Welcome to another entry in my Frugal Grit series. In case you are new here, this series is full of tactics I personally used to optimize my income. No Speculation here. You will only find experiments and lessons learned from the ground level. For today’s discussion, we are going to chat about batch-cooking.
The case for home cooked meals
Growing up, my dear parents cooked the majority of meals at home. To this day, I still appreciate a good home cooked meal. In addition to the financial savings from home cooked meals, there are also a cornucopia of other benefits! In my situation, these health benefits possibly saved my life and reduced the chance of expensive medical bills due to poor cardiovascular health. It’s funny, but I am starting to notice, most of the healthiest options available for us are also frugal.
And I know what you are saying, eating organic veggies is super expensive. Well, I live in the heartland. The majority of the folks in my zip code don’t have incomes over the national average and the veggies here don’t seem to be that much higher in price than their pesticide-oriented cousins. I will break down the cost and let you decide for yourselves. But just know, all veggies will be organic in this post. I am assuming you own an oven and a slow cooker too.
Batch Cooking 101
Cooking all my food at once freezing it and thawing it out throughout the week has helped me achieve ULTRA FRUGALITY!!! Caps lock and bold font aside, a new level of awesome has been achieved in my household. Keep in mind, I am not in anyway qualified to give dietary advice, but I will be as transparent as possible with my own health results in an effort to encourage experimentation.
Below is a screenshot of all the food I can make in roughly three hours (the whole chicken really depends on your slow cooker).
- Veggie Bean
- Soup Whole Chicken in the slow cooker with vegetables
I know what you are saying, “A weeks worth of food in Three hours?! That seems unrealistic!?” I know, I know. But hear me out. Each item in the screenshot has roughly the same ingredients just different seasoning and sauce to mix up the taste. If requested, I will make a video showing this whole process. But for now, I will do my best to break down the process and recipes. Also, please note, I am not adding in the time spent at the grocery store.
For simplicity, we are going to breakdown this process into three steps
Phase 1: Veggie Prep
- A few bell peppers
- Three whole sweet onions
- Stock of celery
- Mushrooms, Sliced White, 8 oz
- Two Cans of organic low salt corn
- 2 whole Butternut Squash
- 16-20 Roma tomatoes
- 12 oz of Kidney Beans
- 12 oz of Garbanzo beans
- 2 containers of organic low sodium Chicken Broth
- 2-4 whole garlic bulbs
- Green Cabbage
- Whole Raw Chicken organic. (I normally find this bird at Aldi for less than $10 but the price can vary depending on the size).
- Optional: 1 lb. of organic grass fed ground beef (for chili)
- Optional: avocados
- Optional: Jalapeno Peppers (Only if you can handle the spice)
- Ginger Root (grind this on the cheese grader into shreds)
- Italian Seasoning
- Crushed Red Pepper
Now, before you start chopping, grab three big glass containers. For efficiency purposes, some of these ingredients cannot be mixed together.
- Chop all your onions, then spread them evenly throughout the three bowls.
- Chop all your garlic, then spread them evenly throughout the three bowls.
- Chop all your celery, then spread it evenly throughout two bowls on the right hand side of the picture (Veggie Bean soup and chicken soup).
- Chop all your butternut squash into small squares and place them all in one single bowl on the right hand side of the picture (this will be used for the chicken soup).
- Chop all your tomatoes at once and place them in the two bowls on the left (Chili and Veggie bean soup).
- Chop all your peppers at once and place them in the two bowls on the left (Chili and Veggie bean soup).
- Chop all your Mushrooms at once and place them in the two bowls on the left (Chili and Veggie bean soup).
- Open and drain your two cans of corn, poor 1 can into the Chili bowl and then the other can into the Veggie bean soup bowl.
- Chop two cups of raw cabbage for the veggie bean soup.
Phase 2: Turn on the Heat
Now that you have your chili bowl, bean veggie soup bowl, and chicken soup bowl all sorted it’s time to start cooking!
- First, place your chicken soup bowl in the refrigerator we’ll get to him in due time. That should leave you with your Chili and Veggie bean soup.
- As shown in the picture, grab two large pots. Pour your Veggie bean soup mix in one pot and then pour your chili veggie mix in the other pot.
- Put your stove on medium heat for both those pots, pour one cup of water in each pot, then place a lid on both.
- Set a timer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. After your 20 minutes is up, lower both stove burners to somewhere between medium and simmer.
For the raw chicken,
- Lightly Season the bird with Italian seasoning, paprika, crushed red pepper and salt.
- Place the bird inside the slow cooker.
- Let the bird slow cook on high for three hours.
Phase 3: Simmer
Now, if I have articulated this post properly, you should have two pots of veggies simmering on the stove and a raw chicken doing it’s thing in the slow cooker. For both soups,
- Pour 1 cup of chicken broth in each pot.
- Pour a 1/2 cup of water in each pot.
- Pour your beans into both soups on the stove evenly.
- Set a timer in both soups for 40 minutes stirring occasionally.
- If you like meat in your chili, start cooking your ground beef on the stove top in a separate pan. Once the meat is cooked, pour it in the chili pot (I don’t drain the ground beef grease but this is your call).
- After the 40 minute timer goes off, your soup is ready to go!
For the chicken,
- After about 3 hours pour the veggie mix I had you store in the refrigerator right into the slow cooker.
- If you find that the chicken broth juice doesn’t cover all the veggies, pour in some chicken broth. Make sure everything gets covered so it will cook.
- Set the timer for an hour and a half and enjoy! (Please make sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked before you dig in).
This is a subjective subject so ultimately, use your judgment. Personally, I use a few heaping spoonfuls of the following,
- Italian seasoning
- crushed red pepper
For the cilantro, ginger and parsley, I mix them all together in the blender with a little water. Then pour evenly into all the soups.
I try to spend less than $60 per week for all these ingredients. To be honest, I also make my own oatmeal bread (future post on the way). I also mix beans and rice with the recipes mentioned. The total cost of all these items puts me at $80 per week to feed my family of 2. Not a bad deal in my opinion. We don’t only eat the items mention. I am also experimenting with other dishes I can batch cook. Ideally, we try to spend less than $100 per week on food and water. If you need help budgeting your grocery bill, visit the post I created “The envelope hack that saved me hundreds!”
- Do you eat the majority your meals at home?
- Should I make a video along with this post?
- Do you have any better ideas for batch cooking recipes? I need help. 🙂