How to Bulk Cook Healthy Meals
If you often hit a wall when brainstorming what to make for dinner each night of the work week, you’re not alone. Learning how to bulk cook healthy meals is essential for some in sticking to their diets.
Plenty of modern families today struggle with establishing a mealtime routine that involves healthy foods that don’t take hours to prepare.
Luckily, the trend of bulk cooking offers a way to reduce the hassle that is meal prep, without sacrificing your health and wallet to fast food chains.
From paleo to vegan to low carb, there are endless bulk meal prep solutions.
With a little strategizing, shopping, and planning, learning how to bulk cook healthy meals becomes a great alternative to rushing out to eat on nights when your family is too hungry to wait for dinner to finish cooking.
Regardless of your family’s diet, there is a bulk cooking method that will work for you and get your entire family on the path toward making healthier food choices that are convenient, too.
What is Bulk Cooking?
You might know it as once a month cooking or batch cooking, but the idea is the same regardless of the term.
Essentially, you prepare meals ahead of time, then store them in the fridge or freezer until it’s time to eat.
This strategy of healthy meal prep helps families and other busy people from indulging in fast food for convenience since there’s always a healthy meal available at home.
It essentially takes the hassle out of the thinking, decision-making, and preparing meals every weeknight between busy schedules, cranky kids, and running tons of errands.
You can easily avoid this craziness by bulk cooking healthy meals in advance, so all you have to do throughout the week is reheat and eat.
How to Bulk Cook Healthy Meals
The first step in learning how to bulk cook healthy meals is to make a plan and shop accordingly.
Planning meals ahead of time requires some forethought. To maximize your shopping trip each week, write out a grocery list that includes supplies for meals for at least five days, re-using ingredients whenever possible.
For example, Emily Buys at Clever Housewife recommends choosing one ingredient as your main dish for the entire week.
Cooking three whole chickens, for instance, gives you a protein base for each meal for five or seven days.
As Buys suggests, creating meals around one central ingredient makes meal planning simpler.
Then, switch it up the following week for variety. However, you don’t have to choose an ingredient that serves as the entrée every night. Your main dish might be rice, so then each night’s meal is planned around the starch.
This strategy works well with all diets, whether they’re plant-based, grain-free, or low carb.
Consider sales at the grocery store, too, since sometimes stocking up on a veggie that is discounted can supply you with a versatile entrée or side for the entire week.
Keep in mind throughout this article that this method also works great for takeaway lunches for yourself or your kids. These meal prep storage containers make this a lot easier.
This tip isn’t necessary for successful bulk cooking healthy meals since you don’t need an overflowing freezer or pantry to achieve meal prep for a week or so at a time.
However, if you have the storage space in your refrigerator or freezer, planning for thirty days at a time can make it easier for some.
Keep an eye out for deals on frozen items such as meats and vegetables, or dry goods like beans, rice, or canned vegetables and fruits.
These items can help add flavor to your bulk prep dishes in a pinch or serve as the main course in some cases.
Buying in bulk isn’t just easier, since you always have ingredients on hand, but it can save money too. Often, bulk bins where you bag your own product are priced lower than prepackaged items. A lot of health food stores offer these options.
Also, larger size containers or bags of products often cost less per ounce or pound than smaller sizes. Take this into consideration when shopping for bulk meal ingredients.
Set Aside Time to Cook
While plenty of bulk-cookers suggest scheduling an entire weekend, or at least one day, for meal prep and cooking, others take a more relaxed route.
Seriously intimidated by the bulk cooking methods that required extra hours of prep time she just didn’t have, Wise Bread mom Linsey Knerl came up with her Five-Day Freeze method of bulk cooking.
Unimpressed by spending a full workday in the kitchen when she had a business to run and children to mind, Knerl developed her own way of planning that didn’t require a babysitter one day a week.
Each weekday, as she prepares her family’s meals, Knerl cooks a little extra of one ingredient for use in later meals.
For example, when cooking spaghetti, you can set aside extra ground beef and prep meatballs, taco filling, or even a meatloaf to freeze and use later.
Knerl’s method makes it easier for busy families to meal prep without scheduling entire days for slaving away in the kitchen.
However, for others, taking a ten-hour stretch of time to cook multiple meals might work better.
Need recipe ideas? Check out the video below from Fit Couple Cooks for a budget-friendly meal that you can prep ahead and eat all week.
If you have the time, setting up a prep, cook, and freeze schedule will help you get ahead of the meal plan. Then you’ll have time during the rest of the week to enjoy your downtime, rather than cooking each evening.
Adapt Your Meal Planning Strategy
Planning a vacation? Have family members with specific dietary needs? Want to meal prep for more than just dinner? Bulk meal prep can adapt to a host of situations.
It might seem impossible to eat healthy while on vacation, but Katie at Wellness Mama shared how she prepared bulk meals to take on a destination vacation, cutting costs and reducing the number of unhealthy travel foods her kids ate.
Bulk cooking is a great alternative to prepping food on-site at a campground, hotel, or even in a vacation rental kitchen. By prepping ahead of time and taking her bulk cooked meals on the road, Katie could enjoy her vacation more and spend less time in the kitchen.
For families with varied dietary needs, creating a base menu of dishes that are open to customization will serve the entire family with no allergic reactions or turned up noses.
For example, Masa Ofei at The Minimalist Vegan shared a list of twelve vegan bulk cooking recipes that cater to the needs of the dairy-free and plant-based crowd.
Tweak your own recipes to create base meals that each family member can add their own toppings to at dinner time.
Want your meal prep to last longer? Serve up dinner’s leftovers for breakfast, like Katie did while vacationing with her family.
Or bake breakfast muffins or cookies as part of your meal prep, freezing or refrigerating for an easy to reheat meal that goes with you.
Other resources for quick and healthy recipes:
- 14 Quick and Healthy Breakfast Recipes to Start Your Day Off Right
- 13 Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks for Healthy Eating on the Go
- 15 Quick, Low-Carb Dinner Recipes
- Weight Loss Dinner Recipes in 15 Minutes or Less
If you enjoyed this article on bulk cooking healthy meals or have any comments or questions, please share them in the comment section below!
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