Batch Cook For an Easier Life
Updated: Dec 30, 2021
When our diaries are busy, it can be a real challenge to find any time to cook let alone prepare three nutritious meals, and snacks, from scratch. Many of us have our go-to, quick wins for those one-off manic days. While these may help keep us towards that upper end of the domestic goddess scale, how do we cope for an entire week?!
If you're facing into a full week of tight schedules, and need to plan five or seven days of eating, batch cooking is the key to managing your life and reducing the stress load. Advance preparation of food and clever storage of larger quantities can help ensure you and your family have tasty, nutritious meals and snacks throughout the week. Most importantly, it can be food that is table-ready with the absolute minimum of hassle.
Meal prep and batch cooking can help you:
Spend less time in the kitchen during the week.
Ensure you have healthy meals in your fridge or freezer helping you save time and money too because you'll be less tempted to phone for that take-away.
Prepare the right meals to support your health and nutrition goals.
Remove the stress from deciding what to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and nibbles. There can be little more stressful than being time depleted, low on energy after a day's work, and facing a hungry family.
Save money, as you’ll cook and eat what you need rather than spend £10 on a cappuccino and blueberry muffin when you get hunger pangs or cravings strike.
Explore new recipes and increase confidence in your culinary skills.
Bond and have some fun with family members in the kitchen when you're prepping together and enjoy their company over a relaxing meal later (you may think I'm pushing my luck here, but it has been known to happen!)
While healthy batch cooking may take some extra time at the weekend (or the designated "prep evening"), spending a few hours on meal prep will certainly save you time elsewhere.
1. Choose your recipes
Look through recipe books, magazines, food blogs, and social media for meals that appeal to you and your family's tastes. Choose recipes that are healthy and that will keep well in the fridge or freezer.
Size does matter!
If you're cooking for one, using a recipe that serves 2 will either provide you with 2 dinners or a dinner plus a lunch for later in the week. A recipe for 4 will not create substantially more work to cook yet will provide an additional two meals that you can freeze for the following week.
When you’re cooking for a family and want plenty of leftovers, aim for recipes that serve at least 8 or multiply up the recipes that serve 4-6.
Create your meal or menu plan, with supporting recipes, to design your week of perfect eating.
Breakfast Batch Cooking Ideas
Baked egg muffins: mix eggs, veggies, and meat if desired together and bake in greased muffin tins or ramekins.
Overnight oats: make enough of these to last several days. They will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days. Check out this chocolate strawberry overnight oats recipe.
Smoothies: place your smoothie ingredients (without the liquid) into mason jars or freezer bags and place in the freezer until required. When you’re ready to use, simply add the liquid and blend. Smoothies also store well fully made in the fridge for 2-3 days or can be frozen and defrosted overnight for use.
Chia Seed pudding: quick to make and store for 3-4 days in the fridge. It's also easy to switch up flavours by adding fruit and other toppings.
Granola: Bake a large batch of granola and store it in a jar or airtight container. Add milk, fresh fruit, and yogurt to enjoy for breakfast or a snack.
Lunch and Dinner Batch Cooking Ideas
Soups and stews: – make a large pot and reheat as required throughout the week. For speed of heating, split and store in smaller volumes.
Mason jar salads: Layer salad dressing, veggies, beans, grains, meat etc. in jars. These will keep for about 2-3 days in the fridge. Take care to put the crunchy veg in after the dressing to avoid a soggy salad. When you’re ready, shake or pour onto a plate, to eat.
Salad or Taco bowls.
Chilli or curry.
Pasta bakes or lasagne.
Salads: with cooked ingredients - meats, legumes or grains etc.
Wraps and burritos. Check out a great freezer-friendly recipe here.
Burgers: can be easily cooked in batches, and frozen. Top tip - place parchment paper between burgers so they don’t stick together.
Snack Batch Cooking Ideas
Cut up fruits and veggie batons and store in containers in the fridge.
Portion out hummus into mason jars and add sliced up veggie sticks, store in the fridge.
Boil eggs and store, in their shell, in the fridge.
Crackers and dips
Make trail mix and divide into small containers for on-the-go snacking.
Energy bites or balls
Fruit and nut butter
Toast walnuts and store in an airtight container (great with sliced apple!)
2. Consider your basics
Are there individual foods that you tend to use more?
You don't need to always batch cook full recipes or meals. By batch cooking or preparing some basics in advance, you can have the flexibility of building your meal from pre-prepared ingredients rather than starting to cook from scratch.
A batch of pre-cooked couscous or crumbled tofu or beans can be used, cold, in a salad bowl or added to a stew or soup. Preparation that you might consider includes:
Grains (rice, quinoa, couscous, amaranth, bulgur wheat etc).
Roasted veggies - root veg, in particular, works well.
Beans and legumes (lentils, black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, edamame).
Roast chicken - great to have for snacks, lunch wraps and salads.
Salad dressing and marinades - you can't beat homemade!
Fermented foods - sauerkraut, pickles etc.
3. Have you the tools?
Healthy batch prepping and cooking is much easier when you have the right equipment.
You may find these useful:
One or two large saucepans or pots.
A large casserole dish.
Glass storage jars and containers
A slow cooker
A large roasting pan
Tape and waterproof pen for labelling
For batch cooking, you will probably need to set aside a few hours so it is definitely worth getting some help from the family. Even the youngest can help with washing the fresh produce and portioning out snacks, and the whole experience is almost guaranteed to be more enjoyable if you can have some assistance with washing-up as you go!
4. Store your meals and food properly
Batch cooking should help to minimise if not eliminate your food waste. However, incorrect storage can easily sabotage your efforts so here's a few tips worth considering:
Slightly under-cook some recipes to help ensure that foods don't feel overcooked after re-heating.
Seal foods in airtight jars and containers with tight fitting lids.
Store pre-cut veg like carrots and celery in water to prevent them drying out.
Freeze fruit on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper before placing in a freezer bag or container. This will stop it from sticking together.
Label all items for freezing with the name of the recipe and the date you made it.
Cover pre-washed greens and herbs and store in a jar with water (like a vase of flowers!)
Wrap burgers, muffins and bars between parchment paper when freezing so they don’t stick together.
Store asparagus and cut herbs in a glass of water, as if flowers, in the fridge.
Once your batch cooking and storage is done, be sure to enjoy your meal plan AND that extra time you've now gifted yourself during the week!