When I first started eating a plant-centric diet, I completely immersed myself in blogs, cookbooks, and magazines that highlighted inventive and unique recipes. I wanted to know everything: from the proper way to cut a butternut squash (separate the bulbous end from the skinny end) to the temperamental and tricky process of making kale chips in an oven (don’t let them burn!).
As fun as it is to try a bunch of new recipes and cooking techniques, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed (and poor) from the constant trips to the grocery for obscure ingredients and the hours spent fussing over the stove. Whether you’re just beginning to learn about vegan cooking or you’re a seasoned vegan interested in simplifying your weekly menu, there’s one simple answer.
I first learned about so-called batch cooking a couple years ago, after reading about the concept on a number of vegan nutrition blogs. Essentially, batch cooking involves spending a few hours once a week (for me, it’s Sunday) to prepare the “foundations” of the week’s meals. This will differ from person to person, but my afternoon of batch cooking will most likely include preparation of one grain (quinoa, millet, barley, rice, etc.); one legume (pinto, black, garbanzo, lentils); one salad dressing; and a simple but nutritious soup. Once complete, these foods serve as foundational elements for each of my meals throughout the week, and best of all–this means that I rarely have to spend more than 10 minutes of preparation before chowing down.
Yes, batch cooking does require some planning. It also demands that you set aside at least a few hours once a week to prepare and store everything. But for me, cooking in batches has changed the way I eat for the better. Because I have most food already prepared, my meals are nutritionally balanced and I’m no longer prone to eating less-than-ideal meals. Ironically, batch cooking also inspires me to cook creatively, since I must create new combinations and meals with the ingredients I have.
This is what a typical week of meals would look like for me:
Prepared on Sunday:
-Four servings of quinoa
-Three cups black beans (tip: buy several pounds of dry beans to cook and freeze in plastic bags to save time and money)
-One batch zucchini pesto hummus
-Quinoa and black bean salad with an olive oil and mustard dressing
-Baked quinoa and black bean patties over sauteed garlic kale
-High-protein gazpacho with hummus toast
-Mixed greens salad with quinoa, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, and creamy cashew dressing
-Hummus wrap with garlic kale, tomatoes, and black beans
Of course, these are just some ideas to make the most out of batch cooking. Adjust to your own tastes and preferences!
Do you batch cook? What are your favorite foods to use throughout the week?
More meal planning tips: 3 Part Energy Boosting Meal Plan + Recipes
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Photos: Mary Hood Luttrell; Molly Lansdowne