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Charlotte Stirling Reed’s Top Tips for Cleve...

Charlotte Stirling Reed’s Top Tips for Clever Batch Cooking 

Hh How To Feed Your Family Day Charlotte Portrait

Ahead of the launch of her new book, How to Feed Your Family, nutritionist Charlotte Stirling Reed shares her tips on clever batch cooking…

I was never big on batch cooking before, but since becoming a family of four, I actually found myself finding meal prep and meal inspo really challenging. It’s not really like me as I love cooking, but trying to please 4 individuals and trying to have so many meal ideas up my sleeve was something of a challenge for me. However, since writing my new book How to Feed Your Family, I’ve found that batch cooking and spending a little time each week prepping meals (with a bit of menu planning on the side) can really help take the pressure off creating multiple meals a day, every day!

Below I’m sharing some of my favourite tips now that I’ve become a bit of a pro at batch cooking. I promise you if you do it, it really is worthwhile.

(Main photo: Haarala Hamilton)

Prep time is key

Choose 1-2 hours a week when you can really focus, get busy in the kitchen and make a few meals and snacks in bulk. It really doesn’t take much more time than that if you’re savvy with your batch cooking. If 1-2 hours sounds like a lot to you in an already busy week, just remember that batch cooking is all about making the rest of your week go MUCH more smoothly and it’ll likely save you more time during the week where you DON’T have to think about meal ideas or prep foods mid-week.  

When batch cooking, choose meals to batch cook that are pretty quick to prep. This means you might spend 10-20 mins prepping and then can get on with creating other dishes whilst they are cooking. Prep time is key when it comes to batch cooking. I usually spend 2 hours a week and I try to do 2 main meals and 2 snacks in that time. 

Practise makes perfect. After time some of your favourite batch cook recipes will become so easy you’ll be able to do them with your eyes closed (not literally, please!!). This makes the cooking time quicker and also means you’ll probably have more time for creating other recipes in your allocated slot. 

Double up on recipes

Don’t be afraid to double up recipes, especially your favourites that are quick to prep. Making a bulk load of a sauce or soup or curry and tapping into them throughout the week can be such a saviour. Remember you can vary what you offer things with too, for example offer a curry with rice, couscous or some bread to dip in, or make a pasta sauce but also serve it on top of potatoes or with some rice, for example. This helps to add variety, whilst using your batch cook meals wisely!

Use your freezer efficiently

Have plenty of Tupperware in various sizes to store food in the freezer. Forget thinking that you can just shove everything in one big lock n stock pot and defrost over a morning. It’s MUCH better to freeze meals in realistic portion sizes so that when it defrost, you don’t end up with excess food and food waste. I try and plan when I’m going to offer meals so I know whether to defrost enough for 1, 2 or 4 people. Lots of varying sizes of freezer storage helps with this. 

Also give your freezer a good sort out before you START your batch cooking experience. This means you have plenty of space and can make slotting in various containers much easier. I have lots of tips on using your freezer efficiently in my new book How to Feed Your Family. 

Prep things that freeze easily. Pastas, curries, soups, sauces are brilliant and freeze so well and you won’t notice that they’ve been frozen and defrosted when you eat them so are fab choices for batch cooking. 

Make batch cooking enjoyable

When you start your batch cooking slot, make sure you begin with a clean kitchen and an empty dishwasher so you can clear up as you go along and minimise the chaos around you and the clear up post cooking. I actually really enjoy cooking when I have space, clear counter tops and can easily move about and pop things in the dishwasher and with no distractions around me.

Play some music or listen to a podcast. As parents we very rarely get to do anything for ourselves, so I try to use the time when I’m cooking to also watch something or listen to something for me – something that isn’t nursery rhymes of kids TV!! It’s actually really enjoyable to do this and spend some time with myself. These days I really miss it if I don’t get my 1-2 hours on the weekend. 

Label everything

Be Monica-ready with the labels! It’s so important to label what you’ve made and pop on the date that you made them too so that you know how long you’ve got until they need to be eaten. I try and make food for the next week each week, but things don’t always go to plan and that’s OK. However, it’s good to remember when you made a recipe and froze it, as food tends to last well in the freezer for around 3 months. 

Make use of equipment

Use a slow cooker if you can, as this means you can bung the food in and get on with something else whilst it’s cooking. A slow cooker does all the work for you. 

Use other equipment like food processors to do any grating or blending quickly and I’ve been loving my box chopper for chopping any veggies and onions in a very quick speed. Anything that makes the prep quicker is such a winner in my book and can make a huge difference to your batch cooking abilities. 

Don’t forget about snacks

If you can plan to prep 1 or two quick snacks in advance and freeze them too so that you can tap into them day to day throughout the week. In my latest book How to Feed Your Family my Baked Banana Bars, Cheesy Pizza Muffins and my Oaty Cookies have been ideal, quick prep options to bulk make and freeze. 

I really hope these tips are helpful. Check out my book for more information on this topic as well as details on feeding the family a balanced diet, meal planning, organising your kitchen and for all the meal ideas and inspiration you need. I also have PLENTY of advice on my blog too including blogs on feeding the family on a budget and adding flavour to foods without salt and sugar!

Ebury will publish How to Feed Your Family: Your One-Stop Guide to Creating Healthy Meals That Everyone Will Enjoy on 20th July 2023, RRP £18.99

For more food inspiration, click here.