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With many people in the UK having busy work and home lives, batch cooking is becoming increasingly popular.
People are now more aware of the importance of eating healthily and ensuring their diets are balanced and nutritious. However, with people having less and less time to spend in the kitchen every day, batch cooking is an easy way to ensure you eat healthy home-cooked meals, even if you don’t have much free time.
There are many reasons why batch cooking has become more popular in the UK.
A study that was conducted to mark the 10th anniversary of the Great British Beef Week found that:
- 73% of people who batch cook do so to save time.
- 39% of people batch cook so they don’t have to plan their meal at the end of the day.
- 25% of people batch cook in order to eat more healthily.
- 40% of people batch cook to make their lives easier.
What is batch cooking?
Batch cooking is a meal preparation method that involves cooking a lot of food at one time and then storing it for later use. As the name suggests, the food is cooked in batch and then stored in airtight containers and either kept in the refrigerator or the freezer until it is ready to be eaten.
Batch cooking usually involves doubling, tripling or quadrupling the ingredients for a recipe of a specific meal.
People batch cook for a number of reasons:
- To save time on daily cooking.
- To have access to healthy, homemade meals every day.
- To prepare and cook a lot of food in advance for an event.
- To serve many people at one time.
Batching cooking is an efficient way to prepare food as all the ingredients can be purchased, prepared and cooked at the same time. It can help you to save the time and effort associated with food preparation and mean that you are cooking less often.
Instead of batch cooking whole meals, some people choose to batch cook certain ingredients or foods that can be incorporated into different meals throughout the week or frozen for future use. For example, you can batch cook sauces, meatballs, beans or rice and incorporate these into future meals.
Why do batch cooking?
Batch cooking can help you to save time spent preparing your meals, cooking and cleaning every day. You can simply defrost your chosen meal and ensure you are eating healthy, nutritious meals every day.
Not only can batch cooking help to save you the time you would normally spend preparing meals, cooking and cleaning every day, but it can also save you money. Prep UK reported that you can save an average of £1,100 on your grocery bill every year by batch cooking.
You can choose to batch cook all your meals in advance or only some of them. After a busy day at work, you will always have home-cooked, healthy meals pre-prepared in your fridge or freezer. It can help you to maintain a healthy, balanced diet every day, no matter how busy you are.
How to know if batch cooking will work for you
Do you sometimes find yourself struggling to find time to cook? Do you want to start eating healthier and more nutritious meals? Do you want to save yourself the time and effort of cooking every day? Are you looking to reduce the amount of food waste in your household?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then batch cooking could be a great lifestyle choice for you.
Batch cooking allows you to eat healthier, save time on cooking every day, and also allows you to spend less money on food overall.
Although it can be difficult to know how to begin your batch cooking journey, once you get the hang of it you’ll realise it can make your life much easier. You’ll quickly discover several staple recipes that are easy to prepare and are firm favourites in your household. This ensures you are still eating food you love, but spending less time, money and effort to do so.
You can even batch cook some breakfast and lunch foods to eat on the go or take to work with you. This can include frittatas, breakfast sandwiches, croissants, burritos, breakfast bars and oatmeal.
What can you batch cook and freeze?
Most foods can be batch cooked and frozen. However, not all foods will maintain their quality after they are frozen and reheated. People who are looking for batch cooking ideas should consider the types of foods they can batch cook and freeze.
Some batch cooking ideas for meals you can cook and freeze are:
- Soups, stews, casseroles and ramens.
- Pureed baby food.
- Chilli, bolognese, ragu and other sauce-based dishes.
- Cottage pie, fish pie and other potato topped pies.
- Pastry based pies and quiches.
- Meat and vegetable curries.
- Cookies, flapjacks, brownies, muffins and cakes.
- Fritters and fishcakes.
- Meatballs and burger patties.
- Homemade pizzas.
- Pasties and empanadas.
- Gyozas, samosas and spring rolls.
- Meat and vegetable stir-frys.
- Ratatouille and tagine.
- Yorkshire puddings.
- Homemade bread.
- Pasta bakes.
- Sauces and gravy.
- Cooked meat.
- (Partly) cooked vegetables.
- Rice-based dishes, such as paella, fried rice and risotto or quinoa.
What not to batch cook and freeze
There are certain foods that do not freeze well and may lose their quality when reheated.
|Salad greens and vegetables with high water content, such as lettuce, cabbage, celery, cress, cucumbers and parsley.||When defrosted, these foods can become limp or soggy or lose their colour or flavour as a result of oxidisation.
|Cooked pasta.||Although safe to eat, cooked pasta can become soggy or mushy when defrosted.|
|Milk-based sauces.||May separate when defrosted or curdle.|
|Egg-based sauces and mayonnaise.||Ingredients will separate or curdle.|
|Cream-based products, such as custard and yoghurt.||The ingredients will separate when frozen and the texture will change.|
|Some fried foods.||The oil will seep through the food, meaning it will lose its crispiness and crunchiness and become soggy.|
|Soft cheeses, such as cream cheese, goat’s cheese and cottage cheese.||The texture of the cheese will likely change, and it will become grainy and crumbly.|
|Foods containing gelatine, such as jelly, cheesecake and panna cotta.||Gelatine cannot be frozen as it will not set in the freezer and the food will likely turn to mush.|
What to consider for a balanced diet
When batch cooking, many people want to ensure they are eating nutritious and balanced meals. When considering the types of meals you are going to cook, there are several considerations you should make.
1. Include foods from all the major food groups
You should try to include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, protein and dairy in all of your batch cooked meals. You may also want to batch cook your carbohydrates, such as potatoes, pasta or rice, in advance, although some people choose to cook it fresh on the day. To achieve good nutrition, you should ensure you have foods from all of the food groups.
2. Use an assortment of ingredients, flavours and textures
Even foods from the same food group can hugely differ in the number of nutrients, calories, vitamins and minerals they have. By diversifying your meal options, you can ensure your diet is balanced, as well as make your meals more interesting.
3. Consider your portion sizes
When you batch cook, it is important to ensure you separate your meals into the correct portion sizes. Eating too much for each meal can mean you are consuming too many calories, which can have a negative impact on your health.
4. Avoid foods that are high in fat, sugar or sodium
Although you need some fat, sugar and sodium in your diet, a healthy diet should involve a low percentage of these unhealthy ingredients. Consider foods that have healthy fats, such as avocado, fish, eggs and nuts, compared to unhealthy fats, such as fatty meat, butter, cream and lard. You should also try to include foods that have natural sugar rather than added sugar.
5. Consider the nutritional needs of everyone in your household
Different age groups and genders may have different nutritional requirements and it can be difficult to make sure you are meeting the nutritional needs of everyone in your house. Consider these needs when you are meal planning.
6. Ensure you have vegetables with every meal
If you have not included any vegetables in the food you have batch cooked, you should cook them fresh before you serve your meal. A healthy balanced diet requires five portions of fruits and vegetables a day. According to the NHS, an adult portion of fruit and vegetables should be 80g, so bear this in mind when batch cooking.
What are the benefits of batch cooking?
There are numerous benefits to batch cooking, including:
- Reduction in meal costs – Buying food in bulk is usually cheaper than buying smaller amounts more often. You can also take advantage of deals and discounts, cook the food and then freeze it for later consumption.
- Reduction in food waste – Batch cooking usually involves meal planning and only buying the specific ingredients you will need. This means food is less likely to exceed its expiration date and be thrown away. You can also batch cook additional ingredients and freeze them for use in future meals, for example, cooking additional ragu and freezing it for future meals. People who batch cook are also more likely to separate each meal into individual portions, further reducing waste.
- Less likely to buy and eat impulsively – After a long day at work or socialising, finding the energy to cook can be difficult and many people resort to takeaways, eating out or microwaveable ready meals. By having batch cooked food stored in your fridge or freezer, you are less likely to eat impulsively, saving you money and helping you to eat more healthily.
- Eat healthier meals – When you batch cook food, you are more likely to incorporate healthy and nutritious ingredients. Cooking healthy meals every day can be time consuming and take a lot of energy and many people find it difficult to stick to daily. Batch cooking nutritious meals means you will always have access to healthy meals in your home.
- Less time spent cooking – As you will be preparing and cooking all your weekly meals at once, this will save you a lot of time overall. You can spend a couple of hours doing all your meal preparation and cooking for the week and save yourself a significant amount of time in the kitchen every day.
- Less time spent cleaning your kitchen – As you will only be preparing and cooking food once or twice a week, this will significantly reduce the amount of cleaning you will need to do. Regular cooking will mean you need to thoroughly clean equipment, utensils and surfaces every day. Batch cooking will mean you just need to do a deep clean once a week.
What are the disadvantages of batch cooking?
Although batch cooking is advantageous to some people, there are some drawbacks that you should be aware of.
- It can be time consuming – Doing all your meal preparation and cooking in one day can be time consuming and can mean that you spend the entire day preparing your meals. For some people, spending the entirety of one of their precious weekend days cooking is not feasible.
- It can be difficult for people with smaller kitchens – Preparing that much food can take up a lot of space, especially if you are chopping different vegetables, preparing different proteins, and cooking multiple meals. If you have a smaller kitchen or not many work surfaces, batch cooking can be difficult.
- You need a lot of freezer space – Batch cooking takes up a lot of space in your freezer especially if you are storing multiple meals at once. If you have a small freezer or already have a lot of frozen food, you may not have the space to store the meals.
- Perfecting the timings for partial cooking can be difficult – Some foods, such as vegetables, need to be only partially cooked so that they don’t go soggy or lose their flavour or texture during the freezing and thawing processes. However, it can be difficult to ensure everything is cooked to the right stage but still remain safe to eat.
- You may not remember to defrost your meals – As the majority of batch cooked food is then frozen, it can be difficult to remember to defrost it every day. You must also ensure that the meals are defrosted safely and do not remain in the temperature danger zone for too long. Failing to thaw your meals properly could result in food poisoning or another foodborne illness.
- The cleaning can feel overwhelming – After batch cooking, you will likely have a huge cleaning task ahead of you. You will likely have used multiple chopping boards, utensils, pots and pans, as well as all the surfaces in your kitchen. Although you will be cleaning less frequently, it can feel overwhelming to have to do that much cleaning at one time.
How often should you batch cook?
How frequently you batch cook can vary and may be dependent on a number of factors, such as:
- How much time you can dedicate.
- How many people you are cooking for.
- How much freezer space you have.
- How much kitchen space you have.
- The number of storage containers you have.
- The types of foods you are batch cooking.
Some people choose to batch cook all of their meals for the week. This means they do all of their cooking once a week. Other people choose to only prepare several meals at once so may need to batch cook two or three times a week.
However, some people choose to prepare all of their meals and do all of the cooking in advance for the entire month. This means you will only batch cook once per month and eat these meals over the duration of the month.
As most food and pre-cooked meals can be frozen for up to three months, you can batch cook as frequently as is needed within this time frame. However, it is important to bear in mind that meat with a high-fat content will likely need to be eaten within two months.
Any food that has been in your freezer for longer than three months can begin to deteriorate and may lose flavour, colour and texture. Although it will likely still be safe to eat, the loss in quality can make the food unappetising. For more information on how long you can keep food in the freezer, consult our knowledge base.
Top tips for batch cooking
For those that are looking to start batch cooking, below are some batch cooking ideas and tips to help you get started.
1. Prepare all your ingredients together
Preparing all your ingredients at once will make the cooking process quicker and easier. This can reduce the amount of time and effort you spend on batch cooking.
2. Undercook the vegetables
To prevent the vegetables from becoming overdone and soggy when they are reheated, it is recommended that you undercook them slightly.
3. Portion up the meals
Trying to separate or cut frozen food is nearly impossible. If you freeze an entire lasagne dish but then only want to eat one portion, you may find yourself needing to reheat the entire dish. Separate all your batch cooked food into individual portions or separate into sections based on how much you will need at one time.
4. Ensure batch cooked food is completely cooled before storing
All cooked food should be completely cooled to room temperature. Cooled food can then be refrigerated. If you plan to freeze the cooked food, it must be completely cool for at least 30 minutes before it is frozen. However, as cooked food should not stay at room temperature for more than 2 hours, you can put the food into the fridge for 30 minutes once it is cooled and then transfer it into the freezer.
5. Get rid of any excess air
Contact with air can result in freezer burn. This means that moisture will be lost from the food, meaning the food becomes dehydrated and begins to shrivel or lose flavour and colour. To prevent freezer burn, you should get rid of all excess air when freezing your batch cooked food. One way to do this is by vacuum sealing your food. You should also ensure food is packaged properly to reduce exposure to oxygen.
6. Label your batch cooked food
Labelling your food will act as a reminder of what is inside each container and when it was cooked. This will mean you won’t have to open every container when looking for a particular food and will be aware of when the food needs to be consumed.
7. Put the newest food at the back
Following the FIFO (First In First Out) method can ensure you eat food before it is no longer safe to eat. Batch cooked food left in the fridge will need to be eaten within a few days and meals that are frozen usually need to be eaten within three months. If you already have batch cooked food in the freezer, put newer food behind it to ensure you don’t eat that first.