CookInBulk

Save money, gain time, eat healthy: Cook your meals in bulk

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These last couple of weeks, we have been purchasing ready-made foods at the grocery store. And, I’ve noticed a couple of things: our grocery bill has gone up, we are eating more salt and fat, and are enjoying fewer whole grains and veggies. Why?

Because we ran out of homemade backup meals in our freezer!

I tend to make meals “in bulk” once every 6-8 weeks. These meals sit in serving-size portions in my freezer, ready to be warmed up for a quick lunch at work or a simple dinner at home. I’ve been traveling a lot recently, and haven’t made the time to replenish my stock of bulk meals.

What are the benefits to cooking your meals in bulk?

1. Cooking your meals in bulk can save money
Purchasing ready-made meals can add up, especially if you are trying to eat plenty of fruits and veggies. A $3.00 ready-made freezer meal is more expensive than a $100 grocery trip that yields 45-55 (or so) servings of home cooked meals.

2. Cooking your meals in bulk gives you time

A bulk meal session can take a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, followed by a couple of hours on a Sunday morning. So, about five hours can prepare 45-55 meals—that’s pretty good! This helps with my work-life balance. When work gets crazy, I know that I can go home to a healthy, stress-free homemade meal.

3. Cooking your meals in bulk offers you healthier options

Homemade meals can give you the freedom to add extra veggies, choose lean protein, and incorporate whole grains. And, if you are choosy with your ingredients, homemade backup meals can be lower in sodium and fat than most ready-made meals in the freezer aisle.

Chili_EatHealthy

Chili with beans!

How to cook your meals in bulk

On Saturday…

1. Choose 4 entrée and 2 grain options.

Since these homemade meals are meant to last you a couple of months, choose a variety of options to keep you interested. For variety, choose a couple of plant-based entrées (making sure that you can complete the protein with a whole grain) and a couple of animal-protein entrées.

And, if you have a slow cooker (I have two!), choose an entrée that can be slow cooked overnight. And, even on the nights you cook a meal, you can rely on those backup servings of grains to save you some time.

For example, this go-round I chose four entrées and two whole grains:
• lentil soup (I model mine based on Eating Well)
• 3-bean turkey chili (Like Joy Bauer’s recipe)
• chicken vegetable soup (Kinda like this recipe from Cooking Light)
• balsamic quinoa (Similar to a recipe from The Humble Onion)
• plain brown rice
• plain quinoa

2. Make a grocery list and purchase your ingredients.

Be saavy about the entrées you choose—select recipes that call for similar ingredients. This way, you can buy your ingredients in bulk, which saves you even more money. For example, these recipes (mostly) call for carrots, onion, and celery–so I bought a big bag of carrots, a double pack of celery, and a bag of onions.

3. Cut up veggies for all entrées at one time. This way, you are maximizing your tasks and saving time.

4. Take out your slow cooker and pots.

5. Cook your grains and slow cooker entrée the night before.

Prepare your slow cooker entrée the night before so that it can cook overnight. And if you have a limited number of pots (like I do), use some pots to cook grains the night before so that you have more to cook with the next day.

LentilSoup_SaveTime

Lentil Soup. Yum!

On Sunday…

6. Make your remaining meals.

7. Let your meals cool for an hour. This way, they can easily be put into containers.

8. Divide your meals into serving-sized containers. I use either quart-sized freezer bags or mason jars.

9. Place your meals in the freezer, making sure you sort them for easy access. Meals can be safely stored in the freezer for 3-4 months.

10. Enjoy as a quick lunch or a simple dinner!

What do you do to save money, gain time, and eat healthy? Let us know by commenting below!

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