Save Time and Money Cooking in Bulk
Why Cook in Bulk?
Trying to juggle work, a family and a social life can make it difficult to slice out enough time in the day to prepare healthy meals. With so little time at the end of the day and with very little energy left, many caregivers resort to dining out for food that is often filled with saturated fat, sugar, and/or unhealthy carbohydrates.
For more than four years, I have been cooking in bulk so that my meals last an entire week. This method has made my life easier when it comes to having the time to enjoy my evenings with loved ones rather than spending it cooking and cleaning dishes.
The easiest way to start is creating a list of what to eat each day, gathering the ingredients, and then picking one day each week to cook all the meals for that week.
Cooking in Bulk
If you absolutely love making recipes, but don't have the time, consider altering your bulk list by devoting one to two days (like a weekend) during the week to try out a new recipe or spend time making a long-standing favorite.
Make a List
Making a list of what to eat each day of the week is an essential part of cooking in bulk. The list assures you that you won't miss any important ingredients before heading to the grocery store and makes it easier to acquire the necessary quantities to last an entire week.
When making your list on what to eat for the week, try not to think of each meal as a recipe or specific dish. For example, you decide that Monday you will have Chicken Cordon Bleu with a salad followed by Corned Beef on Tuesday. Unless you know the recipes you want to make by heart and they're fairly simple to make (like spaghetti), you will find that you're going to spend a lot more time in the kitchen than you'd like to.
So instead, focus on individual items that make a meal like the pieces to a puzzle. In essence, choose a meat, a carbohydrate and a vegetable for each day. If you're not a meat eater, replace the meat with something hearty and filling like beans, eggplant or quinoa.
Here's a sample list:
Monday: Chicken Breast, Broccoli and Brown Rice
Tuesday: Salmon, Mashed Potatoes, and Asparagus
Wednesday: Chicken Breast with Noodles and a Salad
Thursday: Beef Steak, Baked Potato, and Spinach
Friday: Shredded Beef Tacos with Re-fried Beans
Time to Go Shopping
Now that you have a list of what to eat for each day, it's time to use this list to create a grocery list. Be sure to buy the amount of pieces of each type of meat that you're family will consume. You will find that it is not only easier, but cheaper to buy in bulk.
Purchasing meat in value packs will allow you to take out what you need for the week. Whatever you don't use that week, you can freeze. The vegetables and carbohydrates can also be purchased in bulk. Buying frozen vegetables will also stretch your dollar.
I tend to go shopping on the day that I will cook for the week. This routine allows me to easily cook what I need and freeze the rest. On days when everything to cook is already on hand, try to plan ahead by taking out what you need and letting it thaw in the refrigerator for one to two days. If it's difficult to remember make a reminder on your phone or in Outlook a couple days before your cooking day.
Enjoy Your Cooking Days
Grab the list of what you plan to cook for the week and make it happen. Since I have been doing my bulk cooking for over four years, it usually takes me about 2 hours. Give yourself 3 hours the first time around and plan to be done just in time for dinner. If you like to eat at 6:00pm, start cooking around 3:00pm.
Always start with the types of foods that take the longest to prepare and cook. Brown rice is on the list so make sure to start this first since it can take 45 minutes to an hour before it is tender.
Chicken and other poultry should be the next priority. If you're baking it, start preparing poultry first. Of course most vegetables, beef and fish will take the least amount of time and can be the next items to cook once you have the more time-consuming foods out of the way. You'll find that once you have everything going, you might be using all of the burners on your stove and the oven may be pretty full, too.
You may also notice from the sample meal list that there are repeat items like chicken and beef. Similar to the way this list is designed, you can take large portions of meat and use them in different ways to last throughout the week without it becoming monotonous.
For example, one night your family can enjoy chicken breasts with sides while another night, the remaining chicken breasts can be cut up and used for a dinner salad, tacos, pastas, stir frys or whatever else you desire.
Once these parts of your meals are sizzling and done, empty them into glass storage containers and let them cool before freezing.
Take a stab at cooking in bulk and see how much free time you accumulate. You may even find that your energy bill will decrease if you used to cook every night in the past.
Using Pyrex for Food Storage
I have found that Pyrex brand is one of the best for storing foods in the freezer. Choosing glass makes it easy to clean and is durable enough to handle the carrying temperatures. When using glass storage, try to only put the amount that you need for the meal that day so that when you take the food out to thaw, there's only enough for what you need to avoid spoiling or wasting.
Save Time and Money with a Foodsaver
Another great food-freezing practice is to use a FoodSaver. This machine vacuum seals foods to keep them fresher in the freezer. You'll also find that you will use up less space in the freezer than will glass storage. It’s pricey, but worth the money and makes a great gift.