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Thread: Help: Bulk-cooking lunches for the week

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2017

    Help: Bulk-cooking lunches for the week

    I need help. I do most of the cooking in my house for my wife and my 2 children (2 and 4). We both work full time, and kids do daycare during the week. Life is hectic to say the least but I strive to cook good, tasty, wholesome food for supper and lunches. Usually meat, a grain and some veggies. I feel like I'm an ok cook, and work quickly enough.

    I'm at my wits end however, as I feel I have no sustainable system. I'm endlessly doing groceries... on weekdays I start cooking supper from scratch at 5pm after work. Kids get back from daycare at 5h15 with my wife, and by the time I finish they usually have to wait until 6 to start eating , they get cranky because they are hungry and it's annoying. I try to make a bigger meal to then pack some in Tupperware for lunches for the next day for the 4 of us to bring to work/ daycare ... Kids go to bed at 7h30, then we clean up the kitchen, pack lunches, clean up that mess, and finally done around 9pm. And my day starts at 6am. Go to bed at 10, rince and repeat. This is my rat race, and I feel like I am spending 90% of my "at home" in the kitchen cooking supper, prepping lunches and doing dishes. There must be a better way, preferably one that doesn't involve Kraft Dinner, Dunkaroos and Fruit-Roll-Ups.

    I would be grateful for any feedback or advice from the community regarding this matter, especially people that went through this with kids. I mainly have 2 questions:

    1. Do you guys have a system? A process for grinding out the work week without cooking overtaking all your free time? This system would need to save time for either supper, or lunches, or the holy grail would be a master system that encompasses both. I feel like "bulk cooking" would be the answer... maybe on Sunday just cook lots of food and divide it into Tupperware and freeze...? Or something else?

    2. Depending on answer above, what to cook? Kids have stupid restrictive rules at the daycare because of allergies, no nuts, no sesame, no fish... Any ideas for recipes for bulk cooking? Or prepping large "all in one" meals in advance that freeze well?

    - A tired dad

  2. #2
    Senior Member OliverNuther's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Brisbane, Australia
    I canít help much with lunch ideas but I do a lot of bulk cooking on weekends to make freezeable dinners that can be prepared in minimal time of an evening. This is what I currently have in the freezer.

    Bolognese sauce. This is an obvious and easy one. I make large batches (8kg+) and freeze it in containers big enough to feed my family of 4. Pull a container out of the freezer the day before, defrost in fridge while youíre at work, warm it up in a pot, cook some spaghetti and youíre good to go.

    Meatballs. Iíll make and freeze large quantities of meatballs, some uncooked and some cooked in tomato sauce and frozen in the sauce. The uncooked ones will usually be used for dishes like Swedish meatballs while the ones in tomato sauce will be served over spaghetti or mashed potato.

    Stews/casseroles/braises. I make large quantities of these, vacuum seal them and freeze. The frozen bag goes straight into the sous vide when we get home. Currently I have a couple of bags of beef vindaloo n the freezer. A couple of hours in the sous vide, cook some rice, job done.

    Roast meat. Iíll cook a roast on the weekend, slice it and freeze in sufficient portions for 4. Warm it up in some gravy, cook some veg and thatís it.

    Soups are another easy choice. Left over soup can often be repurposed into a pasta sauce without much effort.

    Hope this helps.

  3. #3
    Senior Member OliverNuther's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Brisbane, Australia
    Getting creative with leftovers can help also. We had pork ribs for dinner last night and had a few left over. Tonight we chopped the meat up, fried off some bacon and onion, added some bbq sauce and a touch of sour cream and served it over rice. A bit unconventional but tasty nonetheless.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    WildBoar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Easy enough to make bulk food for weekday dinners by making a couple of big items on Saturday/ Sunday. A roast chicken may cover two nights. A really big bath of braised chicken thighs (there are many ways to cook them) should cover 2 nights. Make a sauce for pasta that will cover at least one night. Things like big trays of lasagna, eggplant parm, etc. can cover a few nights as well. And if they like soups, that's a pretty easy thing to do, as you can make a big batch of chicken/ beef/ veg stock on the weekend and quickly make a batch of soup from it during the week.

    Lunches are trickier, especially given the ages of your kids. Sandwiches are easy, but a 2 year old may not be too crazy about that. Also you can't really do anything hot. I'd look mainly at fruit and pouches of pureed fruit/ veg, etc., and maybe some slices of a lunchmeat and cheese not in sandwich form (at least not for the 2-year-old). My son was crazy about the pouches until he was past 4.

    Good luck!
    David (WildBoar's Kitchen)

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    The good news is that your kid's ages, they don't eat much. So bulk cooking can go far. A vacuum sealer can greatly simplify the process too. Start small - maybe one or two large pots of whatever - a soup they love or marinara sauce and pasta. Portion it in vacuum bags and seal it. Freeze and it can thaw while waiting for lunch time when pulled from the freezer. Add more every week and you will soon not have to worry about fixing lunches each night. And once you reach that point, you might feel like fixing something during the week once in a while. Of course, you could just use these frozen lunches to fill in for the times you can't or don't feel like making lunches at night.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Xenif's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2018
    Toronto, Canada
    Many working families here in Canada use the InstantPot to help with the dinner/lunch prep. Its just an eletronic pressure cooker, but helps a lot, you can cook something in the morning and have it stay warm for 10 hrs. Or have something in the pot with delay start.
    Im a dad of 2 and I take 2 more during the day, one of the things I always have in the freezer is dumplings and potstickers, once made can stay for months, only require boiling water or hot pan to reheat, 10 mina from frozen.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    When my kids were little I made one salad a day, but three days worth. I rotated between a protein, a grain and a vegetable salad.

    On Wednesday I had the dregs of the monday salad, the leftovers from Tuesday and the fresh one I made that day.

    Here's a link that may help:

    Also, the people at food52 have done a lot of writing on planning meals for the week

    "an old dad"

    ps-2&4 year olds are f-ing tough to cook for. It's easier when they're 22 & 24, that's when they'll appreciate you! Keep your chin up.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    There was a comment somewhere about lessons for new cooks/chefs,
    along the likes of "understand a kitchen is a game of logistics".
    I took me a long time to understand what this meant.

  9. #9
    Senior Member erickso1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Austin, TX
    Father of a 3 and 6 year old. One in daycare and one in Kinder. Both parents works. I feel you pain.

    Dinners - Weekends are when we do the bigger cooking. Winter it is hearty soups/stews that can be repurposed during the week. (Bowl of hearty stew Sunday night, stew on rice Monday, etc). Summer is grilled meats. Chicken thighs/legs (kids love the legs) night one, tacos night two. We always have ground meat around. Burgers night one, chopped meat sandwiches or some type of rice dish night two.

    During the week if we are cooking, it is a quick cooking protein or grain that can take some abuse if we get distracted. I will second what Xenif said. Instapot is great.

    As for the kids lunches. What I typically do is have a fruit, a veggie and some type of sandwich.

    Prior to our grocery store run on Sundays I ask them the following questions regarding their lunches.
    What veggie. Some weeks it cherry tomatoes, some carrots, some snap peas, bell peppers, etc.
    I then ask them what fruit. Blueberries, grapes, melon, oranges (clementines).
    Then what lunch meat. Bologna, ham, turkey.
    I use slider buns for bread. They love seeing the small bun and large cuts of deli meat.
    I'll also throw in one of those Baby bell cheeses.
    Yeah, they get the same lunch each day during the week, but realistically I'm trying to get them nutrients at daycare, not expand their palates.

    I can pack these lunches in the morning if I want,or quickly prep them at night.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    my 5 year old just finished up day care/ pre school. We ended up using a bunch of those tiny little rubbermaid containers packed into her lunch box. We would just cut up celery, carrots, fruit, cheese, lunch meat, sometimes bread. Basically just a healthier version of a lunchable. Thats about all she would want to eat. Side note: anytime we put a snack type thing in there, thats the only thing she would eat. So we saved the snacks for home only.

    Dinner is a much bigger challenge for sure. We also like to cook from scratch but we frequently find ourselves not eating until 7 or even 8 oclock. By the end of the week so tired and its all too easy to order takeout. I learned to buy chicken breasts and freeze them individually, dethaw in microwave, split them in half so they cook very quickly, throw em on a plate with some quick vegetable. Pork chops are also not too bad with a rub, seared and then baked if they are thick ones. Still though, with prep and 30 minutes of cook time and kids it still take an hour to get dinner on the table. Then the 5 year old doesnt eat it anyway.....ahhh. Meatballs probably is the single best thing to make in mass and freeze. I always had better luck freezing them in small amount of sauce.

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