This week we’re planning and plotting, to raise our supper game by learning the batch cooking basics with Kate from the Nourish team. Kate’s a keen cook but with little spare time on her hands she sometimes struggles to keep meals well balanced for her family. That’s where batch cooking comes in!
My batch cooking journey began 12yrs ago. Before that I was young, free and scooping up hummus and crackers on my way out in the evening, or occasionally cooking for a dinner party. Things changed slightly when I started commuting and moved in with my other half. Dinner was something we took in turns to create and if we didn’t have time then a takeaway was an easy option. The big change for me was when my first son was born and suddenly getting home from work and either throwing some salad in a bowl or picking up a Thai for supper wasn’t really an option anymore. Mentioning my struggles to my mum, she reminded me of how, when we were little, she spent weekends filling the freezer and jars with simple food that just needed heating up.
Getting started with batch cooking basics.
Throughout my maternity leave I honed a short list of simple, easy to create batch cooked meals. It wasn’t rocket science but it sure made life easier during a busy week! I’d suggest first making a list of your family favourites. Work back from there to ensure you don’t get too much food waste.
What I learnt first was to keep it simple and stick to things that I felt confident we would use regularly. I learnt my lesson early on with freezing all manner of complicated meals that never came out the same once they’d been frozen. Far too many times I made batches of salads for lunches that week, only to forget them after the first day and be left with a slimy bowl of leaves!
What can I batch cook? Almost anything, but keep it simple!
My rule of thumb is that on Saturday or Sunday I will make food for the start of the week, and keep them in the fridge for 3 days. For the later part of the week I’ll freeze things on a Sunday and defrost them the day we want to eat them. Eating something while the ingredients are properly fresh is best for you. This is when your food will provide optimum nutrition and goodness.
Freezing into portions is good practice so that if someone is running late etc you aren’t wasting food unnecessarily. It also gives you options if for some reason, like in my house, someone absolutely doesn’t want to eat what’s on the meal plan for the week! I also love to roast a pile of veggies for the fridge to have for my lunch during the week. These I then pack down into silicone storage bags as a daily portion.
It might sound a little dull at first but I find that planning my week’s shop carefully means that I have very little, to no, food waste. It also sets everyone’s expectations at the start of the week, we enjoy doing this together on a Saturday morning as a family. There are definitely nights when we don’t plan, often Saturday night or Sunday lunch for instance. The rest of the time we find when we’re super busy that having planned everything means we eat well balanced, nutritious meals, instead of grabbing something that’s maybe not so good for us.
Storing your batch cooking.
We’ve switched all of our freezer and fridge containers over to sustainable options over the past few years. I love these silicone fridge/freezer storage pouches for storing anything from fruit slices for when the kids get home, to soup or sauces. Or for bigger things, like main meals or muffins, I use our metal lunch/storage boxes. You could try using glass jars and/or storage boxes too, we’re a bit clumsy here so they don’t work for me!
I personally don’t like to store things in the freezer for more than a month or two or the fridge for more than 3 days. Keeping what’s in the freezer on a fairly strict rotation so I don’t end up with lots of bits and pieces leftover and taking up space for ages. I generally jot a date onto my freezer and fridge storage boxes/pouches, just to keep me organised.
My top 4 tips for keeping on track with batch cooking.
- Main meals – regulars on repeat in our house are things like veggie bolognese, refried beans, eggplant and vegetable korma.
- Soup – stored in tupperware in the fridge for a few days, or in the freezer. Some of our favourites are creamy brassica and roast cauliflower. Soups are great as they fill that gap when you don’t know what to have for lunch, or someone is late home from work.
- Simple lunches – Easy grab and eat things for lunch boxes like courgette fritters, apple and banana keto muffins, quinoa and roasted veg salad, some yummy, homemade energy bites and of course the epic Nourish Raw Slices!
- Keep a few bags of frozen veg and fruit in the freezer. Frozen fruit and veg is frozen within minutes of picking and this ensures that they retain virtually all of their just picked goodness. Try companies like Pak’d for frozen fruit, nothing like a smoothie or some instant banana ice cream on a hot day. Or a bag of peas can instantly warm you up from the inside soup on a cold day.