Busy weekday schedules can lead to a lot of bad food choices. Whether we are eating out or getting takeout, we’re probably spending a lot more money than we intend on food, and we’re not eating as healthy as we should, either.
As much as we’d love to save that money and eat healthier, the idea of cooking seven days a week seems impossible.
Enter: batch cooking.
Save time, eliminate waste, and cut back on your takeout cravings with these tips and recipes that will last you the entire week.
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Get to Know Your Freezer
When you’re trying to get healthy with whole-food meals on the table every night, the freezer can become your best friend. That is, if you know what to do with it.
It needs to be cold enough to make sure food is safe. The ideal temp is 0-degrees Fahrenheit, according to Certified Holistic Chef and cookbook author Laura Lea Goldberg of the popular blog LLBalanced.com.
Freeze fruit, vegetables, and soups in zip-top storage bags in a thin layer and place horizontally in the freezer. “This way, you can stack multiple bags, as well as easily break off pieces to use,” Goldberg says. I suggest double-layering the bags to prevent freezer burn if you plan to keep them in there longer than a week.” Pre-chopped frozen vegetables can save a lot of time in later recipes, and also help eliminate produce waste.
For quick meals, freeze individual portion sizes in plastic pint containers, which you can order in bulk online. “If you plan for an item to be in the freezer longer than a week, double-bag it or wrap it with plastic wrap before putting it in a container,” Goldberg says.
Labeling the bags and containers with the contents and cook date also ensures safe eating. “Make some sort of symbol that denotes if a food is about to go bad, and that’s why you froze it. If you take it out to thaw, you’ll know you need to eat it ASAP,” Goldberg says. Keep a notepad or whiteboard in your kitchen that lists everything you have in your freezer so you don’t have to go rummaging around when deciding what to make for dinner.
Once you decide what you want to eat, thaw the food in the refrigerator, not at room temperature. A warm counter increases the likelihood of harmful bacteria.
Not everything can be chilled safely. Things to avoid freezing include water rich foods (like lemon, lime, tomato, and cucumber), dairy products (like yogurt, soft cheeses, sour cream, and milk), fresh herbs, onions, peppers, artichokes, radishes, sprouts, salad greens, uncooked, rice, canned fish, and hard-boiled eggs.
Everything else? You should be fine.
Credit: James + Courtney Forte
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Way too often, we find ourselves either skipping breakfast or spending way more than necessary on a coffee and a muffin at our local café.
Instead, you can prep breakfast for the whole week by freezing pre-made smoothies in silicon muffin tins or large ice cube trays. When you are ready to drink, place the popsicle-like cube in a blender, adding splashes of hot water to save time.
Another option? Sweet Potato & Kale Eggy Muffin Cups: “Perfect for busy mornings or bringing to the office, these versatile egg cups can also be enjoyed for lunch, dinner, or snack time. They are an ideal nutrition powerhouse, full of antioxidants, vitamins, protein, and healthy fat. You can absolutely go ahead and double or triple the batch to keep in the freezer,” Goldberg says. This recipe will yield 12 muffin cups — which means you’ve just got breakfast handled for two weeks for one person, or two people for one week.
· 3 cups sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces (approximately 1 medium potato)
· 1 tablespoon coconut oil (you can substitute olive oil if needed)
· 1/3 cup minced shallot
· 3 cloves garlic, minced
· 2 teaspoons sea salt
· 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
· 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
· 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
· 2 cups fresh kale, stemmed and chopped into 2-inch pieces
· 12 eggs, whisked
· 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (If dairy free, sub 1/4 cup nutritional yeast)
1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees fahrenheit and line a 12-cup cupcake tin with paper liners.
2. Place sweet potato pieces in a food processor and pulse until they are the texture of rice.
3. Heat a large sauté pan to medium heat and add coconut oil. When oil is shimmering, add shallots and garlic. Cook, stirring until fragrant and translucent (approximately 2 minutes). Add sweet potato, salt, pepper, paprika, and rosemary. Cook, stirring another 4 to 5 minutes, until sweet potato is soft and tender.
4. Add kale and turn to medium-low heat. Cover pan with a lid for 2 minutes and allow kale to soften.
5. Remove pan from the heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes. While potato mixture is cooling, whisk together eggs and cheese in a large bowl. Add cooled sweet potato mixture and whisk to combine all ingredients.
6. Divide mixture evenly into cupcake liners and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges have started to pull away and a toothpick comes out clean, but the top is still moist and springy. Allow to cool 15 minutes before removing.