Batch Cooking For Beginners: Your Guide To Get Started Easily
Ever caught yourself thinking of what to make for dinner only to end up with takeaway after work? Maybe you’ve even resorted to that second box of frozen pizza this week for the family because you’re just too tired to cook.
You’ve probably wondered “how on earth does Emma do it?” after seeing a full homemade dinner spread on her social media. But you both left work at the same time and commuted about the same distance. Now you’re maybe feeling a little guilty munching that slice of frozen pizza you’ve just heated up for the family.
Well you’re not alone, and guess what? There is a way to skip the stress and hassle of cooking while still having a full homemade dinner spread for the whole family just like Emma. The secret lies in a simple little method called batch cooking.
What is the batch cooking method?
Batch cooking means cooking a large quantity of food at a go which will then be stored and consumed later. Or how I’d like to sometimes say “cook once and feast all week!”.
It basically involves cooking in bulk, storing it in the freezer or refrigerator, then having convenient, easy access to a deliciously nutritious meal anytime. All in all it’s an incredibly simple method, really.
Does batch cooking save me money or will it cost a lot more than cooking individual portions?
Contrary to how it sounds, batch cooking can actually save you heaps of money!
For one, batch cooking ensures that you eat out less often. Because let’s face it, eating out can get pretty expensive even if you get the “value sets” restaurants often promote.
Batch cooking typically calls for bulk purchases of ingredients. So you’ll enjoy a bang for your buck when you take advantage of bulk purchases which are often cheaper than buying regular portions.
You’ll also save money by reducing how much you spend on your power bill (hands up if you’ve been trying to lower your power bill!). Batch cooking generally uses the same amount of energy and time it takes to cook one meal serving, making it more cost-effective and efficient for you to simply batch cook. Not to mention that this will help lower your carbon footprint!
What are the benefits of batch cooking?
1. You’ll get to save time
When you batch cook, you’ll prepare multiple meals in one sitting and reduce the amount of grocery runs you do in a week. This means that you’ll only spend a few hours for one day to cook meals for your entire week. Compare that to spending an hour daily just to cook!
Now you can finally enjoy more quality time with your family or finish that book or tv series you’ve been putting off for months.
2. Saves you a lot of money
Just like what I mentioned earlier; you’ll get to buy ingredients in bulk at a cheaper rate, cut down on expensive takeaways, and potentially lower your energy costs. So you can start planning for your dream summer holiday because batch cooking will speed up your saving goals!
3. Helps you reduce food waste
Ever caught yourself with leftover ingredients that end up going to waste? Like that pack of wilting salad greens for salad you ultimately didn’t have time to make.
Say goodbye to that because batch cooking involves meal planning and buying specific ingredients that will be used up.
4. No more stressing over meal planning
Meal planning is much easier when batch cooking comes into the picture. By having ready-to-eat meals at home, you can easily plan your week’s meals around what you already have. That means less stress over what to eat, and more headspace to enjoy the present.
5. Less impulsive snacking, more healthy eating
Can you honestly say that meal prepping sliced apples with peanut butter is easier than grabbing a Tim Tam from the pantry? Eating random junk on impulse is often easier than eating healthy.
When you can easily and conveniently access good, healthy meals at home, you’ll less likely reach for unhealthy snacks or meals. Batch cooking also helps you to take a dip into the world of meal prepping and meal planning for greater control over what you eat.
What do I need to start batch cooking?
Like with anything else in life, you’ll want to get prepared before you get started on high gear. So these are the essentials you’ll need to make batch cooking work:
1. Large cookware
While you don’t need special equipment to batch cook, having the right cookware will make batch cooking that much easier. Some examples of the right cookware include a big pot like a casserole or a stockpot, Dutch oven, large frypan or saute pan, large baking sheet, or a slow cooker.
To keep things simple, I’d recommend sticking with a large saute pan and a large casserole to start with. These two pieces are highly versatile cookware pieces that will allow you to batch cook almost any recipe effortlessly. That way you also get to keep spending to a minimum.
Tip: Get cookware that are non-stick and oven safe for an easier time cooking!
2. Food storage containers
Food storage containers are essential. How else would you store your batch-cooked meals?
Freezer safe glass containers with airtight lids are one of the best when it comes to storing batch-cooked meals. Because they are often oven safe, you can simply remove the lid and pop them into the microwave or oven for a quick meal on-the-go.
Don’t have glass containers on hand? Not to worry! Airtight plastic containers that are microwave safe and BPA-free, food-safe silicone food bags, and Mason jars are great alternatives. Just make sure the containers are freezer safe and can easily be stacked in your refrigerator and freezer!
As for how many, it depends on whether you intend to cook enough meals for the week or only for a certain number of days. I’d recommend having about 5 - 7 food storage containers on standby to have you covered with meal prep for up to a week.
Another little tip is to prepare some water-resistant labels and marker pens so you can label and date your batch-cooked meals.
3. Prepare adequate space in your refrigerator and freezer
Remember to take some time to clean out your refrigerator and freezer to create space for your freezer-friendly batch-cooked food. Especially the freezer as that’s where most of your batch-cooked food will go for long term storage.
4. Pick a recipe and create your grocery list
Decide on what you want to cook by shortlisting a few recipes. Kudos to you if you already have a favourite recipe that’s raring to go!
But if you don’t, just keep these key points in mind and you won’t go wrong in choosing a suitable recipe for batch cooking:
Pick one or two recipes you know you will enjoy eating regularly.
Try to keep away from eggs and cream-based recipes like mayonnaise as some are not freezer-friendly and tend to separate and curdle in storage. That said, hard boiled eggs are fine if you intend to keep them in the refrigerator only for the next 3 - 4 days.
You'll never go wrong with basic staples like pasta dishes with tomato sauce, soup stock, green beans, white rice, whole grains, a classic lasagna, curry, and berry crumbles.
Make sure that the selected recipes can easily be scaled up for larger portions.
Depending on how many days you’re cooking for, aim to scale your batch cooking recipes up to 7 portions to cover a week.
Next, you’ll need to create a grocery list for the recipe’s ingredients. And trust me when I say that a list really ensures you get everything in one trip without forgetting anything.
5. Set aside some time on a free day
Batch cooking can take a few hours off your day. So pick a date where your calendar is clear and set aside some time to get groceries and cook. Pro tip: Weekends are often the best times to do batch cooking for the week ahead.
With all that, you’re ready for the next step you’ve been waiting for in our guide to batch cooking for beginners!
How to batch cook in 5 easy steps
Now that you’ve prepared your recipe and your batch cooking essentials, here’s where the meal prep heavy lifting begins:
1. Shop your ingredients
Got your list of ingredients ready? Great, because it’s time to go grocery shopping! Ideally you’d want to shop your ingredients the day before cooking or on the same day because when it comes to batch cooking - fresh is best.
2. Get your ingredients ready
Chop chop! Once you’ve gotten all the ingredients you need, it’s time to prepare them. Depending on the recipe or recipes you’ve selected, this may involve marinating meat, chopping up all the vegetables, cooking grains, weighing out and portioning your dry ingredients like flour and spices. So it’s time to get your chopping boards, knives, kitchen scale and measuring cups out.
Doing this ensures that you’ll have everything ready to be assembled for a quick and seamless time cooking.
3. Cook a big batch of food
Here’s where your large cookware will come in handy and also where the fun begins! Aim to cook a large batch of your recipe at once so you can avoid the hassle of doubling your cooking attempts and washing tasks. Remember, we’re looking to skip the hassle of extra kitchen work here! ;)
4. Allow the food to cool to room temperature
You can either start digging into a portion for your post-cooking meal, set your cooked food aside to cool, or both. It’s best to avoid placing hot food into the refrigerator or freezer as that may compromise the other chilled food you have in storage.
5. Portion out your meals and store
Once the cooked food has cooled, it’s time to portion it out into the food storage containers you have prepared. Divide them up equally according to your meal plan so you won’t be stuck with uneven portions.
Remember to label your food containers with the date you cooked them and to also list what’s inside before popping them into the freezer. Unlabeled freezer meals can be tricky to identify, even more so if you’re using food bags.
Whenever you want to enjoy your new batch of freezer meals, you can either thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and reheat it in the microwave or oven, or directly reheat it in the microwave or oven for a slightly longer period of time.
And there you have it, you’re done with your very first attempt at batch cooking - well done!
But wait…how long can batch cooking last?
It really depends on whether you’re storing your batch-cooked meals in the refrigerator or freezer and what you’ve cooked.
Batch-cooked meals typically last up to four days when stored in the refrigerator. Whereas storing them in the freezer allows them to last up to 6 months.
I personally prefer storing them in the freezer so there’s no pressure to finish my batch-cooked meals quickly.
Well there you have it! I hope you enjoyed our little guide to batch cooking for beginners. If you've started batch cooking your homemade meals, we'd love to hear how it went in the comments below!