Home cooking is held up as the gold standard of food preparation, and with good reason. When we cook something ourselves, we have complete control over what it contains. This enables us to make choices about the quality of the ingredients we buy, and which ingredients we use, particularly handy if there are fussy members of the family! However, it is not always as easy as it may seem to put a meal on the table each evening that has been cooked from scratch, or to hand our children a healthy baked treat, cooked with love. The ever pressing time constraints of work and juggling family life mean that often, we reach for the fish fingers or the biscuit barrel to satisfy the immediate needs of the demanding little people around us.
One solution to this conflict between aspiration and reality is to batch cook. This works for both snacks and main meals and although it may initially seem like a logistical nightmare of shopping and planning, it is actually easier than you might think. As an added bonus it’s also a really great way to save money!
You don’t need any special equipment to batch cook food and you certainly don’t need to buy containers. Take away boxes that can be washed and reused are perfect, as are empty plastic bread or bagel bags – by reusing rather than throwing away, you are even doing your bit for the environment. That’s before you even start thinking about the packaging waste you avoid by cooking for yourself instead of buying plastic wrapped goods.
If you haven’t already tried batch cooking sweet treats then here are some great ideas to get you started. Sugar free banana flapjack, apricot, apple and oat muffins and orange, oat and sultana cookies are all straightforward to make and freeze well. They don’t take long to defrost and are perfect for packed lunches, snacks or after dinner treats. They are all fun to make with kids so a weekend cooking session with the children can turn into a freezer full of handy grab and go snacks. You have killed two birds with one stone!
Cooking full meals sometimes requires a little more forward planning but is totally worth the effort. It can however be as simple as throwing an extra tin of chickpeas into a curry or an additional tin of tomatoes into a pasta sauce in order to bulk out your dish and have enough left over to freeze a few portions. A basic tomato sauce is one of the most helpful additions to your freezer as it can form a quick base for a pasta bake, spaghetti Bolognese, lasagne, pizza toppings, fajitas and chillies. A blended tomato sauce is also a great way to sneak in extra veg as you can include whatever you have at the bottom of your fridge. Carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms and courgettes are all good additions but you have the freedom to get creative as the evidence will be hidden!
Other batch cooked meals that freeze really well include cottage pie, meatballs and stews. Although planning your shopping list can be helpful, you can be even more thrifty if you wait to see what food is on offer. Bulk buying vegetables that are being sold cheaply forms a good base for soup, which is another great option for easy batch cooking and freezing. There is also the potential to bulk buy good quality meat when it is discounted or make the most of multibuy offers and then cook it into meals before freezing it.
Whatever your family’s preference, there will be a batch cooking solution for you. We hope you enjoy the sanity saving freedom of pulling a meal from the freezer at the end of a long day, especially during the cold winter months.
The team at Caring Cooks 😊
About Caring Cooks
We are a local not for profit organisation enabling children and families in Jersey to access nutritious food at home, at school and in the community.
Caring Cooks of Jersey was founded in February 2014 by one Mum’s kind gesture to cook a meal once a week, for a family who were struggling either financially or through illness, to ensure that they could sit down to eat a nutritional home cooked meal and spend quality time together.
Becoming more aware of families struggling to feed their children with home cooked, and healthy food due to long working hours, financial struggles and separation, we developed our Weekly Meal Service, bringing together a network of Islanders who also wanted to help to deliver the service, through referrals from the partners we work with in the Island.
Cooking skills used to be passed down from generation to generation, but this trend has been broken and now there is a genuine skills gap around food preparation and healthy eating. So in 2015, we launched our Community Cooking Programme which has been developed to directly give parents the skills and confidence to encourage them into the kitchen to prepare and cook healthy meals from scratch for their family.
We are now a Jersey charity and registered NPO and we specifically support families with children of school age, as we strongly believe that food and nutrition from the weaning stage right through a child’s life is very important and we want to support parents in making that a part of daily life.
All of our services are free of charge to families and are funded by charitable donations.