Meal Planning and batch cooking
Updated: Feb 17
When I was little and growing my family had Chinese food at least twice a week, fast food quite often, and takeout like pizza or heat and eat processed foods from the grocery store as a regular food in all of our diets. What mattered then was how much money you weee saving and the best deal you got. I regularly had stomach upsets, and the food just didn't sit well with me. When I was 10, out of necessity for my own body I stopped drinking sodas or anything carbonated artificially because it made me jittery. This was overlooked as a healthy choice by me, but it was more than that- it was a necessity. Yet only I knew. I couldn't share the actual affliction of my stomachache with my family- so between the business of daily life it just wasn't seen as anything that happened really.
Do not mishear me, I'm not blaming anyone here- on the contrary I am quite aware of how fortunate I was to have warm food and a comfortable place to sleep in the coldest nights of winter and the hottest days of summer. I am sharing that some foods can sit well with some people and other foods cannot.
Naturally however, when I grew into an adult my cooking knowledge was minimal. I knew how to bake cakes from boxes. How to cut up fruit but now how to use it in things. I knew how to cook spaghetti and red sauce, but how to make red sauce? Pinterest taught me. I may well have been one of the first people searching for 'How to gook Potato au gratin from real potatoes' as I had grown up on the packaged thinly sliced dehydrated version. My version turned out so terrible, that the squirrels outside sniffed it and ran away. We still laugh about it- but it gives a special meaning to the fact that cooking is a skill.
An acquired skill that is developed with time, not something each of us inherently knows how to do right away.
Everything I have learned about cooking from a financial and time saving standpoint is shared in this article and I hope it helps you because this skill takes time to learn. Please understand that each meal prepared, cooked, and put on the table is a wonderful meal. This is not an article to shame against premade burgers and pizza, this is an article to share what we CAN do to avoid those foods as best as possible IF that is the best option in time, money, and knowledge for your family right now.
Save a crapload of money - Cooking at home is way cheaper than fast food, you pay in your time. I get that there are people out there who can't afford their own services. Batch cooking saves you so much money because you’re almost never wondering what is for dinner. If you have a yearly, monthly, or weekly batch food cooking plan you know what is next in the day and it doesn’t need to be a worry at 4 PM what meat you’re pulling out Of the freezer to get dinner together. instead in time it becomes an expected chore that not everyone always loves but you find ways to make good memories through it. Sometimes, after lots of practice, you also cultivate great memories when you’re making something everyone loves. Which leads me to my next point.
Save a crapload of time - You’ll save a bunch of time. When we put time into planning initially, we usually do not know what we’re doing. There is a lot that goes into cooking. Yes, of course making the food is part of the process but you need to plan meals, then get the items for the meals, then take the items home. Provided the dishes for the items you want to cook are clean, you can get right to cooking! If you left the dishes to do for later so you could go to the store- guess what? You have some washing to do. Then, it's time to cook. After cooking, how will you store your food? If you freeze it first, can you just assemble it in a tin and bake later? There're ways to save time here on all fronts- and it helps during the week when you need something but don't want to stop somewhere super bad for you or expensive.
Be prepared when the days get crazy. I haven't eaten fast food in 11 years, and I have been a mom for 11 years. Weird how that works huh? Anyway, I'm crazy for this because instead of stopping at a plethora of places to eat I decided to concern myself with the ingredients in ultra processed foods and come to the conclusion that there is no circumstance that exists outside of dire emergency that would push me to eat half food half lab made food like product. With this in mind, the days got insane when I was planning for outings. I quickly learned that there was no time to cut snacks up sometimes, and that errands can quickly take a ton of time. If you have a few options to just pull out of the freezer it helps so much. You don't have to put in the mental task of running through the task list to make a meal. It all comes together easily and you can put your focus on cooking at another batch cooking day.
Allows time to practice planning. Planning is a habit- not something that we can just pick up and do perfectly from the first start. I make a meal plan and reference recipes and still miss things we need for the house sometimes. It happens! The more what we practice planning the better we will get at it, but it takes time to do that. You have to take up the pen and try again after not getting it right, which is likely harder than initially writing a list thinking nothing will go wrong in my experience. You want to take your time with it sure, but also give yourself grace and know that you are remembering a skill that is no longer needed by some people who are dedicating time to other things. If you are passionate about eating well and longevity- getting the time of the full warranty out of your body- this is well worth it even through the struggle.
Gives you a plan to prepare for upcoming large homemade meals. Got a friend who just had a baby and you want to make them a meal? Someone in the community is sick or facing tragedy? Got a birthday coming up in the family? A friend having a party and you want to make their cake? How about holiday meals or a potluck with a dish to pass? There is so much time freed up to help out friends and community or give time to something special for your family. A meal shared in many ways is so special when your health is in a bad space or when life gets challenging. We can help each ourselves through this and through helping ourselves we take care of our family. After that we can extend further and further as we learn.
Hosting family is much easier and attending functions where you want to bring a homemade dish have space to exist without being too demanding in time for cooking and dishes.
You can save food and double batch a lot easier. If you're dedicating time to meal planning already then you will likely be making a large batch of food. If you double that you have even more- and often you can for just a few more ingredients. Meal planning helps with saving food as well because you can eat down what is in the fridge as opposed to making other things, over time this establishes good habits for you and your kids leading to eating less processed foods and more whole foods used for cooking.
Helps when preparing for a natural or other disaster. In 2020 we all learned we could stand to get our homes in more order than what they were, and home making has become a popular, easily searchable term. A large part of home making is making sure dinner is served no matter the weather. This is not reserved to one parent mind you, but making sure dinner is served no matter the weather is something that is a skill- no animal, mammal or reptile knows, and we all must be taught this skill. Hunger is a sad sight to see on children so when you have something that is there and made-easy to make and available it can help so much just to clear your mind and aid you in thinking clearly.
yet another way to discuss planning and how it is integral to aiding the family. When my husband and I do wake up early enough to talk to each other we already know who is putting the kids to bed that night and what we are having for dinner. This is not because we are so deeply connected that we can finish each other's thoughts- this is because we pre plan these things and make time every Sunday to plan for this to happen. It helps our son and daughter to see us working as a team because when we are apart running different errands the needs of the family do not get missed while we are meeting the needs of the house. This will look completely different in each marriage but in ours this is the way it works best for us.