Batch cooking is a staple for a cook who spends much time in the kitchen, but it doesn’t have to be a herculean effort that involves hours of planning out the meals, buying bulk wholesale ingredients and taking two days off to crack out meal after meal. You can do this, but you can also break it down into chunk sized, achievable sessions that are just as satisfactory. You’ll end up with a good stock of healthy meals for your family when you know you won’t have time to cook, or you just want to stock up the freezer for a busy few months.

Put on some good tunes, set aside a serious amount of cling film or Tupperware and in one afternoon you can crack out enough meals to feed your family for weeks. This does mean you need a fair bit of freezer space, so make sure you plan to eat up some of the packets and vegetables that have been lurking in the back of your freezer for months.  If you are super organised, use this time to clear out your freezer and clean it out if you have ice build-up. You can even invite a friend to cook with you which will halve the initial cost and you’ll end up with a lot more bang for your buck, not to mention different meals.

To prepare for your batch cook

  • Plan a day where you’ll to do the shopping, either online or at a big supermarket that will have everything, and set aside the time you need to cook and stick to it.
  • Plan your shopping list and the meals you are going to cook. There are some great online resources that can help with meal planning and what food you need to get such as www.lovefoodhatewaste.com
  • Tools: You will need freezer bags (Ziplocs are the easiest), aluminium trays or plastic pots with lids, foil and clingfilm.
  • Do all the same jobs at once. i.e. peel all the vegetables (have a big bowl for food waste next to you so you don’t keep having to go to the bin), then cut all the vegetables, and so on. It may seem tedious but will save you a lot of time.

TIP: When pouring liquid and food into freezer bags, stand the bags open in a measuring jug or glass with the bag folded out around the lip of the glass to stop spilling. You can freeze them with the glass to hold the shape of the glass and remove once frozen or, for maximum freezer organisation, freeze the packs flat between baking sheets and then you can stack them!

Good Freezer Recipe Ideas

  • Mince: make a base (see recipe below) that can be split into Shepherd’s Pie, Bolognese and Chilli
  • Chicken Pie filling (with a puff pastry or mashed potato topping)
  • Fish Pie (don’t put in egg if freezing)
  • Basic tomato sauce (freeze in portions for quick pasta sauce, baked eggs, a quick Bolognese)
  • Vegetable soups (soups freeze brilliantly)
  • Meatballs and burgers. If you are making a batch of these, it is always worth making extra and freezing them for another day. You can freeze them separated on a tray first and then, once frozen, pop them into a freezer bag so they won’t stick together.

 Cheats

  • Big supermarkets often sell pre-prepared frozen vegetables, such as onion, butternut squash and garlic, which will help save you time. There are also packets of chopped fresh vegetables in the vegetable aisles, but these are often a lot more expensive and may have lost some of their vitamin content during the production process.
  • If making lasagne, soak the dried sheets of pasta in a bowl of hot water for ten minutes while you are making the sauces. Make sure they don’t overlap otherwise they will stick together. This can cut the cooking time down by around 20 minutes! Also, creme fraiche and a bit of grated cheese is a quick alternative to making a white sauce.
  • Large jars of fruit puree such as apple (with no added sugar), are great for adding to puddings and cakes to naturally sweeten them. They can also be added to porridge or soaked oats for breakfast or to thicken out crumbles. These are not widely available in supermarkets but you can get online or in international supermarkets.

Basic mince recipe

Here is our basic Piccolo recipe that tastes great as it is, but equally can be spiced up with additional flavours that suit your family or changed each time depending on what you have in your fridge and store cupboard.

Ingredients

1.5 kg (two large packets) of minced meat (lean beef or turkey mince, or a mix of the two)

1 onion, finely diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 onions, peeled and fined chopped

3 tins of chopped tomato

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp sugar

Salt & pepper & good pinch of mixed herbs

Added extras

1 can of favourite beans (red kidney, black beans or borlotti for example)

Good pinch of chilli powder

Worcestershire sauce

 

Mixed vegetable tomato sauce recipe

This is a great recipe for the slow cooker that you can portion out and freeze. Can be used as a soup, pasta sauce, for baked eggs or pizza topping.

Ingredients (you can include any other veg you have in the fridge to add your own twist)

2 onions, peeled and chopped (can use frozen chopped onion)

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

6 cans chopped tomato

4 tbsp tomato purée

2 x sweet potato, peeled and chopped

5 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 red pepper, cored and chopped

1 courgette, chopped

Pinch of chopped fresh or dried rosemary

Fresh pepper

1 tsp sugar (if have a child under 1, leave the sugar out of their portion)

Method

In a saucepan with a lid, fry the onions in a little olive oil for around 6 minutes until soft and translucent (add a little water if they start to catch). Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Add all the remaining ingredients to the saucepan, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid the sauce catching at the bottom of the pan.

If you are using a slow cooker, sweat the onions and garlic in a frying pan first. Put all the ingredients, including the cooked onion and garlic, into the slow cooker and cook for 3-4 hours, then blend.