Cooking is honestly one of my least favorite chores, and meal planning has never worked out for me because I often don’t want to eat what I had planned. I was spending so much time each day cooking, and sometimes even thinking about making dinner filled me with dread. But I was really inspired by Mrs. Confetti’s post on batch cooking one day of the week to have meals for the entire week because it seemed like a form of meal planning I could actually keep up. I started doing this a couple of months ago, and it has made preparing meals more streamlined and less time consuming for me. I still have to cook during the week, but the pre-prep that I do on Sundays greatly reduces the amount of time I spend in the kitchen each day.
I typically cook for 2 hours on Sunday preparing foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the following week. This is what a typical batch cooking session might look like:
B R E AK F A S T
– wash and cut up fruit (usually apples and bananas and finishing up whatever we have on hand that’s about to go bad) for green smoothies. Place each serving in individual ziploc bags with frozen kale or spinach, hemp seeds, and chia seeds. Freeze.
L U N C H
– boil eggs for kids’ lunches/salads
– wash lettuce for salads
– cut up various vegetables for salads: tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, red onion, bell pepper, radish, carrot, snow peas, etc.
– wash and cut up fruit (grapes, pears, berries) for kids’ lunches
D I N N E R
– roast sweet potatoes
– make pasta meat sauce
– make chili or a stir fry using whatever vegetables we have on hand
– make soup (freeze individual portions in ziploc bags)
– cook rice
– wash/chop veggies for the week
This definitely isn’t enough food to last us one whole week. But preparing this food does give me some flexibility in case I don’t have time to cook dinner or a side. For instance the sweet potatoes last us 3-4 days at which point I roast another batch. So if I don’t have time to make a vegetable, we can eat them because they taste great even cold. If I don’t have time to make dinner, I can quickly defrost some soup and serve it with rice or we can eat the stir fry or pasta meat sauce, which the kids usually like.
The reason why I don’t cook more main and side dishes is because everyone enjoys the food more when it’s freshly prepared, so I only focus on dishes that taste good when reheated when batch cooking. Day to day I try to roast as many proteins and vegetables as I can because that requires the least amount of time and work. I roast sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts regularly. Typically I add some olive oil, minced garlic, salt, pepper and just pop them in the oven. I’ve been trying to get the kids to eat roasted carrots and squash as well, but I usually have to introduce a food many, many times before they like it. Asparagus and peas are also favorites that cook very quickly on the stovetop.
I love salmon day because I can just pop it in the oven. But the kids’ palette when it comes to protein isn’t that broad, so proteins are where I spend most of my time cooking on things like meatballs, chicken katsu, etc. So while I still do cook dinner most nights, the total time spent cooking is greatly reduced because of my weekend pre-prep of veggies, and fall-back foods on those days I just really don’t want or have time to cook.
Maybe one day I’ll get my act together and meal plan, but for now this method has been the easiest form of meal planning I’ve actually been able to stick to for such a long time!
Do you do any type of meal planning and prep that reduces the amount of time you cook each day?