First, if you’re reading this newsletter, that means you’ve survived the busy back-to-school rush. High FIVE to you! But pump your brakes. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got your ish together with weeknight meal plans yet. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I say that back-to-school snuck up on us all.
Second, if you follow me on social media, you know I am not one to share simple, quick and easy meal ideas. I love to show how cooking doesn’t have to be a chore. But here’s a big, fat however for you: The truth is, we sometimes need simple, quick and easy!
A surefire way to take some pressure off your week is to get into the habit of batch cooking. It’s a great way to give your weeknight dinners a head start. Having staples prepared and ready for use will help you save time and money, stay nourished, and eat the best food possible—no matter how busy your day. Here are a few tips to get you started:
You have to make time for batch cooking if you want it to benefit you and your family. Choose a 90-minute window once a week for batch cooking sesh. Perhaps schedule it on Saturdays after you visit your local farmers market.
A little food prepping saves you time in the long run. Simmer a pot of beans to throw in soups, salads or wraps. Clean, slice and store your favorite produce in containers for weekday salad bar lunches. Some ideas are tempeh, tofu, grilled chicken or beef, green onions, red onion, beets, zucchini, corn, black beans, lentils, grains, steamed vegetables, roasted vegetables, herbs, spices, and bacon. Make at least one sauce, dip, and dressing for those snack attacks. And let’s not forget to make a batch or two of your favorite grains to build a lovely side dish or dinner salad during the week.
Batch cooking helps stretch your meals. If you’re going to batch cook and prepare ingredients in advance, it’s important for you to have a plan for using it all. As you create your plan, think about how you can stretch your ingredients through multiple meals.
- Cooked grains: Make a stuffed burrito and top with salsa and vegetables for a quick Mexican-inspired dinner. Grains can also be added to cold salads for added texture. Use them as the base for a gorgeous Buddha bowl.
- Brown rice: Sprinkle on top of a salad for a high-fiber meal.
- Cooked beans: Canned beans work great. But if you can cook a larger pot on batch cooking day, they really will stretch over several meal ideas. You can even make more than you expect to eat and freeze the excess in an airtight, sealed container. Toss them into a soup or stew to add bulk, texture and nutrients.
- Grilled or roasted vegetables: Reheat and add to a warm stir-fry or grain bowl, topped with your choice of sauce.
- Do-it-yourself charcuterie: This one is my favorites and also a hit with the kiddos as an after-school snack. Prepare cured meats and deli slices along with cubed cheese, olives, hummus, fruit, and pita chips and store them in airtight containers. The kids can build their own charcuterie to enjoy while getting started on all their homework.
Speaking of which, weeknight meals don’t have to feel like adult homework! With just a little pre-planning, you can have tasty, nutritious meals without breaking the bank on takeout.