February 24, 2024

Batch cooking

Batch cooking is great for saving on time, saving waste, saving money, and gives you the ability to have a nutritious meal on a day when you don’t feel like cooking.  It ensures that you can have healthy meals and don’t go to the take away when you can’t be bothered to cook or if you are ill and can not go shopping. Unlike a lot of people,  I don’t make lots of meals in advance and put them in the freezer.  I used to when I worked as I worked long shifts and it reduced my stress. I think that meals taste better fresh and so I tend to prep and batch cook  and freeze some of the meal to make life easier and so that we can have a meal on the table more quickly.   The things that I batch cook are mainly things that you have as sides to a meal (some people may define this more as meal prepping).   I do however freeze base recipes, eg curry, in portions and make other fresh dishes with them like pasties, or in savoury pancakes. I also batch cook a casserole or a bolognaise sauce which I can add spices to change the taste eg chilli or Moroccan spices.  I later use the bolognaise or chilli  in lasagne and other dishes.

Here are some tips that I have used for batch cooking.  Batch freezing the basic sauce allows me to be more creative in what we eat and stops us being bored.  I probably only eat lasagne about 6 times a year but would have to eat more if I batched lots of lasagne and I would not fancy it after a while.

  1.  Make pies and pastries on a day when the oven is not on to use up ingredients and freeze them raw.  They will then cook from frozen in the air fryer or when the oven is on.  Bolognaise or curry is great mixed with mash in a pastie and I will often make a cheese sauce and use up wilting vegetables to make a cheese and vegetable pie.
  2. Make a couple of tray bakes and freeze them in portions.  They can then be defrosted and used as cake, be used as a sponge topping in winter with some stewed fruit (or with jam or syrup on) and warmed in the microwave and served with custard, or can be used in trifle.  I love a bit of chocolate sponge out of the freezer with some pink custard and it takes me back to my school days.
  3. Batches of waffles are great to use as breakfasts or as a dessert and children love them.
  4.  Make a large lasagne or another meal, freeze some in portions for another day when you are busy.  It cost little more to make and saves on time.
  5.  If you are making a pizza to use up the fridge gravel at the bottom of the fridge put an extra one in the oven and slice and freeze.  These are great for packed lunches, as a lunch at home or to take on a last minute picnic.
  6. Make a batch of hash browns for the freezer as these will use up potatoes but are an easy and quick way to add carbs to a breakfast or a meal.
  7. Make a batch of pancakes when the bananas are over ripe.  These freeze well and are great for breakfasts or desserts.  I just take them out of the freezer the night before.
  8. Make truffles by blitzing together chocolate Oreos and cream cheese, forming into balls and freezing them.  They keep for 6 months. They just need to be rolled in melted chocolate still frozen on the day you want to use them.  I then let them thaw for about 4 hours.  These are great if you are having unexpected guests, as a treat, or for special occasions  like Christmas or Easter.  I will be using some I made at Christmas for our Easter buffet.
  9. Cook more rice than you need and quickly cool and freeze.  Thaw it over night in the fridge and it can be used with or in meals the next day.
  10. Always make sure that any food that you batch cook is wrapped up well so that you do not get freezer burn.  I have silicone bags that I use for bolognaise or curry to save room as I find it save better than in freezer bags or boxes.
  11. If you find reduced cream make a load of butter and freezer in small amounts. eg 50g portions that can be taken out of the freezer the day before you want to bake or use it.
  12. Thaw everything in the fridge and not out on the counter.
  13. Keep an inventory of your freezer or regularly have a root through it so that you are not wasting things that have you batch cooked.
  14. Don’t think that you have to spend a lot of money to batch cook or have a lot of time.  The bolognaise that we make I cook in the slow cooker and add red lentils, and vegetables including beans. I always brown the mince with the herbs or spices as otherwise slow cooker meals can lack taste.  One small pack of mince can make a number of meals.  When we were really struggling I used to add some oats to the mince and the kids didn’t notice.  I also make meals like curries with all lentils now to save money.
  15. If you have left over mash potato add some tuna and herbs and make a few fish cakes to put in the freezer.  I like a bit of grated lemon zest in them too if I have some.
  16.  A pan of soup that costs pennies to make (eg from a chicken carcass or from vegetables from the garden) can be portioned up and frozen for meals later, or as the base to a sauce for a meal.
  17. Don’t batch too much of one thing as you might get bored of it and sometimes the freezer can impact on the texture and the taste over a period of time.
  18. I only put my oven on twice a month in order to save money.  I use a few hours early in the morning and I make bread,  pies, quiches, maybe biscuits, cake or pasties.  Before I start I look at all the things that need eating up in the fridge and also at my freezer inventory so that I do not have too much of the same thing stored.
  19.  If you have spare pastry you can batch cook pie lids and warm them up in the air fryer when you want to switch  up some stew or other dishes.
  20. Make sure that you cool things until cold before freezing.
  21. Freezers cost less to run if kept full and so this is an incentive to batch cook.
  22. Remember that if you are freezing something that has liquid in it like a stew or soup, it will expand as it freezes and so leave some head room in which ever container you are freezing it in.
  23. Only freeze food if you have changed it’s state. Eg I would not use a curry that had been previously frozen to make pasties and freeze again.  I would just use curry that had been left as leftovers in the fridge.  If I took raw chicken out of the freezer, defrosted it and cooked it, that would be fine to freeze in a pie.
  24. Always double wrap meals that have strong smells if freezing as they can transfer to things like cake that you have batched.

We love play Ready, Steady, Cook with what we have in when we are doing a batch cook, and using up all the left overs to make almost free things for our lunches or breakfasts, and to use up the staples that are going out of date.  What are your favourite things to batch cook?

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  1. Julie Barton February 25, 2024 at 3:39 pm - Reply

    Some absolutely amazing tips here thank you Toni xx

    • ToniG March 4, 2024 at 8:31 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your kind comments

  2. CurlyCurls February 25, 2024 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the really interesting ideas of food and your freezer Toni; much appreciated and a good reminder if I find myself stuck for ideas. Love the chocolate truffle idea.

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