Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Busy and/or Lazy Mom's Guide to Batch Cooking

I absolutely LOVE the idea of batch cooking. The thought of opening my freezer, grabbing out a homemade, largely preservative free meal and being able to serve up a delicious, healthy dinner even on the craziest of weeknights is tantalizing. So tantalizing that I've scoured blogs and read batch cooking cookbooks for information.

But here's the thing... I barely have time to brush my teeth on a daily basis, so when I read these blogs/books about batch cooking and they are telling me to set aside no less than 2 days for a batch cooking extravaganza-- which for a working mom such as myself means AN ENTIRE WEEKEND-- I die a little inside. Not only do I not have the time to take a weekend away from my family and work commitments, but I also HATE the idea of being in the process of cooking for 2-3 days. It makes my feet hurt just thinking about it. Nonetheless,  I WANT to have a fully stocked freezer.

Then I had an Oprah style "Ah ha!" moment. What if I didn't have to devote an ENTIRE weekend to batch cooking, yet could have yummy, homemade meals at my disposal? And thus, the Busy and/or Lazy Mom's Guide to Batch Cooking was born!

First, I make my monthly meal plan. I use this free printable calendar from Life Your Way as my meal planner.  On days that I know I'll have a little more time (read: Saturday and Sunday), I plan meals that are easily doubled (or even tripled) and freeze well.  Then, when those days come up, voila! I batch cook. So, for instance, on a lasagna day, I double the recipe then cook one lasagna and freeze the other.

No muss, no fuss. It takes me MAYBE 10 extra minutes, but I get to have a sense of satisfaction and togetherness!

When I first started looking into batch cooking, I couldn't fathom buying a bunch of disposable baking pans to freeze my meals in, nor did I like the idea of tying up my bakeware by leaving it in the freezer for weeks on end, so I got a little creative in how I freeze my foods. I line my baking pan with freezer paper-- waxy side up-- and then spray the paper with a light coating of cooking spray. After that, I assemble my dish as usual.
I stick the pan in the freezer and when it is frozen enough, I lift the paper out of the pan and slide the food (with or without paper. I like to keep the paper on it) into a freezer bag.

Then, when I pull the meal out of the freezer, I take the paper off of it, set the frozen food into the baking pan and thaw. Easy peasy!

I will admit that sometimes I do squeeze in a little more batch cooking. This past weekend I put together some freezable Crockpot meals (Goulash and Orange Chicken) for Diesel and Little Man to eat this week when I'm not home. These were SUPER easy, because they amounted to chopping food, opening cans and tossing everything into a freezer bag. THAT is my kinda cooking. In the morning, I dump everything into the Crockpot and set it to run for the appropriate time and when the Cluttered boys get home, dinner is ready! (Now I just have to hope that the Crockpot decides it doesn't hate me anymore and doesn't overcook/ruin the meals!).

On top of my dinner batch cooking, I did a little breakfast batch cooking when I made cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Saturday. I figured, if I'm making 6, I might as well make (over) 2 dozen cinnamon rolls for the next time the cinnamon roll bug bites me!

I also whipped up a batch of 12 egg muffins. These are even better than the golden arches' version, because in my version I get a whole wheat English muffin and Havarti!

Plus, I had a cute little helper!

So there you have it folks, the Busy and/or Lazy Mom's Guide to Batch Cooking!





7 comments:

  1. I used to double recipes and freeze half. Not sure why I stopped. You are right. It's a super easy way to get some easy ready to cook meals in the freezer. Thanks for the reminder. I'll have to start doing that again.

    And you're a super awesome wife and mom for cooking when you aren't even home. I'm not gone for mealtimes ever really, but I can't imagine figuring out how to cook dinner if I were. That would totally be on Scott to figure out.

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  2. I do it like that too! Lately I've also been cooking two big things on Sunday and we eat on them all week (even lazier than freezing because I don't have to thaw anything, just heat and eat). The last few weeks the idea of real meal planning kind of makes my head explode so the "leftover" strategy has saved us. I think I'm coming out of my anti-planning funk and I'm wanting more variety day to day so I'm gonna hit the meal planning hard this weekend.

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  3. @Cara-- You need to remind Diesel of how awesome I am! :) I mostly do leftovers or crockpot meals for the days I'm not home, or things that are easy for him to whip up when he's juggling the kids solo. I know when I am home alone with them I am more likely to make pbj or quesadillas for dinner if I don't have something SUPER easy planned.

    @Shannon-- I am so not surprised that we batch cook similarly. It was actually seeing your meal calendar that shook me out of my lack-of-planning-meals funk. Oh and I totally took pictures inside some of your cupboards because I found them inspiring. Who knows, maybe the 'Quake family will make a cameo on my blog! ;)

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  4. I absolutely love the bagged crock pot cooking idea and might actually try this somday!!

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  5. @Shanny-- Yeah, the crockpot still hates me, but I think the bags are super easy and a great idea! I just need to figure out how to not burn/overcook everything in my crockpot. This time we even put a timer on the outlet, so it didn't start until exactly the right amount of time, and it still got overcooked. :(

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  6. That's Guy's biggest complaint about the crock pot too. I always assumed it was because we have the giant sized crock pot and have been considering getting a smaller one. How is it that mom still manages to make amazing crockpot meals with her old crockpots, and we can't seem to avoid burning them??! lol

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  7. That is what I thought too, so I bought a smaller, less tricked out, Crockpot and it was STILL burning things. I thought maybe it was b/c it was cooking too long, so we used the timer to start it precisely 8-10 hours before we were coming home (if that is what the recipe called for), but it STILL burned/overcooked. I have no idea what to do to become a crockpot guru like mom. Maybe we should ask her...?

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