Food: How Big-Batch Cooking Will Help You Make Dinner (and Breakfast) (and Lunch) With Your Ingredient Stash

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Making a big batch of something to eat is a great way to take a break. From the news, from keeping kids busy, from work, from worrying. And it has the bonus of providing you with the building blocks of meals that you can pull together in just a few minutes, so that when you are working or worrying, you can make dinner with only a little effort. Use the guides below to help you figure out how to make the most of your freezer stash of ground meat or your perhaps-overzealous purchase of fresh berries.

Chicken, Pork, and Beef

MAKE-AHEAD SHEET-PAN MEATBALLS

a bowl of food on a plate: Drop meatballs into chicken broth with pasta and spinach for a quick soup. © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Olivia Mack Anderson Drop meatballs into chicken broth with pasta and spinach for a quick soup.

This recipe makes a whopping 75 meatballs. If you don't have 3 pounds of ground beef and a pound of Italian sausage on hand, though, you can adjust for what you do have. Scale down the ingredients if you need to, or swap out the 4 pounds of meat for whatever is in your kitchen: ground lamb, turkey, pork, or chicken. If you're leaving out the sausage, toss in a few spices (a little crushed red pepper, oregano, garlic powder, or whatever else you like).

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No milk? You can also use alt-milk or chicken stock.

Once the meatballs are formed, freeze them and bake straight out of the freezer. Cook as many as you need at any given time for meatball sandwiches, soups, rice bowls, and more.

Read More: 12 Dinner Ideas for Make-Ahead Meatballs

Make-Ahead Sheet-Pan Meatballs

  How Big-Batch Cooking Will Help You Make Dinner (and Breakfast) (and Lunch) With Your Ingredient Stash © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Olivia Mack Anderson

SLOW-COOKER SHREDDED CHICKEN

a pizza sitting on top of a plate of food: Shredded chicken plus a jar of salsa and a can of black beans add up to this soul-satisfying dinner. © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Anna Stockwell Shredded chicken plus a jar of salsa and a can of black beans add up to this soul-satisfying dinner.

Having a stash of shredded chicken on hand means meals are that much easier to put together whenever someone in the house grows hungry. Toss the meat in a yogurt dressing and pile onto sandwiches, mix with broth and noodles for a quick soup, add to a stir-fry, or stuff it into tacos with jarred salsa, refried beans, and whatever toppings you can find.

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Read More: 12 Dinner Ideas for Shredded Chicken

Slow-Cooker Shredded Chicken

a bowl filled with different types of food on a plate © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Olivia Mack Anderson

MAKE-AHEAD CRISPY CHICKEN CUTLETS

a plate of food on a table: Slice cooked cutlets and serve over rice with a three-ingredient teriyaki sauce. © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Prop Styling by Beatrice Chastka, Food Styling by Kat Boytsova Slice cooked cutlets and serve over rice with a three-ingredient teriyaki sauce.

Is there anything more satisfying or soul-soothing than crispy breaded chicken? I submit that there is not. And with this recipe you get a stash of breaded cutlets without the need for lots of frying oil. That's because the cutlets are baked from frozen, after which you can cover them with tomato sauce and mozz for a chicken Parm, layer onto rolls with refried beans and salsa for a cemita riff, or simply slice into fingers and dip in ranch or honey mustard.

Read More: 11 Dinner Ideas for Crispy Chicken Cutlets

Make-Ahead Crispy Chicken Cutlets

a large chocolate cake on a grill: This is hands-down the easiest way to make delicious chicken cutlets for your family—no messy dredging or frying required! Stash a big batch in the freezer so they're ready to cook at a moment's notice. See recipe. © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Prop Styling by Beatrice Chastka, Food Styling by Kat Boytsova This is hands-down the easiest way to make delicious chicken cutlets for your family—no messy dredging or frying required! Stash a big batch in the freezer so they're ready to cook at a moment's notice. See recipe.

BIG-BATCH PORK TENDERLOIN

a white plate topped with different types of food on a table: Wrap cooked pork strips in flatbread with hummus, cucumbers, pickles, and shredded lettuce. © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Prop Styling by Beatrice Chastka, Food Styling by Simon Andrews Wrap cooked pork strips in flatbread with hummus, cucumbers, pickles, and shredded lettuce.

The trick with this prep-ahead pork is that you slice the tenderloin into thin rounds and then toss the slices in a spice mix that works well with a number of cuisines—that said, if you're not into cumin and coriander, swap them out for whatever you do like (maybe fennel seed and ancho chile powder or some pre-made spice mix).

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Once frozen, you can drop the pork slices directly into a pho-like soup with broth, lime juice, fish sauce, and sriracha. You could also sauté a few slices and wrap them in flatbread with hummus and whatever vegetables you have around (maybe chopped cucumber, cherry tomatoes, or shredded lettuce?), or stir-fry them with strips of bell pepper and scallion.

Read More: 11 Dinner Ideas for Big-Batch Pork Tenderloin Strips

Big-Batch Freezer Pork Tenderloin Strips

a pan filled with food © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Anna Stockwell

Vegetables and Sides

SUNDAY STASH SWEET POTATOES

a plate of food on a table: Fill roasted potatoes just like you might fill a taco. © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Kat Boytsova Fill roasted potatoes just like you might fill a taco.

I will never not want a roasted sweet potato. And since there is so much you can do with them, you might as well roast a bunch at once. My colleague Anna Stockwell discovered that halving the potatoes and roasting them flesh-side-down not only makes them cook more quickly, it also helps them develop a wonderfully crusty caramelized surface.

Once you have the potatoes roasted, you can top them however you like: stuffed with spicy ground lamb and pickled onions or with black beans and guacamole or sautéed onions and peppers (plus hot sauce). Sometimes we just do a dollop of ricotta and some chopped nuts, other times a drizzle of tahini and garlicky yogurt sauce. Leftover potatoes also make a great smoothie base: purée with yogurt, cinnamon, ginger, and oat milk for a breakfast that tastes like pie.

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Read More: 9 Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner Ideas for Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Sunday Stash Sweet Potatoes

a piece of food: Roasted Halved Sweet Potatoes © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Kat Boytsova Roasted Halved Sweet Potatoes

FROZEN VEGGIE BURGERS

a bowl of food on a table: Dice up a cooked burger patty and toss into fried rice or hash. © Photo by Joseph De Leo, Food Styling by Anna Stockwell Dice up a cooked burger patty and toss into fried rice or hash.

If you need a burger moment, but don't want the meat, you can't beat this recipe for chickpea-mushroom patties that get frozen and bake straight from the freezer. There's quinoa in the mix, too, which helps the burgers get extra-crisp (my advice is to make them thin to maximize that crisp surface).

Obviously, veggie burgers are great on a bun, but you can also use one to top a salad, or cut it into pieces half way through baking to turn it into a hash with potatoes or to add to broccoli fried rice.

Read More: How to Make Frozen Veggie Burgers

Chickpea-Mushroom Burgers

a sandwich sitting on top of a table © Photo by Joseph De Leo, Food Styling by Liza Jernow

BIG-BATCH STOVE-TOP BLACK BEANS

a sandwich sitting on top of a plate of food: Black bean pizzas, anyone? © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Olivia Mack Anderson Black bean pizzas, anyone?

So you bought a bunch of dried black beans and now you don't know what to do with them? Or maybe you bought more cans than you can fit in your cupboard? First things first: get the dried beans cooked. Then stash them, in their liquid, in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

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To turn those beans into dinner, mix some of the cooked beans with a can of tomatoes and some sautéed garlic and onion for an easy black bean soup; stuff the beans into burritos or tacos; or strain them and purée with garlic, lime juice, and tahini or nut butter for a black-bean take on hummus.

Read More: 9 Dinner Ideas for Black Beans

Big-Batch Black Beans

a close up of a plate on a table: These simple black beans can be frozen, refrigerated, and repurposed in endless ways for easy, family-friendly meals. Your family loves nachos, right? See recipe. © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Olivia Mack Anderson These simple black beans can be frozen, refrigerated, and repurposed in endless ways for easy, family-friendly meals. Your family loves nachos, right? See recipe.

INSTANT POT WHITE BEANS

a pizza sitting on top of a white plate: Deb Perelman's pizza beans for everyone! © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Simon Andrews Deb Perelman's pizza beans for everyone!

Throw a stash of dried white beans into an Instant Pot with garlic and rosemary (personally, I'd also throw in a few big strips of lemon zest). Once cooked, stash them submerged in their cooking liquid in the fridge or freezer.

To make use of so many beans, toss a few strained beans with some of the marinara sauce below and top with mozzarella, Parmesan, and some crushed red pepper. Bake it and then suddenly, BOOM: it's pizza beans. Of course, these beans can also go anywhere else you like beans: soups, salads, steamed with clams, piled on toast, stirred into pasta. You get the picture.

Read More: 9 Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner Ideas for White Beans

Big-Batch Instant Pot White Beans

a bowl of food © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Simon Andrews

BIG-BATCH MARINATED RED PEPPERS

a plate of food on a table: Marinated red peppers are an A+ flavor-booster for so many dishes. © Photo by Joseph De Leo, Food Styling by Anna Stockwell Marinated red peppers are an A+ flavor-booster for so many dishes.

This is a fantastic way to preserve fresh produce if you picked up some peppers last week. Char them on the grill or blacken them under your broiler, let them steam to loosen the skins, then marinate in oil and vinegar. Once you have your pepper stash ready, you can add them to a pan of sautéed chickpeas and garlic, with some canned or cherry tomatoes and spices, then crack eggs into the mix and cover the pan to let them set for a take on shakshuka.

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You could also toss them with pasta and canned anchovies or tuna, purée them with the Instant Pot White Beans above for a roasted red pepper hummus, or serve them with cheese and crackers for an afternoon snack.

Read More: 14 Dinner Ideas for Marinated Red Peppers

Big-Batch Marinated Bell Peppers

a red and white plate © Photo by Joseph De Leo, Food Styling by Anna Stockwell

BIG-BATCH ROASTED KALE

a plate of food with broccoli: Roasted kale, noodles, and peanut sauce are all you need for a quick and delicious lunch. © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Kat Boytsova Roasted kale, noodles, and peanut sauce are all you need for a quick and delicious lunch.

Getting enough leafy greens might be one of the most challenging parts of staying indoors with limited grocery re-suppling. But when you have a big batch of these pre-cooked greens in the fridge, it's easy to toss a handful with a quick vinaigrette, some Parmesan or feta—maybe add a sliced pear or apple, or some chopped toasted nuts for a last-minute salad.

You could also toss some into that comforting bowl of mac 'n' cheese for extra heartiness or mix some with roasted broccoli, rice noodles or ramen, and peanut sauce.

Read More: 8 Dinner Ideas for Roasted Kale

BIG-BATCH STOVE-TOP RICE

a slice of cake on a plate: You deserve something sweet. © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Pearl Jones You deserve something sweet.

Ask any empty grocery store shelf and they'll tell you the same thing: Rice is a great thing to have in times like these. Cooked rice in the fridge or freezer is even better when you're looking to make life easy. Once you have the rice on hand, though, what do you do with it beyond rice bowls?

First: fried rice. Use Anna's method for any-way fried rice using whatever other fresh and pantry ingredients you have on hand. You could also cook the rice with broth until the kernels burst to make a simple take on congee or arroz caldo.

Or, if you have a craving for something sweet, a comforting bowl of rice pudding is only moments away.

Read More: 9 Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Dessert Ideas for Cooked Rice

How to know if your leftovers are still good to eat

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Big-Batch Rice

a close up of a metal pan © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Pearl Jones

Sauces

SUNDAY STASH MARINARA

a pizza sitting on top of a plate of food: Poach eggs in marinara, grab some crusty bread if you have it. © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Prop Styling by Beatrice Chastka, Food Styling by Olivia Mack Anderson Poach eggs in marinara, grab some crusty bread if you have it.

We always feel better with a batch of this easy marinara around. Pair it with meatballs above and toss with noodles, or drizzle it on the chicken cutlets above for a quick chicken Parm. Spread it on pizza dough and top with whatever's in the fridge.

You can also thin out this sauce with stock or water to make a tomato soup and serve with grilled cheese, or use it to braise a hunk of meat you have stashed in the freezer.

Read More: 8 Dinner Ideas for Marinara Sauce

Sunday Stash Marinara Sauce

a red bowl: A quick tip: if you're puréeing the sauce anyway, it doesn't really matter what kind of canned tomatoes you're using. So while this recipe calls for whole tomatoes, it's just as good made with diced. See recipe. © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Prop Styling by Beatrice Chastka, Food Styling by Olivia Mack Anderson A quick tip: if you're puréeing the sauce anyway, it doesn't really matter what kind of canned tomatoes you're using. So while this recipe calls for whole tomatoes, it's just as good made with diced. See recipe.

CLASSIC PESTO

a white plate topped with different types of food on a table: Pesto pasta: a classic for a reason. © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Mindy Fox Pesto pasta: a classic for a reason.

I'm not suggesting you run out and buy all the basil, but if you have some either by chance or because you're growing it—or, for that matter if you have any tender herb—you can make a big batch of pesto by doubling or tripling the recipe above, then freeze it to have a nice green sauce ready to go for weeks to come. No herbs at all? Make kale or collard or mustard greens pesto using this method instead.

Once you have your pesto, you can use it as a pizza spread, stir it into risotto, or toss with pasta, beans, or rice for a quick lunch.

Read More: 14 Dinner Ideas for Pesto

Classic Pesto

a bowl of noodles with sauce © Epicurious

BLENDER CHERMOULA

a plate of food on a table: Stir chermoula into yogurt for a quick and flavorful dinner sauce. © Photo by Joseph De Leo, Food Styling by Anna Stockwell Stir chermoula into yogurt for a quick and flavorful dinner sauce.

Pesto's far from the only A+ green sauce in town. And if there's one thing the Epi crew's been doing lately, it's making batches of this chermoula with cilantro, parsley, and mint. It freezes nicely, so you can stir it into rice down the line, or use it to marinate a side of slow-roasted fish or a pork loin, or mix it into yogurt to make a high-protein sauce you can top with roasted, steamed, or grilled vegetables.

Read More: 9 Dinner Ideas for Chermoula

Blender Chermoula Sauce

a plate of food on a table: Blender Chermoula Sauce © Epicurious Blender Chermoula Sauce

Breakfast

SHEET-PAN EGGS

a close up of a sandwich on a plate: Sliced into squares and piled on a sandwich. © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Rhoda Boone Sliced into squares and piled on a sandwich.

Make a big batch of baked scrambled eggs to serve on easy breakfast sandwiches—or straight up with bacon or sausage on the side. Or, cut the baked eggs into smaller cubes and toss into a stir-fry or scatter over a grain bowl; slice them into ribbons and pile onto toasts with smoked salmon, capers, and cream cheese or yogurt. Or toss the ribbons or cubes into a soup. Or just treat big slices like this anything-goes quiche and top them with an array of garnishes.

Read More: How to Make Sheet Pan Eggs; How to Turn Scrambled Eggs Into Dinner

Sheet-Pan Eggs

a close up of a plate of food: Looking for an easy way to serve eggs to a crowd? Use a blender to quickly whisk the eggs together, then bake on a sheet pan until the texture is custardy—more like a frittata than scrambled eggs. Slice and serve in breakfast sandwiches, stuff inside grilled cheese, add more protein to quesadillas and wraps, or serve with bacon or sausage on the side or over toast with sliced avocado. See recipe. © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Rhoda Boone Looking for an easy way to serve eggs to a crowd? Use a blender to quickly whisk the eggs together, then bake on a sheet pan until the texture is custardy—more like a frittata than scrambled eggs. Slice and serve in breakfast sandwiches, stuff inside grilled cheese, add more protein to quesadillas and wraps, or serve with bacon or sausage on the side or over toast with sliced avocado. See recipe.

BIG-BATCH HARD-BOILED EGGS

a plate of food with a slice of pizza: Toast flatbread and spread with hummus, grilled or roasted vegetables, and sliced hard-boiled eggs. © Photo by Chelsie Craig, Prop Styling by Nathaniel James, Food Styling by Laura Rege Toast flatbread and spread with hummus, grilled or roasted vegetables, and sliced hard-boiled eggs.

Hard-boiled eggs are another great protein source to have around. Perfect for a mid-afternoon snack or to chop up and turn into egg salad for lunch. Other great uses: Niçoise salad, hummus bowls, or a riff on these Yucatan enchiladas

Read More: 9 Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner Ideas for Hard-Boiled Eggs

Big-Batch Hard-Boiled Eggs

a plate of food on a table: Make a batch of hard-boiled eggs ahead of time so that you can focus on the sides and toppings on Father's Day morning. See recipe. © Photo by Chelsie Craig, Prop Styling by Nathaniel James, Food Styling by Laura Rege Make a batch of hard-boiled eggs ahead of time so that you can focus on the sides and toppings on Father's Day morning. See recipe.

BIG-BATCH PANCAKE MIX

a white plate topped with different types of food on a table: Grab the shredded chicken and pesto recipes above, toss together, and stuff into crepes. © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Kate Buckens Grab the shredded chicken and pesto recipes above, toss together, and stuff into crepes.

The title says pancakes, but the recipe also says waffles and crepes—and any of those can go sweet or savory. Turn crepes into manicotti, regular pancakes into scallion pancakes, or waffles into ham-and-cheese waffles. Or just keep them classic and dig in.

Read More: 10 Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner Ideas for Pancake Mix

Big-Batch Pancake and Waffle Mix

a cup of coffee on a table: This pancake mix works just as well for sweet or savory pancakes, crepes, or waffles. Make the dry mix up to a month ahead so last-minute pancakes are always a possibility. See recipe. © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Kate Buckens This pancake mix works just as well for sweet or savory pancakes, crepes, or waffles. Make the dry mix up to a month ahead so last-minute pancakes are always a possibility. See recipe.

BIG-BATCH STRAWBERRY COMPOTE

a plate of food with a slice cut out: Spoon compote into thawed frozen puff pastry and bake into turnovers for breakfast or dessert. © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Kat Boytsova Spoon compote into thawed frozen puff pastry and bake into turnovers for breakfast or dessert.

You can use this method to make compote out of any berry or stone fruit you have in the fridge or the freezer. Feel free to mix fruit to make an even bigger batch. When the compote is done, you can use it to fill hand-pies, spoon it over yogurt, or pair it with the pancakes and waffles above.

Read More: 10 Breakfast, Dessert, and Snack Ideas for Strawberry Compote

Big-Batch Strawberry Compote

a bowl of fruit on a plate © Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Kat Boytsova

How to know if your leftovers are still good to eat .
If you use your sense of smell and sight, you can quickly discover if they’re still safe to eat. Dates on food are one of the great food debates. To clear any confusion, the expiration date means that the nutritional value determined by the manufacturer is no longer guaranteed. You should not consume foods past an expiration date.

See also