Over the past several years I have taken a few courses in online business marketing and was introduced to the relatively new organizational strategy for time management, batching. The idea is to perform similar tasks using similar resources all at once during a designated block of concentrated time, increasing and optimizing productivity and decreasing distraction, fatigue, stress and procrastination.
So what does that have to do with anything?
Well, I’ve found this to be a viable tool when it comes to getting dinner on the table. The truth is, I’ve never been particularly good at doing the family dinner thing. I mean, I was a stay-at-home mom for many years, so I don’t have any real excuses. It’s just that, in our family, like many of yours, we often find ourselves eating on the fly, going to this game or that lesson, or one kid doesn’t like what we’re having while the other isn’t eating carbs this week. Sometimes there are only 2 of us home at dinner time and other times we have a full house. The struggle is real.
But I am determined to eat well. No matter who’s coming for dinner.
In order to eat well every day I had to develop a method to this meal madness. Contain the chaos. Come up with shortcuts to getting dinner on the table rather than succumb to pre-packaged meals to reheat in the microwave, ordering out or eating out of a bag.
So I implemented batch cooking. I didn’t invent it or anything. I actually learned it from my meal mentor Lindsay Nixon, The Happy Herbivore. One strategy is to batch cook all your staples to freeze or refrigerate in single portions for later use. And it works beautifully, saving time, money and more importantly food waste. I hate throwing food away. Batch cooking staples ensures that I always have something I can throw together to create a meal that is plant-based and oil free. It's just a matter of reheating.
beans + rice + salsa + corn pasta + marinara + frozen veg quinoa + beans + frozen veg + soy sauce
Batch cooking also gives me back time out of the kitchen, because let’s face it, summer’s coming and I don’t want to have to be in the kitchen all day. I want to be by the pool with the rest of the fam.
Sipping margaritas. Listening to my jams.
What is more telling is what happens when I don’t batch cook my staples.
Failing to plan is planning to fail. No matter what diet it is you're following.
I have a few other batching shortcuts in my repertoire you can read about next week.. In the meantime, here are some staples I batch cook mindlessly while listening to the latest podcast or while streaming one of my favorite shows. I hear the new season of Orange is the New Black debuting June 9 (praise hands emoji):
Beans: Chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, and brown or green lentils are what I use most for soups, salads, hummus, dips, bowls, wraps, tacos. I use the pressure cooker which eliminates having to soak legumes before cooking or having to stand watch over the stove. You can certainly cook your beans in a large pot. I like to make the whole bag and freeze in single serving portions.
Marinara Sauce: I prefer an oil-free marinara sauce, reducing my fat intake and keeping ingredients simple where I can. I use a Crockpot to batch a triple recipe and freeze in 1 cup portions. You can use a family favorite recipe for traditional spaghetti sauce and eliminate using oil quite easily by sautéing any vegetables in ¼ cup water rather than oil, adding more water to prevent sticking as needed.
Whole Grains: Cook entire bags of whole grains such as rice or quinoa to use for bowls, side dishes, soups or salads and freeze in 1 cup portions.
Potatoes & Sweet Potatoes: I cook a bunch of these for the week and store in the fridge. Potatoes can be easily reheated for soups, loaded potatoes, dry-fried potatoes or snacks with your favorite condiment. Don’t forget the many reasons why you should be eating plenty o’ potatoes!
Vegetable Broth: Check out our video on getting a second life out of your veggies by turning your scraps into vegetable broth. This makes a great base for soups and can also be used for sautéing.
Pasta: Pasta can be cooked al dente at the beginning of the week, stored in ziplock bags and reheated in 30 seconds in boiling water on the stove. Sometimes even boiling pasta can seem like too much after you’ve worked all day. This method works great for weekday meals.
Salad Dressings: I also like to prepare a big batch of salad dressing at the beginning of the week as I don’t really like pre-packaged bottled dressings. My friend, Trisha, introduced me to this delicious salad dressing created by Dara Dubinet for the fastest salad in the west. You could also check out this Sweet & Tangy Salad Dressing from My Plant-Based Family!
BBQ Sauce: While there are plenty of tasty barbeque sauces out there, I enjoy making my own oil-free version. It’s just so simple and gives me a little more quality control over the amount of fat and sugar I’m consuming. It all adds up, and sauces and condiments are sneaky culprits for causing us to consume more than we think.
So maybe you’re thinking of giving this plant-based thing a go? Summer parties and gatherings have already begun and sometimes before we know it, the scale starts creeping back to where it was on January 1st when we pledged we would lose those last 10-15 pounds for The. Last. Time. Here in the northeast we go all-in, celebrating the warmer weather with Happy Hour all day, every day. But, Summer is actually THE perfect time to go plant-based; to eat more seasonal veggies and fruits and crowd out all that stuff that’s threatening to sneak back into your diet and cause the slippery slope of sabotage….again.
Stay tuned for more practical and doable solutions for getting your next health-giving plant-based meal on the table quicker and with ease. Let's do this!
Jeanmare and Cristy are creators and contributors of the Living Simply Nourished Blog. Grab a cup of tea (or coffee!), find a cozy spot, scroll around, read some stories, find some inspiration, and enjoy!
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