When I was in college I worked as a nanny for several different families. From these families I learned a lot about serving others, raising kids, running a home and just life in general. One of these families had lots of kids and life was understandably hectic for the mom. She introduced me to her secret weapon for mealtime....once a month cooking.
On the last Saturday of each month, dad and grandma would take all the kids out and mom and I would cook. We'd spend the first couple of hours chopping veggies. we'd saute pan after pan of onions. We'd brown pounds and pounds of ground beef. We'd make pots of chili and spaghetti sauce.
We'd boil and debone several chickens. And then the real fun would begin. We'd fill gallon sized zip-top bags with ingredients. Some bags were filled with raw meats and veggies and spices. Other bags were were a mix. And others were complete cooked meals. Every bag and container was labeled and cooking instructions were added. By the end of the day the fridge and a small chest freezer were full. It was hard work, but guess what ....neither she or I had to do anything for meals except maybe cook a pot of rice or toss together a salad for the next 30 days. It was amazing and such a huge blessing for her to be able to spend so much more time with her family.
Very few of us have a whole day for prepping food, or the energy to spend a whole day in the kitchen, or the storage space. BUT, the longer you're on AIP, the more you'll realize how a few minutes of prep can save you TONS of time later on. Here are my top tips for always having food prepared:
- Double or triple every recipe every time you cook. One portion is for the family today (and maybe some leftovers for tomorrow) and one portion goes right into the freezer. Most of the time it takes an extra 5-10 minutes to double the recipe and will save you 30-45 minutes in the weeks to come.
- Never do just one thing. If you know you're going to be in the kitchen frying burgers or doing something that requires your attention, choose a 2nd thing that makes itself. My go to is Spiced Carrot Soup because I know it's something that after 5 minutes of prep it can simmer away while I do other things.
- Prep Veggies. As soon as you come home from the store, wash, chop and store your veggies in bags or containers. This will allow you to make quick salads during the week and will save you time as you cook during the week.
- Batch Cook. Set aside 2-3 hours (maybe on a Saturday morning) and choose 3-4 recipes to prepare during that time. 1 thing in the oven, 1 in a slow cooker and 2 on the stove is what I try to do.
- Food Storage Containers. Invest in some good food storage containers. I like glass containers as they wash well and don't take on flavors and smells of foods stored in them. I use containers like these because they are oven and microwave safe, they seal well and can store food in fridge or freezer. Glasslock 18-Piece Assorted Oven Safe Container Set (affiliate)
- Meal Plan. Take a few minutes before grocery shopping to think about what all you want to cook for the week.
- Think Versatility. Rarely, if ever, does it make sense to make something that will only be eaten once. If you're having roast chicken for dinner, roast 2, 1 is family dinner one night, then some of the meat goes into a soup or hash for breakfast the next day and the rest becomes a chicken salad. Bake a couple of salmon fillets and you have dinner one night and some to top a spinach and berry salad with and some to make into a salmon salad for work.
- Make your kitchen work for you. Put your gadgets to good use. This is when your food processor, instapot and slow cooker pay off. If you need to get your hands on one of these, might I suggest: (affiliate links) (a) Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W, Stainless Steel Cooking Pot and Exterior, Latest 3rd Generation Technology
(b) Hamilton Beach 70730 Bowl Scraper Food Processor
(c) Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S Programmable Cook and Carry Oval Slow Cooker
- Blueberry Bacon Breakfast Burgers - I like to make a double batch and keep 10 burgers in the fridge and freeze the rest (packed 2 to a bag or stacked in a container with layers of wax paper). They thaw well in the fridge over night and can be heated on the stove or in the microwave and in a pinch can be microwaved from frozen for a quick breakfast on the go.
- Breakfast Soup - This soup freezes well as is. Plus a TIP - you can freeze soup in wide mouth mason jars, just make sure you leave an inch at the top for expansion and don't put the lid on until it is frozen solid.
- Cinnamon Coconut Crisp Cereal - Thought cereals were a thing of the past? Here's a recipe you can whip up this weekend and have cereal for breakfast next week.
- Fennel & Herbs d'Provence Sausage - these freeze well cooked and you can take a few out and heat up as needed
- Perfect Breakfast Sausage - Double or triple the recipe, form patties, and freeze with wax paper between each one.
- Turkey, Apple, Sweet Potato Breakfast Stir Fry - make a triple or quadruple batch of this over the weekend and you have breakfast for the week sorted
Do you miss oatmeal and other hot cereals? If so, give some of these a try. They can all be kept in the fridge for a few days and reheat well. I like to make a double batch of the "Banana Bread Oat-lessMeal" and heat it up in the microwave with a couple of tablespoons coconut milk and add some fresh strawberries or blueberries to the top.
- Apple and Cranberry "Oatmeal"
- Banana Bread "Oat-less"Meal
- Banana Cinnamon "Oatmeal"
- Pumpkin "Oat-less"Meal
- Roasted Cinnamon Pear "Oatmeal"
Soups are one of the favorites of batch cookers and freezer cookers alike. All of these soups freeze well. SOUP TIP - you can freeze individual portions of soup in wide mouth mason jars, just make sure you leave an inch at the top for expansion and don't put the lid on until it is frozen solid.
HINT - Vegetable soup makes a great breakfast option. I like to crumble a breakfast sausage or a burger patty or some cooked salmon into a bowl or creamy veggie soup for a comforting start to the day.
- Beef Shank Vegetable Soup
- Broccoli Soup with Prosciutto Crisps - The soup can easily be made ahead and frozen, the prosciutto crisps should be made fresh, but only take a few minutes and can be made while the soup is heating up.
- Celeriac and Pear Soup
- Colcannon Soup
- Cream of Chicken and Veggie Soup
- Golden Carrot and Parsnip Soup
- Roasted Squash Soup with Thyme
- Spiced Carrot Soup - This soup is great as is, and is also a great base for a seafood chowder by just adding some flaked salmon, or canned crab some cooked veggies.
- Sweet Potato & Fennel Soup
Stews/ Casseroles/ Crock Pot Whole Meals
Most stew, casseroles and crock pot meals are very versatile. All can easily be frozen after cooking in individual portions, some you can prep the ingredients and freeze before cooking ready to be thawed and tossed in a slow cooker on the day you want it.
- Beef Stew in Mango Rosemary Sauce
- Beef Stew with Orange and Cranberries
- Lamb Stew with Black Olives and Rosemary
- Lamb Stew with Butternut, Apples and Ginger
- Lamb Tagine with Orange & Prunes and Cilantro 'Cous Cous'
- Slow Cooked Moroccan Stew
- Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings - this keeps well in the fridge for 4-5 days. If you plan on making double and freezing some, you might want to take the portion out to freeze before adding the dumplings and plan on making them when you reheat that portion.
- Sweet Cassava Cottage Pie - this pie can be made and frozen before baking, or you can bake and freeze individual portions for quick meals for weeks.
- White Chicken Chili
- Apple and Sage Elk Meatloaf
- Argentine Arrollado de Carne - make it in the slow cooked and then cool, slice and grab for snacks, breakfast or lunches.
- Bolognese Sauce with Chicken Livers and Zoodles
- Butternut Breakfast Bites - make a double batch and freeze in portion sized baggies for convenience breakfast foods
- Flavor Burgers 3 Ways - Double or triple the recipe, form patties, and freeze with wax paper between each one.
- Herbed Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks
- Hidden Liver Taco Meat
- Lamb & Liver Meatballs
- Lamb Kofta with Avocado Tzatziki - Kofta freezes well, make the sauce fresh or keep in the fridge for 4-5 days
- Marinated Beef Riblets - make ahead, take the meat of the bones and store in the fridge to add to salads and stir fries and other meals throughout the week
- Meatballs with Strawberry Balsamic Glaze - Double or triple the recipe and freeze meatballs (in sauce). The day before you want to eat them, thaw in the fridge and reheat in a pan with about 1/4 cup water.
- Oxtail Ragu - this can easily be cooked and frozen in individual portions, or consider doubling the recipe, and freezing half for a few weeks from now.
- Pork Carnitas with Cranberry Relish
- Slow Coker Sage Pulled Pork
- Sneaky Sliders
- Stewed Beef in Mango Sauce - to be prepared for a future meal, place all the ingredients in a freezer safe bag and freeze. The night before you plan on cooking it, thaw in the fridge and toss in the crock pot before work in the morning. Dinner will be ready when you come home. The cooked meat also freezes well, so double the recipe and freeze some for a rainy (or sunny or busy) day.
- Teriyaki Crock Pot Pork
- The Easiest Stew in the World
- Tomato Free Ragu Bolognese
- Chicken & Meatballs Blanquette
- Coconut & Cilantro Turkey Burgers
- Finger Lickin' Baked Chicken Wings
- Quick Orange Chicken
- Turmeric Chicken Salad - this is a good use of some leftover roasted chicken, or a chicken that you've cooked in the crockpot
Both of these can be pre-made and frozen individually (freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet and then add to a large bag once frozen - that will keep them from sticking together). To heat, thaw in the fridge and heat in a skillet (broccoli tuna bites heat well in microwave).
Other that these recipes, good batch cooking ideas are:
bake several extra sweet potatoes
roast a bunch of root vegetables
and chop and prep vegetables you plan on eating raw or using fresh.
Store bought frozen vegetables are also an already prepared option that will save time through the week. I like to buy frozen pureed vegetables for quick meals as well as frozen veggies for a quick side dish or to add to soups through the week.