ONCE A TERM
Bulk Cooking with Whole Foods
- HOW TO -
It's easier than you think to plan and prepare healthy meals for you and your family in advance. Meal prep will look different for everyone but the underlying principles of planning remain the same. If you are new to bulk cooking and meal planning I strongly recommend starting small and building yourself up from there. This approach can be adjusted for singles through to large families. How you apply these ideas is entirely up to you!
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Benefits of Meal Planning
Buying and cooking in bulk has a lot of advantages. Sure it takes a few hours of work, a lot of dishes, and may cost a bit more than your normal grocery shop to begin, but the benefits can far outweigh the initial effort. Following are some ways that bulk cooking and planning can help you and your family.
Save money - no more last minute trips to the grocery store or to grab take away. Meals are designed around your budget and ingredients are bought in bulk which may cost more in initial outlay, but saves money in the long run!
Save time - say it takes 30 minutes to make dinner and you do that for three nights in a row. That's an hour and a half of your time. Now to prepare the same meal in a triple batch and it may take an extra 5 minutes to prepare the extra ingredients and another 2 minutes to share it out into dishes and pop into the freezer. Come later when it's time for dinner... it's done! Just make a quick salad or steam some veggies and it's ready. You're evenings have just become a little easier.
Your dietary requirements are fulfilled in every meal! Every meal is made with healthy ingredients that suit your individual needs. Can't have dairy? Don't include it! Grain free? Make substitutes! When you make your meal you don't need to worry about undesirable ingredients sneaking in. You are in control.
Share - have a friend or neighbour in need? Grab them a meal the next time you visit.
Chronic Health Issues - as someone with a chronic illness (and I don't always know when it's going to strike) having meals prepared means that I worry less and I get meals with good nutrition when I need it most.
Less work - evenings are hard work. The amount of things that need to be done and the amount of time we have to achieve them in the evenings aren't proportional. With pre-prepared meals, there's a huge chunk of your evening back. You have less decisions to make, less work to do and for me, a lot less yelling at the kids ;)
Start small - when cooking for your family make a double (or triple) batch and freeze the additional meals so they aren't used up as left overs. Begin by having a designated night of the week where you use one of the meals from your freezer and continue to build your stockpile throughout the week. Slowly swap out cooking nights for prepared meal nights as you build your reserves.
Have containers and storage ideas ready to go - depending on the size of your freezer and what you have available this will look different for everyone. Have a look throughout the Facebook and Instagram pages for ideas. Use ceramic or glass dishes, Tupperware or good quality plastics, reusable ziplock bags, and even aluminium trays and pans can be used if needed.
Buy seasonally - buying seasonal ingredients is cheap, kind on the environment (less food milage), healthier and increases the variety of fruits and veggies you consume.
Buy locally - get to know your farmers, and support local businesses. As time goes on the relationships you build with producers just continues to get better and better. You support them and they will support you. It's how communities are built and one of my favourite things about living in the country. Roadside stalls, Farmer's Markets, Facebook groups and produce swaps are all ways to support local business or you can find a store that specialises in selling local produce. Also, don't be afraid to approach farms directly and ask for seconds or even thirds. Often imperfect fruits and vegetables get dumped or given to livestock despite the fact they are fine to eat. This also helps to bring food costs down.
Meat - meat is the most expensive part of bulk cooking but there are ways to bring the costs down. Purchase meat in bulk. Speak to your butcher or search on Facebook to find where you can get sides or whole beasts and share the cost with a friend. I have friends who sell their beasts and I love to know where I'm getting my meat from. I know where the meat is grown, what they are fed, the conditions they live in and that it is organic. The animals are also humanely killed on site which minimises their stress. Take your own containers or request meat is wrapped in paper. Order your meat so that it is ready close to your cook up and ensure it isn't frozen. I have been caught out before on this! Sometimes I get my chicken from a local store when it is on sale. I pay about $5- $6 a kilo for chicken breasts and freeze it. It is perfectly ok to partially defrost meat, add the spices or marinades and refreeze. Otherwise, if this makes you nervous, use the meat in dishes that will be cooked prior to freezing ready for the weekly dinners. If you are ordering sides remember to ask specifically for things like trotters, feet and bones for broth and your pets, cleaned intestines to make your own sausages, fat to make lard and suet, heart, brains, kidneys and livers (if you're brave enough), and unusual cuts like beef cheeks and tail to cook in beautiful stews.
Planning out your meals - planning your meals out sounds more scary than it actually is, whether it be for a fortnight or three months. The idea of committing to a menu plan can really frighten some people and make them feel they are locked in to eating certain meals on certain days. This isn't the case. The idea of menu planning is to make your life easier and if you want to eat Thursday's meal on Monday, than do it. Just make sure that you do eventually eat all the meals planned for the week and that none goes to waste. There are plenty of menu planning apps, notebooks, printed lists, and downloads that can all help you with your planning. I am a paper and pencil girl and I like to write things out. When I sit down to plan I make sure I have my cup of coffee and and all the bits I will need in one place so I don't get distracted. Grab your pens, paper, iPad/phone/computer for looking things up or finding recipes, cookbooks (stick to three or four to begin with) and menu planner. I start by labelling four pieces of paper.
1. Weekly Plan - on one piece of paper I plan out all meals for three months. This way it's easy to glance over, I can make sure that
meals are spread out evenly over the course of the term and we don't suffer from meal fatigue. Here is a template for a term.
2. Ingredients List - WRITE THEM OUT AS YOU GO. I can't stress this enough. You will save so much time if you fill out everything as
you go. Tally things like garlic, onions and eggs as you go.
3. To Make List - on another piece of paper keep a list of what you are making, how many batches of it, the location of the recipe
and any changes you make. This acts as an excellent quick reference guide while cooking.
For example -
Balinese Chicken Curry; Indonesian Curry Cookbook page 35; substitute cream with coconut cream; x 3 meals
4. Extras page - this is a mishmash of lists 2 and 3 but for extra things you would like to make, the recipe location, and the
ingredients. For example - Ricotta; Cheesemaking pg. 22; x 3; 4L milk, white vinegar, salt.
It often helps to have a framework from within to operate. This aids in making decisions and filtering through the thousands
of recipes out there. This is how I choose my meals. I select one soup, one red meat, one chicken, one fish, one vegetarian,
one easy (for those nights you need a quick meal, e.g. tacos, quiche etc), and one BBQ/roast meal. Sometimes I throw in a
meal that I want to try or experiment with as well into one of these categories.
Meals must also be freezable, healthy, cost effective, easy and efficient to make, and easy to defrost and serve. I try to keep the
ingredients fresh, simple, and local. We as a family try to eat whole foods, with minimal gluten and dairy (due to intolerances),
and no preservatives, additives or processed sugars. I also have foods that trigger my attacks and try to avoid them to the
best of my ability.
Organising Ingredients - If I am super organised I do an online shop about 6 weeks before my cook up for things like nuts, seeds and flours. This allows me to order in bulk and share the costs with friends with plenty of time between delivery and cooking. I then activate and dehydrate the nuts and seeds, package them and freeze them. I also order my sides of beef, lamb and pork depending on what I want for the coming term. You can also share the costs here with friends and family and it can work out as cheap as $5 kilo for premium cuts.
planning the cook
using up ingredients