How to Cook Meals in Bulk, Part 1: Bulk Grocery Shopping
This is part 1 of a series of posts that will show you how to cook meals in bulk for the week in a few short hours.
My goal is to keep these posts short and simple to prove that anyone can do this so long as they have easy-to-follow instructions.
Let’s get started! I made a short video of all the food I bought on a Sunday morning to do my bulk meal preparation later in the day. Check it out:
How to Plan Your Bulk Grocery Shopping
You want to be as efficient as possible with your meal planning – make notes to the following questions:
- Do I have a meal plan? (If not, do this first)
- Do I have recipes selected to make my meals for the week?
- Do I have an ingredients list?
- Do I have to adjust quantities (based on the recipes) for the number of meals and servings you need to cook?
- What food staples do I already have at home?
Your meal plan should consist of:
- The meals you plan to cook (e.g. Roasted Mango chicken: 6 servings; Slow cooker beef roast: 6 servings, etc.)
- The recipes you will use to cook each meal
- A grocery shopping list based on the work above.
There will often be overlap between recipes. For example, many meat dishes call for garlic and onions. Instead of buying six cloves of garlic or just two onions, buy garlic bulbs and a bag of cooking onions, which will last for weeks if you keep them in a dark place, like in a cupboard. If the recipe is very specific about ingredients, like using a red onion, do whatever you feel is best.
Next, decide what food staples you already have at home. I always have a full pantry of food staples that I regularly replenish. I have 30 or more herbs and spices, a variety of cooking oils, hot sauces, salsa, frozen fruit, fresh fruit, and various canned goods like Roma tomatoes, peanut butter, beans, etc. Since I cook in bulk every week, this makes my life a lot easier.
Finally, do you have any leftover unprepared food in your fridge, e.g. salad, vegetables, milk products, condiments like sauces, pesto, mustards, etc.?
The recipes you’ve selected for your meal plan may call for ingredients that you already have. Knowing what you have on hand means less food waste. For example, I decided to make a chicken dish with fresh mango only because I had a very large ripe mango in my fridge that I needed to eat before it went bad.
Getting Creative in the Kitchen
One more tip: if you have food that doesn’t get used during your bulk cooking — like oils, spices, onions, or vegetables — don’t worry. You can get creative and make up something on the spot or store the food for later in the week.
For example, say you needed carrots and celery for a dish but you only used half of the celery and half of a 3-pound bag of carrots. Make a salad of grated carrots, finely chopped celery, one onion, finely chopped ginger, olive oil, white wine vinegar, and some chopped walnuts.
Alternatively you could use these vegetables during the week to add to a dinner salad, or to have with nuts or nut butters as a snack at work.
Purchased Grocery Items
To wrap up part 1 of this series, here’s a list of the groceries I bought, as shown in the video. The total cost was about $150 (CAD). This will feed my partner and I for about six to seven days.
- 6 chicken breast
- 3 lbs. eye of round beef roast
- 3 lbs. minced turkey
- Non-GMO, hormone-free bacon
Vegetables & Fruit
- Bag of mini red potatoes
- Sweet potato
- Bunch of carrots
- Red onion
- Red beet
- Red pepper
- Brussels Sprouts
- Butternut (Winter) squash
- Mini cucumbers
- Romain lettuce
Canned, Frozen & Dairy
- Frozen mango chunks and wild blueberries
- Mozzarella cheese
- 2% cottage cheese
- Canned tuna
- Olive Oil Mayonnaise
- Large-flake, slow cook oats
Food Staples I Had at Home
- 1 large, fresh mango
- Cooking onions, garlic
- Olive, sesame, coconut oils, herbs, spices, balsamic vinegar, Worcester Sauce
- Red wine
- Walnuts, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries
What Does Bulk Meal Preparation Look Like?
One of the biggest challenges with bulk cooking is knowing how to plan and organize your food preparation and cooking sequence.
In Part 2 of this ‘How to Cook Meals in Bulk’ series I’ll detail my bulk meal preparation flow based on the ingredients listed above. After part two I’ll post the recipes and a final wrap-up post.