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!

This post contains affiliate links. This means that we receive a percentage of the revenue made from purchasing products when you click on a link. This does not affect you as the consumer or the price of the product or service. It is also not a paid for promotion or a collaboration/advert.

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: The Life Hack That Saves Both Time And Money

Almost everyone wants to save money where they can, but food budgets, in particular, can end up being stretched to the limit by our busy lifestyles. Most of us don’t want to be cooking after a busy day and often end up ordering in takeaway or eating out on the way home to save time and energy. But there is a way to save both money and time if you’re willing to spend a day or two a month batch cooking!

For both Alex and I, batch cooking has been a significant thing for us in our lives and even as a child, I used to spend some weekends batch cooking and baking with my gran, storing the food in our big freezer in the garage. With my condition meaning that I have a lot less energy than most and fatigue is a big part of my life, I’m glad that batch cooking is something I was brought up with and something that Alex and I really enjoy doing together. Not only do we batch cook his work food for onboard, but we also batch cook for standbys and for when I’m on a bad day with pain or fatigue. However, we’re now also batch cooking meals ready for when our little one arrives because we both know that we’ll have even less time on our hands to cook fresh meals.

So how does one batch cook?

Batch cooking is one of those things where people often don’t know where or how to begin. So aside from it being a good idea to have a big freezer if you’re doing a lot of batch cooking in one go, here are some other tips to help you get started.

Decide on meals you know that you’ll eat!

Firstly, I’m planning a detailed post on this in a few weeks, so look out for that. But the first thing you want to do is get a list together of meals you enjoy eating. It could be anything from cottage pie to lasagne or curries. The trick here is to see what works for batch cooking. You then want to think about how many portions to make at a time. You’ll need to think about freezer space for this as well, as you’ll be storing the meal portions in there until they’re ready to be used. After that, create your shopping list of ingredients you’ll need and how much, then you’re good to go!

Get containers!

If you do get takeaways, and they come in plastic containers, save them for batch cooking! If not, then you can buy microwave-safe plastic containers relatively cheaply online and reuse them. If you don’t have a microwave or, like Alex, you’re food prepping for work and only have an oven available, then foil trays are your best friend! Because we batch cook Alex’s work food at the same time, we tend to do both; plastic containers for the portions that can be microwaved and foil trays for meals that not only is Alex is likely to take to work but can be popped in the oven at home if we fancy them there as well.

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.
Just one of our meal prep drawers in the freezer!

Get a whiteboard! 

A small whiteboard in the kitchen is a godsend! Not only does it help you keep track of what is in your freezer, but it also helps you plan in advance for when you next need to batch cook. It also stops us from ordering in or going to the shop unnecessarily when we can see what is in the freezer without physically looking. When you batch cook, write down what you’ve made and how many portions, then each time you take meal portions out, just edit the number on the whiteboard. It’s that simple!

Use leftovers for weaning! 

If you’re weaning your little one or starting in the next couple of months and find you have some leftovers that aren’t enough for an entire meal portion, you can make weaning portions out of them! Meals that work really well for this are curries, ratatouille, and pasta dishes. All you need to do is blend the leftovers and pop them into small containers (we suggest these ones as they’re microwave friendly and an ideal size for weaning portions)

Those are our tips for beginning to batch cook! If you have any extra suggestions on batch cooking, please leave them down in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to look out for our detailed blog post on how we make 25 meal portions for less than £20, which will be live in a couple of weeks! 

This post contains affiliate links. This means that we receive a percentage of the revenue made from purchasing products when you click on a link. This does not affect you as the consumer or the price of the product or service. It is also not a paid for promotion or a collaboration/advert.