Batch cooking is a nice way to save some money and it’s also the best way to control your health and waistline.
I see a lot of my friends gaining weight just because they enjoy the convenience of bready or noodly lunches. Those lunches are profitable for restaurants to sell and seemingly a good value, but they leave you with an excess of calories and food that’s harder to digest, causing you to drag in the afternoon.
Low-carb cooking is great for weight control as well as for energy. I don’t crash in the afternoon after these meals. If I stick to these meals during the week, I can relax on the weekend and eat out more without seeing any ill effects.
Two hours a week is all you need for this. I’ll run through some scenarios that will take longer and then circle back to a two-hour method if you need it all done fast.
Build your bowl
Most restaurant meals crush you with carbs. We’re gonna flip that around and build a bowl that’s mostly vegetables and legumes.
- Vegetables (40%)
- Carbs (20%)
- Legumes (20%)
- Protein (20%)
Vegetables (40% of the bowl)
Veg takes the longest so it’s best to start these first. Both prep and roasting time are time consuming.
With all veg, season with olive oil, salt and pepper. If you like spicy food, sprinkle some red pepper flakes on them too.
You can combine different veg on the same sheet tray, but you’ll have to remove each when they’re done which can be annoying but does save time.
- Roasted carrots: The smaller the carrot the faster it cooks. Get these in the oven first, they take the longest. 400 degrees, anywhere between 30-60 mins depending on size. When done they should be soft enough to bite into easily but still resistant. You don’t want them mushy.
- Roasted broccoli/cauliflower: Smaller pieces roast faster. 400 degrees, takes about 15-20 mins. If you leave it in longer, in my opinion, it gets better, the broccoli will get darker and more flavorful. Roasted asparagus. You’ll want to trim bases of these, probably the first inch so it’s easier to chew. 400 degrees, 13-15 minutes.
- Roasted brussels sprouts: I like buying these when they’re already shredded up since it’s a lot of work getting it to that state without using a food processor. Trader joes sells them in a nice pre-shred pack. 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. You’ll know when they’re done. In addition to salt and pepper, I usually add good balsamic vinegar to them.
- Mushrooms: These spoil the fastest so never buy these ahead. I like to buy the pre-washed pre-cut ones so I can get cooking really fast. Cook with a combination of oil and butter. Butter and thyme are the ultimate companions for mushrooms. I recommend stepping up the amount of butter and thyme you use every time until you’re happy with the flavor. Adding Dijon mustard adds a ton of flavor as well.
- Power greens (lettuce tub): Buy the pre-washed power greens with the longest sell by date you can find. I’m lazy and end up microwaving these with the rest of my lunch. If you’re not lazy you can separate them out to either have as a salad in a separate tupperware or pull out the greens, microwave your lunch and add them back after.
- Sauerkraut / Kimchi: These require no prep and add a ton of flavor.
- Pickled jalapenos: Ready to go from a jar
- Pepperoncini peppers: Ready to go from a jar
Carbohydrates (20% of bowl)
These are the elements that you dial up and down depending on how trim you want to be. Too little of these will leave you hungry in the afternoon, often in search for things like crackers or sweets. Too much will cause you to gain weight. I recommend adding a small amount at first and dialing up later depending on how you feel in the afternoon.
- Rice: People say brown rice has more nutrients and doesn’t shock your system with insulin as fast. I don’t know if that’s true but I’m brainwashed and often cook more brown rice. Usually takes about 40 minutes. If you mix it with beans, I recommend cooking around 2 cups for the week (1 cup uncooked). If you’re not mixing, cook 4 cups. Follow package instructions.
- Potatoes: I like buying the mini potatoes but definitely buy organic when possible. Potatoes are some of the dirtiest crops. These also take forever, usually at 45-60 minutes in the oven at 400 so get them started asap. They go with almost any seasoning so go nuts but definitely try garlic, rosemary and thyme.
Legumes (20% of bowl)
You can eat pretty much unlimited beans or lentils and not gain weight. They’re a great source of protein, great for you and cheap as hell. My favorite black bean, the HEB one with jalapenos and lime is $0.72 / can.
Beans: (black and pinto beans) Be careful to only buy ones that don’t add sugar. This will sabotage any diet goals. Also be mindful of the salt content. You can buy no salt added beans if you’re happy with the salt level in your overall bowl. I like to salt my rice and obviously everything else so if you feel like you’re getting crushed with salt, you can use unsalted beans as a way to dial back. I usually use 4 cans of beans and rinse them off in a colander and parcel into tupperware once a week. They say rinsing beans helps rid them of their gassy affect. If you’re on a low carb diet or paleo, replace all rice with beans and maybe even add more beans than 20% of the bowl. This will keep you full longer and keep your body burning fat.
Lentils: I rarely get sick of beans but when I do, I’ll make lentils. You can get these in a can but the quality is better when you make them in a saucepan. I like buying the HEB lentils with the seasoning packet. Follow instructions, takes about 40 mins.
Protein (20% of bowl)
Often times people just think about the main protein in their lunch and neglect the other stuff. A lot of research is suggesting that reducing animal protein and eating more vegetables is better for your longevity and heart health. Also I feel better about life when I’m not eating a ton of animals if I can comfortably avoid it. Cows are cute.
You want to have 2 of these around because you’ll get sick of the same protein.
- Ground beef: Usually takes about 10 mins in a skillet. Goes great with taco seasoning, scallions, garlic, soy sauce or even fish sauce.
- Ground turkey: I like to add herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano. Also scallions, garlic, maybe some white vinegar of some sort to make it lively. Add vinegar at the end.
- Rotisserie chicken: This is the ultimate hack for lazy meal prep. Buy one of these and break it down into tupperware, bite sized pieces, immediately when you get home. Should give you 3-4 days of good chicken for the week.
- Chicken Breast or thigh: Thigh has more fat but is cheaper and tastes better.
- Canned sardines: These are great for a pinch when you run out of other things. They stay in the closet forever. They’re also great when you want some fish in your diet. Here’s the brand I like that you can find at HEB. Warning: they are spicy. Canned tuna is also good but has far more heavy metals in it and is less sustainable.
- Hardboiled eggs: Easy to make and very cheap.
- Tofu: You gotta buy hard tofu, dehydrate is as much as possible with paper towels and cut into 1in x 1in x 0.5in pieces. Then you hit it with salt and pepper and pan fry it as much as you can until you get good color on both sides.
- Seitan: They call this wheat meat. It’s a vegetarian protein option. I like the Mr. Upton brand, the Italian sausage flavor the best. You don’t even need to cook this, you just put in a tupperware, break it up so it’s not all stuck together and microwave with the rest of your bowl.
It’s nice to drizzle something on top of this bowl. I’m a huge fan of spicy stuff so I usually amp up the heat here.
- Hot sauce
- Franks Redhot
- Yellowbird Habenero Condiment
- Nando’s Piri Piri sauce
- Sambal Olek
- Soy sauce
- Any salad dressing
- Miso dressing
- Cilantro chutney
The two-hour method
Ok so you’re strapped for time. Here’s how to hack the hell out of this to make this only two hours of your time.
- Cook a cup of rice, that will fill one of those tupperwares and will last you the whole week if not more.
- Cook the mushrooms
- Microwave 2 bags of cut broccoli/cauliflower/carrot. It’ll say to do it for 3.5 minutes but thats too much. Do it for 2 minutes. When done, toss with salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.
- Open two cans of beans, rinse them off in a colander, put in tupperware.
- Take apart a rotisserie chicken into bite sized pieces and put into tupperware.
- Cook off some hamburger patties with salt and pepper.
- Sautee an entire baby kale lettuce tub with some salt and pepper. This reduces the volume of the greens and adds flavor so you don’t have to make a separate salad and dress it.
- Take a tub of organic grape tomatoes and sautee until they break down a bit. Season with salt, pepper, red pepper flake and some balsamic vinegar.
If you’re working concurrently with items cooking, you should be able to do all of that within two hours.
Hack vegetable making in the microwave. Saves washing, chopping cooking time and cleaning time of cooking equipment. Cook for 2 minutes, not 3:30.
So get cooking!
This is a really straightforward way to take control over your diet and health. The time is worth it. Try waking up on a Sunday and getting it all done before noon. Everybody will be jealous of your lunches and you’ll feel amazing at work.
Appendix: Why no fruit or dairy?
This style of eating is based on Tim Ferriss’s “Slow carb diet” which I found was a very effective way to lose and control weight. Most of the diet is similar to Paleo. Fruit and dairy is not allowed mostly because of the way those foods affect your blood sugar.
If you’re trying to lose weight, I recommend clicking that link and checking it out. What’s fun about this diet is you can go absolutely nuts on Saturday and eat whatever you want in unlimited quantities the whole day (cheat day). It helped me and several people I know stick with the diet. It’s nice to be able to go to some savage place like Cinnabon or Gourdough’s and feel absolutely no guilt. The food I described in this article is compliant with the Slow Carb Diet if you remove the rice.