Batch Cooking with Tykes
Batch cooking with tykes
Retykle Ambassador Alix Delahaye shares with us her tips and tricks for batch cooking even if you have infants, young children, picky eaters, or a combination of all three! She shows us that it can be done efficiently without sacrificing quality and taste.
To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.
Living in a convenient urban place like Hong Kong, you don’t always feel like preparing and cooking your meals. Some people, like me, do it for pleasure. To be honest, it’s wishful thinking to say I am able to do it everyday. However, when I do cook, it is to support my nanny who is already very busy with other household tasks and the children.
Batch cooking means planning, prepping, and cooking in advance for a certain period of time in order to lower your daily prep and cooking time. It’s also great for those who bring lunch to work, since everything is 90% ready and waiting for you in the fridge. The choice of what you will be cooking and how you’ll cook is the task at hand. It can be difficult if you have infants, young children, picky eaters, or a combination of all three! Nonetheless, it is still doable with a little bit of planning ahead.
Families with kids have stricter time constraints, so optimisation really is key. Kids can create a real challenge when it comes to cooking so being able to do so efficiently without sacrificing quality and taste is key to batch cooking.
Despite many Hong Kong families having extra help around the home, I find batch cooking a useful and time-saving habit. Speaking from experience, it has had a positive influence on my overall organisation, from the menu and grocery list planning and shopping, to leftover management. The more free time you have means spending it with your tykes instead of cooking.
Here are my 8 rules for an efficient and delicious batch cooking session:
01 time it
Give yourself a maximum of 2 to 3 hours.
02 trusty containers count
Make sure you have the appropriate number and volume of food containers ready (preferably glass so you can warm up the food inside without having to dirty another dish, and it’s more healthy!)
03 jot it down
When you prepare your menu, look for recipes that share common ingredients, or preparations. Ex: make a tomato sauce to go with pasta, then a veggie lasagna with the same sauce, and finally some roasted veggies with some of the veggies you will use in your lasagna.
If every meal contains mostly different ingredients compared to the other meals you’ve planned, you’re not optimising as best you could! At the same time, you should aim for different kinds of meals (steamed, baked, stewed, roasted, raw, etc.) to avoid getting bored.
04 Break up your tasks
You can peel all the veggies and fruits at the same time and place them in specific containers for each recipe. I find this especially useful for onions, garlic, and herbs as they are used in most recipes. I chop large volumes of them and add them to each recipe when needed. You can also freeze the minced onions and garlic for last-minute cooking use.
05 be strategic about your produce
Since you’re cooking in advance, you want to eat the things that need to be eaten right away (e.g. fresh proteins like chicken or fish, as well as some veggies/fruits) first. Batch cooking doesn’t mean eating old or leftover food; you just need to be strategic. The solution to less waste is to plan meals with the produce you know you need to eat first at the beginning of the week. Remember you can cook any baked, steamed, or stewed meals in advance and warm up when you are ready to eat them.
06 Freezing is your friend
If you’re cooking a dish that you know will be eaten in a few days’ time, freezing it will keep it from going bad, and all you need to do is warm it up when you need to! This works great with soups, stews, and all baked dishes. A great way to save time and not having to wash additional utensils or crockery is to freeze the meal in its baking dish so all you have to do is defrost it in the afternoon in the fridge. Time management for the win!
For a fresh element, if you have some fresh herbs on hand like basil, mint, green onions or chives, they are always a welcomed accompaniment. You can also add a bit of broth/cream when you warm up a casserole or sprinkle a bit of cheese last minute on top of all baked meals (lasagna, quiche, gratin, and so on).
07 prepare a few "one-size fits all" sides
Something I do is shred carrots every week since shredded carrots stay fine for at least 5-6 days in the fridge. Same with ratatouille, or pan-fried greens. You want an easy side that you will be able to mix and match with any other course. Same with steamed corn, roasted veggies, and so on. Our favourite go-to. I can prepare them as soon as I get back from the market, and store them for days in the fridge in sealed glass containers. Another fresh touch to any meal!
08 don't overthink
One of the main reasons I got into batch cooking was to make my life easier with a young child. I first started doing this when my son started eating solid foods at 4 months old. I tried as much as possible to never cook two different meals. I would just adapt the adult food and made it nutritionally appropriate for a baby/toddler.
Cooking easy sides is part of it: any steamed or roasted veggie can turn into a quick purée, made in advance or just right before eating. You add any nut cream, milk, or any other dairy-free alternative depending on the needs of your children. The rule here is no salt while batch preparing, and going light on spices because it’s not recommended for babies and young kids, which is the same for meats, fish, and so on. With toning down the level of seasoning, you can plan for a side sauce, additional condiments, or add seasoning to your own plate. By using this one-size-fits-all approach you’ll soon see your child expanding their little pallets much earlier and enjoying different textures and flavours.
There may be other rules but these ones work well for my family meals. I know there are many meal prep ideas out there and it can be hard not to get overwhelmed! Just remember to keep it simple: plan and prep in advance, use ingredients efficiently for multiple meals, and one-size-fits-all can apply! Planning ahead helps to keep you on track without having to make additional trips to the market, which saves time, and money which means more quality time with your tykes! Eat well and happy batch cooking!