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Nutrition: Save Time Through Meal Prep

September 14, 2018

Cooking in batches makes it easier for busy families to eat healthy

Attending football games, raking leaves and carving pumpkins makes fall a busy time for most families. Worrying about what to cook for dinner usually takes last place. But cooking in bulk, or “batch” cooking can save the day. “Batch cooking is cooking in greater quantities than for one meal, so you have more down the road that’s already pre-prepped or precooked,” says registered dietitian Mary Finckenor.

According to Finckenor, “It’s gaining in popularity. While you have to do some planning and cooking up front, in the end you save time, money and dishes.” Finckenor recommends several approaches, simply cooking in bulk. Soups and stews are great choices, as you can freeze meal-sized portions and just take them out when you need them.

Batch prep ingredients, such as cutting up produce and freezing it in freezer bags to help shorten cooking time down the road.”

Sabrina Lombardi, clinical nutrition coordinator for Newton Medical Center

Another method is to prepare double or triple the recipe and freeze the extra portions before you cook them. Meatloaf and slow-cooker meals work well for this technique, just take them out the day before to thaw before cooking. “You can even freeze chicken cutlets. After they are breaded, freeze on a baking pan. Once frozen, they are nice and flat and won’t stick together. You can slip them in a zip-top freezer bag and take out just what you need to eat later.”

One kitchen tool that has become popular lately is the combination pressure cooker and slow cooker marketed under the brand name Instant Pot®. “Food cooks much faster in a pressure cooker,” says Finckenor. “You can cook frozen food without defrosting. You can make rice and yogurt and can even bake in it.”

Batch cooking allows busy families to not only save time but to eat healthy meals. “Planning ahead can take time, but eating home-cooked versus fast food is a healthier alternative,” says Finckenor. 

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