With ever-increasing daily demands on families, any ways in which parents lives can be made easier are always welcome. With this in mind, we reached out to @gemswholesomekitchen for her tips on cooking meals in batches to save time and to reduce the amount of food wasted due to poor planning.
Gem says ...
"Batch cooking is a brilliant way to save time, save money and reduce food waste. Once you have mastered the very simple art of batch cooking you will have a freezer filled with healthy homecooked foods ready to defrost and eat when you need them.
I like to batch cook on a Sunday so I am prepared for the week and know what the family will be eating. It is even more helpful through lockdown and saves on so much food waste."
Discover also my handy tips for healthy school lunches, where I share 5 easy to prepare packed lunch options for kids - one for every day of the week.
My top 5 batch cooking tips:
1. Have a clear out. Go through your freezer and eat up all the foods you have in there. I bet you’ll be surprised about how much food you actually have in there that you had forgotten about. The more you store in it, the more efficient it is to run. Then give it a defrost and clean if it needs it.
2. Store your foods in the best way possible. Silicone bags or freezer bags save so much space and are easy to label with a sharpie pen. Plastic Tupperware can take up so much space and be really bulky. With bags, you can store your meals flat and stack so much more in.
3. Always label your food with what it is and the date. Then you can keep track of what needs using up next. Most frozen foods need to be eaten within 3 months so to avoid meals getting forgotten at the back of the freezer I always put my newest portions at the back and in turn bring your older items to the front.
4. One of the simplest ways to approach batch cooking is to make one base recipe which can be adapted into different dishes. There’s no need to eat the same thing all week – you can freeze in portions and enjoy them later.
5. Take a look at the week or month ahead and decide what recipes you’d like to prepare. Check what you have in your cupboards and then make a shopping list. Have a plan before you start cooking and Keep a note of what recipes you’ve chosen, as if they work well together you can repeat your plan to make it even easier next time.
SIMPLE VEGETABLE STOCK RECIPE
This is a must-have as if you have a good stock it can be the base to easy and quick family soups and also simple risotto dishes or stews.
Making your own stock tastes so much better and is also a fantastic way to use up old veggies so reduces food waste and saves you money.
I like to roast my vegetables for 45 mins before I boil them as it really adds to the taste of the stock making it rich.
- 2 x onions
- 3 x carrots
- 4 x celery stalks
- 5 x sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 x bay leaf
- 1 x small bunch fresh parsley
- 1 x teaspoon black peppercorns
Optional extras: leeks (especially the green parts), tomatoes, mushrooms, parsnips
How to make stock
- Give your vegetables a good wash (you don't need to peel them)
- Cut them into chunks.
- Place them in a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and roast them on 180°C for 45mins.
- Add the vegetables to a large saucepan filled with 2 litres of water and add the herbs and seasoning.
- Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 hours.
- Cool and separate into four even portions and freeze.
HIDDEN VEGGIE PASTA SAUCE RECIPE
This is a brilliant way to get extra vegetables into the kids and to use up any old vegetables you have. You can use up any you have - the recipe is just an idea. Once frozen into portions this can be used for a variety of recipes including:
- On its own served with pasta and cheese for a super quick lunch.
- Add to veggie mince or any protein for a bolognese or ragu
- Pizza topping
- Add 100ml water 100ml milk for a lovely tomato soup
- 1 x tsp. olive oil
- 1 x onion - roughly chopped
- 4 x carrots - roughly chopped
- 2 x red peppers - seeds removed, roughly chopped
- 2 x sweet potatoes - peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 x tbsp tomato puree
- 1 x tsp dried mixed herb
- 2 x garlic cloves - finely grated
- 1 x 400g tin of tomatoes
- 150 ml water
- Salt and pepper
How to make vegetable pasta sauce
- Heat a large casserole dish over a medium heat. Add the oil and onion and fry for 2–3 minutes, until just softened.
- Add the remaining ingredients, stir well and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer gently for 1 hour, until the vegetables are cooked.
- Pour into a blender and blitz until smooth, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Leave to cool then separate into portions to freeze and use at a later date.
Do you like to grow your own vegetables?
Read how to prepare you garden for spring as part of our handy hints for living more sustainably.
BUDDHA BOWL RECIPE
I love to prep some healthy ingredients on a Sunday so I can quickly make up healthy buddha bowls for my lunches.
- Grains - brown rice, quinoa, millet, barley
- Protein - chickpeas, lentils, tofu, tempeh
- Vegetables - sweet potatoes, butternut squash, cauliflower, sweetcorn
- Greens - kale, spinach, chard
Extras - nuts, seeds, tahini, hummus and a simple salad dressing all add extra goodness and taste to a buddha bowl
How to make a buddha bowl
- Grains - Depending on how many you are cooking for, boil your grains, leave to cool and then store in individual bags. You should need ½ portion for 1 adult bowl
- Protein - I like to marinade my protein in some smoked paprika and garlic before I cook. Follow the instructions and then store in individual bags and freeze
- Vegetables - I always roast my veggies for about 15 minutes with olive oil, garlic, a little chilli and lemon juice. Roast, cool and then freeze in portions
- Greens - This only takes a few minutes to cook so I would do this fresh. Sautee greens in a tbsp of coconut oil, fresh lemon juice and a little salt when you are ready to eat the buddha or in the morning if you’re taking this for lunch
COMFORT PIE RECIPE
Winter favourite Comfort Pie, which is my version of a vegetable shepherd’s pie is a great recipe to batch cook as a kid favourite and is easy to freeze in individual portions.
For the pie filling
- Splash of oil
- 1 x large onion - peeled and chopped
- 1 x garlic clove - peeled and chopped
- 2 x celery stalks - chopped
- 2 x carrots - chopped into small chunks
- 1 x tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 x tin of kidney beans (any tinned beans will do)
- 1 x tin of lentils
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes 300ml veggie stock
- Salt and pepper
- 2 x tsp dried mixed herbs
For the mashed potato topping
- 700g potatoes (sweet or white will do)
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 50ml milk
- A little butter or oil if you like
How to make Comfort Pie
- First, make the mash. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add all the potatoes and a pinch of sea salt and cook for 20 minutes, until soft.
- While the potatoes are cooking, heat the olive oil in another large saucepan set over medium heat. Fry the onion and garlic for 2 minutes, until they start to soften. Add the celery and carrot and continue cooking on a low heat for about 5 minutes, until they're soft.
- Add the cinnamon, beans, lentils and chopped tomatoes. Give it a really good stir then add the stock. Season with salt and pepper and simmer on low for 15 minutes, until the lentils are soft. (Add a little extra water if it’s starting to look too thick – it should have the consistency of a shepherd’s pie filling.) Preheat the oven to 180 ̊C.
- Drain the spotatoes and mash them with a little milk and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
- Stir the herbs through the beans mixture and spoon it into a large pie dish. Spread it out evenly and top with the mashed potato. Run a fork through the mash and bake for 35–40 minutes, until the edges of the mash are crispy.
- Cool and cut into individual portions and freeze for up to 3 months
All images by @gemswholesomekitchen
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