“What’s for dinner?”, the weeknight battle cry! On the one hand you’d love to dish up something delicious and nutritious but all too often the reply, either to yourself or to the family is “no idea, but I think there’s a pizza in the freezer, or pasta or how about ordering a take-out……” while also thinking “no time for this…..whatever’s easiest, I’ve got to (fill in the blank) and (fill in the blank) before bed and I really don’t have time…….?”
Now ask yourself the following questions:
Would you like to have a tasty balanced meal to take out of the fridge and have ready in no time, every evening?
Would you like to have more time in the evening to do the things you enjoy
Are you fed up with the hole that ordering take-outs or doing a last-minute “panic shop” leaves in your pocket?
If the answer is “yes” to any of these, then menu planning and batch cooking may be the solution.
You’ve probably heard the expression “fail to plan is planning to fail” and yes, you do need to plan when you are going to meal plan and batch cook but ultimately, once you’ve tried it you’ll be amazed at how much time (and money) you’ll save. Yes, it might seem counterintuitive to spend some of your precious free time planning and batch cooking meals for the week, but the payback is that you’ll always have an answer to the daily battle cry, no more stress, a balanced meal on the table, extra pennies in your pocket and a lot less food waste.
“How will I know what I fancy a week before I’m going to eat it?”
Answer: That’s a good question but how many times on a busy evening have you honestly cooked “what you fancy” rather than what’s easiest and quickest?
It’s easy to start meal planning - make a list of all the meals that you enjoy and slot them into a meal planning template - Monday to Friday, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Now make a shopping list - dividing the items into categories such as Fruit & Veg, Meat, Fish and Poultry, Refrigerated and Frozen, Grocery and Store Cupboard will save time in the supermarket or when you are doing the online shop - knowing exactly what you want in each aisle or department will mean that you are much less likely to pop items that you don’t need into your trolley and then bang goes the budget! If you shop online, this is going to become even easier because for each menu, you can save your basket in your account ready to use the next time you choose to use that week’s menu again.
There are two ways in which you can do this and if you’re going to become a batch cooking ninja, you’ll probably end up with a combo of both methods:
Upscaling - the means doubling up the quantity that you need, eating what you want and portioning and freezing the leftovers. There are lots of meals for which this method is ideal - soups, stews, Bolognese and ragu sauces, chilli, curry. Remember to include these frozen meals in your future meal plans and once these meals are frozen, you should aim to use them within 3 months. Don’t forget to label them properly to avoid playing freezer lottery.
Advance meal prep - this involves setting yourself say 2 hours on a Sunday to part prepare your meals and either freeze or refrigerate the components to save you time on the evening that you are going to eat the meal. Although the meals do require some prep and cooking on the evening, you know what that meal will consist of and that you’ve got everything you need ready to go. An example might be chicken kebabs with a roasted vegetable couscous – on Sunday prepare and marinate the chicken and roast the vegetables and put everything into airtight containers in the fridge. A couple of evenings later, home late and hungry, grill the chicken, pour hot water onto the couscous and combine with the roasted veg – a tasty and nutritious dinner in the time it takes for the chicken to cook – 10-15 minutes! The joy is not just in the speed at which dinner can be on the table but in the knowing that everything is happily waiting for you!
There are apps such as MealBoard that can help you to plan and prepare for the week ahead and lots of resources that you can use for batch cooking and meal planning ideas. Take a look at BBC Good Food as a start for some inspiration and recipes that can be batch cooked.
Find out how we can help you make changes to your diet and lifestyle by booking your complementary Health & Lifestyle Review here and discover how we can support you to make a positive impact on your health and wellbeing.