If you’ve been reading some of my other articles here on Well.ca, you know I LOVE to meal prep, meal plan and be slightly ahead on food planning in general. Now it’s not always perfect, but what helps me is batch cooking the basics, freezing recipes I’ve made extra of, and reheating meals.
Whenever I cook, I make extra of what I’m making, partially because I have a very hungry husband and partially because it really doesn’t take much more time! If you’re already in the kitchen, baking six chicken breasts vs. two really isn’t a big difference time-wise.
When it comes to batch cooking, I like to make a lot of the basics, and then switch up the sauces throughout the week so that it feels like I’m eating different meals (even though it’s really just variations of what I’d typically eat).
Proteins to Batch Cook
Two proteins I love to batch cook on Sundays are chicken and burgers. For chicken, I actually keep it pretty simple: I use 4-6 chicken breasts (for 2 people) and I’ll season them with either Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, or a BBQ spice mix. Then, I’ll bake them in the oven at 350F for 30 minutes. This is the perfect amount of time so that they aren’t overcooked but are also not pink inside anymore.
For burgers, I use this Killer Burger Recipe. And I don’t actually eat them as a burger with the bun—instead, I’ll throw them on top of a salad for some protein or make a lettuce bun for dinner.
Veggies to Batch Cook
It goes without saying that I’ll roast a few trays of vegetables too while I’m at it. Vegetables are usually best done at a higher temperature. Typically, I’ll roast two trays of vegetables at 400F for about 30-35 minutes. My favourite veggies to use are red onion, bell peppers, zucchini and broccoli, but I try to switch it up each week.
Carbs to Batch Cook
Since I eat primarily grain free, I usually use starchy vegetables as my main source of carbohydrates. For example, I love making a big batch of yams or baby potatoes, beets, and sometimes spaghetti squash, which works really well as a noodle replacement. If you aren’t grain free, it’s great to make a big batch of brown rice or quinoa to have in the fridge too.
Tools to Use to Batch Cook
I recently got an Instant Pot and it’s incredible for cooking vegetables quickly. For example, beets that would normally take 45-50 minutes to roast or boil can be cooked in just 10 minutes. Same goes for spaghetti squash (remember: it’s a great noodle replacement!). It will also make chicken in about 15 minutes that tastes like it’s been in the slow cooker for 4 hours.
You don’t need an Instant Pot though. A slow cooker is fantastic for making big batches of chili or chicken soup. I also find a Cuisinart Food Processor to be really useful for shredding vegetables like cabbage or carrots in large batches quickly. If you need to mince garlic or ginger, a food processor will do it really easily and quickly too—just drop the peeled garlic or ginger in the already running processor through the top.
Not all foods work well to be frozen. Be careful of produce items that are really watery like cucumber, tomato or watermelon, as they really don’t freeze well. Most other cooked vegetables will be ok frozen and then reheated though.
One way the freezer can come in useful is for leftover remnants of ingredients that might not get used and then go bad. For example, if you’ve opened a can of coconut milk for a recipe but are not using the entire can, freeze the rest in an ice cube tray and then you can take out smaller portions as needed. Other items that work well to be frozen in ice cube trays include tomato paste, minced garlic or ginger, soup stock or broth and pesto.
You can actually freeze leafy greens as well and then use them in smoothies. If you have a head of kale or a tub of spinach that is going to go bad, pre-chop it, put it in a big Ziploc and throw it in the freezer. These greens definitely won’t work in a salad after they’ve been frozen but are perfect for throwing into a smoothie.
If you’re freezing leftovers from a meal, it can be useful to freeze it in individual portions so that when you thaw it, you don’t have to thaw the entire dish if you don’t need it.
Last but not least, if you have a deep freeze (or even if you don’t), you can easily lose things in the bottom of your freezer, so keep a list or inventory of what you have in the freezer so that you know.
Foods to Always Have in Your Freezer
It can be really useful to always have some staples waiting for you in the freezer for recipes. Some of my favourites are:
- Frozen bananas for banana “nice” cream or smoothies
- Frozen vegetables that are pre-chopped, which makes for even faster roasting during your batch cooking
- Bone broth, which keeps forever in the freezer
- Nuts and seeds, which are just kept fresher in the freezer and don’t go rancid like they can in the pantry
What are your go-to ingredients for batch cooking, freezing and reheating?
Mandy King is a holistic nutritionist and the founder of HEAL, a wellness company that provides corporate wellness, 1:1 nutrition coaching and weekly meal planning. Mandy leads corporate workshops for Canada’s top companies, including Google, Facebook & PwC, and helps health-conscious clients looking to heal their digestion, boost their energy and shed excess weight through healthy, delicious food. A self-proclaimed gluten-free guru, all of Mandy’s recipes are gluten-free and Celiac friendly.