Monday 18 November 2013

Why I batch cook (and so should you!)

I am very much, definitely an adult by now. I’ve looked at my birth certificate, and it confirms it. But I really only feel like I’ve been properly taking care of myself for the last couple of years ago, probably because until last year, I’ve always lived with people who were happy to take care of me and I am a lazy, lazy person. The biggest lesson living alone has taught me though, is food preparation. I’ve been tweeting and instagramming a lot lately about my cooking and I’ve been asked to talk a little bit about my methods, so I wanted to focus on batch cooking. Because it’s the best.

I’m sure there are a fair few of you out there who can identify with the habit of grabbing a ready meal from Tesco or M&S on the way home. At £2 or £3 a day it never seems like too much money, but it adds up. And if you live with an M&S petrol station on the way home like I do, you’ll know that it’s closer to £5 a pop. It’s a bad habit, guys. Stop it. Stop it now.

Aside from the preservatives in ready meals and the extra packaging damaging the environment, it’s costing you so much money! Wouldn’t you rather have more money? You could buy those shoes that you like! Right? This is why I batch cook. I fell into it for practical reasons at the start of this year, and now I wouldn’t dream of doing anything else. This is why:

1. It’s way more cost efficient.
If you go to the supermarket with a specific recipe in mind, you might spend £15 or £20 on ingredients. But that money could give you 14 nights worth of dinners if you planned it well! Or, it could buy you a few days worth of ready meals. No brainer.

2. It’s better for you.
The thing with batch cooking is that it involves cooking pretty much from scratch most of the time – give or take a pre-prepared jar of sauce or soup or something. This means that you know exactly what’s going into your dinner and can control every part of it – the salt, the fat, everything. So even if you’re not watching your weight, you’ll still be doing your body some good.

3. It’s great for busy people.
I work full time, have a super active social life and then spend my evenings blogging or doing other projects. I am definitely a busy person. So, I probably cook once a week. Sometimes even once every two weeks. This fits in perfectly with my lifestyle, and because I usually have at least a couple of recipes on the go at once, it doesn’t mean eating the same thing day in, day out.

4. It reduces waste.
I hate wasting food! I HATE IT SO MUCH! Nothing makes me more cross than throwing away something mouldy that I – or whoever I share my fridge with – have forgotten about. What a waste. It’s unforgiveable. Batch cooking means you can use fresh vegetables, but prolong their life by cooking them then freezing the portions.

5. It doesn’t matter how many people you’re cooking for.
Whether it’s just for you – like I do, most of the time – or whether you have someone coming round unexpectedly, you’ll be prepared. It even works if you’ve made a big dish for a group of friends, as you can save the leftovers for yourself later.

I usually make a big dish over the weekend then portion it up. I buy little plastic boxes from Poundland or Sainsburys which fit neatly into my freezer drawer (Sainsburys are £2 for 8, Poundland only £1 for £8 – but they are much weaker and really only last one use as the freezer and microwave kills them), and then it means in the week I can just get one out, microwave it and wolf it down. No muss, no fuss – and very little washing up on a daily basis, too.

Here are some of my favourite batch cooking recipes. They’re all pretty low fat, but can be tailored if you’re not interested in that. But flavour is super important to me, so even if you aren’t into low fat food, you should give these a go. I can totally vouch for them.

Spaghetti Bolognese
This is bulked out with tons of vegetables so it makes huge portions. I usually serve 6 with this, but I think it would easily stretch to 8. I like to add red wine and olives to mine.

Butternut Squash Lasagne
One of my ultimate favourite recipes ever. This freezes and reheats really well, it’s super low fat and good for you and it serves 6.

Garlic & Mushroom Lasagne
See above, basically. YUM.

Nigella’s Mexican Lasagne
Okay, I really like lasagne based things, apparently. This is a Nigella recipe, and is super filling as it’s been bulked out with loads of beans as well as the tortilla layers. It serves 8.

Traditional Lasagne
Well, when in Rome. This serves 6, but what I wanted to point out was that lasagne, and Spaghetti Bolognese, and most tomato based sauces actually lend themselves really well to reheating. The flavours mature and become more intense. I actually prefer them reheated to straight out the oven!

Blue Cheese & Pesto Pasta
Chockful of tasty amazing things (blue cheese!) and it's actually quite good for you too! WINNER.

The nice thing with batch cooking is that you can spend longer on an exciting dish because you know it's all the cooking you'll have to do all week. But also, I recommend having some store cupboard staples like passata and mushroom soup as both are an easy base for a sauce, and always keep a pack of bacon or chorizo in the freezer. So if you do want to make something last minute, all you have to do is buy some fresh veg (just mushrooms and onions will often do) and then raid your cupboard and you'll have this rich chorizo pasta or this creamy mushroom & bacon dish in no time.


  1. I totally *should* do this, as I'm truly hopeless at cooking for myself, preparing shopping lists or just generally, eating enough meals.

  2. Oh you genius Sarah. I'd be lying if I said I didn't make that butternut squash lasagne and blue cheese pesto pasta at least once or twice a month for work lunch boxes... x

  3. I batch cook a lot, especially using my slow cooker. Curries are amazing for batch cooking and I use tinned chickpeas a lot as a staple- high in fibre, super good for you, not as starchy as potatoes or rice.

  4. I NEED to get into the habit of doing this. I'm counting calories at the moment, so I think the only problem I would have is trying to work out the correct calories. I spy a Sunday cooking session coming on!

  5. Great post, I've started doing this as living on my own I find I waste a lot of food otherwise as I tend to end up cooking for about 10!
    Lasagne is always better reheated the next day or so, so this is my favourite. I'm so trying out the mushroom version though.

  6. I do this! I also do soups for lunch and I find stews/casseroles/curries freeze really well. Often I put the ends of my breadmaker bread pre sliced in the freezer for emergency toast. In fact today I've had soup for lunch and there is a bolognaise sauce for dinner both from the freezer :) I usually cook my pasta separately though as it doesn't stay al dente after being in the microwave...

  7. I love doing this, especially in the Winter. I just hate cooking when it's freezing and I'm usually so busy. It's nice to just pop in some homemade food and eat with ease.

  8. I am inspired... I go through phases every so often of batch cooking (usually just chilli!) but as I'm off work next week and with a busy December on the horizon it's time to stock that freezer up with healthy and nutritional meals as there will be more than enough rubbish consumed over Chirstmas.


  9. Batch cooking is the best. I batch cook stuff in the slow cooker too, which is even more super lazy and awesome.
    Oh, and if you do ever treat yourself to a takeaway, those plastic tubs that Chinese always comes in are perfect for freezing single portions of dinners. They're usually decent enough quality to handle multiple visits to the freezer or the microwave.

  10. I really need to start batch cooking, I've been planning on doing it for about a year and still haven't gotten around to it. Need to change my habits. x

    Leanne - A Slice of My Life

  11. Nigella's Mexican Lasagne is just my favourite thing ever - I could eat it every day! I used to love batch cooking when I lived with my parents, but since moving out I have the tiniest freezer and just can't do it like I used to. I'm still a big advocate of planning meals and taking leftovers to work for lunch though - it saves so much time and money!


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