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batchBy Julie Forgit, Mass WIC Nutritionist

With the holiday preparations behind us, I’m not very motivated to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  After all, wasn’t it just yesterday that I fed (and cleaned-up after) my entire extended family??  Now that the holidays are over, the New Year is the perfect time to try out new timesaving, healthy ideas for cooking and feeding your family.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that batch cooking is the way to go!  Preparing meals at one time and freezing them to have later is an efficient way to cook..  Once a month, I spend a Saturday or Sunday cooking a double or triple batch of my favorite recipe.  I serve it that night and two nights later, or freeze half of it to serve during an especially busy week.  Or I’ll make a basic item, like roast chicken, and prepare it several different ways (with onions and peppers, or with tomato sauce, or using it for quesadillas or a hearty soup).  Batch cooking not only saves me time, but also means I can have a delicious meal each night of the week. The night before I’m ready to serve it, I’ll place it in the refrigerator to defrost.  When I get home from work, the meal is usually halfway defrosted and ready to be warmed up in the oven.  Batch cooking can help you save time, effort, and money.  Food you make yourself is healthier, too!

By preparing several meals at once, you can:

  • Take advantage of featured sales at the grocery store.
  • Make double or triple batches of a recipe without spending extra time shopping or cooking.
  • Clean up once—always a good thing!
  • Prepare for busy nights when you don’t have time to cook, or get ready for life changes such as a new baby or a new job.
  • Avoid eating fast food or frozen dinners with preservatives and unhealthy ingredients.

When you make several meals at once, use good quality containers or freezer bags, and be sure to label your food, including the date.  Remember to remove extra air from the container to prevent freezer burn.  Soups and casseroles generally keep for 2-3 months in the freezer. Always defrost your frozen meals by placing them in the refrigerator the night before you want to serve them.  You may also defrost frozen meals in the microwave but be sure to fully cook the meal right away in your oven or on the stove, don’t store in the refrigerator for later.  Always make sure your reheated meal reaches an internal cooked temperature of 165 degrees.  Check out Pinterest for recipes on batch cooking!   Happy New Year!

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