat throughout the week.
- Grill extra when grilling meats or veggies. If you won't eat all the grilled meat over the next several days, freeze it for future.
- Make a big pot of quinoa, brown rice, or beans and use throughout the week. Cooked grains and beans freeze well also.
- Frittata or eggs: Make a large pan or put in individual muffin tins and eat during week or freeze for later use. Pop in microwave to heat up on a busy morning.
- Make a larger smoothie to have the next day also.
- Bake several sweet potatoes to have on hand for week. You can also peel and mash cooked sweet potatoes and freeze in Ziploc bags. Add frozen mashed sweet potatoes to chili and other soups. Several sweet potatoes can also be cooked in a crock pot on low all day if you prefer that method over turning on the oven.
- Prep and cut up fruits and vegetables on the weekend to be used throughout the week. Put them in small containers or Ziplocs ready to grab.
- Pre-portion bags of nuts and seeds.
- Cook a big pot of steel cut oats on the weekend to reheat during the week.
- Roast a big batch of vegetables to use for the week. Here are some simple directions:
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Clean and cut up assortment of carrots, broccoli, peppers, onion, zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant, snow peas, cauliflower. (actually any you enjoy)
- Toss vegetables with some olive oil, pepper, salt or other blend like Mrs. Dash and spread out on a baking sheet.
- Roast in oven until tender and edges start to brown. Flip once or twice during roasting. Time can vary from 20-40 minutes depending on type of vegetables and how many being roasted.
- Keep leftovers in refrigerator and eat for lunch or add to other dinner meals.
- Overnight oats: Make five separate containers using a variety of fruits, nuts, and spices or just prepare one large batch for the week. Breakfast is ready all week. Here is one simple recipe to try.
Blueberry Refrigerator Oatmeal
1/4 cup uncooked old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup 1% milk or preferred milk
1/4 cup greek vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries or any other fruit you desire
Can add chia seeds or other seeds and nuts
Can add cinnamon for extra flavor if desired
Mix all the ingredients together. Cover container with a lid. Refrigerate overnight. Eat chilled. Makes 1 serving. Can double or triple of course and eat throughout week!
Nutrition: 208 calories, 3g fat, .5g sat. fat, 66mg sodium, 35g carbs, 4g fiber, 12g protein
Recipes abound on the internet for all of the above suggestions. Several websites also give step to step directions for bulk cooking or freezer meals. Give it a try with at least a few foods/recipes and see if it doesn't help you to be more prepared to eat better.