Today I’m sharing a new meal prep strategy I’ve been using – and LOVING – the last few weeks for getting healthy meals on the table.
It’s a little thing called mega-batch cooking or as I like to call it, the hulk version of batch cooking.
For those of you who have never heard of batch cooking, it essentially means taking one day out of each week to prepare for the rest of the week’s meals. It involves preparing all of your ingredients ahead of time. So for example this could include chopping up vegetables, cooking rice, making sauces, etc.
The idea is to make weeknights easier when it comes time to putting meals together. McKel Hill, MS, RDN, LDN, over at Nutrition Stripped is your girl when it comes to batch cooking and in this post she lays it all out for you.
Batch cooking is something I do on repeat in my home, but lately I’ve had less and less time to cook now that I’m in a new transition phase in my work and online business. However, I’m not about to let that get in the way of my healthy eating plan so that’s why I decided to try mega-batch cooking!
The difference between batch cooking and mega-batch cooking is mega-batching allows you to make meals that last beyond a week. They last more like three to four weeks. Crazy, right?! I thought so too before I tried it, but after having so much success with it I’m now a believer.
Before we dive into all the details about mega-batch cooking, I want to give you an outline so you have an idea of what I will be covering in this post. That way, you can scroll through if needed.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this post:
- When to use the mega-batch method.
- Which meals are best for mega-batching.
- How to plan out your mega-batch menu.
- How to make batch-cooked meals healthy (you can read my food philosophy here).
- How to prepare for your mega-batch cooking day.
When to use the mega-batch method
In my opinion, here are the best times to mega-batch your meals:
Before a Trip
My least favorite thing to do after coming home from a trip is grocery shopping and planning ahead for the week’s meals. If I don’t plan ahead, it usually turns into a week of last-minute grocery store runs and too many take outs. When I anticipate being away from home, I always try to have meals stocked in the freezer before leaving. This way, I have something to throw in the oven and don’t have to worry about a last-minute grocery store haul when I come home.
Anytime I expect guests, I like to mega-batch meals in order to be more present and focus on company instead of cooking. This allows me to be out of the kitchen as much as possible so I can enjoy the gathering. I’ve also realized guests enjoy this just as much because they’re not waiting on food to be ready!
New Life Transitions
Babies, new jobs, moving…these transitions make it really difficult when it comes to getting meals on the table. Before I had my daughter, I remember spending one weekend mega-batching meals so I wouldn’t have to think about cooking during the first several weeks after her birth. And I am SO thankful I did that! It took me a long time to want to get back in the kitchen after having my daughter. All the exhaustion and pain that comes from being a new mom made it practically impossible to cook. My husband and I both agree those meals saved us those first few weeks.
Best meals for mega-batching
Not every recipe is great for mega-batching. You will need meals that can withstand storage in the freezer for a few weeks and meals that are easy to make (since you will be cooking several meals in one day).
With this in mind, here’s a list of meals that would be ideal for mega-batching:
- Falafel or Bean Burger Patties
- Quick Breads
- Soups and Stews
- Pasta Dishes
These meals would NOT be ideal for mega-batching:
- Macro (or Buddha) Bowls
- Salads (including grain salads and bean salads)
- Sandwiches and Wraps
Meals like this tend to include watery vegetables such as fresh lettuces that turn limpy and mushy when thawed. Bread or tortilla wraps can also turn soggy when combined into a sandwich or wrap, so it’s best to prepare them right before eating.
How to plan out your mega-batch menu
Ideally you want to make somewhere between 6-8 meals in one day. It sounds like a lot, but if each of these recipes are quick and easy it should not take you more than one day to accomplish this. So, the best thing to do is figure out the 6-8 meals that will work best for you and your family in the coming weeks and go from there.
The first step is to decide whether you would like to make all dinner entrees or if you want a mixture of breakfasts, lunches and dinners. It’s totally up to you and what you need to help make your life easier.
And speaking of making your life easier, I created a FREE mega-batch meal plan for you!
It includes the 8 recipes I recently used to make our family’s meals for the next 4 weeks. I was able to make all of these recipes in one day and came out of the grocery store spending less than $170 for all the ingredients I needed!
How to Make Batch-Cooked Meals Healthy
There are a lot of great batch-cooking recipes out there, but many of them are heavy on the meat and dairy and low in vegetables, beans/legumes and whole grains. To make batch-cooked meals healthier, make sure the recipes are focused on vegetables, beans/legumes and whole grains.
Here are some ways you can modify recipes to make them healthier:
- Double the amount of vegetables
- Add beans or legumes in place of some of the meat
- Use whole grain products instead of refined grain products (ex: flour tortillas, white rice and refined pasta).
Here are some healthy freezer-friendly meal ideas:
- 87 Healthy Casseroles by Cooking Light
- 15 Freezer-Friendly Vegetarian Dinners by The Kitchn
- 21 Vegetarian Freezer Meals by BuzzFeed
- Vegan Freezer-Friendly Meals by Oh She Glows
How to prepare for your mega-batch cooking day
I can’t stress enough how important it is to think ahead when planning to mega-batch. Ideally, you want to have all your food items and storage containers purchased and ready to go before your mega-batch cooking day. You will need to have a clear picture of the ingredients you need, how many pots and pans you will need, how many storage containers you will need and how you will fit everything into your refrigerator and freezer.
Here’s a step-by-step checklist to help you keep everything on track:
Step #1 – For each recipe you make, write down all the cooking utensils and appliances you will need and ask yourself: do I have enough equipment for meal prepping, cooking and meal storage or do I need to purchase more [fill in the blank]?
Step #2 – Assess your refrigerator and freezer to make sure you have enough space for the number of meals you are making. If not, wait to mega-batch until your refrigerator and freezer are ready.
Step #3 – Make a grocery list of all the ingredients you will need (food and non-food items like aluminum pans) and make a trip to the grocery store.
Step #4 – Once you have all your ingredients as well as your prepping, cooking and storage containers ready to go, you’re ready to start mega-batching!