Spend less at the grocery store by making your food yourself with batch cooking! Learn what batch cooking is, how to get started, and more helpful tips in my Beginner’s Guide to Batch Cooking.
Over ten years ago when I first started getting hands-on in the kitchen (meaning trying to make things from scratch) I had no idea what batch cooking was. Blogging was only beginning to be a thing so there weren’t thousands of people telling you all about it. In fact, I only followed a few blogs at that point and I don’t remember them ever using the term!
I was simply doing what made sense in my head – “I’m already getting the dishes dirty, I have the ingredients on hand, I may as well make a double (triple, quadruple, etc) batch and stick the rest in the freezer for another meal. It will save me a mess and time later! Wow, I’m so smart.”
Yes, ten-years-ago-Katie thought she was something special. I mean, I am pretty awesome, but it’s so much more than batch cooking that makes me cool 😉 Anyway…
What is Batch Cooking?
Batch cooking is cooking up extra amounts of food to stock up your freezer, pantry, and fridge for later use. It can be done right along with your regular cooking or you can set aside time to focus on batch cooking on its own. I usually go for the right along with my other cooking method since I’m already making a mess – why dirty extra dishes?
Batch cooking isn’t only for large families! It also isn’t only freezer meals or baked goods. While I do love to bake, I tend to stick to more meal components and items that might normally be found in the pantry for my batch cooking sessions.
How to get started with Batch Cooking
Batch cooking is so incredibly easy to do! Other than a few storage items, you don’t need anything other than what you already use for cooking these recipes.
- Look at your menu plan to see what meals or meal components you are already making.
- Double, triple, or quadruple your recipe.
- Store the extra in the freezer for another time!
Now, there’s a touch more involved that I’ll share below, but honestly, that’s the gist. Make extra and store!
Tips for Success in Batch Cooking
- Choose recipes you know your family loves. You don’t want to be stuck with eight loaves of cranberry almond bread that no one wants to eat! I always test a recipe as a single batch before venturing into large batches.
- Verify you have enough ingredients for the amount you are making. A batch cooking session is quickly ruined when you discover there are only 3 eggs in the fridge when you need six or all your butter is gone. While there are some substitutions you can make for certain ingredients, these can also change the flavor or texture of the end product. Best to do an inventory before you start mixing ingredients together.
- Have a (mostly) clean kitchen FIRST. I know this seems crazy because you are cooking and so what if there are some dishes around, right? Because you are making a larger quantity of food, you will need a larger amount of space. You don’t want to be balancing muffin tins on top of this morning’s oatmeal pot!
- Verify your storage situation. How much would it stink to get all sorts of cooking done only to open your freezer and realize it’s already PACKED FULL. Ugh. Make sure you have the room to store whatever it is you are making before you start cooking. If you plan on doing a lot of batch cooking you might want to think about getting an extra freezer for storage!
- Let your foods cool before storing. Freezer burn is bound to happen when you put warm foods into the freezer! Let them cool on the counter before moving them to the freezer.
- Always, always, label your containers. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve stuck in the freezer with the intention of using it up in the near future… only to have NO IDEA what is in that random container the next time I see it. It never fails. I think I’ll remember and then there it is, sitting on the shelf, mocking me and my mom brain.
Common Questions/FAQ About Batch Cooking
- What recipes should I start with?
- Start with recipes you love and are okay eating multiple times in a few months span. Most foods in the freezer only last about 3-6 months before losing their freshness. I would also recommend starting with foods you know are freezer friendly. If you aren’t sure, reach out to the author to find out! I always label my recipes freezer friendly so you know!
- You can find a full list of my freezer-friendly recipes here.
- What if I don’t like freezer meals?
- No worries! I don’t typically make “freezer meals” because I’d rather have a freshly put together meal. But this doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t batch cook!
- Think about the ingredients in some of your favorite meals – do you use canned beans? Pizza sauce or pasta sauce? How about diced or shredded chicken? You can make all of these, freeze them, and save tons at the grocery store.
- What should I use for storage?
- I really like these containers. I have both 8oz containers and 16oz containers. I like that the lids are interchangable and that I can write on the lids with permanent marker and wipe it off with soapy water.
- If you don’t want to use plastic, I’ve heard amazing things about these glass containers with locking lids. Eventually I wouldn’t mind switching over, but for now we will stick to the plastic. I know some people also use glass canning jars – it’s canning without the effort of canning!
- I also like using one-third foil steam pans for bread – I can bake then store in the same container! Score for less dishes 😉
- Freezer bags are so helpful for baked goods but also for many other items. I often put tomato sauce in freezer bags and lay them flat to freeze. It makes them far easier to store! Grab these freezer bag holders to avoid the hassle of trying to fill the bag with only one hand.
- What should I use for labeling my containers?
- For the containers I mentioned I’m able to write directly on the lid with a permanent marker and it stays until I choose to wash it off. I don’t understand why it works, but it does.
- You can also use these freezer labels that are supposed to dissolve easily. I’ve never used them but they have great reviews! I’ve used packing tape before but it’s hard to see on dark lids. There is also freezer tape that butchers use that should be safe for your containers.
- How should I keep track of my inventory?
- I have inventory sheets that I offer my subscribers. You can grab those here (along with all my other free printables) when you join. You can also keep track in a regular notebook, with a dry erase marker on the outside of the freezer, or hope your brain works better than mine and keep track in your head.
- I try to do an inventory every few weeks to check what we are low on so I can plan on what to cook for my next kitchen day. There are certain items, like pizza sauce and refried beans, that I know we use on a mostly regular basis so I can plan on batching those every couple of months in order to keep up a stash.
- Will this actually save money?
- Absolutely! As long as you eat what you make 😉 Have I made things, stuck them in the freezer, and had to throw them out later? You betcha! And that stinks. But I can pick up a 2lb bag of pinto beans at Aldi for about $1.50, add a few spices, and get about 12 cups (or 6 cans worth) of refried beans. Compared to only being able to buy 1-2 for that same price, I’d say it’s worth it.
- While most foods will save you money when you make them from scratch and shop in bulk, there are a few I don’t bother making because the cost or time savings isn’t enough for me.
- What is an unexpected perk to batch cooking?
- Spur of the moment hospitality! When I have a freezer full of items that are already made, I can easily pull together an appetizer, meal, or dessert when needed. Friend had a baby? Bring her a few loaves of banana bread! Last minute company? Good thing I have a batch of sausage balls in the freezer to make with eggs in the morning. Kids invite friends over? We’ve got homemade frozen pizzas and brownies ready for movie night.
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Batch Cooking
- Batch cooking doesn’t need to be an all-day event or a big to-do. It can be done right alongside your regular cooking by multiplying the recipe. It will help you have food on hand for busy nights, save you money at the grocery store, and even help you with last-minute hospitality!
I’d love to hear your thoughts about batch cooking! Do you batch cook? Are you interested in starting? What’s your favorite recipe to use?
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