People don’t tend to think of their bodies as machines which need fuel, but this is exactly what we are. Students especially are guilty of effectively putting diesel in a petrol car when it comes to nutrition. Mastering the art of bulk cooking is a game-changer.
If you can give a few hours a week to your kitchen, you will only need to call up that takeaway you have on speed dial in a real emergency, rather than every other night. Done well and your delicious homemade meal will be ready far sooner than any delivery service could arrive and for a fraction of the price. The main bonus is of course that healthier, tastier food puts you in your best mood both mentally and physically to tackle everyday life.
You don’t have to make meals purely because they are versatile
The first step of bulk cooking is planning. What do you like to eat? What ingredients do you need to buy? It makes sense to choose recipes which you already know how to cook, there is no need to reinvent the wheel!
For instance, a simple ragu sauce can be defrosted for a multitude of meals: chilli con carne, spaghetti bolognese, shepherd’s pie, moussaka etc. The recipe for this can also be altered for non-meat eaters and can be found at the bottom of this article along with a versatile vegetarian dish.
On the other hand, you don’t have to make meals purely because they are versatile. There is nothing to stop you making 2 litres of curry, portioning it off into 10 separate meals and reheating it as it is. Usually 1-1.5 serving spoons of a meal cooked in bulk should be the right quantity for one person.
Don’t forget to buy containers for your food. Whether this is Tupperware or freezer bags is up to you. However, if you have limited space, putting your meal in a bag is better as it is more manoeuvrable within your freezer. A tip if you want a tight seal and a compact portion is to use a straw to suck out any of the excess air in the bag.
When it comes to freezing it is important to allow your portions to cool to room temperature before placing them in your freezer to avoid it working overtime.
Similarly, the best method of defrosting safely is to put your frozen portion on a plate at the bottom of the fridge to prevent any cross-contaminating drips and leave it there overnight until completely thawed. You should aim to eat your freezer food within 3 months of cooking.
These are great because they can go from the freezer straight into the oven for reheating
If you aren’t a confident cook, when you first start bulk cooking it might be a good idea to label your frozen meals. You should label them with what the meal is, the date 3 months from initial cooking and with any thawing instructions.
Something else you might like to add is what it could be used in, so you don’t have to think when the time comes to eat. For instance, taking the ragu sauce mentioned earlier – you can easily defrost this, add kidney beans and re-season with chilli powder, paprika and cumin for a quick chilli con carne.
It’s not only sauces you can successfully freeze. Things cooked in an oven dish such as lasagne, toad in the hole and pies can easily be portioned off and stored in tin foil boxes. These are great because they can go from the freezer straight into the oven for reheating.
It is so important you reheat correctly. Make sure everything is piping hot and note that if your meal contains a cream/milk-based sauce you may need to use full fat products to prevent curdling in the reheating process.
My final tip is to enjoy your meal! The process might sound long, but the reality is that in the time it takes to cook up your pasta or carb, your own homemade sauce can be ready too and there is no longer any time advantage to eating shop bought pesto every single evening.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions
- 2 garlic cloves
- 300g of beef/Quorn mince
- 2 tins chopped tomatoes
- Salt, Pepper and Italian herbs
- Flavour extras
- Beef stock
- Red wine
- Worcestershire sauce
- Tomato ketchup
- Chop and cook the onion and garlic in oil until soft
- Add the mince and break up with a wooden spoon until brown and crumbly
- Add rest of the ingredients, bring to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
LENTIL AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH DAL
This meal can be eaten cold as a salad, served warm as a side dish to meat or fish or eaten alone as a main course.
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 3 onions
- 1 leek
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 bell pepper
- 250g dried Puy lentils
- 150ml white wine
- 600ml vegetable stock
- 1 butternut squash
- Salt, pepper, parsley, mustard
- Chop and cook the onions, leek, garlic and pepper in half of the oil until starting to soften.
- Add the lentils, wine and stock, bring to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, add the squash and the rest of the oil into a roasting tin with seasoning and roast for 25 minutes at fan oven 200 °C.
- Add the squash to simmering pot and season again before serving.
Image one courtesy of Eiliv-Sonas Aceron via Unsplash. Image license found here.
Image two courtesy of Natural Chef Carolyn Nicholas via Unsplash. Image license found here.
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