Help set me up as a batch cooker(30 Posts)
I thought about posting in food, but it isn't so recipes I'm after (although this would be good too) more advice about how to go about batch cooking, equipment etc. I've never really used my freezer in this way before, so don't really know what I'm doing but I work full time, we are eating toomuch crap and really need to get a better system of food going.
It's just me and dd, so I'm thinking lots of smallish plastic boxes for pasta sauce, casserole. I've already got a couple of massive saucepans.
What about straight to oven stuff - do things like fish pie, lasagne, crumble freeze well in mini pyrex / ceramic roasting dishes? If so, where can I get cheapish sets of small ones? It isn't going to be Le Creuset on my budget so recommendations would be very welcome.
Any other tips about what works in terms of freezing / defrosting, and in terms of how you get your batch cooking done - do you set aside a day every month or so?
I buy the foil dishes with lids like this Lakeland ones except that I buy them from the supermarket, where they're much cheaper. If you make sure you buy ones with lid too, you can stack them. These take up much less room in the freezer than ceramic or glass dishes, and things defrost quicker in them. I use them for lasagne, cottage pie, fish pie, crumbles etc.
If I'm making a sauce, I pour portions of it straight into freezer bags and knot them up. If you put the freezer bag into a mug or a jug or whatever, it is easier to piour the sauce into. And then freeze it in the bags.
there are quite a lot of ideas and tips on pinterets - look up 'freezer cooking'
some mighty organised freezers out there!
Don't forget the labelling......date/what it is / how to cook!
If you put the paper side of the lid up, rather than the silver side, you can write on that. I write what it is, how many I think it will serve, when I made it, and how long in the oven to cook from frozen or defrosted.
I am not at all organised, just lazy!
I don't dedicate a day to batch cooking. If I am making a lasagne, for example, I make three times as much and freeze two. Same with anything else - curries, cottage pies, fish pie, chilli, pizza sauce etc.
The only things I buy religiously from Poundland are foil "takeaway" packages. Loads of them for a pound and various sizes too. Super handy for freezing and oven heating.
I use freezer bags inside tupperware boxes. Then, when the block has frozen, just pop it out of the plastic tub (to re-use) and stack the blocks in the freezer. I find the foil tubs uneconomic, but I have a v tight budget. Plus you can't put foil in the microwave in a defrosting emergency! (But peel the freezer bag off a block before microwaving...).
Personally I prefer to freeze innards and toppings separately. Eg Shepherds pie filling in one block, frozen mash in another block. This defrosts quicker and you can stir it properly before assembling in a casserole dish and warming through. The same goes for any sort of pie (fish, chicken etc. etc. with potato or pastry lids) or crumble (fruit in one block, crumble topping in portioned freezer bags. It also allows for flexibility. eg If I am all pie-d out, I can serve chicken pie innards with rice or bread like a caserole. Or put pastry on top of fruit instead to make a pie, or leftover scones on top to make a fruit cobbler, or just serve the fruit with yogurt or ice cream.
Sharpie pens are the best for writing on boxes/bags in the freezer, and putting the date on is useful as well.
The foil boxes are good but Poundland also do mini ceramic dishes which I have quite a fondness for!
I buy hamburger. 90% lean, at SAMs club. I think it is six pounds. From that, I will make burrito filling, with black beans, and spaghetti sauce. I use spices from SAMs too, and tomato sauce from them. Sometimes I make Sloppy Joes, and if chili beans are added, it's chili. Sometimes I make chicken burritos.
I like seeing big pots of something cooking, knowing I will have it to put in freezer.
Think I will check out the dollar store for containers. I use glass as I can fill with hot contents.
If you have a food processor, use it for chopping the veg such as onion, celery, carrot, cloves of garlic which often form the basis of recipes to save time. I'm a fan of frozen diced onion for this kind of thing too.
One basic recipe can often be tweaked to make different things - such as adding chilli and cumin to bolognese and mixing in tinned beans.
Quite I do that with all my crumbles, but never thought about doing the rest separately. Brilliant idea, especially because like you say you can use a filling with rice or pasta. Genius.
Hansie I use the foil ones for hot food and never had problems. What's the SAMs club?
I did not know SAMs club was not in England too. Very similar to Costco, not quite as good, but for me, SAMs is closer. I like Costco much more, but not enough to navigate the bad traffic to get there.
I always make double portions of curries/chilli/bolognese and freeze it, make life easier when you get home and just want something quick.
On Sundays I cook a large joint of meat and slice it and add gravy and freeze, I freeze roast potatoes in foil containers so we can have a quick "roast" during the week.
As pp have said I make more of whatever we're cooking and freeze into portions.
I find it best to weigh out the portions so you know they are roughly even. We freeze some things in single portions so they can be taken to work as ready meals or we can defrost 2 or more for an evening.
I freeze into plastic containers without bags and when frozen pop the blocks of food out like huge ice cubes. Then you can bag all your portions of chilli (for example) into one freezer bag and label.
Agree sharpie pens are good.
Rice and pasta both freeze well, again cook more whenever you're doing it and put aside. I freeze pasta and rice into ice cube trays for quick meals for the kids, just defrost whatever you need.
I freeze some things in ziplock bags, laid flat on a baking sheet until frozen
A container labelling tip I picked up from Mumsnet is a roll of Scotch magic and a Sharpie.
I make a basic tomato sauce in the slow cooker, use a hand held blender to make it smooth and then put it into small tupperware for pizza topping, larger ones for using with pasta (loads of recipes on-line for this)
As my slow cooker is a large one I just double up each time I make something so jambalaya, or last night I did a chicken and green bean curry. As I am already making it, it doesn't seem like much of a chore to double it and freeze one portion.
With chilli I tend to make 6 portions at once, mainly because that isn't made in the slow cooker and I have a massive pot to make that in.
There was a really good blog on freezing that I followed, sadly the lady posting just got too ill to continue but the blog still exists freeze happy and her general philosophy was make 3, eat one freeze 2.
But what I liked was how she explained how to reheat it after you have frozen it.
Meant to add, I love Quiet's idea of freezing each component separately and I do what Raspberry does and freeze things flat if I can.
I shop at Costco so I portion out mince into large freezer bags then squish it flat, defrosts a lot quicker.
Great thread! I have decided to finally embrace batch cooking too.
One thing I've done is chop a load of ginger/chilli/garlic/spring onion etc and mix it with a bit of oil, then freeze - defrost and put in pan for instant stir fry base
Oh and I agree freezer bags are great, saves washing up.
I try to double up when cooking and freeze a whole separate lot. Ie fish pie - then I can get the whole lot out to defrost the night before then put in the magic oven (timed to come on at 4pm for example and voila Cooked at 5pm! )
I use a mixture of the take away tin things from the super market, and a variety of pirex type dishes bought some where cheap.
Dp did an inventory of the freezer this morning. Turns out I don't have to cook all week (apart from veg!)
Thank you, thank you, thank you everyone! I have been totally seduced by pinterest photos of neat-freakly stacked and filed freezer bags of gorgeous dinners. Can't quite believe rl freezers can look like that.
I'm going to try out all your tips - I hadn't thought about most of these
Great thread thanks. I have to economise seriously for the foreseeable future and this is part of my plan too.
Batch cooking, you say? I have four Weekend Cook Fest posts on my Austerity Housekeeping blog that you might want to have a quick look at. Here's the first.
The Weekend Cook Fest
Can I add that I have three freezers. One has half a pig in there, specially ordered from the butcher and prepared to my requirements, another has a entire lamb in there, ditto, and finally a third has bread and batch cooking, including a few dinner party meals. If you buy your meat direct from a good butcher like me, ordered in advance, you pay about half what you do if you buy it in dribs and drabs, and it's better quality.
Brilliant thread, I so need to get into the habit of doing this.
I thought you would all like to know that, the heat, I am in the middle of my first major batch cook: steaming pots of fruit, vegetables and meat, in various combinations - it has begun ...
Thanks Boffin - I will read and copy - I'm loving the sound of your animal-filled freezers
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