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Batch cooking and freezing the extras

Cooking can be fun. Preparing a delicious healthy meal for your partner, family or even just yourself is one of life’s great pleasures. But it can also be a time-consuming chore (just ask any parent). 

Batch cooking and storing your leftovers is an efficient way to save both your time in the kitchen and money. With a little forward planning, you can serve family favourites all through the week. 

Now more than ever, the need to minimise food waste and store our leftovers is vital. We’ve put together a few tips to help you maximise your batch cooking and make sure your leftovers are just as delicious defrosted as they were the day you cooked them. 

Cook more than you need
Batch cooking is essentially eating leftovers. You just need to cook more of what you’re having today and freeze it for another day. If you’re cooking for yourself, cook for four. If you’re cooking for a family cook for eight, that should be enough.

Batch cooking is time-consuming and requires an investment, both in terms of time and money, so you need to be sure that what you’re cooking is going to get eaten. Start by making a list of your family’s

Prepping takes time
You’re going to need to plan out your cooking times as well. Chopping a lot of veg and getting the meat is going to take time. Decide what to start first, and make a schedule of what needs to start cooking and when. Will you have time to chop veg while slow cooking your beef brisket? Can you start some veg boiling while the potatoes are roasting

Entertainment while you cook
It’s important to keep yourself entertained while you’re busy batch cooking in the kitchen.

To help with this, we’ve got a few Spotify playlists to get you singing (and maybe even moving) while you cook.

  1. RSPCA Assured cooking
  2. Songs with animals in the title 
  3. Jamie Oliver - Songs to cook to
  4. MOB Kitchen Cookbook playlist
  5. Bon Appetit cooking jams

Get some help
Batch cooking can be time-consuming (and you might even get a bit lonely). It can be a good idea to recruit some help and maybe get the kids involved. If it is too difficult, you could try cooking something else with them and check out our page for how to get kids interested in the kitchen.

How to batch cook
When you’re cooking to store in the freezer, it’s a good idea to slightly underdo your food. 

That way when you heat it up, it won’t burn before it’s ready to eat.

Good foods to batch cook
Good ideas for batch cooking are dishes that require a lot of time but don’t lose their flavour when you come to defrost them. A great example is lasagne, or if you’re trying to cut down on your meat intake, you could always try our vegetarian lasagne

Equipment you’ll need
First and foremost, you’ll need something to store your leftovers in. Most Tupperware is fine to put in the freezer, but not all, so double-check. You can also use plastic freezer bags, though if you’re trying to cut down on plastic waste, they aren’t the best choice.

Surprisingly, although it’s the easiest way to reheat leftovers, you don’t need a microwave if you’re planning on batch cooking. Our grandparents managed well enough without them! But some foods are easier to reheat than others.

Freezing veg
You can cook and store veg ahead of time and then defrost it when needed. If you’re storing cooked veg, as soon as it is ready drop it into cold water to stop it cooking further and get it into the freezer.

Freezing Sunday dinner
If you’re having RSPCA Assured chicken for Sunday roast, you can freeze any leftover for another day. For the best results, separate the meat from any stuffing and put them into different bags. This will prevent the meat from going soggy.

Freezing meat
Freezing can dry food out, so the best way to freeze any leftover meat is to freeze it along with the sauce it was cooked in. When freezing meat, it is particularly important to avoid freezer burn by removing as much air from the bag as possible; the best way to do this is with the water trick listed above.

Freezing eggs
Yes, you can freeze eggs. There are two ways to do this.

  1. The first is to separate your eggs and freeze the whites and the yolks separately, this is useful for cooking them later.
  2. The second is just to break your eggs and beat them all up together and then freeze them like that.

Refreezing meat
You can freeze cooked meat which you had frozen and then defrosted but you should never refreeze raw meat for a second time.

Keeping leftovers in the fridge
If you’re keeping your leftovers in the fridge, you should eat them within two days. Food stored in the freezer will keep, but the longer you leave it the more the flavour will deteriorate. You should aim to eat your frozen batch cooking within three to six months.

Defrosting your food
The safest way to defrost food is to move it from the freezer to the fridge well in advance. This will obviously take longer but it will stop the build-up of bacteria.

Warming up defrosted food
When heating up your frozen food, you should make sure it is piping hot throughout. So try to ensure it reaches a temperature of 70C for two minutes. You should only reheat your food once, any more than that and you run a higher risk of food poisoning.

Re-using freezer bags
You can reuse bags for freezing food but just make sure that you use the same bag for raw meats to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.

Storing your frozen food

How you store your food depends on what exactly you are cooking but here are a few useful tips for whatever you're freezing.

  • Label everything. A good labelling system will include what’s inside, when you cooked it, and how many portions there are.
  • Storing your food. It’s best to use shallow containers when storing your food to freeze it, this will allow it to thaw out faster when you need it.
  • Remove the air. Try to get as much air out the container when freezing your food. If you’re using a plastic container place a piece of kitchen roll on top before closing. If you’re using storage bags, you can use this handy trick: once you’ve placed your food in the bag, lower it into a bowl of water so as all the air is forced out and then seal it up.
  • Divide into portions. While it might seem easier to freeze all your cooking in one lot, it will be much easier later if you do it by portion. That way you can defrost exactly the amount you need.
  • Cool your food down quickly. Ideally, you should aim to have your batch cooking in the freezer within two hours. This will prevent the build-up of most harmful bacteria. Do it quickly, there is no need to wait for your food to cool down before putting it in the freezer.
  • It might go soggy. While you can freeze almost anything, food with a high water content will go soggy, so it’s best to avoid it. Strawberries and tomatoes won’t be nice fresh after freezing, but they will be fine to cook with.

About the author

Jodie Adam

Jodie is RSPCA Assured's Digital Communications Manager. 

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