Using batch cooking to relieve the COVID quarantine stress

BMTN food writer Lindsay Guentzel has some tips for novice batch cookers.
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I don’t know about you but I feel like I’ve done more dishes over the last two weeks than I have my entire life, the dishwasher is running non-stop and our drying rack is constantly full.

I guess that’s what happens when you stay home.

With everything going on, it felt like a good time to share some tips and tricks to make meal planning and prepping a little easier. There’s no reason to add any extra stress to your life right now, especially over something as simple as meal time.

The biggest tip I can offer? Batch cook.

What does that mean? I look at batch cooking like this – if I’m going to make a mess in my kitchen, it better be for more than one meal. That can be as simple as doubling up on ingredients for dinner and setting aside half to eat later that week.

While you figure out how batch cooking can work for you, it might be helpful to have a running list of what you have in your fridge and freezer. Seeing your food options laid out in front of you can be helpful when it comes time to figure out what to eat for dinner -- and can help with any food boredom that comes your way.

Below you’ll find a bunch of ideas to help introduce batch cooking into your life. In the coming weeks, play around with them and find what works for you. It’s something you can learn now that will be beneficial once life goes back to normal.

Batch cook your basics

Every week, pick a protein or two that you want to have ready to go for the week. Maybe it is grilled chicken or shredded pork -- ground beef is a great option as well. Then pick a bunch of vegetables to cook up along with it. Roasting is a great way to cook vegetables to prolong their longevity in the fridge.

Store everything in a way that works for you. I typically keep my protein options in large containers – taking out what I need for each meal and downsizing the container throughout the week. I also keep my roasted veggies in separate containers. It gives me the option to pick and choose veggies at every meal – plus it is a helpful way to organize if you have picky eaters in your house.

Having your protein and veggies ready to go means all you need to do for meal time is decide how you are going to eat them. A while back, I put together this great post on beating food boredom that will be really helpful for you in the coming week. You can find it here.

Stick with simple, then spice it up

I touched on this a little bit above – the idea of batch cooking your protein and your veggies for the week. You don’t have to make some crazy elaborate recipe. In fact, sticking with simple flavors gives you the opportunity to change things up at every meal.

I love batch cooking chicken in the slow cooker – a little salt, pepper, garlic, chicken broth. It is moist and flavorful on its own but also has the flexibility to take on different flavors depending on my mood.

Find the latest recipes from BMTN food writer Lindsay Guentzel

Bust out your slow cooker

With the weather getting warmer, you might be reluctant to get out your slow cooker – I mean, it is a winter weather staple. But it is a great kitchen tool to be using all year long, especially now that you are home all of the time.

Why are slow cookers so great for batch cooking? They hold a ton. Slow cooker recipes are a great option for batch cooking because you get a ton of food with very little work (or mess). Pick a few family favorites to make during the week and freeze all of the leftovers to enjoy later this month.

Worried you won’t be in the mood to get everything ready in the morning? You can easily prep your slow cooker the night before and store it in the fridge overnight. Or prep the recipes on the weekend, keep them in large containers or plastic bags and use them when you want during the week.

Fill your freezer

Some people are weird about leftovers. I am not one of those people. If I can save parts of my meals to use later, I’m all for it. And I am always adding leftovers to my freezer stash.

The key? Labeling. It is easy to tell when food in your fridge has gone bad. Not so easy with stuff in your freezer. So adding a simple piece of tape with a name and date can save you from any questioning when you pull out your meals later.

Another important thing to think about when filling your freezer is making sure the food has completely cooled before you put it in. Hot food in cold spaces is a great environment for bacteria growth -- plus that warm container can thaw out items around it. 

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