In Clean Eating's newest online course, Batch Cooking 101: Cook Once, Eat All Week, Pamela Salzman, certified holistic health counselor and cooking instructor, revolutionizes the concept of make-ahead meals with easy-to-learn recipes and seven weeks of in-depth lessons on shopping, planning and cooking. Ready to learn more? Sign up here.
You're busy, you're tired, you have no idea what to cook. Sound familiar? Whether you're flying solo and clocking late hours or a working parent with a schedule stretched too thin, we've all found ourselves struggling to make mealtime work—especially as healthy eaters.
That's where batch cooking comes in. It's by no means a new idea, but one that Pamela Salzman has perfected as a certified holistic health counselor, cooking instructor, and professional batch cooking boss. The idea is to power cook your way through Sunday, in order to have a steady stream of healthy, assembly-only meals to take you through the week.
Question is, how do you actually pull it off? We caught up with Salzman from her Los Angeles home to get her top tips.
"It's about not allowing yourself to be swayed by common excuses," Salzman says. For her, that means having a plan (more on that below), and then setting aside time on the weekend to see that plan through. "I'm trying to support the person I want to be," Salzman says. "I eat to support the way I want to feel on daily basis. Food can really effect you day-to-day, and I enjoy feeling light on my feet. By eating clean I can think clearly. And especially now that I’m so busy and work so much, I need the energy. I can't mess around!"
Create a Meal Grid
Taking a cue from her mother, Salzman sits down every Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning with a binder of printed recipes to create her meal plan for the week. "Ever since I got married," she confirms. "I've never not had a meal plan for a week. Very rarely do I wake up and not know what I'm cooking for dinner."
Taking time to do this helps Salzman eat clean, but it also removes daily stress. "I'm not that great at opening the fridge and seeing what I can whip together," she says. "I don't see how people who aren't in the food industry do that. It's pretty stressful and kind-of hard! I don't like that dinner cloud hanging over my head. For me, it's such a waste of time when I'm trying to be productive."
Here's how she does it:
1) Look at the week ahead and plan based on who will be at dinner and scheduled events and activities. (Soccer game night? Go easy. Husband away? Serve something he may not care for—in Salzman's case, that's pork.)
2) Follow a weekly grid. For Salzman, that means she makes fish every Monday, two nights out of the week are vegetarian and steak happens only three times a month. Knowing ahead which type of protein you'll eat every night of the week makes it that much faster to decide on what you're cooking.
3) Give yourself a night off. For Salzman, that's Saturday, when her family heads out for dinner or orders in.
Keep Your Kitchen Stocked
"Maybe you had a plan, but now you're a half-hour late and you can't make the recipe you had in mind. That's why you always need to have a back pocket recipe; something you can pull together in a couple of minutes," she says. Her four favorites to keep on hand include:
BPA-free canned beans. Salzman will use them as the foundation for grain bowls, or sauté onions with garlic, cumin and salt and combine that with the beans and cooked vegetables, which can be served over rice or wrapped in tortillas.
Pasta. Salzman will quickly sauté vegetables and add either beans or cheese to the mix.
Homemade salad dressing. "I always keep a bottle of salad dressing I make every weekend," she says. "Good dressing can pull a lot of ingredients into a meal."
Eggs. "Don't underestimate eggs! I eat eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner," Salzman says. Scrambled, fried, poached, in a frittata or turned into tacos—it's all good. "Eggs go with everything. There isn’t a leftover I haven't tried with eggs!"
With some planning and the right ingredients on hand, all of your meals can be ready in a matter of minutes. Assemble and go! Watch an example of how batch cooking can pay off during dinnertime:
Ready to become a batch cooking boss? Sign up for Batch Cooking 101: Cook Once, Eat All Week with Pamela Salzman.