Starting small - building confidence
Here at Once a Term Cooking we are all convinced of the benefits of bulk meal prep. Having a store of meals in the freezer saves money, it makes evenings easier, it saves time, it's healthier, and that's just the beginning, but the idea of bulk cooking is quickly overwhelming to those who are new to it. However, it is far easier to begin bulk cooking than you realise, you just need to jump in. My suggestion is to start small, and there are a few ways to approach this.
1. The first way is when you are making your evening meals simply plan to make a double or triple batch of a tried and true family favourite and freeze the extras. Repeat this twice a week on a designated evening and you'll quickly build up your freezer stash. Cooking a triple batch twice a week means that you will have an extra four meals for your freezer each week, assuming that you are eating one of those meals each time. Ensure that you select a night to have off from cooking to use up these meals each week and stick to that night, otherwise you'll find the meals might not be there when you need them.
Once you have experienced the benefits of a few nights off and have some time up your sleeve, use 2 - 4 hours to create a fortnight/month's worth of meals. That's really all it takes. I have a Mince Sequence here which will help you organise your cook-up to make the most of your time, provide you with approximately 24 meals, and can easily be completed if followed closely. Repeat this process a couple of times and you will get faster, and more confident, and THEN change it up to suit your needs.
2. If you are short on time, freezer space, or money, another approach is to make batches of sauces and marinades to have in the freezer. Our focus here at Once a Term Cooking is to make whole foods from scratch and to reduce processed foods from our diets which not only is better on our budgets, but is also better for our health. Having a stash of marinades and sauces in the freezer means that dinner is half done, you just need to defrost, add meats, and fresh veggies/salads and your meal is ready.
Select your favourite marinades, sauces, and soups, make triple or quadruple batches of them, and freeze them in clip/vacuum sealed bags laying flat (label them and remove all the air first) and then store them upright like books. This will help you make the most of your freezer space.
3. A third option is to target a problem meal area in your home and focus on that. You don't actually need to make meals. You might find that having healthy snacks on hand is a priority to you, changing your breakfast options is a necessity, freeing up three nights a week is all you need, or making the lunchbox routine faster is your biggest concern. Focussing on one of these areas might be all you need to help your home run more smoothly and take the pressure off your family, it will also boost your confidence and your budget.
I don't always do a full term's cook up. When I was first starting, to build my confidence (and while I was waiting for my budget to allow for a bulk food order), I made smoothie bags so that we had breakfast and afternoon tea options, or sometimes I only made lunchbox snacks. When we were doing GAPS, I made a lot of broths and soups and froze them in portion sizes so that I didn't feel like I had to always cook, and for a time I made grab-and-go breakfast options for my husband who is a shift worker. You don't always have to do a full cook up. The idea is for you to take the concepts and methods of Once a Term Cooking and adjust them to suit the needs of your own family.
Approaching bulk cooking in smaller chunks is not only easier on the budget, but will help you learn to manage your time in the kitchen. It will help you learn to manage your kitchen while cooking without wasting ingredients and making a huge mess and will build your confidence in your own abilities. Why not share the prep and cook with a friend? It's a lot of fun, it keeps you motivated, there are more goodies to go around, and you've got someone to help you problem solve and share the costs and clean up, just save the glass of wine until the end...