I was talking with some friends about bulk cooking and they were telling me how long it took and how horrid it was and how they dreaded their weekly cooking. They talked about how much they LOVED having the cooking done, but how much they procrastinated over it and didn’t like to start. They were glad /when it was over, but beginning was a chore!!
I took a sip of my coffee and replied “it takes me about 30 minutes of work to get my food prepped and in the oven for the week”. This of course meant I had to expand on my answer. Because if my lovely batch cooking guru friends took so long to cook maybe you guys are too! So I told them I would share some recipes and some tips.
And here goes. My list of tips in no particular order.
1) Keep it simple sweety
I make two or three dishes for the week. I make one for “breakfast” before I go into work. One for “lunch” for while I am at work. Then I usually order eggs and veggies from the cafeteria before I come home from work.
I might make a baked something (like baked apples or paleo pumpkin pie or something) if I am feeling the need for sweets.
2) Get someone to help with the prep work.
Most weeks I do my work myself. But sometimes I have one of the kids help me with the chopping. Sometimes I SUPER cheat and buy stuff already chopped! When I do my own prep I tend to choose more of the veggies that can get by with just a scrubbing rather than a peeling (that’s so much faster). I ALWAYS leave my food in rather good sized chunks, because I find they don’t get as mushy.
3) Combine prep work.
If you are cooking three dishes that use chopped onions, chop ALL the onions at once. Don’t go through and chop all of this recipe, then all of that recipe. It saves time to do things together. Also, if you do it all at once you get all your crying out of the way 😉 If you are making two dishes that use browned ground beef cook it all together. It will save pans and save time.
4) Pre-prep what you can.
If I am making something for dinner tonight and I know when I cook tomorrow I am using the last of these bell peppers I will chop them all at once. It kinda goes into tip 3 as in combining prep work. I ALWAYS have a bag of chopped onions in the fridge, because I use them in almost every meal. If I see that the bag is starting to get to that NEED TO BE COOKED NAOW stage I put it in the freezer for soup. Most veggies can be chopped and frozen and added to something like stir fry or soup. And it goes back to combining work, you are already chopping half a pepper or onion for THIS meal, it’s not really that much harder to chop the whole thing for the next meal.
I buy some stuff pre prepped. Radishes I can get a bag for $1 that’s about a cup or so of veggie and it’s already julienne sliced. Those are such a frustration to me it saves me a lot of pain. Mushrooms I buy the package that’s already chopped, it’s only like 10 cents more expensive than the not chopped, but it’s worth WAY more than 10 cents for me to get it already chopped.
5) Remember that BORING isn’t bad.
If you’ve been following me for a while you know that I have lost a substantial amount of weight. And you also know (especially if you follow me on facebook) that I eat a LOT! I keep it simple and eat the same thing for lunch every day. Next week I make something different. I include PLENTY of different veggies in each dish and I make sure to rotate my veggies to get enough variety.
6) My favorite meals in the winter are SOUP!
You can make an endless variety of soups just by changing up the spices! I make soup probably three weeks out of the month in the winter months.
7) Your oven and your crock pot are your friends!
I love doing the prep work and then setting the automatic timer on my oven and letting stuff cook while I run errands or play with the dog or shop or whatever! And my crock pot is my bestest friend (like seriously if they ever pass a law that says I can marry my electronics it’s a close tie between my crock pot and my heating pad!). I absolutely ADORE tossing a few things in and turning it on and LEAVING! (I also use my crock pot a lot when I travel, it’s nice to set up a good dinner and then go out for your day on the town and come home to a freshly cooked HOT dinner. It’s like having a servant at home. Just serve up some rolls or something for the kids and I am set!)
8) Get the right tools.
I can slice up a giant bowl of onions or potatoes or whatever with my mandolin slicer in about 2 minutes flat. I eventually want to get a food processor with a slicing attachment but that’s for another day 🙂 SHARP knives and a GOOD peeler will cut your prep time in half (or more).
9) Your set up will make your cleanup.
When I get ready to prep I make sure that I have an empty garbage can, and a sink fulla hot soapy water. I can peel straight into the garbage can and then I can immediately wash my dirty dishes. Most things if you get to them right away just need a swish in the hot suds and a rinse. And if your garbage can is empty you can pull it over to the sink and throw the chicken guts in it or the slimy wrapper from the meat or whatever. It makes it much easier to clean up.
10) I spend about one weekend a season prepping seasonal foods.
We call it pumpkin meth lab. I spend about three hours once a year (not counting cooking time) prepping all my pumpkin for the year. In the summer it’s apples. (although I need to prep a LOT more apples. We went through 2 bushels of apples in about five weeks this summer… sigh)
I will put something on to cook, then go switch the dryer. Or something else. This may skew my timing a little because I don’t count the time I am doing other things (like working on a craft or reading or laundry or whatever) I only count the time ACTUALLY standing at the stove working on stuff.
Ok so as I go through some recipes I may end up adding more rules up there. I went back through facebook and found pictures 🙂
EVERY week I make a “breakfast casserole” and something for lunch. I use a generic ratio of things to make it, so I will just post the generic recipe here and rough estimates of things. I never measure anything because this is usually whatever I have left over in the fridge odds and ends of veggies.
Breakfast casserole (generic recipe)
1-1.5 # meat (ground beef or sausage or chicken)
some onion (roughly 1 onion chopped)
some other veggies (I don’t know how to tell you how much. I have a 6 qt pan that I fill with my breakfast casserole. I always make sure that I have some carby veggies (like turnips or sweet potatoes) because otherwise I don’t get enough carbs and I am a cranky Jenn)
(for example this week it was turnips (one med), parsnips (two smallish ones), red onions (one med), radish (a small bag of julienne sliced that cost me a dollar), spinach (about half a bag) spices (cayenne salt pepper garlic))
So I will prep all my veggies. That usually takes less than ten minutes to do all the veggies for all the dishes I am going to make. Then I will toss the meat/onions in the pan (or brown the meat while I prep veggies, depends on if I am hurrying or not).
Then I go do something else. Like start the pan with the other dish or go read or play with the kids or whatever.
Come back to it when it’s done and add the veggies. I mix up my seasoning into my egg mix and pour it over the top and put it in my oven. I try to make it so all the dishes can go into the oven at the same time. It cooks for an hour ish at 350 ish.
(that’s breakfast casserole on the left and soup on the right)
Last week I had sausage and peppers and onions for my lunches and a “breakfast casserole”.
sausage and peppers and onions
1 package hot itallian sausage
4 variously colored peppers
large can of tomatoes
put the meat on to cook while you prep the veggies. I usually pour liquid in with my sausage links so that I don’t have to watch it as closely and it can be on high heat. My favorite is when I have coffee left in the carafe. I use that (maybe a cup worth? enough to cover the bottom of the pan by about 1/2 inch). If I don’t have coffee I will just use water (I don’t go out of my way to make coffee if there’s no left overs.)
Once the meat is done slice it into chunks. Dump the peppers and the large can of tomatoes on top and use your spices. This usually gets salt, pepper, garlic minced (I buy it in the jar…. save time where I can), cumin, italian seasoning (it’s a mix with oregeno, rosemary, basil, thyme and a bunch of other stuff) chili powder, crushed red pepper.
It cooks at 350 ish for an hour ish. Since you cooked the meat already you are just letting the flavors mingle.
Total time cost that week was about 30 min (for both dishes). 10 for prepping veggies and getting the meat going. 15 for opening cans and stirring occasionally and getting it in the oven. 5 for putting it into single serving bowls in the fridge.
my coworkers always say this smells like supreme pizza. If I were making this for home the kids would get garlic cheesy bread as their side dish.
Another one of my favorite lunches is chicken breasts and frozen veggies and a sweet potato.
This one is AMAZINGLY simple and quick.
Take a 3-6# bag of chicken breasts and toss in a pan. Then I season it. Sometimes I just pour a bottle of hard cider on it. Sometimes I will splash it with balsamic vinegar and EVOO and spices (salt, pepper, garlic, cayenne, etc). Cook it at 350 ish for an hour ish. I usually will also do 4-6 (depending on size) sweet potatoes at the same time. Scrub them up and put them in a pan after you’ve poked a couple holes in it.
This is the only time I do not single serve size my food for storage for the week. I just toss both things in their own gallon sized baggie and put them in the fridge. When I am ready to go to work I will take a half to one sweet potato and peel it and chunk it (takes less than a minute) fill the bowl 3/4 of the way with frozen veggies (whatever mix I wanna use) then top it of with a chicken breast or two that I chopped. (I can generally get the entire bowl ready from getting stuff out to putting it away in 5 minutes). Then I put a couple slices of kerrygold butter and maybe some more salt and pepper.
This was when we had corn on the cob for left overs. I just sliced it and grouped it all together. On weeks I do this I have a little more variety because sometimes I use different mixes of veggies.
total cook time. Ummm. 3 mins prep. Then 3 mins to get every thing in the fridge. Then 5 minutes daily to prep a bowl. I like this option in the summer because then I set the oven to turn itself of and Ezra and I go for a run. When we get back I can take the stuff out of the oven and deal with it.
Going back to this picture. Another soup.
This was 3 pounds frozen chicken. Tossed in a pan covered with hard cider. Baked for an hour ish at 350 ish.
Take it out and coarsely chunk the chicken. Put it back in the lovely cidery chickeny juicy mess. I think this was a half head of cabbage chunked. A bag of frozen veggies (carrots and cauliflower and broccoli and squash and green beans and whatever) some shrooms and a couple cans of diced tomatoes. With spices. Salt, pepper, garlic, chili powder, crushed red pepper.
This took like ten minutes work. 3 minutes to get it in the oven. 5 to pull it out and chunk the chicken and cabbage. Then MAYBE 3 more to dump some bags of frozen veggies and cans of tomatoes and spices.
3# chicken. I think this one got rice wine vinegar and EVOO and spices and baked for an hour ish at 350 ish.
Took it out and added a bag of broccoli slaw and mushrooms and maybe some peppers (I don’t really remember) some more vinegar, a couple bags of home made chicken stock and spices (probably hot stuff, white pepper, crushed red pepper, chili powder and stuff). cook it like that for an hour ish at 350 ish. Soup is sometimes something that I make while I am sleeping. Cook the chicken and then get it to the soup stage and put it in the oven (or crock pot) on the lowest setting for 6-8 hours.
another soup made just like the rest. This one had a bag of frozen normandy blend veggies and some frozen spinach and homemade chicken stock. Took about 10 min to toss together.
(this is what I said on facebook about it it’s chicken and onions… and a packet of broccoli/rice/cheddar stuff… and some frozen squashes and corn and spinach…. and LOTS of spices)
another soup. Ground beef and squash and carrots and maters and whatnot. Made like all the other soups on the page.
this one took a little longer because I was taking pictures of every step. But it was still only about 45 min actual work.
this is one I like to make when we travel. It’s nice and simple and you really can’t OVER cook it. Takes less than 5 min to get it in the crock. Long cook time but you don’t have to stand and watch it. Then the root veggie sides took maybe 5ish mins to get in the oven and then MAYBE 10 mins to package it for work.