Have you ever blamed your poor dietary choices on a fast-paced lifestyle that is tight on time? Even dietitians understand that coming home drained with a bunch of ingredients to cook is daunting. It’s easy when you’re hungry and ready to eat right then and there to stop somewhere on the way home and compromise good nutrition for convenience. Unless you plan on overhauling your overbooked schedule to cook at home more often, you have to get savvier at making a made-at-home meal easier to put on the table. One classic solution is batch cooking.
Batch cooking is when you prepare enough food at one time that will yield several meals. There are two mindsets to batch cooking. Meal prepping is a form of batch cooking that involves pre-prepping food to be consumed throughout the week. Just heat and eat. The other approach is to double (or triple) a recipe, then separate and freeze the extra to use in upcoming weeks. Both strategies provide you with nutritious, homemade food on hand.
As a busy mom, I find the greatest success by incorporating both styles into my weekly routine. I like to have quick grab-n-go breakfast, lunch, and snacks stocked in the pantry. My go-to breakfast options are Greek yogurt parfaits made with fresh fruit, protein-rich yogurt, and granola. Utilize mason jars to give old-fashioned oats a nutritional boost. In a pint-size mason jar, add a ½ cup dried oatmeal, then your choice of nuts/seeds or freeze-dried fruit. When you’re ready to eat, add in water and microwave (without the top), and then add the top and take with you. Prepare at least two to three lunches for the week allowing spontaneous lunch dates and the use of other leftovers. Taking time to think about the upcoming week will save you countless headaches and hunger pains throughout your busiest days.
Start small when learning to batch cook bigger meals. You can make two meatloaves, Shepherd’s pie, lasagna, frittatas, or most casseroles for the same energy as one. You already have the spices and ingredients pulled out. Why not spend a tad more effort to save a whole lot of time later. Instead of purchasing a pound of chicken, ground meat, or fish to cook, buy two pounds. Cook them all up at once, and sort and store them in individual or family-sized portions in the freezer. A quality protein can be unthawed and reheated in no time. The same goes for starches. You can double or triple the amount of quinoa, rice, beans, pasta, or pilaf you make at once and divide it into one cup portions. Store cooked starches in freezer-safe zip-top bags. Soups, stews, and spaghetti sauces freeze well, too. Always allow cooked food to cool completely, secure it in an appropriate freezer-safe container, date it with a sharpie, and freeze.
Don’t get discouraged if your grocery bill seems more extensive when you first start batch cooking. It probably will be because you are buying more than usual at one time. Remember, you won’t have to shop as often, nor will you spend money on takeout. The time and cash savings will add up in your family’s favor.
Batch Make Chocolate Strawberry Yogurt Parfait
These parfaits use crunchy chocolate granola, creamy yogurt, and a fresh, sweet-tart strawberry sauce.
Ingredients per layer:
¼ cup chocolate granola*
1 tbsp. dark chocolate chips
⅓ cup strawberries
1 tbsp. strawberry puree*
¼ cup yogurt: plain, vanilla, Greek, or vanilla Greek
Layer in the granola and chocolate chips, sliced strawberries, strawberry puree, then yogurt, and repeat layered ingredients till you’ve reached the desired amount.
Best assembled shortly before eating so the granola stays crunchy.
*You can use your favorite granola and add in dark chocolate chips. And, look for the strawberry puree in the baking section of the grocery store. It’s the same thing you use to make pies. You can also nix the chips and add in your favorite nut of choice or just allow your granola to give you the crunch you desire.