An Expert’s Guide to Batch Cooking
In my head, I have this vision of lovingly preparing a fabulously healthy meal from scratch every day.
Using the very best produce and ingredients that I’ve shopped carefully for that morning. Then, myself, my husband and our three children sitting around the table together each evening with an array of lovely dishes in the middle and everyone digging in and telling me how wonderful the meal is.
As much as I would like it to be the case, very rarely is this vision a reality. I live very firmly in the real world with a husband on shift work, juggling running my own business with parenting, fussy children (some worse that others!) and a budget that doesn’t stretch to an all organic diet. This is where batch cooking comes in. Cooking and storing in bulk is far more convenient that cooking a dinner from scratch each day. I’m all for the ‘cook once, eat multiple times regime’. With that in mind, let me share with you my top batch cooking and time saving tips for eating healthily and some recipes that you might like to try out.
To sustain healthier eating, a little advance planning is key. Sketch out a plan for main meals for the week. I find getting the kids involved here works a treat, stick the meal plan up on the fridge. That way, everyone knows what’s for dinner each day. More importantly, the kids have been involved in the decisions, so if they start to complain about the choices on any given day, you can smugly remind them of this point. A little negotiation might be necessary, I usually allow each child to nominate their favourite dinner and the rest is made up of key staple meals. You can build your shopping list around these meals which means you won’t find yourself at a loss for what to make for dinner each night, you’ll be more organised, waste and arguments will be minimised. A win win situation!
Take a couple of hour slots at the weekend or days off to set you up for during the week. It also helps prevent from resorting to quick, impulsive, unhealthy snacking. If you come in from work tired and hungry with no meal prepared and you open your cupboard and the biscuits are looking back at you – the biscuits will win EVERY TIME.
Cook what you would cook normally, but more of it. Double or quadruple depending on the size of your family. Doing it like this is much more productive and you only make a mess once! For example, pick a day and make 4 dishes. A pot of chilli con carne, homemade soup, a frittata and a dish of baked oatmeal. Freeze half of the chilli and half of the soup for future use. You could also roast a large tray of veg and wash and store your salad leaves.
Top tip: to keep salad leaves fresh for 3-4 days. Wash and dry your leaves, line a bowl with a couple of sheets of damp kitchen paper, throw leaves in on top, cover with a couple more sheets of fairly damp kitchen paper and cover bowl in cling film.
Chilli con carne - One day have it with brown rice and the next with baby potatoes, sweet potato wedges or wholemeal pitta bread and roasted vegetables.
A pot of homemade soup, freeze some and store some in the fridge for work lunches or a warming, nutritious snack.
Frittatas are super handy, make up a large one. Have with a leafy salad and/or with your leftover baby potatoes sautéed with some onion and garlic or your sweet potato wedges (prep enough for 2 days).
Baked Oatmeal – I love these. They make a great breakfast with a dollop of natural yogurt and a sprinkling of extra chopped nuts, can be brought to work as a quick lunch or even used as a dessert!
Extra Ideas & Tips
Homemade tomato sauce – a favourite in our house and multi-functional. Make a large batch using onions, garlic, peppers, herbs, passata etc. and whatever other vegetables you like to add. Blend and store in batches. The sauce can be used for homemade pizzas or pitta pizzas (spread toasted pitta bread with sauce, add some veg and cheddar or mozzarella cheese and grill), as a base for homemade soups or in a pasta bake. Add minced beef and use in Bolognese, lasagne and mixed with grated cheese and used as a topping for baked potatoes.
Mix together some ground seeds, dessicated coconut, cacao nibs/powder and cinnamon. Store in a kilner jar and use to top natural yogurt, porridge, muesli, granola or in smoothies.
Gently stew some fruit, for example apples, pears and cinnamon or frozen berries with rhubarb. Mash with a potato masher or blend with a stick blender. Store in the fridge and you have it there for topping Greek yogurt or to add to your breakfast compilation.
Roast a huge tray of vegetables, these can be used in multiple ways – mixed with a tomato sauce and added to pasta or rice, added to salads, stir some pesto into the veg and use to fill a pitta pocket or throw into a frittata or omelette. If you’re new to batch cooking, a little practice will build momentum and you will soon be in the swing of planning and prepping nutritious and delicious family friendly meals.