This is really the basis of this website – cook ahead so you spend less time in the kitchen later. For you that may mean just doubling up on recipes, once a week cooking, or even once a month cooking. Usually I only have enough time and stamina to crank out about 6 meals in one cooking session (and I usually double a few recipes.)
It can be helpful to incorporate a crockpot recipe into your cooking day. These recipes are usually very simple and should be the first thing you make – let the crockpot do the rest of the work during the day! I also try to have homemade beans and broth ready in advance if any of my recipes call for these items. I can really tell the difference in taste (especially with the beans) vs. the canned varieties. You can make a very simple broth overnight in the crockpot with water, bones from a rotisserie chicken, salt and a couple bay leaves. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
The key to having a successful cooking day is to be organized and ready. These tips will help you get started. It does take a bit of work and planning, but I think the results of having many meals prepared are well worth the effort. Plus at the end of the cooking day treat yourself to dinner out with your family!
1. Have a list of recipes you’re going to make.
- I usually keep a list on the side of the fridge & jot down ideas of recipes that sound good. I also have a huge binder of recipes I’ve accumulated over the years so I’ll look thru that for inspiration too.
- Check out your local store’s weekly ads for what’s on sale. Plan your recipes by buying the sale items.
- Do an inventory of your pantry and incorporate items that need to be used into your recipes.
2. Go grocery shopping at least a day in advance.
- Read all of your recipes carefully and be sure to make a detailed list of any items you need to buy. Make sure to check your pantry to see what you have on hand so you’re not buying unncessary items!
- Also make sure you have enough freezer containers/bags to freeze all your recipes
3. Write down your list of recipes in the order you will cook them.
- The first recipes you make should be the ones that take the longest.
- Next to each recipe list out any ingredients that need to be defrosted, cooked (ex. beans, broth), or chopped.
- Count how many of each vegetable you need to chop. Then you can chop the total needed all at once, instead of starting each recipe with chopping. Chefs call this organizing their ‘mise en place’, which translates from French meaning “everything in place”. By doing this you will be ready to cook your recipes efficiently. (For example, chop a total of 5 onions at once time, dice 2 red peppers, etc.)
Here’s a pic of my mise en place:
4. Defrost any necessary items (ground beef, chicken, broth, etc.) the day before.
5. Crank up some tunes on the radio & get cooking first thing in the morning!
- Start by chopping any ingredients you will need (onions, peppers, garlic, etc) and set aside.
- Next prepare any crockpot meals you may be making so they can cook throughout the day.
- Start cooking recipes that will take the longest (ex. soups/stews that need to cook for an hour, etc) and then move onto the easier recipes. Typically I have 2 dishes going at once (ex: sloppy joes & beef stew were cooking simulatenously)
- Once the prepared dishes have cooled, place into freezer containers or freezer bags, label, and freeze
6. Go out for dinner – you deserve it!
Here is an example of a recent ‘Once a Week’ cooking day I had. I did not have time to go to the store in advance and didn’t start cooking until about 1pm, but I still accomplished a lot since I doubled most of the recipes. After everything cooled I froze all of the meals (except the sloppy joes) in small square plastic containers and labeled them with the date and description. I froze about 1.5 lbs of the sloppy joes in a large gallon freezer bag and the rest in a plastic container. I ended up with about 30 meals! I can’t wait to come home from work and simply pop these meals in the microwave! By doubling the recipes I will really be able to stretch these meals out over the next few weeks.
Here is what I made:
White Chicken Chili
Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Gołąbki)
Black Bean Burritos
If you do freeze in plastic containers like the ones I used, you can easily remove the frozen food by running the container under some hot water for a few minutes, then pop it out & transfer the food to a microwave-safe dish and heat. Or alternatively, heat on the stove if preferred.
Here’s a pic of my storage freezer after I was done cooking everything:
Yes – there’s a turkey in there!!! (We’re planning on testing out the deep fryer soon one of these weekends…) And the bottom basket is full of yummy grass-fed beef from a local farm.
Note – you do not need a storage freezer to do once a week/month cooking! I used to cook in bulk all the time when we lived in our apt. & had a tiny freezer. You just have to be organized and store your food in stackable containers – you can fit a lot in any freezer!
I hope this post will help you plan your bulk cooking day and please contact me if you have any questions on this cooking method.