Prepping like a boss with Liz…how batch cooking can save both time and money!
You’ve probably all heard of the body coach, Joe Wicks and the likes shouting about the benefits of “prepping like a boss”! Basically this involves batch cooking and it’s really easy with a little bit of planning, clever shopping and a few hours on a day that’s convenient to you oh and a well-stocked Tupperware cupboard and a good load of freezer bags helps too!
In this day and age many people find themselves with less and less time to prep and cook meals every day, this can be for a whole host of reasons! You might work shifts, leaving you tired or actually asleep at the times when you would naturally be prepping a meal, you might be a busy parent trying to juggle work, the school run, homework and a demanding toddler who, if left to their own devices will very quickly create a whirlwind of destruction in their wake! (hands up! this is me! I’m a part-time working mum of 3 little ones, aged 7, 5 and 18 months!), you may be an avid gym goer, leaving little time to cook meals and when you return from the gym you’re so hungry you could eat the kitchen table, you want something and you want it now! (This is also me!) Or you may just be busy enjoying life and simply don’t want to spend every evening cooking because you’re too busy living life! All these things and a host of others can leave you wanting to reach for the nearest take-away menu or making less than healthy choices, that can leave you feeling worse than ever and out of pocket too! Of course the occasional take-away can be a great treat, but if it’s happening more often than not you’re soon going to spending a fair few of your hard earned pennies and more than likely, not doing your health any favours either!
So where do you start with this “prepping like a boss”? Well from my experience of batch cooking,
These are my top tips
- Plan. Sitting down and making a little meal plan really helps! I love getting my recipe books out or scrolling through Pinterest for inspiration and picking out recipes that take my fancy and then adding to my family favourites that always go down well with the kids! (Check out my easy sausage meatball recipe at the end of this blog!) Firstly planning like this helps to guide your shopping list and hopefully stop you from aimlessly grabbing at random ingredients with the hope that something might just come together! This alone will save you money and time!
- Pick out recipes with similar base ingredients. This enables to you plan your batch cooks for super efficiency so you can buy these items in bulk and cook them at the same time, usually saving you money! For example if you plan to make a batch of spaghetti bolognaise, the main meat ingredient in this is mince, be it beef or pork or maybe chicken or turkey if you’re aiming to cut the amount saturated fat in your diet, then it would make sense to make another batch meal using mince too, a favourite of mine is chilli con carne, this also using similar key ingredients to your classic spag bol, with a tomato base, using garlic and onions but switching up the spices, throwing in a tin of kidney beans and you have a whole new batch cooked meal! Maybe you fancy whipping up a batch of chicken curry? Well it’d make sense to also make a batch of chicken casserole or maybe a pie? A bit of thought means you won’t be buying lots of little bits of ingredients which add up!
- Take advantage of special offers and discounts for buying in bulk! Obviously I would always recommend using your local butchers for your meat! Both the quality and service, in my opinion, is incomparable to that of a supermarket and you are supporting your local community! At Honeywell’s we offer our “family bulk buy” packs in a whole range of options, including Beef mince, chicken fillets and thighs, stewing steak and braising steak. These packs come in either 2kg or 1.2kg sizes and are priced at a discounted set price, as a little reward for buying a larger amount! All individually wrapped in convenient 400g packs, so they are perfect for freezing if you don’t want to use it all at once. All these packs contain the perfect base ingredients that freeze well and lend themselves to batch cooking!
- Keep a stock of key ingredients: I like to always have the following ingredients in stock because I know I always have the components to make a delicious meal right at my fingertips! Yes there will be an initial outlay if you don’t already keep these items in your store cupboard but once you’ve got them a good stock of herbs and spices (oregano, coriander, thyme, rosemary, cumin, paprika, chilli powder and curry powder are my top essentials!) will last for ages as will items like chopped tomatoes, tinned coconut milk, tinned lentils and beans, rice, pasta and stock cubes. Items like potatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, are all really great ingredients to have in stock aside from the fresh vegetables and other fresh ingredients that you’ll need to pick up according to which recipes you choose to batch cook.
- How much to cook. Personally I always cook about 2 or 3 meals at once and about double the amount I need for one meal for my family of 5, so I always have two portions, one in my fridge ready for the next few days ahead and one in my freezer. Yes this takes a bit of time to prep and cook but I find it really is worth it when I hit that mid-week point and all I have to do it stick something yummy in the oven, add some fresh veggies and dinner is served with very minimal effort!
- Label your dishes. I store most of my batch cooked food in my freezer and I’m sure we’ve plonked left over curry sauce, mashed potato and the like in the freezer, unlabelled, with the vow to use it up, then you come across it in a few week’s time and everything looks like same and you end up defrosting mystery items! I buy freezer bags with spaces that you can write on or put labels on my Tupperware and I always write the name of the dish and the date it needs to be used by (you can freeze for up to 3 months). This way I always know what I’m getting and I can keep an eye on what needs using up.
- Cooling and storing. Working in food retailing I am very aware of the importance of food hygiene and safe storage of food. If you’re going to take the time and effort to batch cook meals, you want to make sure that they are safe to eat! One of the most important things is thoroughly cooking all your ingredients so they are cooked through and piping hot. Secondly another very important issue is cooling your dishes as fast as possible. I recommend portioning up your meals into your desired containers and leaving to cool for about 30 minutes before placing in the fridge for a few hours. I then place all but one of my batches in the freezer (making sure the meals that need using first are at the top!) so when I defrost them they are as fresh as possible but leaving one for my evening meal.
- Defrosting and re-heating. As a rule I always try to remember to take something out the freezer the night before and pop it in the fridge to defrost. A good 24 hours in the fridge should be enough to thoroughly defrost your prepped dishes! You can then pop the container, providing is safe to do so, in the microwave to reheat until its piping hot all the way through! All that’s left to do then, is serve up your meal with for lovely fresh veggies and job done!
With a bit of time and planning you can whip up a whole load of delicious meals for yourself and your family to enjoy for the week or longer if you choose to freeze!
Why not try using our Family bulk buy packs, available from our Eaves Lane Farm Shop, Our Barton Grange Butchery and our Bents Food Hall Butchery.
Our family bulk buy packs
- Chicken Fillets 5 x 400g Pack – £11.99 each
- Chicken Fillets 3 x 400g Pack – £6.99 each
- Chicken Thighs 2.265 kg pack – £10.99 each
- Braising Steak 5 x 400g Pack – £16.99 each
- Braising Steak 3 x 400g Pack – £9.99 each
- Stewing Steak 3 x 400g Pack – £8.49 each
- Stewing Steak 5 x 400g Pack – £13.99 each
- Mince Beef 5 x 400g Pack – £10.49 each
- Mince Beef 3 x 400g Pack – £6.49 each
All individually wrapped for your convenience