It’s hot. Well, actually, it’s not hot for the first time in a couple of weeks, which is where the idea for this post originated. One of the biggest problems with doing a lot of cooking in the summer can be that cooking heats up your house when you’re trying to keep it cool. Electricity isn’t cheap, nor is it environmentally friendly to just adjust the thermostat to compensate for the heat in the kitchen. So, what’s a girl to do?
There are several answers to this, including using the grill (which we do), crockpotting (which we do), and eating cold meals (which we do). Those solutions, however, don’t answer the need to do things like make staples, like bread and stock. The best answer I’ve found to that dilemma is batch cooking, which is what I am doing today. Batch cooking is essentially just making several meals or staples all at once, then storing them until later.
Batch cooking takes a bit of organization, but can save you a mint. For example, it’s been 90+ degrees out with high humidity for a while now, and so if we didn’t batch cook, we’d have either had to buy bread or bake it and heat the house up. Instead, we baked a bunch and froze it, then looked at the weather to find a day we could bake again (Thadd’ll be doing this tonight). This saves us the cost of buying bread or cooling the house.
Really, all you need to batch cook is a meal plan, a weather forecast (if it’s summer and this is a concern), and a few hours. We do our meal plans two weeks out, then check the forecast to see what day(s) we can cook with the house open. If we can’t find a cool enough day, we do it at night. We will cook a few meals that hold over well, make our soup stocks, and do any baking. Then, everything goes in the refrigerator or freezer for later. It’s good to do things that can be used in many different ways, too, so here’s what we’re doing:
Mojo pork loin. This will be dinner tonight (sided with three-potato salad), and make sandwiches for the rest of the week.
Southern BBQ Chicken. This is tomorrow’s dinner to use up leftover burger buns, and for lunches this week. The rest will be frozen for use at a later date.
Chicken stock. Made from recent meals of roasted chicken, any remaining meat was taken from the bone and frozen for use in soups or as lunch meat. The stock will be used for lentil soup later this week.
Vegetable stock. Leftover veggie scraps make the best stock, and this one has asparagus, mushrooms, onion, garlic, and a bunch of other things I’ve been saving in a baggie in the freezer. This will get frozen in quart containers to be used at a later date.
Bread. Thadd will be baking our whole-wheat sandwich bread tonight, with several loaves going in the freezer. I think he’s also making a dessert bread.
Muffins. Since we’ll have the oven on, I’ll be making breakfast muffins. Some will get frozen so I can grab them later, and some will be left out for me to munch on this week. It’s a good use of oven time and electricity.
Most of this is happening in the background of my day. The chicken is crockpotting, the pork is marinating for the grill tonight, and the stocks are simmering on the stove. Batch cooking like this is easy to do while you’re home on your day or evening off, especially with a slow cooker or two. You can cook a chicken in the slow cooker, debone it, then make stock in the cooker. The meat gets used in as lunch meat (we grind ours with pickle and spices), and if you’ve got enough in a casserole (mac and cheese, for example) or in a soup (white & black bean white chili!).
Cooking this way means a lower electric bill, great meals ready to go, and less risk of us spending way too much money on crappy food eating out!