Meal Prep Vs. Batch Cooking: What's The Difference?

At one point or another, we've all been there, we need a meal and we need it fast. But there's nothing convenient to make at home and a peek in the fridge confirms that there are no leftovers lingering inside for a quick reheated option. One way to keep yourself from getting into this situation is to make things ahead. Some people call the intentional cooking of large portions with the goal of having leftovers later, meal prep, while others call that process batch cooking. Are these terms interchangeable or are they different?

According to Budget Bytes, meal prep is making some ingredients ahead, and certain foods work well for this, such as cooking pasta, grains, meat, or beans ahead of time. It also includes chopping fruits or vegetables in advance of making a recipe to save time when you're actually cooking. Healthline reports that you can also prepare fresh meals in advance and portion them out for lunches, like making salads ahead of time. However, batch cooking is different than meal prep and can be a bigger undertaking, but one that can yield larger portions.

Batch cooking has a key distinction

Delighted Cooking points out that batch cooking entails making a lot of specific food all at once and then storing it for later. This can be done by making large batches of chili or soup and storing it in the freezer or making two pans of lasagna and eating one but placing the other in the freezer for a meal at a later date. Doing this can be an initial time investment, like cooking over a weekend, so you have quick weeknight dinners.

Another important note as detailed in Eater, some cooks may find more freedom in batch cooking over meal prep. The article reports that the freedom comes in the form of not feeling the pressure to plan meals in advance, but rather making things that you enjoy eating that freeze well or that keeps well for several days in the refrigerator. If you use either of these methods as needed, you get peace of mind knowing you have a well-stocked fridge or freezer full of home-cooked meals.