If you’re looking to cut down on your weekly cooking time, then batch cooking is the way to go. And with the new year and new you arriving this month, there’s no better time to get started. But before you begin, it’s important to stock up on some batch cooking essentials - some necessary tools and kitchen storage ideas for your meals.
Setting some time aside on Sundays to cook for the week ahead is an empowering step that will save you both time and effort in the long run. This idea has been taken even further with the once-a-month cooking method, where households cook dinners for the whole month in advance.
While most of us probably don’t have the freezer space for that (if you organise your freezer well you just might) anybody can incorporate and use a bit of batch cooking in their life to save money and get organised.
This is what you’ll need to do it like a pro.
5 batch cooking essentials
Taking the first few steps and making the necessary initial investments in things like food storage containers might put you off at first. But if you prevail, the effort will pay off.
‘It may take a few weeks to get used to incorporating batch cooking into your routine, but that’s ok,’ says Charlotte Bird at Brabantia. ‘While sometimes it can feel like a challenge, cooking should be fun. Test yourself with new recipes to find enjoyment in the Sunday night cooking. Cooking new things each week will also remove the repetition and make it more enjoyable.’
Kitting your kitchen out with a few new additions to make batch cooking easier and smoother might actually make it all the more enjoyable. Because yes, we do get excited about a new saucepan and measuring cups around here.
1. Large saucepan
Having a big enough saucepan is of the utmost importance. And investing in one of the best saucepans will also ensure that it will last.
'If cooking in bulk, you want a large, deep pot such as a cast iron casserole dish that can facilitate a large amount of food,' says Steven Carter-Bailey, ProCook food expert.
‘One thing that can hamper time spent on cooking is the size of the pan you’re using. It is important to make sure you have a pan big enough to cook five days’ worth of food. If your pan isn't big enough, you will have to spend double the time cooking,’ Charlotte explains.
2. Reusable freezer bags
While plastic or glass containers are what usually comes to mind when thinking of batch cooking, reusable freezer bags are a superior alternative according to Suzanne Mulholland, author and family-cooking expert also known as the Batch Lady.
‘A good selection of reusable freezer bags in different sizes are essential for freezing your batched meals along with a chalk marker pen which you can write on the bags and then wipe clean ready for your next batching session.’
‘Freezer bags take the air out as you seal and they become airtight so there are no freezer burn issues and freeze flat like a book, so you can get lots of meals in the freezer and they defrost very quickly because the meal is frozen thin,’ she says.
Another accessory for her freezer bags that Suzanne swears by is her bag stand. ‘I would recommend a bag stand, these help to keep your freezer bags open when you are filling them and stop spillages, I couldn't live without mine.’
Suzanne Mulholland, known as The Batch Lady, is a time-saving guru and family-cooking expert. She is helping thousands of people to spend less time in the kitchen by getting organised in advance and filling the freezer full of homemade ready meals saving time, money, and waste. The Batch Lady method was developed by Suzanne to share her cookery and time management expertise to help people get organised in advance and take the stress out of our daily meal times.
Suzanne's latest book The Batch Lady Grab and Cook is coming out on 15th February 2024 and is available for preorder on Amazon.
3. Food containers
But if you prefer containers over bags or want to combine the both, then just make sure you opt for freezable ones. As not all containers are suitable for the freezer.
'Good size containers are essential, ideally in a uniform size to make portioning out the food easier,' Steven says. 'Avoid storing liquids such as soups in a sealed glass container, as these can expand and contract when placed in the freezer. Aside from liquids, food can be frozen in tempered glass containers as long as ¾ inch of the space is left between the top of the food and the lid.'
‘Not all containers are suitable for freezing. Keep an eye out for the snowflake symbol, this means that the box is freezer safe. Generally rigid boxes or flexible wrapping are two types that are good for the freezer,’ Charlotte advises.
She also says that you are most likely going to need more containers than you initially thought so stock up. But don’t go overboard as knowing how to declutter food storage containers is also important.
For Suzanne, her second favourite to freezer bags are ‘glass pyrex freezer to oven dishes with plastic lids, these can go straight in the oven from frozen,’ she says.
‘I would avoid takeaway plastic boxes which have thin plastic as these can often shatter when frozen,’ she adds.
4. Measuring cups
‘I would also recommend some measuring cups, these will massively reduce the time spent in the kitchen measuring out using the scales and are also great for portion control when serving up,’ Suzanne explains.
And on the topic of portion control she adds, ‘Portion control is often forgotten and a big batch of food frozen as one, it’s good to look at nights of the week you know everyone is home and you’ll need a large family portion compared to a quiet night in for two if teens are out and you only need a small portion.’
5. Chopping board
When batch cooking, there is bound to be a lot of chopping done. So a good chopping board or boards that are also big enough is a must.
‘Having a solid chopping board can make all the difference. Wooden chopping boards are kinder to knives, whereas plastic boards are great for raw meats. Depending on what you are cooking, choose your chopping board carefully,’ Charlotte recommends.
Now, this should easily set you up for the week ahead. Good luck!
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Sara Hesikova has been Ideal Home’s News Writer since July 2023, bringing the Ideal Home’s readership breaking news stories from the world of home and interiors. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors. She feels the two are intrinsically connected - if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.
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