One of the things I have really noticed since having moved to the UK is how much more work it is when you don’t have enough freezer space to batch-cook. We only managed 4 months before we found the money to invest in a chest freezer for the garage, as it is such a part of how we operate.
I am passionate about feeding my family in a way that nourishes us all, without it taking over our family budget. I also acknowledge that I probably do enjoy being in the kitchen more than some, but the daily requirement to front up with 3 meals and 1-2 snacks, all prepared from scratch, for a family of 6 does not appeal often. As a super-busy working AND studying mummy of 4 it is easy to talk myself out of needing to cook dinner some nights, so having a well-stocked freezer can be a real savior. That is where having cook-up days comes in for me.
As I have talked about this, and shared it with friends, on my Facebook page and in my Facebook group, there has been a lot of interest in what I actually batch cook.. I have shared before about some of the things I do to prepare food in advance, including things for the freezer, but for many it is understnadi
So here I give you an example of a batch-cooking day in my kitchen. I haven’t photographed everything as it was just all action stations – and a lot of mess! I would love to say that I first set the children up with some developmentally appropriate activities, because that would really make me super-mum. But I’ll be honest. The kids pretty much entertained themselves with lego, TV, and a helpful visitor who happily played in the toy kitchen with Miss 2 to escape helping hubby cut down a couple of dead trees in our front garden.
Big cook-up days like this don’t happen all that regularly – maybe one day every month or so. In between times much of the stocking up in the freezer comes from doubling or tripling the meal I am making for dinner on any given day, and freezing the leftovers.
I had already stocked my real-food freezer with bags and bags of cooked legumes: chickpeas, kidney beans, butter beans… I buy our organic dried beans in bulk, which makes them way more affordable than buying tinned. Whenever I think of it I soak as many of them as I know I can fit in my biggest pot, and then cook them myself so I know they are also as digestible as possible.
Prepare Chana Masala (a chickpea curry) for the slow cooker and get it cooking.
Next prepare 4 butternut pumpkins and 3 onions for roasting. Simply cut the pumpkins in half, leave the onions whole and in their skins. Drizzle the whole lot with a little olive oil and pop in the oven at 180C. These will take 20-30 minutes to cook, depending on the size of the pumpkins.
While the pumpkins are in the oven, slice a whole lot of apples, and pop in a large saucepan. Add water and cook the apple til just starting to soften.
While the apples are cooking prepare your favourite crumble topping. I used sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, coconut, almond flour, cinnamon, melted butter and honey.
As soon as the apples are cooked, transfer them to glass freezer containers, add berries and crumble topping. These are now ready to freeze – and being in glass dishes can go straight in the oven on those nights that a dessert is just what you need.
By now the pumpkins should be cooked. Scoop the flesh of 3 pumpkins and the onions into the large saucepan you just cooked the apples in, add chicken stock (I already had several batches of this in the freezer) and spices. Heat and then blend and freeze delicious pumpkin soup. We have been enjoying this for breakfasts all week.
The oven is now ready to cook a tray or two of roasted chickpeas (perfect for snacking and children’s lunchboxes)
While the chickpeas are roasting the Chana Masala can come out of the slow cooker, it is now ready for freezing.
Time for home-made baked beans to go in the slow-cooker…on high these only take a couple of hours.
Time for lunch and a chill out for the next hour or so!
Once the baked beans are done they can come out of the slow-cooker, and in goes a massive batch of sausage casserole. This is dinner sorted, and plenty for the freezer too!
Using the slow cooker means you still get some down-time while the cooking is done for you.
All that food is prepared for the freezer, and dinner for tonight is cooking itself…the only left to do: Omega Chocolate Sauce for the fridge.
What is your favourite food to cook in bulk and freeze?