The cost of living just seems to keep on rising and rising, and that makes feeding the family an even tougher task. If you're struggling to eat healthily on a budget, batch cooking could be the answer, so here are some tips on what to cook to keep the costs down.
Budget and plan
An analysis of your incomings and outgoings should give you a good idea of how much you can afford to spend on groceries and other essentials, and once you have that figure, you can start to plan your meals. Shop around for cheap ingredients, from veggies to cuts of meat. It may be that your butcher can beat those supermarket 'buy one get one free' deals on the cheaper cuts, and veg from a local greengrocer will almost certainly prove more cost effective than the supermarkets. Also check whether frozen veggies might cut the cost.
Go cooking crazy
The great thing about batch cooking is that you have meals, or at least the beginnings of meals, ready to go even when you're busy. While doubling up on a weeknight meal will mean you have food in the fridge or freezer for another day, if you're not keen on eating the same thing more than once a week, it might be an idea to set aside a day in the kitchen to cook a whole variety. Preparing seven meals in one day might not sound like a lot of fun, but if you're busy during the working week, it could prove a Godsend.
Batch cooking can be helpful even if you aren't cooking whole meals. Just as useful for busy cooks on a budget are meal 'starters' like sauces and stocks. For example, when knocking up a tomato or cheese sauce for your pasta, cook a large quantity and you've got the start of a meal ready to go for next time.
Similarly, you can prepare the basis of stews, cottage pies or chillies by cooking large quantities of stewing steak or mince with onions - just divide into portions, freeze and you're already halfway to some hearty winter comfort food. If you're a fan of healthy stir fries, you can very quickly make batches of flash-fried veggies with sauce that can be frozen in handy portions and whipped out during the week.
The easiest bulk-cooked meals tend to be things like soups, casseroles, stews, and other dishes such as curries or chillies. They're easy to make in large quantities, and easy to separate into portions for a later date. But don't limit yourself to one-pots. Pasta bakes, macaroni cheese, meatballs and meat loaves, moussaka, pies and lasagne are also perfect for pre-preparation. Baking in bulk can be tougher, however, as you'll need to be extra careful with measuring your ingredients if you're preparing larger quantities.
Just remember that you must let your mouth-watering meals cool to room temperature before freezing, but freeze as soon as possible once they hit room temperature to minimise the chance of bacteria. If you're freezing batches in bags, be sure to expel all the air to reduce the risk of 'freezer burn', and finally, don't forget to label with the date made.
Have you saved money on your meals by batch cooking? What tips do you have for others? Leave your comments below...