The Beauty of the Batch: Cook Once, Heat and Eat for a Month
By wlr's Trudi Purdy
It’s been a busy day. You’re starving hungry. It’s dinner time and you're too tired to cook. What do you do?
- Reach for the phone and order in
- Go down the pub
- Pick on bits and pieces that don't really fill you up, so you keep eating till bedtime
- Go to the drive-thru
Yikes! What about the calorie count?
Pressure points like these often throw good intentions out the window, but doing some prep on just one day can provide fast, tasty and healthy meals for a whole month or more, here’s how.
Make Your Diet Easier and Healthier
Lots of us enjoy cooking when we're creating tasty food with no time pressure.
Set aside a few hours once a month to put on your chef's hat and have some fun cooking meals you like that can be portioned up and frozen.
Do this once and you'll have something nice and easy for dinner for the next month or more.
To make it even easier you can use or adapt the recipes in WLR which are already calorie-counted for you, take a free trial to give it a go.
The selection of recipes below are all suitable for batch cooking. Or input your own favourite freezeable recipes to see the calories per portion.
All you have to do is heat and eat. Perfect!
Batch cooking saves time, energy, money AND gives you a yummy homemade meal that works for your weight loss.
Benefits of Batch Cooking
- Calorie counted meals that you just need to heat and eat
- Know exactly what’s in your meal – no processed foods, or hidden sugar
- It saves time and money
- Your meals for the month are all done in advance, taking the stress out of deciding what to eat
- Since you've made the meals to fit with your calorie goals, you'll keep your weight loss on track
- Your kitchen will stay cleaner! Instead of all the pots and pans when you prepare your evening meal, all you’ll have is a container or two and the cutlery and crockery you use to eat it with!
- Cooking when you want to instead of because you have to will make it more of a pleasure
- It’ll minimise waste. The lovely fresh veg you buy when you go shopping will get used straight away without the chance of sitting, languishing in the veg rack
- Batch cooking gives you time to experiment. When you’re pushed for time and hungry, even if you manage to avoid the take away temptation, you’re likely to cook the familiar. Batch cooking provides the freedom to try something new
WLR’s Best Batch Cooking Tips
Batch cooking can seem daunting at first. To help make it as easy as possible, we have supplied you with some recipes below to get you started. We also got our heads together to come up with the best tips for you.
- Decide on the recipes you’re going to batch cook and go shopping for the ingredients (remembering tip no 6). Double-check you have the spices and herbs you need. There is nothing worse than having to stop halfway through to do an emergency run to the shop!
- Look for recipes that use the inexpensive cuts of meat as these freeze best – shoulder, thigh, minced etc.
- For soups and stews (or anything with veg in it) slightly undercook the veg. That way when you reheat the meal, they won’t just turn to mush
- If you have a food processor, use it! Chopping 6 onions, 2 swedes, a load of carrots and 3 heads of garlic in one go by hand may make you never want to batch cook again!
- Season your recipe to taste. Doubling up on herbs and spices sometimes doesn’t work. So season and taste as you go along
- You don’t need to double up on the meat in some dishes. Add in extra veg, lentils or potatoes where the recipe allows for it. You can save some extra money and calories doing this. Make sure you adjust your calorie count to allow for less meat and more veg though
- Make sure you label your bags or containers with what’s in them and the date. You could even pop some cooking instructions on if necessary. Unless, of course, you like the surprise!
- Make sure you get as much air as possible out of the container before sealing it. You’ll avoid ‘freezer burn’. If you do get freezer burn, you’ll still be able to eat the food but it may not taste quite as good.
- If you decide to use freezer bags, lay them in a rectangular tub before freezing. Once they're frozen, pop them out and they will keep they're shape, making them more freezer space friendly.
- What if you forget to defrost your meal? Don’t panic. All you need to do is put the meal in a cold oven, straight from the freezer, and turn it on. You’ll need to cook it for a little longer than normal (20-30 minutes), but it will defrost and cook as the oven heats up. Just make sure your food is piping hot throughout before you eat it.
- If you don’t fancy spending a couple of hours in the kitchen batch cooking, you could simply double or quadruple the ingredients each time you cook something. Then just portion up the leftovers and pop them in the freezer for another time.
- Keep a bag of salad in the fridge and some frozen veg in stock for easy accompaniments to your main meals. And don't forget to pick up some containers or bags for storing your healthy creations in the freezer. Happy cooking!
Here's some delicious recipes to get you started.
Calorie Counted Recipes Perfect for Batch Cooking
This low calorie chilli con carne is the perfect meal to make and save for the rest of the week! Enjoy as a delicious meal and then take left over’s to work with you!
256 calories per serving
A classic Scottish dish, mince & tatties is homely low calorie meal to enjoy with the family. Serve up with some nice, crisp steamed veg!
399 calories per serving
A quick and easy skinny version of a classic spag bol made with 3 portions of your 5-a-day! Serve with a crisp salad or garlic bread if you have the calories spare.
457 calories per serving
This low fat beef casserole is the perfect meal to warm you up on a cold evening and to serve to family and friends!
259 calories per serving
Treat yourself to this lovely homemade fish pie. It's low calorie and served with a side salad, makes a great meal.
448 calories per serving
This tasty beef goulash recipe provides you with 2 of your 5 a day and is low in calories. If you want to lower the fat content, skip the yoghurt on top and enjoy!
358 calories per serving
Ditch the meat and try this veggie cottage pie, it may be low calorie but it’s still filled with all the flavours and greatness of a real cottage pie.
295 calories per serving
This low calorie roasted vegetable lasagne is the perfect dish to share with loved ones. Gather round and dig in to this traditional Italian dish.
366 calories per serving
When served up with some potatoes or even some rice, this low calorie pork casserole makes a great family meal. It’s also low in carbs and high in protein!
195 calories per serving
This recipe makes 2 servings that are packed full of fruit and veg. Served with some fresh steamed vegetables this recipe makes a great low calorie dinner.
395 calories per serving
A low fat twist on a classic Italian dish means you don’t have to avoid your favourite meals when watching your calories. Great served with a simple green salad.
484 calories per serving
A warming, filling meal that’s low in calories. It has 2 and a half portions of fruit and veg per serving.
342 calories per serving
These are just some ideas for you. The WLR recipe database has hundreds of recipes for you to try. Ultimately, if the ingredients can be frozen, double or quadruple them up and Bob’s your uncle!
More Calorie Counted Recipes for Your Batch
You can take your choice from hundreds more yummy recipes suitable for batch cooking in WLR, plus you can use the tools to easily calculate the calories in your own batches, give it a try!
BBC Good Food has a selection of 40 savoury and sweet recipes suitable for batching. Useful for dieters as they also include calorie and nutrition info.
Good Housekeeping's Guide to Freezing Food has tips for making sure your frozen creations will be edible!