Save time. Save money. Eat better. That's the magic of batch cooking. But, trust me, I know it can be overwhelming when you first start. That's why I'm sharing 4 easy steps on batch cooking for beginners.
It's easy to cook a healthy dinner from scratch every night when you have time and energy, but what happens when you don't?
If you're working on making healthy eating a priority, but are struggling to make it happen, batch cooking may be the solution you're looking for. While a bit time-consuming upfront, it can be your best friend during the week, helping you consistently eat nourishing meals without any time or effort.
To make your batch cooking game easier, I'm sharing everything I know, plus 4 easy steps to get started. Read on, friends!
- What is batch cooking?
- Meal prepping vs. batch cooking
- Is batch cooking healthy?
- Do you need any special equipment for batch cooking?
- How to start batch cooking
- Step 1: Schedule a weekly date with yourself
- Step 2: Make a plan
- The Unplanned Mix and Match Formula
- Step 3: Make a list and go shopping
- Step 4: Prep and cook
- What's next?
- Clean eating grocery list
What is batch cooking?
Batch cooking is the practice of making "batches" of food or ingredients that you can use as components in your meals throughout the week ahead. Ultimately, it makes eating healthy quicker and easier.
Let's illustrate batch cooking with a few examples, shall we?
- Whole grains are healthy. But, they also take a loooong time to cook in comparison to white rice. So, to keep your weeknight recipes quick and easy, you cook a batch of quinoa or brown rice on Sunday that you can easily reheat and use.
- Peeling carrots. Cutting green onions. Slicing peppers. It's all easy. But, you know what's easier? Doing all your veggie prep at once. That way, when you're whipping up a stirfry, your ingredients are already prepped. That sounds real nice to me.
- We're all looking for healthy, high protein snacks. Hard boiled eggs are a great choice. But, who has wants to spend 20 minutes making them when they're ravenously hungry. Prepare a batch of hard boiled eggs on Sunday and enjoy them all week long.
Okay, by now I think you get the point...
So... what is the batch cooking definition? Well, it's basically a way to cook less frequently, and increase your chances of eating healthy, homemade meals all week long.
Meal prepping vs. batch cooking
Some of you might be scratching your head right now. How is batch cooking any different than meal prep? I'm glad you asked. I'd argue that batch cooking is a style of meal prep. And, my personal favourite way to do it, in case you're wondering.
When you batch cook, you aren't preparing full meals into individual containers. Instead, you're preparing foods and ingredients that you can mix and match in your meals throughout the week.
On the other hand, when you meal prep, you're usually preparing many of the meals in full at the start of the week. For example, you might prepare a lasagne and throw in the freezer for reheating later.
With both styles, it's helpful to develop a meal plan for the week. That makes it easier to plan what foods you need to batch cook or meals to prepare in full. Although, with batch cooking, you have more flexibility to get creative and make spur of the moment creations.
Both are great. My advice is to try both and stick with the style that fits your lifestyle best.
Is batch cooking healthy?
The beauty of batch cooking is that it makes it easier to throw together weekday meals. That means less stress. It also means you're more likely to choose a healthy homemade dinner over greasy takeout. Both major wins for your health.
But, whether it's truly healthy or not really depends on what foods you prepare. Keep scrolling for a list of healthy batch cooking ideas.
Do you need any special equipment for batch cooking?
You don’t need to go out and buy a ton of special equipment to start batch cooking. But, you will find that certain tools and appliances will make your life easier.
If you hang around my blog, you know that I love my kitchen appliance. They save me so much time in the kitchen. So, I'll share some recommendations that make batch cooking a breeze. But, remember all you really need is high quality food storage containers.
Here are the items I use most often when I'm batch cooking:
- A mix of pots and pans
- Sheet pans. My go to is a half-sheet pan because it's good for everything from roasting vegetables to cooking meat to baking. I also like to have a quarter-sheet pan on hand for smaller batch cooking. Also, pre-cut parchment paper is a time saver.
- Chef's knife
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Mixing bowls in different sizes
- A kitchen utensil set, including a spatula, whisk, spoon, and tongs
- Cutting boards. I use a plastic cutting board for raw meats and Epicurean wood-fiber cutting boards for everything else. They're non-slip, dishwasher safe and easy on your knife blades.
- Air fryer. Super handy for cooking your proteins and great for reheating. Check out all my air fryer recipes here if you need inspo.
- Instant Pot or pressure cooker. Great for cooking potatoes, sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash and other tougher produce. Saves your oven for something else.
- Rice cooker. Instead of worry about burning your grains, you can add them to the rice cooker, set it and forget it. Very helpful when you're cooking multiple things at once.
- Food processor. It's the ultimate sous chef. I use for everything from prepping vegetables to makings dips and sauces to whipping up a batch of energy balls.
- Blender. Comes in handy for batch cooking sauces and dips.
- Glasslock storage containers. Good storage containers are the key to maximizing the freshness of your batch cooked meals. When buying, look for: air tight, dishwasher safe, microwave safe, freezer friendly, oven safe, stackable and environmentally friendly. Glasslock are my preferred choice because they meet that criteria and they're BPA free, meaning they're better for my health too.
- Reusable silicone freezer bags
- Labels. I recommend sticky labels or a washable marker.
How to start batch cooking
There are 4 basic steps involved in batch cooking for beginners. I'll go into each in more details below.
- Schedule a time to cook
- Make a plan ahead of time
- Grocery shop
- Prep and cook
It's easy.... I pinky promise!
Step 1: Schedule a weekly date with yourself
Depending how much you make, batch cooking can take anywhere from an hour to all afternoon. I know... that sounds scary.
But, just remember this: the time investment pays returns. Not only does it save you stress and time during the week ahead, it also helps you stick to your healthy eating goals. And... it can even be fun.
My advice for working batch cooking into your weekly routine:
- Pick a day and put it in your calendar: Many people do Sunday meal prep. But, if Tuesday works for you, do Tuesday. Just make it fit in your lifestyle.
- Plan ahead: You can do your planning and grocery shopping as part of that session. Or, you can do that earlier. My preference is to do it the day ahead so it feels less overwhelming. If that's the route you want to go as well, be sure to schedule the planning session too.
- Make it fun: I throw love to throw on a Spotify playlist, a podcast or an audiobook. Sometimes even a movie or TV show. I'm a huge fan of romanticizing chores. How can I have a bad time when I'm singing and dancing my way through the session?
Step 2: Make a plan
One of the most important parts of batch cooking is setting up a plan ahead of time. That way, when you're ready to cook, you already have the groceries on hand and you know exactly what you're about to make. WAY less stressful than winging it. Trust me, I've tried both ways.
It's up to you how detailed you want to make your plan. Here are the most popular approaches...
The Meal Planning Method (AKA: Meal Prep)
- Develop a detailed meal plan for the week ahead and batch cook as many complete meals as you can. Then, simply pull the dish out of your fridge or freezer and devour. No further prep required.
- For example, if lasagne is on the menu, prepare and bake the pasta. Then store it in the fridge or freezer for use later in the week. Or, put together overnight oats and enjoy them for breakfast through the week.
- This is a great approach if you want to eliminate prep and cooking from your week entirely. You'll simply have meals ready-to-eat.
The Planned Mix and Match Method
- Develop a detailed meal plan for the week ahead and batch cook as many components of your planned meals as you can. Then, use these components to quickly complete the recipes you've planned.
- For example, if enchiladas are on your meal plan, you could prepare the corn tortillas, beans, and savory sauce. You could also shred your lettuce and grate your cheese. That way, when it's time to dine on enchiladas, you can throw them together in 5 minutes instead of 1 hour.
- This is a great approach if you're short on time and never again want to think: "what should I make?"
The Unplanned Mix and Match Method
- Batch cook a collection of grains, vegetables, proteins and condiments. Then, use these components to quickly pull together spur of the moment dishes throughout the week ahead.
- For example, on Sunday, you decide to make bulgur, prepare and slice veggies, and make tahini dressing. Then mid-week, you get inspired and throw these ingredients together in a nourishing buddha bowl.
- This is a great approach if you want to make quick, healthy meals during the week, but hate the rigidity of a meal plan. All you need is a little experience in the kitchen and a dose of creativity.
So, which one should you choose? The bottom line: make the choice that feels right for your personality and lifestyle. Just be sure to make a plan.
The Unplanned Mix and Match Formula
When I first started batch cooking, I found it overwhelming. Over time, I found that my favourite style is the Planned Mix and Match Method.
But, sometimes I want more flexibility, or I don't have time to pull together a meal plan. On those weeks, I go with the Unplanned Mix and Match method.
But, let me tell you, with this approach, it's not the Wild, Wild, West. There's a still a basic formula you could (and should!) follow. It's all about prepping staples that become the building blocks of your meals ahead. Think of this is as your batch cooking meal plan.
1-2 Proteins + 2-3 Vegetables + 1-2 Carbs + 2 Condiments
- If you're just starting out, you might want to start smaller. So, scale down the number of items you're preparing.
- If you're feeling ambitious, go big, and scale up the number of items you're preparing.
Now, that you know the formula, let's talk about what type of things you can meal prep in each category...
If you make a large batch of protein, you can use it in different meals throughout the week. My go-to is hard boiled eggs. I can make an egg salad sandwich, grab one as a satiating snack, or chop one on top of a salad.
Other great ideas include:
Healthy whole grains take a much longer to cook than refined grains, so they're smart to make ahead.
If you have time to make more items, here's a list to inspire you.
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat pasta
- Whole wheat or corn tortillas
- Sweet potatoes
- Homemade granola
Or, check out some of my healthy carb recipes below.
My best piece of advice: spend some of your batch cooking time making your veggies "eatable". That means, peeling the carrots, washing the salad greens, slicing the peppers. If there's any effort involved in grabbing veggies for a quick snack, we usually skip them. So set yourself up for success.
Once you've done that, here are some other ideas:
- Sheet pan roasted vegetables
- Pickled onions, pickled carrots, sauerkraut or other veggie-based condiments
- Frozen smoothie bags with all your fruit and veggies
Let's be real, a tasty sauce is the key to a good meal. I always make a salad dressing at the start of the week. With my veggies prepped and a salad dressing on hand, I'm more likely to pull together a nourishing lunch time salad.
Here are some ideas to inspire you:
- Teriyaki sauce
- Tartar sauce
- Salad dressings and vegetable dips
Or, check out some of my healthy condiment recipes below.
How do these components come together?
The truth is, a good meal is just a combination of these ingredients. A bowl of whole grains with roasted vegetables and a spoonful of hummus sounds delicious, doesn't it?
So, all you need to do once you have your ingredients prepped is... get creative.
Step 3: Make a list and go shopping
Okay, we went into a lot of detail on planning.... and, I'm not even sorry about it!
Now that you're an expert in planning, it's time to put a list down on paper and hit the grocery store. Remember to shop your own pantry first and only write down items that are out of stock.
Protip: When you write a grocery list, write the items in order of where they're found in the grocery story. This saves you time on walking back and forth across the store looking for items.
Step 4: Prep and cook
Now that you have your food, you’re ready to get to work in the kitchen.
A few batch cooking for beginners tips below:
- Start with grains: they take a long time to cook, so it's good to get them going right away.
- Then move on to your cooked vegetables and proteins
- Finish with uncooked items and sauces: while everything else is cooking, you can wash and chop your vegetables, and start preparing your condiments.
- Start cleaning while everything is cooking
- Get your containers ready: Once everything is cooked, cool foods to room temperature, then store in the fridge or freezer (depending when you'll be eating it).
- If you have kitchen appliances (like an air fryer or instant pot), make use of them: You'll be able to cook more things at once, saving you time in the kitchen.
Happy batch cooking!
Once you've got the hang of the Mix and Match Method, you may want to take your meal prep efforts a little further.
That's when I suggest looking at the Meal Planning Method and adding a few finished dishes into your routine. I've shared 4 easy meal prep recipes with you below.
Clean eating grocery list
Since you read this article on meal prepping for beginners, I assume you're looking for other ideas on how to make healthy eating simpler.
So, feel free to check out my FREE Printable Clean Eating Grocery List. I promise it will make your grocery store trips that much easier.
Do you use batch cooking to prep your meals for the week? I'd love to hear your tips in the comments below!