The wilko guide to healthy batch cooking
We think batch cooking is a great way to take the hassle out of spending time every day in the kitchen and still eat wholesome food. With us all having to find different ways to live and work, it’s a good way to help you stick to your 'new year' healthy eating plans, too! You’ll find batch cooking for your family gives you back some much-needed time, as you juggle a thousand and one other things.
It’s also a great way to sneak veggies in for the little ones... we know they aren’t always the biggest fans! If you’re completely new to all this, don’t worry as we’ve got plenty of batch cooking tips for beginners and also if you’re on a budget. Here’s how it’s done…
If you find some of your veggies don’t last between food shops, then batch cooking meals and freezing where you can, will definitely help solve this.
It also means that you won’t have to go to the shops quite so often – that's a little win!
Depending on the ingredients, you can save money by buying everything in one go and using your haul straight away to cook several meals.
Cooking can be done in stages, so you don’t even have to cook the whole meal at once! One popular batch cooking method is to cook and freeze the main ingredients, then just defrost when they’re needed.
So, for example, cooking a whole batch of minced beef with onions and freezing it means you’ve already got the main ingredient for making a selection of dishes, such as shepherd’s pie, spag bol and chilli con carne. But make sure you vary your cooking; you don’t want to end up with ten of the same meals!
Slow cookers are perfect for batch cooking and planning ahead. Pop your ingredients into the slow cooker, set the timer and be on your way! When you get home from a long day out and about, your meal will be cooked and ready to be eaten and any left-overs can be chilled and frozen for another day.
Batch cooking means you’ve always got something in that just needs to be thawed and heated up, so you’re less likely to ring for an expensive take-away!
Top tip: When out shopping, there are often plenty of bargains to be had later in the evening as food reaches its sell-by date (and it’ll hopefully be less busy). It’s a great way to add to the batch meal you’ve already prepared. If you can, set aside an evening for batch cooking after your planned trip to your local supermarket to see if you can pick up any reduced meat or veg.
We think batch cooking is ideal for people looking to eat healthier or trying to stick to a particular diet. If your priority is weight loss, muscle gain or general health, it’s easy to tailor each meal to your diet and have it ready when you need it. You’ll be much less likely to grab fast food or snack on whatever is in the cupboard if you’ve got the perfect wholesome meal in the freezer!
Top tip: When following a recipe, the easiest way to bulk cook is to simply double the ingredients, or quadruple them so that you have plenty of leftovers to freeze for lunches or evening meals.
Homemade soups and casseroles, curries and bakes are perfect one-pot meals for any time of year. They’re easy to cook in batches and then portion out and pop in the freezer for another day. Just don’t forget to label it with the date and what it is and take it out of the freezer in time for tea!
Batch cooking for the family
We’re all for anything that makes busy family-life a bit easier and we think batch-cooking meals ready for those hectic days is a great little win!
Having ready-prepared meals saves so much time as it means you won’t have to cook from scratch every night and you’ll have more time to spend with the kids (or catch up on jobs!).
Ready-prepared meals are really quick to reheat if you’ve got a microwave. Don’t have a microwave? No problem – most meals can be cooked on the hob or popped in the oven, too. Simply cover with tin foil to keep the moisture and flavour in.
Some meals may require some quick cooking with fresh ingredients to complete the dish. If you’ve cooked Bolognese for example, you’ll just need to boil a bit of pasta to go with it and you’ll have a delicious healthy meal in minutes.
You can also chop and cook some of your ingredients ahead of time so all you need to do on the day is a bit of speedy reheating, leaving you free to do other things.
Top tips for the perfect freeze
- Always cool food properly before you freeze it
- Don’t re-freeze anything that’s already been frozen
- Always make sure frozen meals are thoroughly re-heated and piping hot
- Make sure you store your food properly to avoid freezer burn and so it lasts
- Use freezer-friendly storage containers that are easy to stack
- If using food bags, spread the leftovers so they freeze flat and save space
- Seal and label food (don’t forget to mark the date of when you made the food – everything has a shelf life)
Easy meal prep ideas
It’s easy to think that batch cooking is only for the main meal of the day, but it can be used for so much more! We think it’s a great idea to get on board with dinner, lunch and breakfast meal prep, as well as pre-making sauces that can quickly pep-up a meal! Give it a go and you’ll soon have your fridge and freezer packed with tasty meals just waiting to be reheated. Our top tip, though, would be to start small if you’re new to batch cooking, so it doesn’t seem like a never-ending task. Once you get into the swing of it, you’ll soon figure out time-saving tips. We suggest to pick a dish you feel most disrupts your day and start from there. Here are a few batch cooking ideas to get you started:
- Overnight oats
- Fruit salad
- Homemade breakfast bars
- Pasta salad
- Couscous salad
- Rice salad
- Stir fry
- Spag bol
- Vegetable stew
- Chicken fried rice
Our recipe win for the whole family: Terrifically Tasty Turkey Bolognese
These quantities make approximately 8 – 10 servings... depending on how hungry people are!
For this recipe, we used turkey mince for a healthier option, but if you prefer, pork and beef mince work just as well. And, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, simply swap in some veg mince, lentils, or any veg that you like.
The same goes for the other ingredients – you can simply swap ingredients depending on what you have in the fridge and cupboards. Anything goes for this one-pot wonder!
The beauty of this recipe is that it’s pretty quick to knock up and it freezes really well. If you’re like us, you’ll probably end up making way too much anyway, so it’s the perfect recipe for batch cooking.
Cool any leftovers and pop into freezer bags or storage boxes. If you live alone, portion out individually. If you’re a family, store it in multiples of two and save on space in the freezer.
Finely chop onions, carrots, celery and grate the courgette with a cheese grater. Squeeze the grated courgette in the palms of your hands to reduce the amount of water from them (they hold quite a lot of water which can make the sauce watery if you don’t give them a little squeeze beforehand).
Add olive oil to a heavy-based pan (something like a crock pot is perfect) and heat a little. Add onions, carrots and celery and sweat down. Grind fennel seeds and add with the Italian seasoning, basil stalks and white pepper. Set aside basil leaves. Once the herbs have blended with the veg, remove from the pan and pop in a bowl.
Add your mince to the pan and brown off. Add the veg back in the pot (including chopped mushrooms), then pour in 100ml of stock (simply dissolve your stock cube in a jug of boiling water). Add the rind of your hard cheese. This will make your sauce extra yummy and it saves wasting it.
Add your tinned tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes on a medium heat (if you cook it slower for longer, the flavours will get even better).
Add salt, pepper and basil leaves. Serve with a pasta of your choice (if you can leave it to cool slightly before eating, this’ll make it even tastier – we won’t judge if you have to tuck straight in though!)
So, there you have it, our top tips for batch cooking and a very tasty recipe to get you started! Whether you’re struggling for time or looking to get the kids involved in the kitchen, we think batch cooking really is an all-round winner for family life.