So a couple of days ago, a friend asked me for advice about batch cooking/meal planning. I’ve been doing it consistently for a while, mostly because it makes for fast lunches when I wake up late and quick dinners when I come home tired, but also because it’s hot as balls in NYC this summer and turning on the stove once a week keeps my teeny apartment stay much cooler.
Seeing as school is starting soon, fall is coming for us, and change is around the corner, it seems a good time to share some of my hard-earned knowledge.
Am I a professional cook? Absolutely not. Am I an expert of kitchen tools and food quality? Not even a little bit. What I am is a perfectly average cook with an interest in saving time and a propensity to walk away from a cooking session with at least two bandaids. I do not own a zester of any kind and for the last four years I’ve either cooked in the corner of a tiny studio apartment or shared a partially outdoor and entirely oven-less kitchen with a Peruvian family.
So why am I, the oft injured non-expert, writing about batch cooking? Because I can’t be the only one with a lot of interest and almost no skill. If we all read advice from only the experts, we’d start to get worried about our abilities. This one’s for you, average cook with very little time, I raise my box of bandaids to you!
Lessons I Learned While Batch Cooking:
Have a Plan
Sure this seems obvious, but until you’re splashing boiling water down your pant leg because you have thirty seconds to strain it and oh sh** you should have but the meat in before the greens and is that FIRE, THAT’S FIRE…you don’t understand just how little you can wing it.
This is particularly important in the beginning: planning not just what you want to cook but the order in which you will cook it and a rough timeline is key.
Mix Up Staples and New Recipes
This took me a while, but especially starting out, you don’t want to have to cook some new and impressive recipe for every meal. That’s 21 new recipes.
I don’t know about you but around 20% of the new recipes I try are sub-par. 20% of 21 is more than four meals. Four meals that you have to box up and eat later, knowing they aren’t going to be very delicious.
Avoid this by choosing 1-2 new recipes for the week and sticking to what you know for the rest. It’s also important to mix it up, cooking some full meals (ex: Beef Curry on Rice, Cracklin’ Chicken) and some things that can be mixed with other things (ex: boiled carrots, vegetable mix**).
Ask For Help/Take a Damn Break
Cooking food for the entire week is not a simple task. While I’ve gotten better at it, almost every week I end up either hurting myself or getting tired doing it. Boyfriend has gotten very good at stepping in about five minutes before I hit this wall to help me finish up and clean the kitchen.
If you don’t have someone right there to help you, consider planning in a place to take a break and sit down with a glass of wine for twenty minutes. This does not make you weak, it makes you smart and less likely to injure yourself.
Choose smarts, not the emergency room.
I hope these tips help in your future kitchen adventures and may the odds be ever in your flavor (Yeah).
Best of luck!
*At this point, I’d like to say that I’m going to pick up the blog, cradle it in my arms, and rekindle my loving relationship with it, I would really like to say that. But I don’t want to lie to you. I’m starting the year of my life where grad school and full time work as an NYC public school teacher intersect and I’m still trying to figure out how to fit eating and sleeping in. But right now, I have a vacation and I’m going to blog, because even in the darkest times, something something, idk I’ll write when I can. But I do love you, you perfect cupcakes and I appreciate you reading the blog at all.
** Pre-cooked vegetables make for really fast omelets in the morning.