There are many ways to meal plan and batch cook floating around the internet. Yet I never found the ideas I came across inspiring or practical - until I recently cracked the code.
My goals for eating are two-fold:
I want my food to be delicious and pleasurable.
I want my meals to provide the greatest diversity of plant fiber possible because this is the key to gut and overall health (for more details read these two posts - here and here).
Unfortunately, eating a diversity of plant based food requires A LOT of meal prep and I’m inherently a bit lazy. For example, I would often read fellow wellness bloggers or integrative doctors recommendations to eat things like“power bowls” and not understand how someone has the time to prep multiple roasted veggies, chopped raw veggies, wash lettuce, make hummus and roast beans / grains for one meal! Who are these people!?
Previously, my batch cooking attempts consisted of making a few complicated recipes to eat for the entire week. Inevitably, I’d get really sick of eating those meals by mid-week, resulting in me giving up and going out to eat.
Batch cooking didn’t click until I discovered how to do it in a very specific way.
Now, I see batch cooking as the keystone habit for translating nutritional theory into practice.
So now, my habit is to batch cook once a week. Once that is done, I don’t spend too much additional brain power worrying about nutrition, as this ritual ensures the majority of my meals are super nourishing.
It is what is allowing me to consistently eat a ton of veggies, beans, whole grains throughout the week in a diversity of ways, without a ton of prep.
I’m so excited to share with you.
The way I recommend batch cooking is making simply flavored meal parts, rather than a complete recipe. For example, instead of trying to make giant batches of fancy meals, you make a big batch of beans, roasted veggies, kale salad, and hummus. These parts can then be mixed and matched throughout the week to make different meals and flavored to taste. This allows more flexibility and ensures you won’t get tired of eating the same thing all week.
(This strategy was inspired largely by Tamar Adler batch cooking veggies and the brilliant Nutrition Stripped Meal Planning Method.)
Each week, schedule grocery shopping time + 2-3 hours (you can probably do it in less time once you become a pro) of meal prep time a week. Plan what you’ll cook in your batch cooking sessions + potentially 1-2 fancier meals you’ll make for dinner during the week to keep it interesting.
I also recommend people pick one thing they’ll eat for breakfast all week to keep it simple. Unless it’s a chia pudding or something, I’d recommend just making that the morning of rather than batching prepping it ahead of time. If you eat meat, I recommend just preparing that they night you plan to eat it as meat doesn’t keep as well as plant-based proteins.
Below are some categories and examples of things you can batch cook. If you batch cook something in each category, you will be able to create balanced meals with the different components.
Things to Prep
Greens: examples - wash lettuce, spinach, kale or arugula (or just buy the pre-washed stuff)
Pre-made Salads: simple massaged kale salad, or a vinegar-based coleslaw. These are perfect because they last all week and can serve as a side dish or base for lots of meals.
Roast Veggies - cook 1-2 trays of roast veggies. Can rotate seasonally but things like cauliflower, sweet potatoes ( I usually just throw them in whole), broccoli work great. See Tamar Adler doing this method for the ultimate inspiration.
Beans: Cook a pot of beans (OR just use canned beans -- can just rinse them and put in an accessible container to use for the week). You can freeze the excess and then skip this step in the future by just thawing out your pre-made beans.
Grain: Cook up a batch of quinoa, rice or any other grain that you enjoy. Again, you can freeze the excess and save yourself this step in a future week.
Protein: Cook a big batch of hard boiled eggs, tempeh, or tofu, etc. (I usually stick to eggs or a plant based protein and then cook my meat the night I’ll be eating it as meats don’t stay fresh as long). For example, I’ll eat the plant-based protein at most meals and then for a dinner or two cook up a fish or some chicken thighs to eat with my pre-made sides or a salad. This has the added benefit of making the bulk of my meals vegetarian.
Simple Soup: my favorite easy batch cooking soup is a red lentil soup.
Dips / Dressings: make a big batch of salad dressing, tahini dressing for power bowls, and/or some hummus.
Breakfast: Can make a big batch of chia pudding, granola or just make sure you have everything you need for smoothies etc. ready.
Snacks: Chop some veggies, make a big batch of trail mix, etc.
Once you’ve done a few weeks of batch cooking, you can start to just re-use old week’s batch cooking plan and rotate through them to get a little variety
Meal Ideas to make from your pre-prepped meal components:
Power bowls: this is basically a really hearty salad. You add your pre-made roasted/steamed veggies, some greens, nuts/seeds, a protein - like eggs or tempeh, dressing, and hummus to create a super-filling salad.
Prepped salads like: German potato salad with lentils like this one, bean salad, or a quinoa salad.
Stir fries: heat up a bunch of your prepped veggies, grain, and protein. Top with citrus, soy sauce/coconut aminos, herbs, and some hot sauce for added flavor.
Burritos or tacos: use your prepped beans/grain to do a taco night.
Soup: make a simple soup using the beans and veggies as a base.
THE KEY TO ENJOYING THESE MEALS - ADD FLAVOR!!
Here’s how : Remember FASS (from chef and nutrition educator, Rebecca Katz). FASS stands for Fat, Acid, Salt, Sweet. If you don’t love the flavor, you are likely missing one of these.
For this reason I always have plenty of citrus/vinegars on hand for the acid piece, some honey/maple syrup for sweet, some good olive oil, coconut milk, or avocados for fat and kosher and Himalyan salt on hand for the salt. I also always have some herbs like cilantro and parsley in my fridge for extra flavor.
SAMPLE PLAN -
ROAST VEGGIES : sweet potatoes + cauliflower + broccoli
PROTEIN: Sauteed Tempeh with olive oil + salt and pepper
DIP/DRESSING: Hummus + Simple Salad dressing
GREENS: Massaged kale salad + bought some pre-washed greens - salad mix and spinach
SOUP: Red lentil soup
BREAKFAST: Chia pudding
SNACK: put together a huge bag of trail mix - had walnuts, almond, pumpkin seeds, coconut flakes, and dark chocolate chips.
BREAKFAST PLAN: chia pudding and green smoothies.
Other meals to make during the week: will make a fish + buy a rotisserie chicken for dinner at some point during the week.
How to Batch Cook - Sample order
Clean your work space and put on some amazing music or a really intriguing podcast.
Start the oven if roasting anything
Chop and marinade veggies / proteins.
Put veggies in the oven.
While veggies roast, start cooking grains and/or beans.
Once grains and/or beans cooking, sautee your tofu/tempeh
Make your hummus and salad dressing
Mix up a chia pudding.
Pull everything out of the oven.
Put in glass containers in the fridge. Mason Jars are great and I also really like these from amazon.
Try it out and let me know how it goes!
Also, if you have any meal planning secrets that work for you, please share below :)