How Batching Saves My Week as a Working Mom

Batching (v): to combine, mix or process in a batch.

I recently participated in Melissa Cassera's International Batching Day where thousands of content creators, on a set day, commit to devoting time solely to creating content in a large batch. The theory is that when you are focused on a single task for a dedicated amount of time, you are much more productive because you get into a rhythm, a "flow", and produce much more than if you tackled it bit by bit over an extended period of time. 

I loved the concept. And while I couldn't devote an entire day to it, the couple of hours I did devote yielded some pretty amazing results. I found that not only did my writing flow more freely, the ideas for future batching sessions also came pouring in. 

How Batching Saves My Week As Working Mom Mother Nurture

What does this have to do with being a mom, running a household, working full-time and juggling everything in between?

Well, as I was writing that day, I realized that I already harness the power of that 'flow' in my weekly schedule, I've just never labeled it that or recognized it as such. One of the best things I do each week to set myself up for success is shop, cook and prepare our meals for the week ahead.

  • Is it easy? Depends on what I'm cooking.

  • Is it fast? Definitely not. You should see me chop vegetables.

  • Is it something I LOVE doing? Let's just say there are other things I enjoy more than meal planning and cooking.

But I do love the week nights when I can come home from work, spend 15 minutes assembling whatever I prepared on Sunday, and go back to building legos, playing catch or piecing together a puzzle with my son. So to me it's worth spending a few hours on a Sunday batching my cooking for the week. 

The Process

Create a Meal Plan and Shopping List

There are probably some great apps out there, but my husband and I use Microsoft OneNote for all things lists. We have a notebook with all of our go-to recipes and I reference that each week to pick out the 4 to 5 I'm going to prepare that week. I usually plan for 1 easy night (leftovers, pizza or breakfast for dinner) and 1 out-to-eat night. I put all of the ingredients on our shopping list and fill in with any extras we need for breakfasts, lunches and snacks.

Do the Shopping

Sunday morning, one of us will head to the store to shop for the week. The earlier the better, though we certainly have our weekends where it's 1pm and we're all still in pajamas and everything gets pushed later in the day.

Batch Cooking

I estimate about 2 hours, sometimes more, for all the cooking and meal preparation. I do as much as I can ahead of time and put meals in the refrigerator for the week. If something really doesn't do well being cooked in advance, I'll do ALL the chopping, portioning, etc. and store those ingredients in containers so all I have to do is dump and cook when I get home from work. I also do things like hard-boil eggs or chop veggies for snacks.

{I attribute learning the art of batch-cooking from a subscription I had to Prep Dish during my first few weeks back to work following maternity leave. This is a great service where you receive a weekly meal list, shopping list and directions that allow you to efficiently prepare everything you need for a week's worth of meals. Most of what I know about how to prepare meals in advance, I learned from Allison's techniques and service. Definitely worth checking out.}

Batching Saves My Week As Working Mom Mother Nurture

Tips for Success

Realistic Time Expectations

As with anything, set your expectations accordingly. You'll be disappointed if you think you can get 4 meals prepared in an hour. Give it a couple of weeks to really get a good sense of how long the process takes you. Go into your batch cooking session with the expectation that it's going to be a few hours in the kitchen.

Tag Team (if you can)

It can be lonely in the kitchen all by yourself, unless that's where you retreat for peace and quiet. If your partner can help, give him/her a task or a dish. Cook together or tag in and out so you're not doing it all alone.

Have a Snack, or better yet, a Drink

Batch cooking is work. There's no way around it. If you're not fueling yourself, you're bound to get hangry. Find that special treat that can be your "cooking day treat" and make the event feel special.

Have Some Pride

When you're finished, stand in front of your open refrigerator and survey your domain. Then think about all the time and stress you just saved yourself in your busy week ahead.

When You Can't Batch - Go for Convenience

You're not going to be able to set aside this much time every single weekend. There are Sundays when things just don't go as planned, where we are out of town or would rather spend the day outside than in the kitchen. I just roll with it. If I'm feeling really ambitious, I'll forge ahead and just do all my cooking late at night after the little one has gone to bed. But it's pretty rare that I will give up my usual bedtime for something like cooking. So instead, on those weeks where I can't prepare in advance, I go for convenience. I'm talking eggs and pancakes, delivery pizza, frozen lasagna or a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. And the key - I don't feel bad about it! I also don't try to cook from scratch after a long day at work. No one wins in that scenario and I would rather spend time with my family so I let convenience win.

Is It Really Worth It?

Whenever I see a question from a new mom about how to juggle it all and be able to spend weeknights being present with their baby instead of doing chores, batching is my advice. I've been doing this for over a year and I can't imagine it any other way. Sure it's a lot of work on the weekend and I don't always look forward to it, but my weeknights are SO relaxed. We play, we go on walks, we read, we do whatever we want to because we're not slaving away in the kitchen just trying to get something on the table.

And when my son is a bit older and no longer napping, I hope that I can include him in the kitchen to help me with some of the cooking. After all, who doesn't love a man who can cook? It's why I married my husband!

Interested in seeing some of my go-to meals that regularly appear in my batch-cooking sessions? Check out my pinterest board "Go To Recipes".