Tuesday’s 10 at 10 this week is dedicated to my new favourite thing – Batch Cooking.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to be one of those die-hard batch cookers who spend a whole day every month cooking meals to last them for the next four weeks but I do want to take what I already do one step further now that I have a little more freezer space than I had before.
I’m going to consciously cook more foods that I can double up on so that I can gradually build up a stock of meals in the freezer and I’m hoping to gradually up my game a bit and find more recipes that are freezer friendly and more ways to make life easier for me.
Before you start, have a good clear out of your freezer. By clear out, I just mean try and make as much space as possible by using up as much as you can. Have at least one ‘eat from the freezer’ day in your meal plan to use up those odd bits and bobs that you have in. Last week we had a meal where Miss Frugal had waffles with chicken burgers and frozen parsnips, Master Frugal has some chicken fillets with curly fries and beans, I had a fish pie with roasties and parsnips and Mr Frugal has some leftover beef stew with some roasties, parsnips and a giant Yorkshire pudding. All to use up random things we had in the freezer to make some space ready for my batch cooking.
Decide what you’re going to use to store your food. I have in the past used all sorts of tupperware tubs but I swear the sock fairy also has a sideline in stealing lids because no matter how organised I think I am, I always end up with stacks of containers and no lids. I now use zip-lock bags instead and to give you an idea of cost, the one’s I’ve just bought were £2.25 for 25 which is less than 10p a bag and I’m sure I’ll get a few uses out of each bag even though they don’t say they’re reusable. If not, I’ve found some re-usable freezer bags online at Lakeland but I’ll wait until I visit the shop to buy them rather than pay P&P.
Make the most of your space by laying your freezer bag of food in a small rectangular tub (a flexible one is best so you can manouvre it out if it get’s stuck) before freezing it so it freezes into an easy to store shape. Once it’s frozen, you can take it out of the tub and it will keep it’s shape in the freezer.
Clearly label your bag with what’s in it and when you froze it along with any cooking instructions if you need to.
Make sure you know how long foods keep in the freezer. This is a great guide although I try to keep everything to under 3 months in my freezer.
Make sure you keep track of what you have in your freezer. This can be as quick as five minutes when you’re doing you’re weekly meal plan or if you plan to do quite a lot of cooking like I do and to have your food stored across two freezers (one in the garage) than a freezer inventory might be a good idea. I like this form which is free to download and makes it easy to list what we have and tick things off when we use them.
Freeze your food in different portion sizes (don’t forget to label the portion size on the bag) so you don’t have to defrost a family sized portion if you don’t need it. If you take chilli for example, I freeze in smaller portions for jacket potato toppings and work lunches for one.
Make the most of supermarket reductions by buying things like cheese cheaply and then grating it and storing in portions. I often freeze reduced fresh chillis to use when I need them although I find the best way to freeze smaller things is to spread on a flat tray to freeze and then into a bag when they’re frozen. This stops them sticking together when they freeze.
I make batches of sauce like my homemade tomato sauce and cheese sauce and freeze so even though I’ll need to cook something (pasta for example) the fiddly part of the meal is all done.
Don’t be fooled into think you need to add double the meat to make double the meal. I often add fillers like extra veg, extra potatoes, even things like lentils can be used to make meals stretch. Serve with dumplings or Yorkshire puds and plenty of frozen veg to make your food go further.
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