Dec 31, 2011

Batch Cooking: The Work in Advance Part 3 and Other Tips

Batch cooking is not only work on the day of cooking.  There is plenty you can do in advance.  I have written before about things you can do to make cooking day easier (part1 and part 2).

Work in advance:

1.  If you have small children, pay a babysitter.  It is worth your sanity.  Being Christmas vacation, our husbands were able to distract entertain care for the children.

2.  Don't do laundry - or anything else - on cooking day, except cook (and wash dishes!)  Stay focused.

3.  Decide before cooking what you will eat for dinner that night.  At the end of the day, I am tired and my brain doesn't work so well.  If I have decided ahead of time what's for dinner life is good.  

4.  Cook meat and broth the day or two before.

5.  Chop what you can in advance.  HB likes using the very inexpensive gallon sized bags that require a twist tie to store these chopped veggies.  Oh what a feeling to remove the twist tie and dump it all in a stock pot!!  Below you see several bags of similar contents.  With a sharpie marker, HB wrote which recipe or how much was in each bag.
Below, left to right: mirepoix (celery, onions, carrots), cooked chicken, onions, more chicken, mirepoix, more onions, brats (cooked and sliced).
Below are veggies I chopped the morning of our cooking day, left to right: chopped bell peppers, jalapenos (from my garden in my fridge since Thanksgiving), sliced bell peppers, fresh tomatoes from a neighbor's garden before the frost!
6.  If at all possible, start the day with a clean dishwasher.  Try to clean as you go and start the dishwasher when it is full.  This is easier said than done.
7.  Packaging - we use a lot of plastic bags because it is easy.  Above you see HB ladling soup into a pitcher that has a gallon freezer bag in it.  This method helps you keep the bag upright and not make the bag too full.  Remember liquids expand when they freeze.

I am brand loyal and prefer Zip-lock brand because I've had better experiences with it.  HB however, uses the Wal-Mart brand (we rib each other a lot about this!).

We also used plastic yogurt, sour cream, etc., containers labeled with masking tape.  I plan on eating one of the soups this week so I stored it in a half gallon mason jar.  This was also helpful because you can put very hot soup in a glass jar; I would not put hot soup in a plastic bag.

HB packaged some of her pizza sauce in half pint glass jars.  I froze some pizza sauce in a (blue) silicon cupcake mold.  Once frozen popped it out and put it in a gallon bag.
HB wrapped each of the burritos separately in foil then marked them for the type of meat inside (just as they do at Chipotle).  So they don't get "lost" in my freezer, I put them together in a bread bag.
8.  Invite more people (if you're extroverts like HB and me).  Some neighbor girls joined us for most of the day.  At first they took my toddler to the park but later they sat and chatted with us.  Occasionally we asked them to help.

That's all the tips I can think of for now.  What advice can you add?

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