Have you ever done extra of something when you found the time, to save yourself the stress when time was scarce? If you haven’t or don’t, you should definitely try it out. This is known as batch work. It works wonders for cooking or meal prep as well. Buying food in bulk saves you money. The problem we face with most perishable foods is, being able to consume them before they go bad. Here is one example of where batch prep can come in handy for you and your family. We love to snack on fresh veggies, and crudite plates…the problem is, no one else is willing to do the prep work. So I will buy a few bunches of celery, a pound or two of carrots, cucumbers, etc. I will wash, cut, and store them all for the whole week. Everyone is able to choose and eat healthy snacks when you can just open the fridge and go. The less processed the food we eat is, not only is it considerably cheaper, it is also much healthier. Buy whole, free range, organic chickens as opposed to pre packaged chicken breasts, legs and thighs. You can make your own stock for soups and sauces from the bones. Invest in a quality vacuum sealer, they are worth it! Make some room in the freezer, and stock up to save yourself time and money. You can pull the bags out for meal time, run them under some cool water and thaw in minutes. If you are making spaghetti for dinner, make a double or triple batch of sauce. Cool it down, portion and freeze. When you are in a pinch, you are ready to roll.
If your family is anything like ours, you are always on the move. Sports practices, dance or gymnastics, after school clubs, dentist appointments…you understand. Lately, the slow cooker has become a trusty ally. Plan out a few slow cooker meals, prep them and when the day comes it is super simple to open a bag, dump it into your crock pot in the morning and by the time you get home you have a nice hot meal waiting. Nothing chills out grouchy, hungry, tired little (or big) people, than a hot meal, no waiting required. It is so easy to go through the drive thru, but not only does this get expensive, it is not healthy. Home cooked food not only tastes better, but you know exactly what is in there, and then going into your body. Ice cube trays and muffin tins help to portion soups, sauces, or just about anything liquid or even solid. Freeze in the trays first, then transfer to a zip top bag or vacuum seal. Less waste and smaller portions thaw much faster. Don’t feel confined to freezing everything either. There are foods like vegetables and lettuce that don’t freeze well. Plan out a week in advance, and just use the fridge. School snacks can be prepped, portioned and stored in the pantry.
A few tips for success:
- Be sure to cool hot foods before storing to prevent the chance of any food borne illness or the forming of ice crystals when freezing.
- Smaller portions mean less waste and easier flexibility.
- Pre cooked proteins save the most time and offer endless creative meal options.
- Rice, beans, legumes freeze well and require the same initial cook time if you are cooking 1 cup or 4 cups.
- Remove as much air as possible before storage for longer lasting better tasting results.
- Make a plan. Start with longest cook time and work down for most efficiency.
- Have fun
Soups, stews, sauces, and chili are a great place to start. Be creative, use your imagination, the possibilities are endless. Hard boil 2 dozen eggs and you can have breakfast, lunch, a few snacks or a nice addition to your favorite salad for a week or more. Brown 5 lbs of ground beef or turkey, cool it down, portion and freeze. You now have access to quick tacos, spaghetti sauce, sloppy joes and so much more. It’s easy, you can do it.
Easy Marinara Sauce (large batch)
Prep time 5 mins ~ Cook time 20 mins
Serves 16-24 (separate into smaller portions and freeze)
- 4 28oz cans San Marzano peeled tomatoes (crushed by hand)
- 4 medium onions small dice
- 10 garlic cloves minced
- 2-3 tbl Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 6-8 fresh basil leaves rough chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
Create your masterpiece:
Heat heavy bottom large sauce pan or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add olive oil. Saute onion and garlic for 3 minutes until soft and slightly translucent. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 20 mins. Remove from heat and add chopped basil and adjust seasoning. Separate into four equal portions, cool completely. Store in one gallon zip top bags or tupperware containers. Will last 1 week in fridge or 3-6 months in freezer. Be sure to label and date.
Slow cooker Asian Chicken
Prep time 5-10 mins ~ Cook Time 6-8 hrs low 5 hrs high
- 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 medium onion small dice
- 1 tsp minced ginger
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp sugar or honey
- 2 tbl low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tbl rice vinegar
- 2 tbl hosin sauce
- 1 tsp sriracha sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
Create your masterpiece:
Ingredients can be prepped ahead of time and frozen in one bag for later use. Add all ingredients to slow cooker and cook on low 6-8 hrs or on high for 5 hrs. Shred chicken inside crock pot when done with a pair of tongs, meat mallet, or two forks. Serve over rice, in lettuce cups, in a burrito or solo. Garnish with sliced green onion and toasted sesame seeds if desired. Make a quick pickled slaw to top lettuce wraps or for an added crunch. Julienne carrots, radish, cucumber tossed with 1 tbl rice vinegar mixed with 1/2 tsp sugar.
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