Ask the dietitian: “How do I cook more, despite a busy schedule?”

Increasing the amount of meals cooked at home can be a healthful and tasty way to improve nutrition, lose weight and expose your family to new foods. But if your busy schedule keeps you everywhere except behind the stove then batch cooking may be your new secret weapon.

Not only can it be a lifesaver in increasing nutrition, meeting health goals and saving time and money, but it also can help relieve the burden of figuring out dinner every night. It will also help you sharpen your skills in the kitchen and diversify your food choices through the week.

Batch cooking, also known as bulk cooking, is basically the practice of preparing components of many of your weekly meals and snacks on just one day out of the week. Simply make a date between you and your stove for two to three hours each week. That’s not a lot out of the 168 hours a week we do have – especially if you’re currently coming home from work every night cooking on the spot. That could easily add up to 60 minutes each evening or about 7 hours a week!

You might feel a little overwhelmed at first with facing a whole week of foods, so I suggest starting out with the one meal a day you find the most challenging. Many of us eat the same things for breakfast and lunch and find dinner to be the big challenge, so try starting with batch cooking your dinners and build from there.

Before you start, check out these common supplies you’ll need:

  • Tupperware or other storage containers. Glass is a good choice because it can go right in the microwave.
  • Zip-style quart and sandwich bags.
  • Food! Tailor your grocery list to your recipe and food choices.

Here are some ideas for common meal components:

  • Carbohydrates (rice, quinoa, pasta, baked sweet potatoes)
  • Proteins (grilled chicken breast, whole chicken, beans, lentils, tuna salad, pork loin, pot roast)
  • Soups (tomato, butternut squash, chicken, chili, bone broth)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Large tossed salad (hold the dressing to increase refrigerator life)
  • Carrot, celery, and red bell pepper strips
  • Mixed roasted vegetables
  • Homemade salad dressings
  • Homemade tomato sauce
  • Dips (hummus, salsa, guacamole, bean dip)

Having these components prepared means that when meal time comes around you simply have to re-heat and eat, using different combinations!

Need ideas for meals based on common bulk-cooked foods? Try these recipes:

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