Batch cooking: Take the stress out of your kitchen
Back home late? Too tired to make a meal? Here’s a solution: batch cooking. When you’re short on time, you can simply reheat a meal you made days or weeks ago.
What is batch booking? Why should I do it? And how?
Let’s jump straight in.
Why should I batch cook?
Three reasons, mainly. Batch cooking your food will:
1) Free-up your time
Cooking all your meals for the week on just one or two days will save you so much time. You’ll be able to come in and have dinner ready within minutes and - maybe the best part - there’s hardly any washing up to do on non-cooking days.
2) Save you money
Making large quantities of the same dinner only requires one shop. You can buy ingredients in bulk, often on 3-for-2 deals, which works out more cost-efficient. And, because you’re not shopping every night, you can avoid the irresistible temptation to throw junk food in your basket.
3) Relieve your daily stresses
‘What am I going to have for tea?’ It stresses me out just typing it. But there’s no need to stress when you know there’s a ready-made meal waiting in the fridge. Stay on track by creating a DIY recipe book of your favourite meals, which you can come back to time and again.
How does batch cooking work?
Cooking in bulk is a process like any other. Here’s how simple it is.
Make a daily plan of what you’ll eat throughout the week. Mix up your meals to get a balanced diet. Include a good amount of veg, beans and pulses, meat if you eat it, and easy-to-cook carbs such as rice and pasta.
Do your shopping on a Saturday, ready to cook on a Sunday. Look for bulk-buy deals on the ingredients you need. Stick to your list to make your shopping cost-effective, and buy some containers to put the food in if you don’t have plenty already.
I’d recommend cooking two meals at a time. Any more than that is a logistical nightmare. You’ll spend most of your time prepping, but I find the slicing and dicing quite therapeutic.
Top tip: get yourself two of those big stock pots with the handles on. Then look for easy one-pot recipes - they usually freeze well and you’ll only have to watch two pots at any one time.
4) Divide and freeze
Once cooked, split your food into daily portions. Allow the food to fully cool, before you seal the containers and put them in the freezer. Then all you have to do is remember to defrost a meal the night before you want to eat it. I keep a nightly reminder on my phone to do that.
What are the best meals to batch cook?
Generally speaking, anything you can cook in your big stock pots or a large, ovenproof casserole dish is going to be good for dividing and freezing.
Here are the top five recipes in my book.
I make everything in my stock pots, but you can obviously use a wok here if yours is big enough. Thinly slice your chicken, then fry it in some olive oil until browned. Throw in your veg - mangetout, peppers, broccoli, and baby corn all work well. Add some soy sauce and a small amount of chicken stock at the same time, and fry everything until thoroughly cooked.
Cook a sheet of noodles in boiling water, and enjoy.
The all-time batch cooking classic. It’s impossible not to make far too much Bolognese. Fry some onions and garlic in olive oil, then add your beef mince and brown. Drain off the fat, then crumble an Oxo cube over the meat. Add mushrooms and a tin of chopped tomatoes, stir, and cook for at least an hour so that the tomato sauce reduces and thickens.
Boil pasta in a separate pan. Plate and eat.
Very similar to your stir fry. Except I like to fry onions and peppers in oil, soften them, and put them to one side. Then I fry my chicken strips until almost completely cooked, before throwing the veg back in and coating everything in a fajita spice mix. Cook through for another five minutes until the chicken is cooked all the way through.
Serve with micro-blasted wraps, grated cheese and some salad.
A simple variation on your spag bol. Chilli con carne is made in exactly the same way, but with red kidney beans and a sachet of mixed spices instead of mushrooms and Oxo.
Serve with boiled long grain rice.
The student’s go-to comfort dish. Boil your pasta, then drain and dump back in the pot. Mix in tuna, sweetcorn, any other veg you want to add (broccoli is good again) and coat everything in a white sauce - easy to make from milk, butter, flour and cheese (even easier to buy in a jar).
Transfer to an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with cheese and cook at 180º for about 25 minutes, until the cheese crusts over and the sauce is bubbling.
Serve with salad and/or garlic bread.
All of these recipes will work with a meat alternative such as Quorn, tofu or even nice big chunks of mushroom.
Don’t poison yourself
If you’ve taken the time to read this, thanks and good luck. Please take two minutes more to read this excellent article on how to safely reheat your food.