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Frugal Food Friday: Batch Cooking & Meal Prep

It’s FriYAY!

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We have been dropping like flies around here. Nora caught a stomach bug last week and had a fever yesterday, Hubs has been under the weather, and now I feel the sickness closing in on me.

‘Tis the season for extra hand washing, I suppose!

And soup. Lots of soup.

Thai Noodle Soup

If you caught last week’s Frugal Food Friday post, you may remember that one of my objectives for the weekend was to do a whole mess of batch cooking and meal prep so that our week could run a bit more smoothly. At least in terms of getting all these sick people fed without relying on unhealthy, processed meals.

And it so has.

the makings of split pea soup

On Saturday, I made one gigantic batch of taco lentil soup and a smaller batch of split pea soup, both in the slow cooker. Sunday, I made Thai noodle soup on the stove top, and ate the leftovers for lunch until Tuesday. (For links to all three original recipes, click here and scroll down.)

Taco Lentil “Soup”

 

The taco lentil “soup” ended up having more of a chili consistency, but there were no complaints here! Even my daughter tried it. Tried, not liked, mind you. We haven’t even broken into the split pea soup yet. In fact, it all went straight into the freezer, along with half of the chili, because these batches just made so much.

I also batch-cooked brown rice, hard-boiled eggs, and chocolate chip pancakes (to binge on late into the evening send with my daughter to daycare for breakfast throughout the week).

Because I’m tracking calories with the Noom app, I also took a few minutes to figure out the calorie content for each soup and label the containers accordingly. It was a little bit of effort up front, but because I make these recipes fairly often, I decided it was worth it.

It’s been wonderful coming home in the evening (at or very near dinner time), opening the fridge, and simply choosing what to reheat. It’s all yummy, it’s all healthy, and it’s all effortless. Well, not completely effortless…I mean, I did spend the time prepping, cooking, and storing it. But by the time we need to eat it, all effort has already been expended.

Another objective that I mentioned in my last FFF post was to buy only the ingredients I needed for these recipes (and a few unrelated necessities) so I could minimize food waste and save money by using things I already had. I took one trip to the store last Friday to pick up what I needed, and I spent just under $50.

Exhibit A:

I didn’t have the time to shop at Aldi (it’s 30 minutes from home), but if I had, I’m certain I would have spent even less.

With the exception of one additional trip to pick up eggs at the beginning of the week, I’ve stuck to this plan very closely.

Now for the million dollar question. What have I learned from this process?

Two things, mostly:

First, batch cooking on weekends makes my weekday life tremendously easier. Defrost. Reheat. Repeat. I haven’t actually verified this, but I feel like it takes less time to cook a single recipe that lasts five days than it does to cook five separate meals throughout the week.

And let’s be honest, if it feels like I’m saving time, sometimes that can be just as good as actually saving time.

I think…

Wait, what?

Second, shopping my kitchen saves me a ton of money on groceries and allows me to minimize food waste, because:

I’m making recipe substitutions with what I have on hand instead of buying obscure or rarely-used ingredients.

(Bonus points if you can spot my reflection in the bottle of tamari. Kikkoman? More like KikkoWOMAN!)

I’m not buying all the ingredients for a week’s worth of recipes in one trip.

And I’m just going to say this next one, because I rarely hear this as a way to save money on groceries. So brace yourselves…[clears throat nervously]

When you eat less, you don’t need to buy as much food.

Say what?

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No, for real. It’s true. Ground-breaking, I know.

Now, I’m not depriving myself by any means. On the contrary, I eat whatever my body needs and sometimes (OK, most of the time) plenty of things that it doesn’t (I see you, kiddie snack drawer). But because I’ve been tracking calories and being a more mindful eater overall, I am simply eating less. And this has contributed to a lower grocery bill. I can’t believe it has taken me so long to discover this.

Inevitably, we will eat our way through our pantry stock and a future grocery trip will require some heavier restocking. But, when that happens, I plan to follow the same process of planning meals and shopping only for necessary items.

Yes, it’s a little bit of extra work. But to be honest, I feel that the rewards win out over the added effort any day of the week.

Plus, I find it energizing!

Not only can the serious cash we’re saving be redirected toward our current savings goals (hello summer vacation!), but it also blends seamlessly with my healthy eating efforts, because it allows me to plan nutritious meals from actual food ingredients, rather than relying on the convenience of simply heating up a frozen, processed something-or-other after a long day. Not to mention, it reduces the amount of daily decision making I have to do regarding food. Fewer decisions = fewer opportunities to make the wrong decision.

In short, this process is a life changer.

Have you tried batch cooking or shopping your kitchen? Share your experiences in the comments below! I’m always looking for new tips on how to make meals simpler and healthier. And the overall process a little easier. 🙂

3 thoughts on “Frugal Food Friday: Batch Cooking & Meal Prep”

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