I purchased a new fridge a year ago. It wasn’t planned. I figured it will be nice to have one since I’ll be living alone for a while. Sure, my electricity bill will go up. But I’m after how I can save time and money with batch cooking.
Whoever, cooking takes time. Sometimes, I would spend hours starring blankly in my fridge, enjoying the cold breeze on my face, but end up disappointed (and super hungry) because I have NOTHING TO EAT.
Plus, when I know that I have no time for an emergency grocery shopping, I’d end up eating a vanilla ice cream, and I’m set for the day.
Sure, there’s nothing healthy with filling my stomach with ice cream. But if I’d choose between eating and work, I’d definitely choose work.
Which is why batch cooking worked for me. It allows me to allot one day to plan, buy ingredients, cook, and store everything in the fridge.
What is batch cooking?
Batch cooking is essentially preparing meals in large quantities. For example, instead of cooking rice that will last for a day, I’d cook 2 cups which will last up to three days. I’ll eat some, and store the rest in the fridge.
Batch cooking can also be prepping meals to be cooked in the future. For example, I made spring rolls on a Sunday. I will not fry them all. Instead, I will cook a few and store the rest in the freezer. Let’s say, I want spring rolls on a Thursday, I’ll just get a few pieces from the freezer, heat up some cooking oil, and I’m ready to fry.
If you’re new to batch cooking, here is a list of do’s and don’ts to help you save time and money and of course, enjoy cooking even more.
Do’s and don’ts of batch cooking to save time and money
1. Shelf life
My first batch cooking mistake: making a huge batch of salsa that I wasn’t able to consume immediately.
The result: soggy, inedible food that’s rotting in the fridge.
I know, gross.
Shelf life refers to the amount of time food remains consumable and safe to eat.
I was craving for nachos. It was a Sunday. I bought all the ingredients and ended up making more salsa than I actually need. I thought it’s okay, I’ll just store it in the fridge and it’ll last for a week.
On day 3, my fridge is smelling funky. Such a waste of time and money. I thought store-bought salsa (in jars) have the same shelf life as homemade. My mistake. Others would say it’ll last up to 7 days or more if you freeze it.
Mine didn’t. Perhaps because I didn’t store it in an airtight container.
So before you cook big batches of food, know how long it’ll last. Or else, you will end up with a fridge filled with leftovers and throwing a lot of food away.
2. If you cook it, eat it
Was there a time when you look at your closet filled with clothes and still have nothing to wear?
Same with batch cooking. You may get overwhelmed with the amount of food you see in the fridge, and still think you have nothing to eat.
This happened to me with the salsa incident. Yes, I was craving for nachos. But it doesn’t mean I want to eat it for the rest of the week.
Sure, pan-fried pork chops or grilled chicken could’ve saved it. But those are not what I meal-planned for the week.
Therefore, when you prepare meals ahead of time, make sure that it compliments with the rest of the food you cooked so nothing goes to waste.
3. Stack up on ingredients with a long shelf life
Do you want to avoid emergency trips to the grocery? Then stack up with ingredients that will last a long time. Some of these can be stored in the fridge, like tofu and bread. The rest, you can put in your pantry but not in direct sunlight.
- Chinese cabbage
- String beans
Nuts and grains
- Rolled oats
- Sunflower seeds
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Button mushrooms
- Corned beef
- Liver spread
- Pasta noodles
- Olive oil
- Cooking oil (sunflower, canola, vegetable, etc.)
- Soy milk
- Graham crackers (for easy, no-bake desserts)
- All-purpose cream
- Sweetened condensed milk
- onion powder
- garlic powder
- Shrimp paste (bagoong)
- Cheese (I love cheddar. It goes with anything)
- Banana (if you bought it ripe, make sure you consume in 3 days)
4. Plan ahead but don’t overthink
If you’re ready to save time and money with batch cooking, you’d probably be overwhelmed.
I felt the same way.
But batch cooking made me fall in love with food again.
Eating is a necessity. We live a very busy life and it’s easy to forget to slow down and appreciate the art of making food.
The Chef Show made me look at food as art again.
To avoid being overwhelmed, make a quick rundown of what ingredients you have in your fridge or pantry.
The transition doesn’t have to be drastic. On your first try, cook one dish which will last for 2 to 3 days.
For example, sinigang.
Do it for a month and see if it’s helping you save time and money or not.
Check your progress and make adjustments.
Batch cooking is not a one-size-fits-all kind of money-saving strategy.
Cook based on your lifestyle.
Set your budget according to your income.
5. Make time to cook
Batch cooking means cooking in bulk.
Usually, I do my grocery shopping on a Friday or Saturday and cook on Sunday. If not, I shop on a Sunday and cook on Monday.
Batch cooking is buying ingredients in bulk, too. Sometimes, everything is too heavy to carry and I end up super tired to cook when I get home.
Grocery stores have food courts. Before leaving, I’ll have a quick meal and then go home and rest or play with my dogs.
Batch cooking can be exhausting.. Sometimes, I end up cooking all day and feel tired and hungry. Yep, the irony.
Which is why I make sure that I clear my work schedule before I start cooking. Or else, it defeats the purpose of saving time and money.
As someone who practices frugal living, I always find ways to save time and money. Sure, not everything I cook by batch is super healthy. Sometimes, I even break my meal plan and crave for takeout food in the middle of the week.
In the end batch cooking is still a tremendous help. So if you’re too busy with work, with no time to cook, and tired of eating takeout every day, try batch cooking. Besides, nothing beats home-cooked meals. It’s a kind of self-love, too.