Friday, October 22, 2010

Batch Cooking

Years ago, I read a couple of books on Once a Month Cooking. Seemed like a neat idea, but it just wasn't practical for us at the time. Still, I liked the idea of having a few ready-made meals in the freezer, so on occasion I started doing some "Batch Cooking". Batch cooking works for me because I do not have to have a full day and a half to devote to cooking and do not have to hire a babysitter to do it! I just prepare food the way I would normally do it, only I make more of it and save the extras. Depending upon the recipe, I either double, triple, or quadruple it.

There are some very appealing advantages to batch cooking, such as:
  • You can take advantage of sales and save money with bulk-buying.
  • Meals ready-to-go in the freezer - they are healthier and homemade!
  • Saving resources like electricity, gas, and your most precious resource - TIME
(Only haul out the ingredients once! Only clean up those pots and pans once!)

This may seem like old hat to you seasoned homemakers, but this was a revolutionary idea to me when I first married, and I figure I'm not the only person out there who was ignorant of this technique.

Things I like to batch cook:
  • When my husband is grilling, I almost always have a little something extra for him to do on the side or at the end. Hamburger patties are nice to have for a quick lunch. Grilled chicken breasts are a nice treat and can be sliced before freezing them to make them super easy to pull out and add to a salad or pasta dish later.
  • Ground beef - usually 4 lbs. at a time browning in a large pot. I divide it up into ziplocs ready to dump in a recipe.
  • Meatloaf - I mix up 4 lbs. of meat at a time and freeze half in a gallon size ziploc to save me time later.
  • Meatballs - Again, I mix up about 4 lbs. at a time, bake them, and freeze in gallon size ziplocs so I can add them to spaghetti or soup
  • Muffins and Quick Breads - these make a nice quick breakfast, snack or dessert. They are so versatile, I love having them around.
  • Soups - most soups (sans pasta and cream) freeze really well. Chili, minestrone, pasta fagioli, chicken noodle, etc... are all favorites.
  • Whole Chickens - I actually have an entire system for whole chickens. I cook two each in their own stockpot on the stove, debone the meat, then make stock. I use a little of the meat and stock to do homemade cream of chicken soup, which I then freeze. I then freeze the meat for casseroles and the stock in quart and pint size containers. That's a lot of use out of two chickens!
  • Tomato sauce - I make my own for our weekly pizza night and Sunday spaghetti. I often double batches and freeze some to save for an extra hectic week.
  • Pizza dough - I make four crusts worth in my KitchenAid and usually freeze half.
  • Granola - my recipe makes 20 c. and stores well in airtight containers
  • BBQ Meat - either pork shoulder or beef roast
  • Cookies - if they don't disappear before you can freeze them! ;)
  • Beans - I usually just freeze baked beans, but I know many freeze all different kinds.
  • Rice - I especially like to freeze brown rice since it takes so long to cook. Freeze in a ziploc bag. When re-heating, just add a teaspoon or so of water to a thawed bag of rice. Open one end of the bag and microwave. It tastes just as though it was freshly made.
  • Cheesecake - I like to save a piece or two for a rainy day.
For the birth of each of my children, I had a lasagna and a pumpkin cheesecake in the freezer ready for our first post-baby meal. When labor began, I pulled them out and put them in the fridge. It was so delicious after all that hard work!

What kinds of things do you like to batch cook?

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