Photo of several small silver foil trays with white lids in a clear freezer drawer. The white lids have various meals and nutrition information written on them.

Batch Cooking: How To Make A Minimum Of 25 Meal Portions For Less Than £20

In May, we posted about our favourite life hack and how batch cooking helps keep our food budget down. If you’ve already read it, then you’ll know that food prep and batch cooking has been a big part of our lives the last few years. With a little one on the way, this has become something fundamental to me as I know when our little one is here, we won’t have time to cook healthy meals every night from scratch. So following on from that post, this is how we manage to cook at least 25 meal portions for less than £20.

The first thing we like to do before going shopping is to think of 3 meals we know will go down a treat whenever, and a meal that is suitable to double up as work food for Alex when he’s flying. We then go through the cupboards to see what we already have to make 5 portions of each meal, giving us 25 meals in the freezer. Often there will be enough for a few more than 5 portions, depending on whether we’re using plastic containers or foil trays with lids.

Meals that tend to be on the list are as follows: 

  • Bean and vegetable chilli
  • Ratatouille (which can have pasta, bulgar wheat or rice added to it later)
  • Chicken tikka masala and rice (which Alex usually takes to work)
  • Beef chilli
  • Sweet potato cottage pie

These are the five meals that Alex and I decided to make with 5 portions of each one for this post. In total, the bill came to £18.49, which included the following ingredients:

  • 2 x 5% fat mince 500g – £2.59 each
  • 3 large onions – £0.95
  • 1kg carrots – £0.45 (the leftovers make for great snacks!)
  • Flat mushrooms – £1
  • Closed cup mushrooms – £0.85
  • 1.25kg bag of sweet potatoes – £1.50
  • Pack of 3 courgettes – £1.25
  • 3 Mixed peppers – £1.35
  • Red pepper – £0.42
  • Garlic – £0.55
  • Light tikka sauce – £0.75
  • 2 x mild chilli sauce – £0.80 each
  • 2 x 400g tinned kidney beans – £0.30 each
  • Tomato puree – £0.35
  • 3 x tinned chopped tomatoes – £0.28 each
  • Crushed chillies – £0.85

We always make sure we have the basics of pasta, rice and bulgar wheat in the house, we already had rice for the chicken tikka, so this wasn’t needed. The only thing not available was the cooked chicken strips for Alex’s chicken tikka. Thankfully, we had some leftovers in the freezer from the last food prep we did, but we usually get a bag from Morrisons, which does a fair few portions. We also had a leftover red onion and some mixed peppers, which I used for the ratatouille. So we only needed to get white onion and 4 fresh peppers and a tin of chopped tomatoes which meant we only needed 3 tins and not 4.

We brought our shopping from Sainsbury’s, which we tend to shop at as the Nectar points can be converted into Avios via the British Airways Executive Club and be used to pay for holidays and weekends away. If you’re on certain benefits, you can also access Healthy Start vouchers. These vouchers are worth £4.25 each to spend on fruit and vegetables, meaning that if you were to follow this shopping list, the total cost for 25 meal portions would be £14.24 when using one of the vouchers.

The making of the portions

Admittedly, because of previous kitchen accidents, I was relegated to mainly delegating and deciding what needs to go in what dish a while back. It means that whilst Alex and I always weigh everything, my dad likes to cook by eye, and so when he helps out, we don’t weigh any of the vegetables. Most of the ingredients will have some sort of quantity, but some might not if I haven’t had a chance to weigh them before Dad has thrown them in the pan!

Ratatouille

400g courgettes, 1 large red onion, 2 tins chopped tomatoes, 5 garlic cloves, 125g mushrooms, 20g tomato puree, chilli flakes, 200g mixed peppers, fry-light or oil

This is probably the easiest quick mix of vegetables to do, and I love having it with rice, bulgar wheat, or pasta which makes it highly versatile! We start by getting a frying pan and adding in fry-light, then we fry the courgettes, red onion, mushrooms, peppers and garlic until cooked through. After that, we add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, and chilli flakes before allowing the mix to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When it comes to heating up your frozen portion if in a plastic tray, you can microwave it in around 6-8 minutes, dependant on the power of your microwave!

Bean and mixed veg chilli

1 tin red kidney beans, 1 tin chopped tomatoes, 125g mushrooms, 1 large white onion, 300g peppers, 500g jar chilli mix, chilli flakes (optional), 2 garlic cloves, fry-light or oil

If you’re like me and love to have a few vegetarian options in the freezer, then this bean chilli is a great option! It’s packed full of protein too, which helps sustain energy levels.

We use fry-light in a frying pan to fry the onions, mushrooms, garlic and peppers until cooked. Then we add chopped tomatoes and kidney beans and stir together before adding chilli jar mix and flakes. We then let it simmer, occasionally stirring for 10 minutes.

When it comes to heating up your frozen portion if in a plastic tray, you can microwave it in around 6-8 minutes, dependant on the power of your microwave!

Beef Chilli 

500g 5% fat mince, 240g red kidney beans, 1 large onion, 125g mushrooms, 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (no juice), 2 garlic cloves, 500g jar chilli con Carne mix, chilli flakes, fry-light or oil

This is pretty much the same as the bean chilli above, except we fry the mince first in fry-light until fully cooked through, then add the onions, garlic and mushrooms and fry those. After adding chopped tomatoes and kidney beans, stir together before adding chilli jar mix and flakes. We then let it simmer, occasionally stirring for 10 minutes.

When it comes to heating up your frozen portion if in a plastic tray, you can microwave it in less than 10 minutes, depending on the power of your microwave!

Sweet Potato Cottage Pie:

500g 5% fat mince, 400g carrots, 800g sweet potato, 1 large onion, 125g mushrooms, 150ml water, salt, pepper, fry-light or oil, stock cube (optional)

We tend to do this in what seems to be a basic way. However, sometimes keeping it quick and easy is best. We make sweet potato cottage pie using sweet potatoes, lean beef mince, carrots, onions and mushrooms.

Firstly, we get a pan of boiling water and add chopped sweet potatoes and some salt to it and boil those until soft. This makes the sweet potato mash topping for the pie. We then get a frying pan, add fry-light and fry the mince until fully cooked. Whilst that’s cooking, we grate carrots up and chop the onion and mushrooms. After the mince is cooked through, we add the mushrooms and onions to the pan so that they can be fried, then we mix in the grated carrot before adding in a stock cube and 150ml of water to create juice. The mix is then left to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once the mix and the sweet potatoes are ready, we mash the sweet potatoes, grab some foil trays, and dish the mixture into them. After the mixture is in the trays, we put the sweet potato mash on top, then the portions are freezer ready! When you want to cook them, simply pop them in the oven at 180 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Chicken Tikka Curry

Frozen cooked chicken, tikka sauce, basmati rice (per portion: 313 calories, 3.5g fat, 48.5g carbs, 20.2g protein)

Ingredient weights per portion: 60g Cooked frozen chicken strips, 75g mild tikka sauce, 150g basmati rice ( weight when cooked)

This is Alex’s favourite work meal and also the easiest ones to make! Simply boil some basmati rice, then once that’s done, add it to foil trays. Lay some cooked frozen chicken strips on top, then add your tikka sauce, and you have a chicken tikka curry portion ready for the freezer! When it comes to cooking your portion, simply pop in the oven at 180 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Have you tried any of these or have other batch cooking hacks that you do? Share them in the comments below; we’d love to see how you get on!

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