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Frugal Find: Cook in Bulk

   Posted On: November 8, 2013  |    Posted In: Saving  |     Posted by: Broke Millennial®

As a childless, unmarried, 24-year-old living in New York City, I desperately wish my life even slightly resembled Sex and the City. Mostly because Carrie Bradshaw never cooked. It’s a running theme in the show. Her oven is used for storage space and she eats out every meal. I can swing the occasional boozy brunch, but eating out on a regular basis would send me into debt faster than Samantha Jones runs to the bars during Fleet Week (yeah, the real SATC fans just got the reference).

IMG_2889Alas, I come home after work, drop my keys onto the bar stool that serves as a side table, throw my purse on the couch and go straight for my freezer. Because I work all day and usually just come home to work some more on my side hustle, the last thing I want to do is cook. Instead, I spend a few hours each weekend holed up in my kitchen to cook in bulk.

I’ve previously professed my love for the simple Crock-Pot, but the oven and stove usually get in on the action too. I cue up a few episodes of whatever show I want on in the background and bop around my kitchen throwing spices, sauces, noodles, meat and veggies into various pots and pans. When it’s all done I usually have a full week of lunches and dinners prepared and put away in the fridge and freezer. There is usually one or two stray meals in the freezer from a previous week in case I want to mix up my meals a bit.

Luckily, I’m no foodie. Eating the same meal multiple times in one week isn’t going to bother me so to cook in bulk on the weekend is a perfect time saver during the week. I’ve also discovered when I cook in bulk, I’m less likely to go out to eat on a whim. I already know I have a meal prepared at home, and in some cases I’m really looking forward to whatever I’ve prepared!

If you’re a fellow bulk cooker, please share some of your favorite recipes in the comment section. I’m always on the hunt for new ones. My current favorite is Chicken Tikka Masala.

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54 responses to “Frugal Find: Cook in Bulk

  1. I love my crockpot, and I experiment a lot with it. Some things I make are the obvious slowcooker meals like chili, or a stew of some sort. My most recent find was… I dunno, a southwest kind of chicken dish which is good over rice, or could be used as filling for tortillas. It’s bone in (but skinless) chicken thighs, a can of black beans, a can of corn, a can of diced tomatoes, and a bunch of spices.

  2. Love the SATC references! But living in NYC also, I totally get what you mean, and since I’ve recently started bulk cooking, I’ll gladly share some of my winner recipes (all credits to my mom, though -lol)

    Cheap and easy soup (this will make about 4-5 portions):
    needed: 5 big onions and a can of peeled tomatoes
    do: cut up the onions in pieces, stove them in a cooking pot until the are soft. Add the peeled tomatoes, add water (I fill the can twice) add salt and pepper and 2 vegetable broth cubes – stir occasionally until boiling point, then lower the fire and leave pot for about 15 minutes. Add more water if necessary. Take pot of fire, mix until all pieces are gone. Done!

    Quiche (I use a muffin tray to make little quiches and freeze them per 2. With a little side salad, it makes a perfect lunch/brunch!)

    take 8 eggs, and any vegetable you like (broccoli works, you have to cook it first, though – leek, spinach and mushrooms are great too, but you can experiment) pick a cheese (I’ve used gruyère, goatcheese and blue cheese before, about 8-10oz will do) – you can add smoked salmon or ham/bacon as desired (for bacon: bake it first)(also, about 8oz will do).

    mix the eggs, chop the vegetables and add them to the mix. Chop the ham/salmon, and add them to the mix. spice with peper and salt. Devide mix in the tray – put in a preheated oven (about 350), leave for about 30minutes (use a fork to check the inside).
    Done!

    Leek dish:
    – make a bowl of mashed potatoes (I use a bag of frozen cubes for TJ’s)
    – stove about 15-17 oz of ground beef
    – stove the leek that you chopped in small pieces (about 6/7)

    I use the square shaped ziplock pots to make portions:
    1 layer of baked ground beef
    1 layer of stoved leek
    1 layer of mashed potatoes

    I take a portion out of the freezer in the morning, and put it in an oven bowl to defrost during the day. At night, preheat the oven, top the dish of with some cheese, place in the oven for about 20 minutes… DONE!

    Last week I made ratatouille, and you can basically just use whatever mix of vegetables for that!

    There’s a great website noteatingoutinnyc.com that has tons and tons of recipes on it, I just started browsing that one to look for inspiration.

    Good luck!!

  3. It’s really a great idea. You can portion the food and have it for 4-5 meals. If you have more types of food prepared and it’s all in portions already, you can eat something ‘new’ each day 🙂

    1. I usually do store them away in small tupperware containers so I just have to grab my lunch for work or come home and throw it in the microwave. Nice and easy!

  4. I was thinking about doing this yesterday actually. Marinara sauce and soups are easy to freeze and pull out. Cooking once or even one big cook off session for a couple of weeks has appeal…especially if it saves money and time in the long run!

    1. Certainly saves me money. I’m guilty of buying jarred marinara, but I do like soups in the crock pot and freezing a bunch for later in the week or month.

  5. Oh man, I’m excited for the recipe posts you get. I’m not good at bulk freezer cooking so thank you for doing this. Do you usually do two different meals for the week?

    I will say that I do enjoy cooking a whole chicken in the crock pot. I never knew that was possible until recently and that is my go-to super easy meal. The meat just falls off the bones! I also enjoy cooking the cheaper cuts of meat on low in the crock pot all day too. I never cook on high in the crock pot as that always seems to make my food too tough.

    1. I haven’t tried cooking a whole chicken yet, but it’s on my short list. I do make at least two meals. Sometimes three, or I make a few salads for the week in addition to my meals.

    1. I don’t hate cooking, but I probably would if I had to do it everyday. I just love the time saving element, almost as much as the money savings.

  6. My favorite freezer meal is meatballs. Completely cook them, spread out on a cooking sheet and freeze. After they’re frozen, put them in a ziploc bag. That way, they freeze individually and you don’t have to worry about breaking them apart to use them. It’s perfect for the nights when I don’t want to cook and it’s just me and my son — I just grab 8 or so meatballs, defrost, cook pasta, and heat up sauce. I sneak zucchini in the meatballs and use pasta that has veggies in it, so I don’t even have to cook another veggie 😉

  7. Great tip – I too don’t mind eating the same thing (as long as its not too bland) for lunch for weeks in a row so cooking in bulk and freezing is a great money saving tip! Thanks.

  8. My wife and I always cook more food than we need, mainly because then we can take it for lunch the next day. It makes brown-bagging lunch easy and takes away the temptation to pay for lunch at work. Sunday we are making tacos and will definitely be cooking shredded chicken in the crock pot – love that thing.

    Hope you have a great weekend!

    1. Crock pots are simply magical. Probably my favorite kitchen appliance. I always brown-bag it to work too. Saves hundreds of dollars.

      Have a good weekend too!

  9. I tried bulk cooking once before and it went well, but not as great as I would have liked. I rushed a lot of things because cooking for so long was not for me back then. I need to try it again!

    1. Because I set up my computer with some TV shows on, I actually enjoy the process. I feel validated binging on TV, because I’m doing something productive.

  10. Whaaatt! Sex in the City isn’t an accurate portrayal of single life in NYC? I feel so betrayed! 🙂 Beyond the whole impact on my pocketbook, I don’t think I could eat every meal out as be as thin as Carrie was. Of course, walking around New York in five-inch heels probably burns a lot of calories. Cooking in bulk is smart. It’s not always easy to muster up the energy to cook a meal after a full day of work. Knowing you have a meal ready to go makes it much easier to go straight home without a deter into a restaurant. I’ll have to check out your interview. What a great and fun opportunity for you and your Dad!

    1. RIGHT?! I felt so lied to after I moved here!

      I was going to mention the waistline implications of eating out all the time too.

      The interview was a blast and it was much less stressful to be on with someone who would have my back.

  11. One of the reasons I really enjoy making casseroles for dinner is they provide multiple meals for me to eat. Although it does require a little bit of pre-cooking but I’ve managed to condense some of that with a rice cooker. It can cook rice and steam veggies while I brown up the meat. Throw everything together in a pan with some cream of whatever (mushroom, celery, etc) and you have a several meals for the week.

  12. I hate my own cooking 🙁 I do make an effort to spend less than $7/day on lunch though. So assuming I keep to that, that’s only $35/week on work lunch + $50 on groceries (breakfast, snacks, and dinner). Kind of reasonable, right?

    1. I didn’t used to like my cooking, but the finances made it so I had to get there. Slow cookers are fool proof though and make pretty much anything taste delicious!

  13. I really need to start bulk cooking some meals. There’s always at least two days during the week when I get lazy and don’t want to cook. In most cases I end up with breakfast for dinner, which isn’t so bad (as opposed to dining out), but it’s not that great nutrition-wise. I also need to get a crockpot! I really liked the interview; you seemed like such a natural on there. That was awesome of your dad to get involved!

    1. Some folks LOVE breakfast for dinner. If you do a healthy omelet that’s a great meal. Crock pots on Amazon are really affordable.

      Thanks for watching the interview. I had a blast!

  14. I’m pretty terrible about making dinners, but trying to get better. Bf doesn’t eat most of the foods that I enjoy (he’d prefer red meat-which I don’t eat), so it’s basically like I’m single when it comes to cooking and feeding myself. I’m going to try some of the recipes in the comments. I’ve been making a lot of the dishes on http://www.skinnytaste.com recently and they are delicious and easy to make (some are in the crockpot some not).

    1. Thanks for the website recommendation. I’ll have to explore their content. Feel free to email me for other recipe advice!

    1. The payoff is absolutely worth the work on the weekend. I do like streaming some shows while I work just to make it feel even more worthwhile.

  15. Cooking in bulk is a great way to save money and time. I recently prepared two sweet potato lasagnas from the Engine 2 book by Rip Esselstyn. Cooked one and froze the other one. With only two of us in the house the first one lasted a long time and we just cooked up the second one to have as a stand by meal when we don’t have time or energy to cook.

    1. Sweet potato lasagna? That sounds pretty tasty. Soup is another great standby meal for me. Easy to freeze and lasts for quite a while.

  16. I am a total fan of bulk cooking, even though I don’t have an office job, but it’s just not something I’ve mastered yet. I can never the the proportion of spices right – something is always askew and I end up spending more time trying to adjust the taste. Unless, I’m cooking Italian dishes. But it sure is a great way to save money, and most importantly, time, so you can actually relax after a long day’s work.

    1. I do have some meals come out tasting a bit off (for example the tomato soup I made last weekend), but luckily I like everything spicy! I just throw some hot sauce on whatever I’m eating and it suddenly tastes great.

  17. What? Not all twenty something New Yorkers eat and drink out daily in their Jimmy Choos?! I am quite shocked,

    I just spent my entire Sunday cooking a huge pot of bolognese sauce, dumplings, and chicken stock. It should last my family of three till Friday.

    One of my favourite things about fall is heart warming stews and soups: boeuf bourguignon, curries, braised anything. Best thing about stews is that it’s easy to make in bulk and eat the rest of the week (or freeze).

    1. Right?! I felt so betrayed!

      Dumplings are on my list of meals to learn.

      Soups and stews are some of my favorite because they’re relatively hard to screw up and if you do then a dash of salt and a few other spices make an easy fix.

  18. I love my slow cooker! I think part of the reason I got so into Pinterest was to hunt down slow cooker meals.

    One of my favorites is Cherry Soda Chicken (ok, so not the healthiest), but you just put 4 chicken breasts, a container of BBQ sauce, 1/2 can of cherry coke and 1/2 a cup of brown sugar on low for 5 hours. The chicken comes apart with a fork and I ate it over rice for a week. I really hate brown rice, but it even made that taste tolerable. The pin for it is here: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/227642956136978124/

    1. That sounds pretty delicious. I’m pretty picky about my BBQ and I’m a big fan of vinegar-based. Thanks for sharing the pin! I am a bit of a pintrest rookie, so I haven’t even explored it for slow cooker meals. That’s a great tip!

  19. Am a foodie – to a large extent. I prefer my food all fresh and straight from the kitchen and knowing that I have adapted and picked simple but nutritious recipes to throw together a meal quickly and efficiently.
    That said, I do see some benefits of cooking in bulk; saving time and the hassle and there are certainly somethings I’d prepare that way eg, soups or some stews.

  20. Cooking in bulk is something that I absolutely need to make more of an effort to do. For one, it will typically mean that I have healthy food available. For two, it will save me a ton on lunch costs. I have been doing better the last week or two, but there is certainly room for improvement.

  21. I would rather buy a Prepared Meal like a Rotticerie Chicken. If there are left-overs I prepare a shepards pie Buy a Honey Ham with Leftovers a Quice, sandwiches. I treasure the weekend I like to hunt for bargains

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