So, I love cooking and try to teach the kids how to look after themselves by encouraging them to get involved with cooking our normal meals as well as more fancy baking and fun things. On a normal day I find cooking can be quite a nice activity – I’m not so keen on the cleaning up afterwards, and during a busy week it can become a real chore to be constantly starting from scratch, and if we have after school clubs or other events we also don’t have the time.
One way to get cosy during the Winter months is to batch or bulk cook some useful items that you then have at the ready for a cold dark night, a quick fix or just those comfort foods that are nice when you’re wet through from the rain or snow. Over on our partner site Less-Stuff Lisa is sharing some great recipes are more ideas are available in our Waste Free Wednesday pages of the Winning At Winter book. I’m going to share my ‘go to’ bulk cooking ideas, but I’m sure you will know what works best for your family. I’m a huge fan of meal planning and there’s more information about that here if you’re in the mood to change how you do things…
- A basic tomato sauce is a must, you can add kidney beans and chilli one night, add as a pizza base or onto spaghetti with some meat/meatfree balls, add curry powder or use as a base for a sausage casserole or ratatouille. All you need is chopped tomatoes, herbs a stock cube and you can add everything else as you decide what you need the sauce for. We keep a load in the fridge as we use it so often but it freezes well too.
- Vegetable soup – any soup really but we like to use up all the odds and ends of veg and batch cook enough to keep us going for a while. It’s real comfort food and we freeze ours in double portions. You can make a basic potato and leek one and then seperate it into more flavours if you wish – adding chilli or spice to some, adding cream or similar to one, adding croutons or cheese, adding veg to one that someone doesn’t like etc etc. From your base you could make a wide variety of soups to please all palattes.
- Lasagne – this freezes really well and is much easier to make in large amounts, we clean out and use the foil take away trays to make individual lasagne and freeze them. You can make traditional mince or veggiemince versions, or just veg sauce or make layers of veg with the tomato sauce on top – it really doesn’t matter as long as you like what’s in it.
- Chopped veg, to cut down on time when cooking sometimes it can be good to have a day of just prepping veg and freezing it in small batches ready for when you want to make something, this also saves you money as you can buy in bulk or grab a bargain even if you don’t need it right away. This works well with onions for example, or you could make up your own mixes for soup, stews, stir fry’s etc and then you can grab a bag out when you need it.
- Crumbles – these are a great way to use up seasonal fruit and quick and easy to make for the freezer, again you save time and money by making lots at once. We use porridge oats as part of our topping but search out a recipe that suits you, crumble is a great gluten free option for a hearty pudding.
The most important part of batch cooking is in the labelling! We often eat UFO – Unidentified Frozen Objects, but we like a bit of danger. Try to label items well so you can easily find what you want, especially if you have any special dietary needs, it’s also good to add the date it was made so you can rotate items and eat the oldest first.
Batch cooking can create lots of pots, but you only do it periodically so it’s usually worth the trouble, it can be fun and you could invite a friend over and share the results, or make it a new tradition on the first Sunday of the month that sort of thing. It’s a great way to save money by being able to make use of discounted or free ingredients, allow yourself to experiment a bit and enjoy it.