Batch-cooking can sometimes sound exhausting, but with a little prep and some clever meal-planning, you can eat well every night of the week without getting bored or wasting ingredients - and without breaking the bank, too.
When it comes to batch-cooking, planning ahead is key. At the beginning of the week, draft up a plan of what you're having for dinner on what day that week. This will help you accommodate for leftovers, saving you from doing extra cooking, and will help you think about what dishes need the same ingredients, therefore saving you money.
Don't know where to start? Check out our 5-day dinner plan for some inspiration.
Batch cook your base
Turning one base into dinners for the whole week is a simple and effective way of saving time in the kitchen, while still eating well all week long.
To make your sauce, sweat two chopped onions in a tablespoon of oil until translucent (about 5 mins), then add two cloves of crushed garlic, or one teaspoon of minced garlic, and fry for a further 3 mins. Add two tins of chopped tomatoes and leave to simmer, covered for 20 mins. Once it's done, you can add a couple of ladles of this sauce to add some deep, tomatoey flavour to curries, pasta sauces, soups and everything in between without having to let it stew and stew every time. Genius!
Choose versatile proteins
Batch-cooking your protein is a great way to save time spent prepping and money at the same time.
A medium-sized roast chicken could last two, three or even four dinners. Have slices of the roasted breasts on the first day, then use tidbits in curry sauces, stir fries, casseroles or sandwich and jacket potato fillings for the rest of the week.
In terms of meat-free options, lentils make a fantastic value-for-money option that work in every type of recipe. Rinse and drain a cup of dried lentils (either red, green or puy), and add them to a pan with two cups of water. Bring the pan to a boil and let the lentils cook until tender. Once they're done, store them in the fridge and add a scoop or two to everything from curries to pasta sauces and salads. Yum!
The do's and don'ts of batch-cooking
1. Do prepare all your ingredients before you start cooking. Remember, you're cooking in bulk and things can escalate quickly. You want to stay organised so it's stress-free and enjoyable.
2. Do make sure your pan is big enough before it's too late.
3. Do clean up after yourself as you go. You're cooking lots of meals all at the same time, which inevitably creates a lot of mess.
4. Do freeze leftover portions for a later date. Most pre-cooked meals will keep in the freezer for at least 3 months. Cooking with a 'one for now, one for later' mindset will save you money on your weekly shop, too, and save you from having to keep popping out for top-up shops.
5. Do label your storage boxes before they go in the fridge or freezer - especially if you're cooking foods that all look similar. Curry and Bolognese look similar when frozen, for example, but curry-topped spaghetti would be a travesty!
6. Don't batch-cook rice unless you're going to eat it in the next 24 hours. Many brilliant batch-cook classics (curry, chilli…) go great with rice. But remember, rice can only keep in the fridge for up to 1 day, so you'll need to cook fresh rice to accompany these meals. Luckily, most types of rice cook in 15 minutes or less - consult the packet beforehand.