Sometimes, the most stressful part of the day can be preparing dinner. You’re tired, possibly rushed, if you have kids they’re likely playing up – it can all be a little overwhelming! One of the best ways to reduce stress is to always have something on hand to serve for dinner. Enter: batch cooking.
As opposed to meal prep, which is preparing food ahead to make cooking quicker, batch cooking is fully preparing and cooking a number of meals ahead of time, so when you need them you simply defrost and heat. Now, you might be thinking this will mean so much preparation and will take up all your Sunday, but that needn’t be the case! We’ve got a simple fridge and pantry Inventory and Meal Planning Guide for you– emphasis on ‘simple’ and with the tips below, you’ll be batch cooking up a storm in no time!
Here’s our step-by-step guide to make batch cooking work for you:
ONE – Make a Plan
Decide how many meals you will prepare, what you will cook and what ingredients you will need to buy. See our simple Inventory and Meal Planning Guide for a step-by-step and also our Bulk-Shopping Guide. Also, check the best way to store your chosen meals. Most things are great to freeze, but a few things won’t be.
TWO – Get Ready to Batch Cook
Pick a day when you have a good chunk of time available.
First of all, make space on the kitchen counter to prepare your food and space in your freezer/fridge for storage. We like clearing the space!
Pull out any recipes for the meals you’ve got on your meal plan sheet (if you used our printable guide!) and take out the ingredients, containers, bowls, chopping boards, and other utensils ready to go.
Tip: Storage containers: Think about the next step and where possible, use containers that the meal can be heated up in, taken to work in or makes life that little bit easier. This will save time and washing up! Try our Silicone Food Pouches for freezing things or taking meals on the go (think camping or hiking meals).
THREE – Prepping Ingredients
Be smart with your time! After all, time is precious and there are small actions we can take to create more – who doesn’t want more time to do what they love?
Time-saving tips for preparing your ingredients:
- Fill up your sink and wash all your veggies together
- Chop all veggies at the same time, then set split up between recipes. E.g. chop all the veggies for both your roast veg and your soup all at once
- If possible, use a food processor to do your chopping for you! Especially, onion and garlic.
- Put aside food scraps in one pot, for things like veggie stock, sauce, dressing, etc., which will be easy to prepare whilst your meals are cooking.
FOUR – Slightly Under-Cook Veggies
Since your veggies will get a second round of cooking when you reheat them, try to under-cook just a little, especially for soups and stews, so they don’t disintegrate and turn into a texture your kids would go sour over.
FIVE – Use Your Appliances!
Use a slow cooker for a large batch of stew or soup, use your food processor for chopping your veggies and use a blender for preparing sauces, pesto, dips. You’ve likely got some appliances in your kitchen which can be a big stress-savers!
SIX – Cool Meals Before Freezing
Cool your cooked meals fully before freezing them. This just means getting them to room temperature (not cold) and then freezing immediately to prevent bacteria growth and seal in freshness.
SEVEN – Store Appropriately
Freeze your meals how you will reheat them, whether it’s family portions or individual portions. There’s no point freezing in a double batch when you will only need one batch at a time.
Use flash freezing for individual items, such as meatballs and patties. This simply means laying them all out on a baking tray to freeze until hardened and then putting them all together in an airtight container or bag. Put any sauces, dressings, and dips in glass jars in the fridge to use across meals and snacks as needed.
At SUSTOMi, we’re all about helping you with fresh food storage. We’ve created a guide to storing food.
EIGHT – Make Sure Meals Are Properly Sealed
Ensure you use good quality containers or food pouches/bags that seal properly and are airtight to avoid freezer burn. For pouches and bags, squeeze all the air out before sealing them. If using containers, try to use ones where the food will fill the whole container, so there’s not much room for air. If the food doesn’t fill the container, put a piece of planet-friendly baking paper over the food and tuck in the sides (beeswax wrap?). The exception is soup, which does need just a little room to expand when frozen.
NINE – Label It!
You might think you’ll remember which is which, but everything looks the same when it’s frozen! So, label everything with the contents, date and thawing/heating instructions. If you want to be super organized, also place the meals you intend to eat first at the front and the ones for later at the back.
TEN – Thaw Appropriately
When it comes time to thaw out your meal, don’t just leave it on the bench as it will allow bacteria to grow on it! Defrost slowly in the fridge instead. Make it a habit in the mornings to take out your dinner from the freezer and place it in the fridge to defrost so you’re ready to reheat in the evening. See 4 Methods For Defrosting Food Safely by the Australian Institute of Food Safety for more info on the topic.