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Five new rules to save you time in the kitchen - my version of batch cooking

Written by Julie Kelly

Sept. 18, 2014

There are a lot of great posts on being more efficient in the kitchen. Like this one. And this one. I’ve even posted about how I batch cooked on vacation. I’m sure you have a few bookmarked already. Some people collect these posts on Pinterest, like my dad collects rare coins. But are you really doing it? Are you saving yourself time in the kitchen by batch cooking regularly?

If you are like me, the answer is probably “ummmm well…” I’m well meaning, well intentioned and capable, but time and organization are not always on my side. For this reason, I’ve made some pretty strict rules for myself to save time in the kitchen because I’m not likely to make all my meals for a month in one weekend. Someday, I just might. But right now, this is how I do it:

  • Rule 1: Ground meat should always make more than one meal.

    • This rule makes me the happiest. When we started buying meat from a CSA, I realized I HATED defrosting meat. I decided that if I was defrosting one pound, I might as well add a pound or two more and save myself the agony of repeating this again during the week. Without meaning to, I invented this #1 time-saving rule.
    • Training Tips:
      • Meatballs, burgers, and meatloaf are my staples. They keep well in the fridge, are great for any meal and can also be frozen. BONUS?!? You can also double up on the veg, herbs, and spices that go into these meals. This means you also save time chopping, peeling and prepping.
      • Get a large/medium-sized bowl or plastic box and put it in your fridge. Every week, venture into the depths of your well-stocked meat freezer--or your regular old freezer if you are like me--and pick out what you want to have on hand for the week, or at least a few days. Put them in the defrosting bowl/box and voila! No more last-minute runs to the market to buy more highly priced meat because you forgot to defrost! No more ‘evil’ microwaved rubbery meat! Time AND money saved.
  • Rule 2: Soup should always be doubled or tripled.

    • Let’s be real. Soup is about the easiest thing you can make besides toast, and we don’t eat toast! When you’ve made the trek to the farmer’s market or received your latest CSA box brimming with your 100th pound of carrots for the season, save yourself some time by making soup. You should have loads of veg on hand. With soup, you don’t really even need a recipe. I recommend making enough to freeze most of the batch and use the rest in an upcoming meal.
    • Training Tips:
      • I like to set aside some of the chopped veg and herbs to saute and put into the pureed soups I make so that they still have some texture, mostly so you still have to chew them.  If you make a thicker puree, you can also use it as a sauce for meat. Add a little to the pan of cooked veg for flavor, eat it plain for lunch or throw an egg on top for breakfast. So versatile.
  • Rule 3: Make leftovers mandatory once or twice a week.

    • I try to make at least one meal a week that yields leftovers, but for the most part, I make just enough dinner for my Dear Husband to devour. The truth is, I’m really afraid of wasting food. I don’t like having more than one meal leftover at a time because it seems like this leads to the lesser favorite food being pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten. We rarely waste food, but I think it’s because I’m careful to space out my larger meal preps.
    • Training Tips:
      • If you are a “serial large batch cooker,” try to freeze or stretch some of your extra if you’ve already got a few stragglers from earlier in the week.
      • When you do have leftovers, rejoice and USE THEM UP! Leftovers can make breakfast and lunch no-brainers for at least a few meals. I love taking a hearty stew, adding some fresh herbs and broth, maybe an egg and calling it breakfast. Turning a tired lamb chop into a great salad. Roasted vegetables make great additions to a new soup or hash.
  • Rule 4: Change one meal to low/no cook.

    • Your leftover rule will help with this periodically, but it’s also good to have a few things on hand--or in your desk at work--that will allow you to eat like McGiver. I’m not a fan of skipping meals. It often leads to poor food choices in a state of “hangry.” Having some things on hand that require little to no cooking, especially for breakfast and lunch, make this easy.
    • Training Tips:
      • I like the following:
        • tinned fish like sardines, kippers, salmon, or tuna
        • bulk salad greens
        • fermented foods like sauerkraut, or pickled vegetables/fish
        • the leftovers or extra meatballs you made earlier in the week!
  • Rule 5: Find a formula that works for you.

    • These are my rules. Obviously, they work for me. Like everything though, you’ll be best suited to find a formula that works with your unique preferences. Take what you like--or adapt what I have listed above--to suit your needs. The bottom line is, a little creative time-hacking can go a long way towards making your time in the kitchen as productive as possible.


Your Turn: What are your favorite kitchen time hacks? E-mail me! 

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