I have to admit to getting really lazy about meals. Yes I generally cook from scratch every 6-7 days a week for dinner, but there’s so many things I’m asked not to cook, that it really restricts what I can cook, and my inspiration to try new things. Most people have a repertoire of under 10 meals they can cook, and I certainly just go back to the basic ones I know everyone will eat, and that are hand for leftovers the next day to make life easier. If you’re a working mum, or stay at home mum with your hands full, then batch cooking is probably a great idea to try if you’re not already doing so. Check out the benefits of batch cooking further down this post.
My version of batch cooking tends to be 2-3 meals worth, depending on how hungry everyone is. I have 2 very hungry and active males in our family, so other families would probably get more meals out of the dishes I cook. But as I need to get meals on the table for around 5pm, even while I’m working til 5, by making more than one meals worth it’s got multiple benefits.
What is batch cooking
Most people say that batch cooking is prepping and cooking multiple meals in advance to put in the freezer, all for another day.
But with everything, there’s different methods of batch cooking and you can adapt it to work for you. After all, not everyone has room for multiple bags or containers of prepared meals in their freezer. We have a chest freezer, and even I would struggle to make room for huge amounts of tupperware of home cooked ready meals. So my own version of batch cooking is to make enough for that meal, plus leftovers the next day, and potentially some to go in the freezer (or for lunch for one of us later in the week).
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Different methods of batch cooking
1. Doubling recipes
Make double the amount, and it provides you with leftovers for the next day or another (just freeze ready for defrosting another day). This is the easiest method of batch cooking, and you can easily build up a stash of leftovers to switch between for other meals
2. Meal prepping and dump bags
If you’re a slow cooker fan then dump bags could be the way to go.
This way you spend time bulk making up bags of all the ingredients you’ll need to make the main part of your meal, e.g the non accompaniment part. Then the bags are frozen. Just remove the night before you want to cook the meal to defrost it, then dump the ingredients into the slow cooker the next morning to cook. Personally this wouldn’t work so well for me unless it was a veggie meal, because I always brown my meat first before it goes in the slow cooker.
General batch prepping can also be done, chopping and prepping the ingredients. For example I’ve diced and frozen veg ready to use for a bolognese base. Easy to freeze in different ingredient bags to then grab a handful to cook as needed.
The only downside with these methods of prepping is that you’re only prepping and not cooking it. Instead of a ready meal to reheat, you’ll have to still do the cooking. But it will cut down on preparation time.
3. Prepping and cooking all meals to freeze
This is the method that takes the most time. The aim is to cook several meals (often from the same base – eg a mince base that can then be split into using for different dishes, chilli, savoury mince, bolognese etc) in one session. Then they’re portioned up and frozen, so you’ve got a stack of meals ready to reheat when needed.
But what are the benefits of batch cooking? Why would you want to spend your precious non work time cooking, once a week, fortnight or month?
Benefits to batch cooking
Batch cooking saves time as you only need to prepare and cook food once for multiple meals. When you need a meal you can grab it out of the freezer to defrost in the morning then reheat til cooked through before you want to eat. All you need to cook from scratch is the accompaniment or carb sides.
Meals for each family member
If you batch your meals to freeze in individual portions you can cater for everyone’s tastes. Just reheating the chosen meal for each person
Batch cooking allows you to buy ingredients in bulk, which can often be cheaper than buying smaller amounts.
Healthier eating: Batch cooking helps you prepare nutritious meals at home, rather than relying on convenience foods or eating out.
Reduced food waste
Batch cooking helps you meal plan and use your ingredients effectively, so reducing food waste. By portioning them, it also helps avoid people taking seconds they might not eat, or cooking too much in the first place.
Batch cooking is basically homemade ready meals. Not only do they save time, but they’re ready whenever you need them on busy days. They’re especially useful for times when everyone in the family needs to eat at different times, or just grab something and run.
Improved meal planning
By prepping and creating these meals, it helps plan meals in advance, None of that ‘what shall we cook today’, just grab something out of the freezer.
While you might want to cook fresh most days, if you’re ill or plans change making it hard to time dinner preparation, you want to not have to think about what you’re cooking. Or you just don’t have the energy to cook. This is where having meals prepared already can help.
Helpful equipment for batch cooking
- Large pan or stock pot
- Freezable containers
- Labels – ideally you want to be able to remove these easily after use
Meals that work well for batch cooking
- Chilli con carne
- Cottage pie/shepherds pie
- Beef hash
- Sausage Casserole
- Savoury mince
- Fish pie
- Pasta bean bake
- Pies – ideally filling then make the pie up using ready made pastry, but you can freeze the whole prepared pie.
- Pulled pork
- Fish cakes
- Meatballs in tomato sauce
Batch cooked desserts
- Stewed fruit
- Traybakes – cut into portions, wrap well and freeze. Choose your icing carefully if freezing
- Chocolate torte
How do you batch cook? What would you cook in bulk?