By Jodi Holland, RD
The 5 pm dance: Rush home from work or from picking up children from after-school activities.
Create a balanced meal that will be consumed by most people at the table in less than 30 minutes.
Rush out to evening activities or other commitments.
I love learning how other families manage the dinner-time meal. Due to a lot of other factors at play, this meal is tricky and in order to keep it healthy, planning ahead is a must.
My friend, Chelsea, has it figured out for her family. With both adults working full-time and active kids involved in competitive sports, there’s no time to second guess what’s for supper. By optimizing batch cooking, in 3 days Chelsea can create 2 months’ worth of meals for nights when cooking isn’t possible. Did I mention that Chelsea’s house also has different food preferences and considerations including vegetarian, gluten-free and keto? Yes, it can be done!
Here’s how she does it!
Confirm the recipes you want to make. Over the next 2 days she usually plans to prepare multiple batches of 10-12 different recipes to satisfy snacks, breakfast and dinner. She has learned to pick some familiar recipes alongside some new ones to make the process easier. She finds it easiest to make most meals vegetarian knowing that meat can easily be added if desired, and she will modify some of the recipes to be gluten-free while other versions of the same recipe may not be.
Chelsea invested in a subscription to Once A Month Meals to get started. Programs like this make batch cooking easy with tips on the best order to prepare the food, as well as information on how to freeze and reheat the meals.
It’s also important to assess the equipment you have on hand. Do you have enough pans, pots and casserole dishes to make and store all your meals? Garage sales and second-hand stores can offer a great opportunity to stock up. Foil trays can also be helpful if you’re short.
Pulling together your grocery list is next, and taking advantage of warehouse stores can offer you a better price as well as bulk packaging with less packages to be opened and recycled. Consider the cost of convenience that pre-shredded cheese, pre-chopped vegetables, liquid eggs and garlic paste can offer in regards to saving you time in the kitchen.
Plan to prepare all of your non-savoury items like muffins, energy balls and dehydrated fruit.
Prepare your savoury dishes. Start by chopping all of the produce so it’s ready when needed. Utilize all of your kitchen appliances in order to increase your productivity (i.e. oven, stove-top, slow cooker, instant pot, etc.).
Pull out your recycle and compost bins for easy clean up as you go.
Cheslea’s Fall Meal & Snack Freezer Stock
Meatless Sloppy Joe’s
Mushroom and Lentil Stew
Meals and snacks are taken out of the freezer as needed, and her family may go through 3-4 pre-made meals/week, usually with leftovers available for the next day. By doing a smaller amount of batch cooking throughout the fall, she is able to replenish her freezer stock until she can commit another couple of days for multiple batch cooking (typically once a season).
Have you prepared 2 months’ of meals at one time? How do you manage the dinner-time dance?