Cooking up a storm


Autumn is here!  I am ready to come indoors and cook. I mean… REALLY cook.  Apples, root vegetables, stews, soups and muffins are on my mind these days.

Being a dietitian, working part-time here at Dayton Children’s, and a mother of three  boys, I try to use my days off as cooking days (in addition to running the kids around).  I don’t cook all day long, but I try and plan ahead and batch cook.

Batch cooking includes:

  • Cooking large amounts of food and freezing for future use
  • Taking advantage of grocery and seasonal produce deals

What are the benefits to batch cooking?

  • Taking the time to cook with your kids, possibly several meals at a time, will result in meals for the week or even month (and give them skills to last a lifetime)
  • Cooking with fresh ingredients provides less fat, calories and sodium at meal time
  • Costs less in the end compared to dining on convenience foods and/or outside the home

How to batch cook:

  • Buy large volumes of 90/10 ground sirloin (can be cheaper in larger volumes at a super store).  Cook off meat loaves (eat one and freeze the others).  Or,brown all the ground beef and store cooked one pound servings in your freezer for future taco night, spaghetti meal, chili etc…
  • Buy the huge pork tenderloin when on sale at the grocery. Cut the raw pork into half, put into freezer bags for future pork crock pot meals.  Bake one tenderloin, shred it, eat part of it and freeze the other portion for a future shredded pork meal.
  • Make pans of lasagna, pasta bakes, stuffed shells.  Add canned diced tomatoes to your sauce for extra Vitamin C. Add meatballs/lean ground beef or even just veggies to the pan.  Freeze the meal and thaw the day prior to cooking it.
  • Make a soup or stew on Saturday or Sunday and eat part of it and freeze leftovers for future dinners and/or lunches at work.  Add beans, barley, quinoa and root veggies.  If you intend to make the soup or stew and freeze it all, then consider slightly undercooking the vegetables and grains in your soup for a better taste when reheated.  Or, add the pasta to the dish when reheating.
  • Take advantage of seasonal produce.  Buy cheap, wash, cut and freeze.  This can be done with berries, peppers, onions and celery.  Can or freeze homemade salsas and tomato sauces.  Make applesauce from scratch without sugar.  The kids will have fun helping with this!
  • Make homemade muffins and cookies with your kids. Add chopped nuts, dried berries and dark chocolate. Eat some now and freeze a bag or 2 for future bake sales or yummy family treats.
  • When freezing liquds it is very important to consider leaving a ¼ inch for expansion in your container.  When thawing your meal, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, not on the kitchen counter.  Reheat in the microwave or on the stove.
  • Label your frozen meals accordingly.  Note the food made, date made and the date to discard. Please refer to the link from the USDA for freezing and storage guidelines:

By: Becky Gonter-Dray, RD CSP LD

Becky is Board Certified as a Specialist in Pediatric Nutrition and has been a dietitian for over 16 years, working in pediatrics for 12 years.  Since she has been at Dayton Children’s, she has worked mainly in the pediatric intensive care unit. Becky is also a mother of three boys and enjoys cooking with them at their home in Troy, Ohio.


  1. Reply
    Jane Hovey October 12, 2011

    Batch cooking is perfect for working mothers. Go Becky!

  2. Reply
    Edith Meyers October 12, 2011

    That was a goodread. You gave a lot of great suggestions. We have benefitted from your cooking and appreciate it. What is quinoa? Keep up the good work.

  3. Reply
    Ann Meyers October 12, 2011

    Teaching children to be involved in the food preparation and cooking process really is a “teachable” moment for parents. Great insight and great ideas, Becky!

  4. Reply
    Rita Hess October 13, 2011

    What a great idea! Since my kids are starting to leave the nest I can “batch cook” and save some meals for later in the month or when they get home from college. Great insight Becky!

  5. Reply
    Nick H October 14, 2011

    Great advice. And all this time I’ve been playing golf on my days off instead of batch cooking. I was wondering what I was gonna do all winter. No I know.

    To Edith Meyers: Quinoa is only the sacred crop of ancient Inca tribes. It is used primarily for its seeds and is similar to grain. It has great nutritional value as it is high in protein. Most of the world’s Quinoa is produced in Peru, approximately 40 thousand metric tons!

    To Ann Meyers: It could also in this case be good to teach children metric conversions. If 1 metric ton equals 2,204.6 lbs, how many pounds of Quinoa is that? (88,184,000 pounds!)

    To Jane Hovey: That is perfect for working mothers! But also because there are about 85 million mothers in the US, that more than 1 pound of Quinoa per mother per year if the US could get all of Peru’s Quinoa.

    That’s alot of BATCH COOKING! Can’t wait to start! Thanks for the help!

  6. Reply
    Susan H October 26, 2011

    These are great ideas! Another great resource for batch cooking is – menus, grocery lists and step-by-step instructions are available on the 1st of each month. Menus include diet, whole foods and gluten-free as well as traditional! Quantities are scalable to the size of your family and how many meals you want to have. Check it out!

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