Batch cooking

One of the things I wanted to do towards the end of the Summer holidays was to have a go at batch cooking some meals for the freezer, ready for my return to work in the September and ultimately, my return from having our baby (which at this point I still thought would be halfway through October!)

I’ve been saying for months, – years – that I need to have a go at batch cooking meals for the fridge and freezer, having seen so many others have such success when it came to saving both time and money.  I knew that when I returned to school in the Autumn term, I would be hitting the ground running in terms of my workload and would need to save as much time as I was able, especially as by this point in my pregnancy I was getting increasingly tired in the evenings.  Towards the end of the Summer holidays, I knew that there was a good chance I would be going in for a Caesarean as well, leaving me useless for several weeks following the birth of the baby.

A few weeks before the end of the Summer I headed to B&M and picked up a set of 15 plastic chinese-food style containers to add to the collection I already had back at home.  I’m gutted I didn’t get more at the time, as they seem to have been out of stock ever since, and are so much more expensive in the supermarkets!  I also picked up a few aluminium foil trays that would be able to go in the oven.

One Saturday I sat down with a notepad and my laptop, and sent out a tweet…

I got several responses, and then leading on from this I sat down to write out a list of meals I would create the following afternoon, drawing up the shopping list I would need to follow in order to make the planned meals. Shopping list for batch meal prepIn total, my shop came to just over £100.  Not bad for what I was hoping would potentially last for several weeks of meals. At the beginning of the Summer, Dan had purchased a slightly larger car, (preparing for the practicalities of being a parent!) and I think that this shot makes it look like there is hardly anything in the boot of his car.  When, in actual fact this little lot completely filled a trolley by the time I made it to the checkout!Food shopping in the back of Dan's carI had set aside all of the following day to cook the freezer meals.  So, the next morning I laid out all of the ingredients on our kitchen worktop.  Please excuse the fact that there are no tiles on the walls in the kitchen here.  (There still isn’t on half the kitchen wall!)  And that brown worktop you see the ingredients on?  That is just a loose piece of worktop resting on top of some of the old units!Batch cooking freezer meals - ingredients

My kitchen is looking much more complete now than it was at this point, but it’s still missing plenty of the finishing touches.

On my list to cook that day was cottage pie, lasagne, thai red curry, chicken casserole, chorizo pilaf, fajita mix, lentil and sweet potato curry and chicken cheesy tomato bake.

First on the list of to-dos was to place two chickens on the top shelf of the hot oven, as I would be using chicken as the base for quite a lot of the meals I planned on creating.  Cooking two chickens at the same time meant that I was only using the electricity for half the time it would have taken me to cook them both normally, and the two of them were cooked much quicker than if I had cooked them separately.  Whilst the chickens were cooking I set to work with prepping the veg I intended on using.  I peeled, cut and sliced potatoes, carrots, runner beans, peppers and mushrooms, leaving them all in bowls on the side.  As Dan isn’t a fan of many vegetables, the ends of packs that I buy from the supermarkets often get thrown away as I either a) never get through all the veg before it goes bad or b) get fed up of eating the same veg over and over before it goes bad so go off it completely!  With cooking so many meals at one time, it also meant that I was able to include vegetables I like in half the pots, and just the ones which Dan liked in the other half.  So, for example, Dan doesn’t like sweetcorn (along with every other veg apart from runner beans, peas and carrots!) so I made sure to cook a separate batch of meals which included sweetcorn.

Although the majority of the meals would be cooked, so just need heating up in the microwave before consuming later in the year, I planned to leave the lasagnes uncooked.  Therefore I layered the ingredients straight into the aluminium trays which would enable me to put them into the oven if I wanted to have them for dinner.

The smell of the chorizo pilaf (a dish new to me, and one suggested by Stephanie) was so good that there were several forkfuls that never made it into the containers!

Chorizo pilaf

In total, across that Sunday afternoon, and also one Wednesday evening, I made enough meals to have one every single day across a fortnight for both Dan and I, and still I ended up putting uncooked meat back into the freezer that I hadn’t gotten round to cooking up to add to a meal.

We haven’t been having meals from the freezer every evening, but they have been great to turn to when Oscar has kept us up late the night before or when a trip out takes much longer than expected, leaving us starving by the time we arrive home!  Most of the meals are ready to be consumed within 8 minutes of a blast in the microwave – other than the lasagne, which requires cooking still (about 40 minutes in the oven).

Unfortunately Oscar hasn’t been gaining the weight that is expected of him, and at four weeks old today, still weighs just 7lbs 3oz.  The Health Visitor has been round every three days and is monitoring his progress but he dipped right under the 2nd percentile line at one point the other day which was a concern.  He is gaining weight (O’s birth weight was 6lbs 13oz, and all newborn babies are expected to lose a little at birth), but is doing so very slowly, so they are just keeping an eye on him at the moment.

Oscar growth chart

My Dad is convinced that part of the reason O isn’t gaining as much as he should is because I’m not eating properly.  (Other than the fact that I seem to no longer be capable of finishing a meal in one sitting, and that I rarely get a chance to eat the food whilst it’s hot anymore, which I’m sure are both standard new-Mum problems, I AM still eating!)  For this reason, my Dad decided that when we popped by for a visit on Sunday he was going to present me with ten cottage pies to add to my ever-diminishing freezer stash!  They definitely weren’t turned away!  :)

Do you ever ‘batch cook’ your meals?
What are your ‘go to’ meals that you always make during the working week?   Mine are calzones and chicken/sausage casserole with dumplings.

12 thoughts on “Batch cooking

  1. Those meals look good!

    Please try not to stress too much about O not gaining as much weight as he should. Rose was born on the 50th centile, 99th for height. At one point, her weight had dropped down to 2 as well, you can imagine she looked like a string bean!

    But she rebounded and now she’s at 70, still 99th for height and full of beans!

    O will get there, you’re doing brilliantly!

    Helen recently posted…How to best use a memory foam mattressMy Profile

    1. That’s interesting to know that Rose dropped down and came back up again. By quite a way as well.
      It’s frustrating, because I can tell that O is healthy and happy, but because he doesn’t fit into their charts they are monitoring our progress and looking to put him onto formula again to bulk his weight up. Surely every baby is different?!

      1. Exactly, every baby IS different and sometimes, I feel that the HVs are so intent on their charts, they don’t stop to consider that this is a tiny little person, NOT a chart.

        We were monitored as well and it was so stressful. After one session where the HV tried to hug me (I did NOT want a hug) and pressured me, I locked myself in the bathroom for hours and cried. We asked them not to come back in the end and just went to the GP, who reassured us all was fine.

        Helen recently posted…Running unfit after time outMy Profile

        1. That’s awful Helen. The irony is that a big part of why they come out to visit is to make sure that YOU’RE doing OK. Clearly not helped by your Health Visitor! :(
          I felt tears spring up the first time I was told I wasn’t feeding Oscar enough, but I didn’t want attention drawing to it. The health visitor thought it would be appropriate at that point to talk about me being upset though, which just made me more upset! Where are the people skills?!

  2. I think every single one of my friends have had a problem with their baby not gaining weight the way the health visitor wants- babies grow in spurts so if they are measured right before their spurt they then seem a lower weight than ideal, but they make up for it later. The health visitors want them to put on the same amount of weight each day to fit in a perfect graph, but in reality that just doesn’t happen. Probably more of the reason (than you not managing to eat all of the time due to new-mum problems) is that your body is also recovering from a big op, and using a lot of energy to heal your muscles and tissues.
    He’ll get there (and you will too!).
    Our easy midweek meal right now is roasted veg pasta- it’s so tasty- just vegetables roasted in a little balsamic and olive oil with herbs, and then served with pasta (and some cheese if you fancy it)- red onions and tomatoes go especially sweet and make such a nice sauce, so I’ve been having some for my lunch the next day.
    Maria @ runningcupcake recently posted…Tring parkrun in the mistMy Profile

    1. Since coming out on Instagram and the blog about O not gaining the weight the health visitors would like, more and more people have commented about how their babies didn’t gain the required weight either. Surely each baby is different and each day is different?! It’s very frustrating that, like you say, they expect all babies to fit into a perfect graph.And a massive poo-nami dropped just before the health visitor’s arrival would affect the weight when we’re only dealing with pounds and ounces!
      I had a big thing for vegetable pasta in the final weeks of my pregnancy. So quick and easy to throw together and still with lots of variety from the veg. Yum! :)

  3. Your dad is a legend. So sweet of him. I love how many casserole dishes he has as well!
    I think you did the most sensible thing. If I ever get pregnant I’ll aim to do the same. Slow cooker food is also a good idea – throwing chicken breasts in there, or a baking potato and boom it’s done is so easy. I quite enjoy cooking in an evening so I haven’t really gotten to use my slow cooker much or prepped much. I like to watch some menial TV (hello Dinner Dates) and cook away. Obviously I have a bit more free time than you!!!
    Anna @AnnaTheApple recently posted…Glute exercises and Oppo ice cream reviewMy Profile

    1. Haha! Yep, I definitely can’t complain! 😉 I’m pretty sure he went out and bought those casserole dishes especially!
      I love to put something trashy on the iPad and set it up in the kitchen whilst I cook too! I can’t really stand for that long in the evenings still at the moment, but I’m looking forward to my me-time in the kitchen returning in a few weeks…

  4. I’ve been looking in to batch cooking too recently and bought some food containers by a company called Gympak. They’re reusable and dishwasher/freezer proof and feel really sturdy, thought I’d mention them in case you still can’t find more of the B&M ones :)

    1. Ah fab, thanks. I’ll check them out! The B&M containers were good for setting up our freezer whilst I was heavily pregnant, but I don’t think they’re study enough to last long term.

  5. My batch cooking is variations on the theme of veggie mince. Bolognese. Chilli. And then some lentil-y curry. I think that lasagne into aluminium trays may be the next thing. And, if we’re careful, we can re-use the trays…Cottage pie is also on the list. Bless your Dad!

    I also cook the full quantity of any Jamie Oliver risotto and then freeze the leftovers. Works really well.

    N is no longer allowed to not like celery….(he also dislikes aubergine, artichoke, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage…)
    Jane recently posted…Thames Meander…Oh. So Close.My Profile

    1. Yep, my Dad’s a good ‘un!
      I’ve started making bigger meals and freezing the leftovers now too. Saves so much time rather than having to worry about cooking every single night.

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