Batch cooking is a fantastic way to take the hassle out of cooking healthy, wholesome food and it’ll help save you time and money. With us all having to find different ways to live and work, it’s a great way to help you stick to your healthy eating plans, and you’ll also find batch cooking for families gives you some much-needed time back as you juggle a thousand and one other things. (It’s also a great way to sneak veggies in for little ones who aren’t the biggest fans!) If you’re completely new to all this, don’t worry we’ve got plenty of batch cooking tips for beginners and if you’re on a budget. Here’s how it’s done…
If you’re finding some of your veggies aren’t lasting between food shops, then batch cooking meals and freezing where you can, will definitely help solve this, and hopefully mean you don’t have to go to the shops quite so often. Depending on the ingredients, you can save money by buying everything in one go and using your haul straight away to cook several meals. You don’t even have to cook the whole meal. One popular batch cooking method is to cook and freeze the main ingredients, then just defrost when they’re needed. For example, cooking a whole batch of minced beef with onions and freezing it means you’ve already got the main ingredient for making shepherd’s pie, spag bol and chilli con carne. But make sure you vary your cooking; you don’t want to end up with ten of the same meals!
Slow cookers are perfect for planning ahead on the day. Pop your ingredients into the slow cooker, set the timer and be on your way! When you get home from a long day out and about, you’ll have most of your meal cooked and ready to be eaten.
If you’ve always got a quick dinner in, you’re also less likely to ring for an expensive take-away!
Top tip: When out shopping, there are often plenty of bargains to be had later in the evening as food reaches its sell-by date (and it’ll hopefully be less busy). It’s a great way to add to the batch meal you’ve already prepared. If you can, set aside an evening for batch cooking after your planned trip to your local supermarket to see if you can pick up any reduced meat or veg.
Staying in more doesn’t mean you have to ditch your healthy eating plan – there’s plenty of healthy and easy meal prep ideas out there. In fact batch cooking is ideal for people looking to eat healthier or trying to stick to a particular diet. If your priority is weight loss, muscle gain or general health, you can tailor each meal to your diet, and have it ready when you need it. You’ll be much less likely to grab fast food or continually snack on rubbish from the cupboard if you’ve got the perfect wholesome meal in the freezer!
Top tip: When following a recipe, the easiest way to bulk cook is to use twice the ingredients you normally would to make a double portion, or quadruple them to have plenty of leftovers to freeze or have as lunches.
Homemade soups and casseroles, curries and bakes are perfect one-pot meals for any time of year. They’re easy to portion out and pop in the freezer for another day. Just don’t forget to label it and take it out of the freezer in time for tea!
Batch cooking for families
Batch-cooking ready for busier days is a great little win for family life. Having ready-prepared meals means you won’t have to cook from scratch every night so you’ll have more time to spend with the kids (or catch up on jobs!). Most ready-prepared meals are really quick to reheat if you’ve got a microwave. Don’t have a microwave? No problem – most meals can be cooked on the hob or banged in the oven too (with tin foil on top if needed to keep the moisture and flavour in). If you’ve cooked bolognese for example, you’ll just need to boil a bit of pasta to go with it and you’ll have a delicious healthy meal in minutes. By chopping and cooking all your ingredients the previous day, week or month, speedy reheating will free up some time when you’re busy.
Batch cooking isn’t just for tea! Get on board with dinner, lunch and breakfast meal prep, as well as pre making sauces, and you’ll soon have your fridge and freezer packed with tasty meals just waiting to be reheated. Our top tip, though, would be to start small if you’re new to batch cooking so it doesn’t seem like a never-ending task (you’ll soon figure out time-saving tips the more you do). So pick a meal you feel most disrupts your day and start from there. Here are a few batch cooking ideas to get you started:
- overnight oats
- fruit salad
- homemade breakfast bars
- pasta salad
- couscous salad
- rice salad
- stir fry
- spaghetti bolognese
- vegetable stew
- chicken fried rice
Our recipe win for the whole family:
Terrifically tasty turkey bolognese
For this recipe, we used turkey mince for a healthier option, but if you prefer, pork and beef mince work just as well. And if you’re vegetarian or vegan, simply swap in some veg mince, lentils, or any veg that you like. Same goes for the ingredients – lots can be taken out or swapped in depending on what you have in the cupboards. Anything goes for this one-pot wonder! The beauty of this recipe is that it’s pretty quick to knock up and you can freeze what you don’t eat. To save space, either put into freezer bags or use storage boxes. If you live alone, portion out individually. If you’re a family, store it in multiples of two, so you save on space in the freezer.
1000g of turkey mince (or protein of your choice)
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp of fennel seeds
2tbsp of mixed Italian herbs
10 chestnut mushrooms
1 stick of celery
1 to 2 courgettes (depending on size)
a good bunch of fresh basil, stalks and all (you can add the stalks to the sauce for some extra flavour)
1 tsp of white pepper
1 stock cube (we used chicken)
Pinch of salt and black pepper to your taste
1 rind of Italian hard cheese or veg/vegan option—plus extra for grating
2tsp of olive oil
100ml of water
Finely chop onions, carrots, celery and grate the courgette with a cheese grater. Squeeze the grated courgette in the palms of your hands to reduce the amount of water from them (they hold quite a lot of water which can make the sauce watery if you don’t give them a little squeeze beforehand).
Add olive oil to a heavy-based pan (something like a crock pot is perfect) and heat a little. Add onions, carrots and celery and sweat down. Grind fennel seeds and add with the Italian seasoning, basil stalks and white pepper. Set aside basil leaves. Once the herbs have blended with the veg, remove from the pan and pop in a bowl.
Add your mince to the pan and brown off. Add the veg back in the pot (including chopped mushrooms), then pour in 100ml of stock (simply dissolve your stock cube in a jug of boiling water). Add the rind of your hard cheese. This will make your sauce extra yummy and it saves wasting it.
Add your tinned tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes on a medium heat (if you cook it slower for longer, the flavours will get even better).
Add your salt and pepper and basil leaves. Serve with a pasta of your choice (if you can leave it to cool slightly before eating, this’ll make it even tastier – we won’t judge if you have to tuck straight in though!)
- Always cool foods properly before you freeze them
- Don’t re-freeze anything that’s already been frozen
- Always make sure frozen meals are thoroughly re-heated
- Make sure you store your food properly to avoid freezer burn and so it lasts – freezer-friendly storage containers and food bags are perfect for keeping your leftovers in and stacking up to save space
- Seal and label food (don’t forget to mark the date of when you made the food – everything has a shelf life)
So there you have it, our top tips for batch cooking. Whether you’re struggling for time or looking to get the kids involved with cooking, we think batch cooking really is an all-round winner for family life.