A parent’s life is never smooth or easy, in fact chaotic and sleep-deprived would be a fairer description! Do yourself a favour and rid your life of one of the biggest daily stresses by organising the nightly meal in advance and batch cooking – it’s the secret weapon of every supermum or superdad. Here’s how you can master it!
Why batch cook?
Cooking in advance will slash your supermarket shopping bill and save you time. You’ll not only be less likely to waste food by having a meal plan of what you’re going to cook, but will save hours in the kicthen too by cooking in bulk. Plus, batch cooking is healthier for your family as the temptation of calorie-laden pre-made sauces and meals when you’re short on time won’t be there.
Types of batch cooking
There are a few methods of batch cooking – but basically all involve cooking ahead of time and freezing or stockpiling these foods for those nights when slaving away at the stove just isn’t on the cards. Here’s a few different methods.
Batch cooking freezer meals
These are entire family dinners made in advance and frozen to be thawed out, reheated and enjoyed by the hordes later. Freezer meals are great because even kids can press reheat on the microwave, or turn on the oven, to prepare the evening meal – and you can actually have a night (or two!) off from cooking.
There are heaps of meals that are perfect for freezing, but taste like you’ve just made them when reheated. Make sure that meals are fully heated right through. Some recipes you can try include:
Store frozen dinners in zip lock bags if you’re short on space in the freezer. If you prefer to use containers that can be reused, ensure that they are freezer-proof.
Batch cooking ingredients
If freezer meals are not something you want to serve up night after night, how about making a few staples that you freeze and then whip up into a variety of meals later, quick sticks. Here’s some ideas:
- Make simmer sauces such as bolognaise sauce which can be used as the basis for an array of meals including lasagne, spaghetti bolognaise, nachos, chilli con carne and more.
- Roast a whole chicken once a month, cut it up and freeze the meat pieces in 1 cup serving portions in the freezer to be used when you want to cook a speedy stir fry, quick chicken pasta dishes or just a quick simmer sauce meal.
- Brown and store bulk-buy minced meat in meal portions to make a variety of quick meals on the cheap including spaghetti bolognaise, hamburgers and family shepherds pie.
Always ensure that you follow correct food safety advice when storing, defrosting, and reheating food. It is recommended to defrost meat in the fridge overnight, in the lower section away from other foods that juices could drip onto.
Batch cooking soup
Soup is the ultimate quick dinner and a great weekend lunch too, but the canned variety just doesn’t taste as good as homemade. Try batch cooking soup by doubling the recipe and storing meal portions in the freezer for those nights when you feel like a homemade meal without the effort. Check out:
Once a week, fortnight or month cooking
If you really want to be a hardcore batch cook, or you have a bub on the way and are preparing for those first few weeks at home with a newborn, try dedicating one day a week, fortnight or if you’re really organised, a month to cooking all of your meals for that period in advance.
To do this you’ll need a detailed meal plan and have the pantry and fridge stocked with all the ingredients you’ll need before your day of cooking. You’ll also need either a deep freezer or have a very roomy freezer to store all your meals.
Then dedicate the entire day to your kitchen and cook, cook, cook. It’s a mammoth job, but once you’ve done it, you can kiss goodbye to cooking for the week, fortnight or month! Freeze the meals, label and date them, and all you have to do is thaw, reheat, and serve.
Make sure you double all the ingredients for each recipe, to make twice as much. You could even quadruple them and have plenty of leftovers for lunches.
This article was written for Kidspot.