How To Cook For The Week: Batch Cooking For Beginners
It can be incredibly frustrating after a busy day at work to get home and realise you haven’t got anything ready for tea.
The temptation is to throw some fish fingers on a baking sheet and serve with some frozen chips. The kids will probably love it. However, no one else in the house will thank you!
The other option when you’re in a hurry is a shop bought ready meal, which generally comes in a super small portion size, leaving you and your family unsatisfied and nutritionally defunct!
Wouldn’t it be great to have on hand some healthy home cooked meals ready to defrost and stick in the oven or microwave when life has thrown you a dodgeball?
We’ve got some fantastic tips in our batch cooking for beginners guide, to help you start on your journey to batch cooking and freezer cooking meals. We’ve made the steps simple to follow, and you’ll find that most of them are something you are already doing most days, you may just need to tweak your cooking skills to help you to freeze larger portions of the healthy meals you’re already cooking for your family.
In this post, you will learn how to batch cook and freeze your weekly meals and how to make a batch cooking meal plan. We will talk you through batch cooking for families and some healthy meal ideas. and you can download our monthly meal planner if you wanted to try monthly batch cooking!
So, without further ado lets ditch the oven chips and learn how to prepare some easy freezer meals for the whole family, let’s start batch cooking for beginners!
Before you begin batch cooking you will need
- Large pans
- Large bowls
- Slow cooker (optional) to free up some time
- Freezer labels and sharpie
- Food processor (optional) for chopping large portions of onions and for grating.
- Soup maker (optional)
- Suitable containers or bags for freezing
- Pantry staples from your list
- Sharp knife and chopping board
- A clutter-free space to work
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What is batch cooking?
Batch cooking is a simple way to prepare all your weekly or monthly meals in advance. By cooking more than one portion at a time and freezing them, you can thaw and use a different meal portion every day as a healthy meal when you want to save time , and is a much better alternative for your family than shop bought ready meals and tomato sauce which can often be high in salt, sugar and other additives.
What are the benefits of batch cooking freezer meals?
- Batch cooking freezer meals allows you to have a ready cooked homemade dinner available whenever you need it.
- It is far cheaper cooking your own make ahead meals than buying store-bought ready meals
- Homemade meals are far healthier than store-bought ready meals as you are in control of everything you add to the dish.
- You can adjust your meals to suit your family’s dietary requirements, such as nut allergies, gluten and lactose intolerance.
- You can avoid salt, sugars and other unhealthy preservatives and additives.
- You can hide blended vegetables into the sauces of most healthy freezer meals to ensure your kids are getting extra portions of vegetables at every meal.
How to batch cook and freeze meals
In my post meal planning for beginners, I discussed how to create a meal plan for all your weekly meals. Hopefully, you’re now well on your way to getting organised for your family meal planning. You could catch up here if you missed it.
We also talked about meal prep time in my last post and discussed how to prepare everything you need to create your healthy family meals in advance if you’d like to catch up read it here
In this post, we are going to take it to a whole other level; we are going to discuss how to fill up your freezer with healthy portions of homemade freezer meals so that you can reap the benefits of a healthy freezer friendly family meals every day!
And the great thing is, it’s straightforward to execute!
Follow these simple steps to once a month meals.
- Check the meal planner you created in our post and have a look at each meal you’ve listed, decide which meals you could easily cook for monthly batch cooking
- Decide whether you would prefer to make extra portions when you are preparing that meal for dinner or whether you would prefer to spend an afternoon cooking all your meals for the week or month.
- Check you’ve got space in the freezer as you will need to put those freezer meals somewhere!
- Make sure you’ve got labels (download my free freezer labels by clicking here ) and suitable meal prep containers to fit enough food in for a family portion, and single servings too
. Makesure you have all the ingredients you need. Make a shopping list and go shopping, don’t get distracted, only purchase buy what you need! Download our grocery list here
The rule when batch cooking for families is to check to see how many weeks are in that month and multiply the ingredients by that many weeks. So, for instance, if I usually use a 1x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes in a spaghetti bolognese portion and there were five weeks in the month, I’d put five tins of tomatoes on my shopping list.
I find it easier to cook an enormous big batch of one meal and freeze it, than spending a whole afternoon preparing a month’s worth of meals, but you do whatever you find suits you best.
Cooking one freezer meal at a time will take longer to build up a stock of dinners but is less time consuming to prepare, and it makes shopping for ingredients is simpler too.
6. Make sure you have ample sized pans or a slow cooker big enough to batch cook the food you’ll be preparing.
The best meal prep containers for batch cooking.
I like these containers as they can go in the freezer, microwave, dishwasher and oven ( without the lid, defrost first )
Frozen meal batch cooking ideas.
We all have our favourite meals to cook each week, my advice is to batch cook the foods you are usually cooking for the whole week but just increase the portions ready to freeze. My favourite meals for freezing are:
- Pasta/Ragu sauces
- Baked potatoes
- Mashed potatoes
- Mashed vegetable
- Shredded chicken
- Carrot and orange
- Leek and potato
- Roasted pepper and tomato
- Butternut squash and ginger
Sauces and stocks to freeze
- Curry sauce
- Ragu pasta sauce
- Chicken stock
- Beef stock
- Fish stock
- Ham stock
- Vegetable stock
Beef freezer meal ideas
- Beef stew
- Beef Casserole
- Beef curry
- Spaghetti bolognese
- Cottage pie
Chicken freezer meal ideas
- Chicken casserole
- Chicken curry
Pork freezer meal ideas
- Sausage casserole
- Pulled pork
Lamb freezer meal ideas
- Moroccan lamb tagine
- Shepherds pie
- Lamb curry
- Lamb cobbler
Vegetarian freezer meal ideas
- Bean and lentil Chilli
- Quorn chilli
- Quorn curry
- Vegetable curry
- Quorn shepherds pie
- Bean burgers
- Baked potatoes
- Vegetable and bean lasagne
Kids frozen meals.
- Fish pies
- Shepherds pies
- Pasta Sauces
- Mild curry dishes
- Mild chilli dishes
- Spaghetti bolognese
Add your favourite meals to your list, try to make meal planning as simple as you can at first until you get used to batch cooking, once you’ve got comfortable with the whole process you can start adding more adventurous meals!
My family’s favourite easy freezer meal recipe
Here is my family’s favourite healthy meal spaghetti bolognese, you can download the printable version here to get you started on your meal planning and freezer meals journey!
Remember to adjust the ingredient amounts accordingly!
Replace the meat with Quorn for a healthy vegetarian spaghetti bolognese.
Batch Cooking For beginners
These are the batch cooking basics I follow to start healthy batch cooking. It’s important to have your pantry stocked well with ingredients to make batch cooking easier and cheaper, especially if you are batch cooking on a budget! To read more about keeping stocked with pantry staples & get our grocery list click here
The general rule I follow for batch cooking is to make 4-5 x more food than you would for one family meal.
Here is 1.5lb of stewing steak I used to cook five portions of beef stew.
These portions have been cooled ready to freeze
- Work your way through all the meals on your list,
- Prepare them all in advance,
- Freeze them in appropriate portion sizes,
- Freeze some mashed root vegetables such as carrot, swede, turnip and potatoes as a side dish or serve with salad
Before you know it, you should have a full month’s meals made in advance!
How to bulk up your freezer meals
It can be expensive to buy a lot of meat when you are batch cooking. So it’s a good idea to bulk out your meat dishes with some good fillers, my favourite way to do this is to add some beans or lentils to the recipes I make, beans and pulses are high in protein, fibre and keep you fuller for longer, they are also super cheap! I use tinned beans for convenience and dried lentils as they do not need to be soaked overnight!
I usually add one tin of beans per dish of food and approx 1 cup of lentils per meal.
- Chickpeas are fabulous in soups and curries
- Butterbeans are great in tomato based sauces
- Red kidney beans are great for chillis and lasagne
- Haricot beans great for everything from chillis, lasagne, pasta dishes, curry and bolognese
- Lentils are perfect for curries, chilli, lasagne, soups, and bolognese.
How to make vegetarian freezer meals.
Whether you’re a vegetarian, like meat-free meals or have friends who are vegetarian, it’s always a good idea to have a few vegetarian portions ready in the freezer for when the need calls. There are many ways to tweak your usual meat dishes into vegetarian options.
- Use meat substitutes such as Quorn.
- Replace meat with vegetable chunks
- Replace meat with beans
Best Meal Prep Bags For Freezer Meals
You could also freeze your meals in freezer bags and freeze them flat, which helps them defrost quicker and fit better in the freezer.
I like to use these IKEA bags for my freezer bag meals as they are sturdy, come in multiple portion sizes and they are also great for snacks! You can grab them here! I usually use these if I’m a little short of space in the freezer.
Slow cooking freezer meals.
I like to use my slow cooker to batch cook most of my family’s freezer meals, as it allows me to batch cook while I’m at work or out with the kids!
Make sure, if you are looking to buy a slow cooker or crockpot to think about getting a 6.5-litre size like the one below to ensure you can make a huge batch!
Download our free printable freezer stickers today; I have designed a vegetarian style sheet of labels too, to make your vegetarian and vegan meals instantly recognisable in the freezer!
To download the FREE printable versions leave your details below today
Vegetarian freezer labels
Frequently asked Q&A
What are your go-to dishes for too tired to cook nights? I am vegetarian so I like anything with a delicious tomato sauce, so my go-to meal would be pasta made with my own easy healthy homemade sauce which you can find by clicking here I usually freeze my sauce in single portions for either myself or the kids, I use this for pasta, beans, casseroles and soup, it’s low in fat, low in sugar and low in salt, so perfect for the whole family for a quick healthy meal!
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