This post may contain advertising. Batch cooking. Do you have the time for it? Is it difficult? Is it really worth the effort? Why would you do it when you can just get ready meals or a takeaway? Well let’s start with money. Most families I know need to be mindful about how they spend money, some more than others but having children is an expensive affair, and the bigger they get the more expensive it gets. At the age of nearly 4 and 16 months I already feel like our kids are eating us out of the house. Don’t get me wrong it’s a pleasure to feed a child that eats, and I like seeing them grow but we get through 2 packs of bananas a week, 2 packs of bread, 2 pots of coconut yogurt, because Alma is allergic to cow milk protein and it’s easier to feed everyone the same without worrying about cross contamination, 3-4 cartons of oat, almond or cashew nut (same reason) and lots of other things. We are very lucky we are not actually struggling financially, but if I were to buy ready meals and eat take aways too frequently we wouldn’t be able to afford other things, like 2-3 night breaks in the UK twice a year. I am not even talking about holiday abroad, that happens only once every 2-3 years. Also I want my family to eat healthy home made food most days not just for the money reason but because it’s better for their health and because most ready meals aren’t suitable for Alma. Are you on the same page? Would you like to feed your family better and cheaper? Well stay with me, I am going to tell you how. I don’t claim to know it all but one thing that has helped me as mum to save money, time, effort and my sanity is batch cooking.
There are many ways to approach batch cooking, for example, you can spend half a day or a full day every few months doing it, or you can do it bit by bit and save leftovers from one meal every now and then and accumulate your food stash slowly. I personally prefer the first. I think in the long run it saves more time, effort and money (think electricity or gas bills) then doing it bit by bit. Every 3-4 months when we are approaching the end of our freezer stash I spend half a day cooking while Ben looks after kids. Not the most exciting way to spend a day off, but it’s worth it. So here are my tips for you, please bear in mind we are not vegetarian but striving to reduce our meat intake slowly.
So here’s your batch cooking plan based on the following recepies: “Bolognese” with hidden veg, roast meat, meatballs. The reason why I chose these recepies is because they are easy, functional (you can serve Bolognese with rice, pasta or couscous, roast meat with chips, or boiled potatoes, or even rice if you want to) and more or less child friendly.
What do you need?
- Food processor or a good grater
- Roasting dishes or just normal cooking containers e.g. lasagna dish.
- Frying pan for meatballs
- Big pan for Bolognese
- Plenty of zip lock freezer bags in various sizes
- Knife, chopping board
- Meat for roasting, I usually go for pork, beef and a whole chicken
- 4 packs of minced beef or 2 packs of minced pork and 2 packs of minced beef
- 1 cans of red kidney beans or butter beans
- 3-4 carrots
- 1-2 onions
- courgette, parsnips (optional)
- 3 cans of chopped tomatoes
- Ground coriander (optional)
- Sunflower oil
- Black pepper
- Kitchen foil
We are going to be cooking several meals simultaneously.
Switch on your over on 180-190 degrees Celsius. Get your roast meat out, cover with salt and black pepper, then cover with sunflower oil. Stick in the oven, if you can stick more than one meat in you will save yourself time and money. My oven fits two roast pans easily, so I do two at a time. Cook for 15 minutes.
While your meat it cooking in the oven peel carrots, onions, parsnip, open your canned tomatoes and kidney/butter beans.
Get your meat out of the oven, cover with kitchen foil, turn your oven down to 150 degrees Celsius. Put your meat in, forget about it for 2.5 hours. After 2.5 hours switch the oven off and leave the meat inside to cool down. Get it out after 30 minutes and let cool on work surface.
Chop up onions, get a big pan out, put on medium heat, pour a bit of oil in it, fry onions in oil till golden, add 3 packs of minced beef or 2 packs of beef and 1 pack of pork, mix well. Fry on medium heat. While it’s frying if you have a food processor put peeled carrots, parsnip, courgette, kidney beans/butter beans and 1 can of tinned tomatoes in it, run till smooth. If you are using a grater grate your vegetables while keeping an eye on the mince. Stir regularly so it doesn’t burn. Add some ground coriander, fry till all the mince is brown. Add processed mixture or grated veg, tinned tomatoes, turn the heat down, cover with a lid. Stir every 10 minutes, cook with the closed lid for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, open the lid and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Switch off.
Now the most involved part of cooking. Take your pack of mince, add some salt and pepper. Get a big flat plate out or a chopping board. Mix very well with your hands, start making balls of the size that you like. If you mix the mince very well with your hands it doesn’t actually need any eggs to hold it together. Lay mince balls on a plate or chopping board. Once you’ve made them all get a frying pan out, put on medium heat, pour a bit of oil in, when hot put the meatballs in, fry till brown. When brown, cover a lid and cook 10 minutes if small and 15 minutes if big. My frying pan doesn’t fit all the meatballs in, so I have to cook the meatballs in 2-3 goes. I put cooked meatballs away and cook the rest in the same way.
Remember to stir your Bolognese with hidden veg at the same time.
Now you have all for your meat dishes cooked let them cool down. I separate whole chicken into 4 sections because there’s 4 of us. If there’s more people in your family split it into bigger chunks, and put in zip locker freezer bag. Cut roast beef or pork (whatever you cooked) into slices. Separate into portions enough to feed your family once. Put each portion into zip locker freezer bag. You get the idea. Same with Bolognese. Carefully close the zip locker, make sure all the air is out, now flatten it. When it’s flat it doesn’t take much space in the freezer which means you can fit more. Separate meatballs into portions and also put in freezer bags. Now remember to leave some food for today’s dinner, put the rest in the freezer. If you wish you can label and date your stash, do it before you put meat in the bags. I don’t bother because we eat it faster than 6 months safety thing expires.
When it’s time to eat your delicious homemade frozen food get the bag out of the freezer couple of hours in advance and leave in the fridge. Then heat very well in the microwave without the bag. Enjoy. If you found this blog post useful feel free to share with friends and family so everyone can learn how to batch cook and save time, energy and money.