Are you sick of slaving over the cooker every evening for hours on end? Perhaps you’re a busy working professional or a mum and you’re trying to lead a healthy lifestyle but don’t have enough time to cook healthy meals. Or you could be someone who has started a weight loss programme or a meal plan for toning up and building muscle and you now need to cook your own meals. Maybe you’re none of these, you just want to spend less time in the kitchen. Regardless of your situation, the perks of cooking your own food in batches can immensely aid you towards following a healthy diet, along with saving time and money in the process. With these tips for cooking in bulk, you’ll be turned from a starter to a seasoned cook in no time!
Plan your meals
When planning what meals you want to prepare in advance, it’s a good idea to consider some of the below questions.
Which meals do you want to cook? For example, just dinner, or perhaps dinner and lunch. Or maybe you want to go all out and have breakfast prepared in advance too. Some people batch cook pancakes and freeze them till they’re needed.
What are your allowances for the meal? If you’re following a meal plan, tracking macros, calories, or ‘SYNS‘, you’ll want to track these accurately, especially if your goal is weight loss or muscle gains. For instance, are you meant to be eating salads for lunch or particular quantities of protein, fats and carbohydrates for dinner?
What foods do you want to cook? Sometimes you’ll have a craving for a particular food, or maybe your meal plan dictates not only macros, but meals as well. If you’re stuck for inspiration, you can dust down that recipe book or Google recipes to cook in bulk and you’ll get some ideas. Bear in mind that most balanced meals should incorporate a portion of protein, fat and carbohydrates.
Are these foods suitable for freezing and reheating? Some meals just don’t freeze or reheat well, for example, seafood, fried foods can become soggy, some foods such as potatoes and rice can cause bacterial poisoning when reheated incorrectly.
Are foods in season? Another thing to consider is if the ingredients are in season; often this applies to fruit and vegetables, e.g. asparagus, broccoli, strawberries. Although you might be able to survive on the frozen alternatives if they’re available. Did you know that similar to vegetables, meats also have periods when they’re in season?
Do you get tired of eating the same food regularly? A key parameter for any successful meal planning, weight loss programme and for any person in general is that they enjoy the food. You might succeed at following the meal plan for a few days or maybe a week, but once the weekend comes, you could find youself falling off the bandwagon and undoing all your good work if you don’t enjoy it. For that reason, ensuring you like the food and don’t get bored of it is key.
If you’re someone who doesn’t like to eat the same food 2, 3, 4 or even 5 days in a row, then batch cooking the exact same food for the next week may not be advisable. On the other hand, there are people who will happily eat the same meal for months on end!
Have your meals a variety of nutrients? Another consideration is that a lack of variety can put you at risk of developing deficiencies, so a diverse food plan should mitigate this risk. Alternating between different fruit, vegetables, healthy fats and meat and fish sources ensures you’re supplied with adequate nutrients and minerals.
What you could consider doing is making variations to each meal. For instance, if one of your meals is chicken curry with rice, then maybe divide the portions of chicken in 2 and use a different sauce for the other half. E.g. make half of the meals chicken curry and rice and the other half chicken tikka/roast chicken/creamy cajun chicken with rice or pasta. You can still cook the vegetables in bulk, all you’re really doing is separating the ingredients and adding a different flavouring and pasta.
How many portions are you going to cook? Consider if you’ll be eating out or ordering takeaway as you may not need to cook as many meals then. Furthemore, if there are public holidays coming up or you’re on vacation, you might not need to prepare as much food if you’re not around to eat it. The number of portions is also important as you’ll need to consider ingredients and storage (see below).
What cooking equipment do you own? For the majority of meals you cook, you’ll often survive with basic items, such as a cooker, pots, pans and a decent chopping knife. While some of us may take such fundamental cooking utensils for granted, many people live in rented accommodation where the house is sparsely kitted out. Perhaps your food requires an air fryer, food processor or a blender.
If you don’t own these items, you either need to consider investing in them, finding an alternative way to cook them, or you might be fortunate enough to find a similar recipe which doesn’t warrant such appliances. If all else fails, maybe choose a different meal to cook for now.
How do you plan to reheat this food? Some of you will utilise your batch cooked meals for work, others might just have them at home. Either way, if the food needs to be heated, you need to consider if there is a microwave or heating appliance available to you. The same principles apply if you’re making a toasty – the toaster/grill should be both available and functioning.
Tip: Reheating food evenly and to the correct temperature is critical to prevention of food poisoning. Familiarise yourself with the functionality of the microwave if you’re not used to operating it.
Have all ingredients ready
Once you have decided how many portions you plan to make of each meal, now you need to determine the quantity of ingredients you have available and how much you need to buy. Remember that if the recipe you’re looking at serves 2 and you intend to cook 4 portions, you’ll need to double the ingredients. Additionally, the recipe may not call out that you need items such as oil to cook the food, so it’s worthwhile checking that you have some available.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll remember all the ingredients. The last thing you want to happen is that you forget a key ingredient just before or even during your batch cooking. Make a list of the items that you need to purchase along with the quantities needed. This can be categorised based on the supermarket sections, e.g. list all the frozen items together, list all the vegetables together and cross them off as you get them. You could also just take a photo of the recipe.
I’ve previously used a grocery list for meal planning which has saved a huge amount of time by ensuring I have a good stock of the basic ingredients at home at all times. This saved me having to buy as much ingredients in the future. The spices and herbs stock is particularly valuable since there’s nearly always some kind of herb or spice required.
Tip: Don’t buy fresh ingredients too far in advance of your cooking day as they may start spoiling or may expire faster than the time you plan to eat them within.
Check storage capacity and containers
The amount of potions you make will be somewhat contingent on your storage capacity. If you plan to freeze some of the meals, you’ll need to ensure that the freezer isn’t jam packed with food already. You could get away with refrigerating them for a few days and perhaps the freezer will be less full by then (provided nobody else chucks something in there).
Additionally, if you plan to make a particular quantity of meals, you’ll require a sufficient amount of containers to hold them in. Plates with a cover will do if you’re just leaving them in your fridge, but a container is the best approach if you plan to bring your meap prepped munch to work, school or college.
A good starting point are the Prep Pro Quality Meal Prep Containers, as they come in a pack of 10, they’re freezable, dishwasher safe, leak-resistant and very cheap considering that they are such good quality and have excellent reviews. Did I mention that they achieved the accolade of an Amazon Choice product?
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Tip: Remember that if the ingredients you will be cooking are stored in the freezer, this space will become available when you remove these items for cooking.
Allocate sufficient time
Whether you’re a person who frequently cooks or if you’ve rarely cooked in the past, sufficient time will need to be dedicated to your meal-prep marathon. Things rarely go to plan and if you’ve ever tried following any of those 15 minute or 30 minute recipes, you’ll know they often stretch anywhere from 10 – 30 minutes longer than expected. It’s difficult to define how long it will take as it will depend on a range of factors, such as how much food preparation there is; for instance, if you have to chop vegetables or dice meat. I the meal comes oven-ready, then this might take no length at all in comparison. Check and see if any food needs to be thawed in advance, if it does, place it in the fridge for the necessary time.
The cooking time of the food and how many meals you’ll be cooking will also determine the length of time the process takes. Cleaning before and after should also be factored in; if you have a dishwasher, it may be faster than washing by hand. For a typical batch cooking event, you may need to allocate anywhere from 1 hour 30 minutes to 3 hours. But don’t let this frighten you away. Think of all the time you’ll save during the week if all you have to do is reheat the food! No more slaving over the cooker every evening! Throw on your favourite radio station or playlist and the time will fly!
Adopting a routine can also ensure you stick with your goal and you won’t run out of time. For instance, meal prep Monday is a day many people have christened as their day to cook in bulk. Your best bet is to pick a day or an evening where you have some extra time on your hands.
Tip: Steeping pots and pans while you’re doing other activities can accelerate the washing up process.
Cooking and cooling foods
Cooking and storing food correctly are two of the most effective ways to prevent the risk of food poisoning occurring. Ensure that the food is fully cooked, especially meat such as chicken which can pose a risk of salmonella. Once the food has been cooked, portion out the food evenly into the receiving receptacles.
Allow the food to cool fully before refrigerating or freezing the food. You can accelerate this process by storing the food in flat, small portions as opposed to being compressed in large quantities. It’s vital that the food is transferred from room temperature to a fridge or freezer within 2 hours of cooking to prevent the risk of food poisoning.
Additionally, the temperature of your fridge should be 5°C (40°F) or less. The freezer should be -18°C (0°F); if you’re storing food in an ice box, this may reduce the duration for which it can be frozen safely.
Tip: While you’re waiting for food to cool, you can be cleaning up or preparing other food.
- Advanced planning is key to successful batch cooking
- Determine what meals you want to cook along with the quantities
- Recipe books and online searches are excellent for getting inspiration and meal ideas
- Identify how much fridge or freezer storage and food containers you have to store the food
- Determine what food you have already and make a list of items to be purchased
- Have all the ingredients purchased in advance
- Set aside enough time to complete the cooking and cleaning
- Ensure food is fully cooked and cooled before placing it in the fridge or freezer
- Allocate a set day or time to complete cooking on
Do you batch cook meals? How long does it take you on average to complete it? Does the thought of investing that much time in cooking make it off-putting or perhaps you enjoy cooking? If you have any tips, comments or queries on this topic, drop a comment in the box below!
Mitrokostas, S., 2018. 10 Foods You Should Avoid Reheating. [online] Insider. Available at:
Petre, A., 2018. How To Meal Prep — A Beginner’s Guide. [online] Healthline. Available at: