Have you resolved to cook more family meals, but just don’t have much time? One solution may be to batch cook in advance. This could be as simple as cooking double the amount of a favourite dish, eating one half then cooling and freezing the other. Or you may like to spend a couple of hours in the kitchen making bumper portions of favourite meals, then dividing them into handy portions straight for the freezer. Either way, you’ll be saving time and money, and avoiding waste. Plus you’ll have a delicious meal to welcome you home without all the hard work. To celebrate the launch of their ingenious Summer Batch Cook Plan, Menus4Mums, the online family meal planners, have these great tips to make the most of batch cooking
Tip 1: You’ll be cooking bigger quantities than normal, so make sure you have big enough pans to cope – or borrow some.
Tip 2: You’re likely to be cutting up large quantities of certain ingredients, eg onion, so a food processor could come in handy and save time.
Tip 3: Make sure you have enough containers or bags to freeze the food in:
- Thick plastic freezer bags are great for soups and pasta sauces, and if you place them inside a container for freezing they take on an easy stackable shape.
- Foil trays are ideal for items which will be cooked in the oven, such as cottage pies, but they will need to be defrosted overnight as they are not microwavable.
- Plastic boxes make easy work of defrosting food and heating them up in the microwave, but they are not best for items which you will finish off in the oven or under the grill, eg fish pie. Cartons from Chinese takeaways make cheap freezable boxes.
Tip 4: After cooking, cool quickly then freeze in suitable portions, eg for the whole family or individual sizes. Remember to label – chilli and Bolognese sauce can look similar once frozen!
Tip 5: Defrost the food completely and then reheat it until it is really piping hot. Do not be tempted to refreeze any cooked food that has previously been frozen.
Fancy giving it a go? Here are some ideas:
- Stews and casseroles, chilli-con-carne, curry, shepherd’s pie.
- Bolognese sauce/lasagne/pasta bake, pasta sauces and cheese sauce.
- Chicken nuggets, burgers, and fish fingers – freeze them uncooked on a tray, then transfer to a freezer bag or box.
- Sponge cake (without icing), cookie dough, crumble mixture.
Menus4Mums is a fabulous online family meal planning service for busy parents. Members get a new meal plan each week for dinners the whole family will enjoy, with recipe cards and a super-handy shopping list broken down into supermarket aisles. The meals take advantage of supermarket special offers to keep grocery bills down. All this from £6.95 for four weeks. Visit www.menus4mums.co.uk for more information and to download a FREE one week sample menu plan.