Tighter times are causing many people to return to simple, old-fashioned meals that have practical shopping and cooking strategies. Bulk cooking can cut your monthly grocery bill, the overall amount of time you spend in the kitchen and the grocery store in a big way. Whether you have a large or small kitchen and storage, bulk cooking can work for you. Here’s how to save big time and money:
Stock your pantry
Having a well-stocked pantry and freezer can make lean times a bit easier or even just simplify a busy day. In order for bulk cooking to work for your family, you do need to think about how you cook and eat and choose the right foods and the right bulk-cooking options for your specific needs. Nearly everyone, especially if you have children, can take advantage of some bulk cooking and shopping strategies to save money. Bulk shopping and cooking allows you to take advantage of specials, sales and coupons.
What is bulk cooking
If you envision 50-pound sacks of flour when you hear bulk cooking, think again. Bulk cooking today for many people consists of not just buying in bulk, but preparing in bulk. Having easy, prepared foods at hand in your kitchen will prevent last-minute pizza deliveries or exhausted meals of cold cereal after a busy day. The simplest form of bulk cooking is to simply make two, instead of just one. If it’s lasagna for dinner, make two and put one straight in the freezer. Soon, you will have a stockpile of quick, easy meals to rely on when you don’t want to cook. You can also make and freeze items in single-serve sizes to reduce expenses and make lunches away from home more convenient. Some people opt for once- or twice-a-month cooking, preparing and freezing a large amount of meals for use in the coming days.
There are several things to consider when planning bulk cooking: Space, budget, and time are all important factors. You can cook in bulk without a separate freezer; however, you may need to shop on cooking day and only cook two weeks’ worth of meals. Budgeting for bulk cooking when you’re just starting out can be difficult. Consider adding just an extra meal or two into a week’s cooking or take advantage of a good sale. One popular bulk-cooking strategy is to prepare and freeze meats already cooked and seasoned. This can allow you to buy a 10-pound roll of hamburger or to purchase 10 pounds of chicken breasts when they are on sale. If time is tight, committing to bulk cooking can be difficult. Consider taking just a couple hours once a week to make an extra few meals. Soon, you’ll find that the time saved nightly is well worth this investment.
How much time does bulk cooking take? Browning hamburger ahead of time or chopping all the onions you will need for a week takes very little time. You can also use a slow cooker to prepare bulk cooked foods with very little hands-on time and take advantage of slow cooking to tenderize tougher, less expensive cuts of meat. While once a month or twice a month bulk cooking can take most of a day or an evening, you will be able to feed your family healthy meals throughout the week with very little time at all. Do as much or as little bulk cooking as works for your family. For some people, a single long cooking day a month that fills the freezer is worthwhile while others will simply opt to chop, wash and prep items for a few days in one shot to save time and trouble. Even basic preparation can reduce your reliance on costly prepared foods.
If you take bulk cooking seriously, consider gardening or visiting local farm stands and canning your own foods for later in the year. Simple fruits and tomato products can easily and with only minimal equipment. Enjoy homemade pie fillings, jams, salsas and tomato sauces year-round. You might also consider baking bread for your family to take advantage of saving with bulk buying and cooking. Bread dough can be kept in the refrigerator and baked as needed, allowing you good quality artisan style bread without the price.