by Emilia Petrucci, MS Candidate Tufts University
According to a 2015 survey of over 1,000 people conducted by the International Food Information Council, Americans cite a lack of time and willpower as the top two obstacles to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, 29% of Americans cook for 45 minutes or more each day — a total of over 5 hours every week. Batch cooking reduces food preparation time and encourages consumption of nutritious, plant-based meals, supporting physical and mental wellbeing. As hours spent in the kitchen dwindle, enjoy more free time for activities that enrich happiness and health.
Batch cooking is multitasking and strategizing combined. One day a week, devote 1 to 2 hours to cooking and stock the fridge with a week’s worth of delicious batch-cooked meals. Changing daily behaviors is a challenging task, but the benefits of eating healthy food without compromising priorities such as sleep or exercise is incredibly rewarding.
- Consider the pantry and fridge. A well-stocked pantry is the first step for successful batch cooking. With a wide selection of dry goods in the kitchen, the cooking process will be more efficient than starting from scratch.
- Create a menu and food-shopping list. Aim to be prepared before visiting a grocery store or market. First, consider a weekly menu. Complicated, multi-step recipes with lengthy lists of ingredients are not required. Menu planning can be straightforward — select a few whole ingredients to enjoy. If brainstorming recipes is preferable, choose simple dishes and then write a shopping list. Flexible meals such as stir-fries, soups, tacos, brown rice and quinoa bowls, salads, smoothies, and bean spreads are easy to adapt to the batch cooking process.
- Visit a grocery store or local farmers market.
- Prepare the ingredients. With practice, it is possible to accomplish many prep steps simultaneously; for beginners, approach one food group or ingredient at a time. First, wash the fruits and vegetables, and chop, grate, dice, and/or peel them. Choose some to eat raw. Roast, steam, sauté, poach, grill, or blend the others. With each cooking style, seasonings should remain simple. Now, consider the proteins and grains. Again, pick a preparation method and execute.
- Store the food. Portion items from each category individually, or construct meals within containers to take to work or school.
Saving time is not the only reason to batch cook. Other perks include reducing food waste, saving money, eating nutritiously, and simplifying daily schedules and weekly routines. After 1 to 2 hours of food preparation, the fridge is home to a week of meals. There’s no need to ponder the classic dilemma, “What’s for dinner?” because the work is already done. To experience these benefits, practice batch cooking — a life hack that improves productivity, efficiency, health, and happiness.
Emilia is an MS candidate in the Nutrition Communication and Behavior Change Candidate program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.