Is batch cooking the secret to saving money?
Meal prepping is the gold standard of saving money, reducing waste and keeping healthy – but have you ever made 10 meals in an hour?
It might seem like an impossible feat, but it’s a regular event for Suzanne Mulholland, AKA The Batch Lady – and the key to success is all about making a plan.
For an example of how she does it, Mulholland, who is based on the Scottish borders, starts with a meal such as fajitas. “In the pot is mince and onions, and everything else for fajitas,” she says – and this also works as a base for two other dishes: chilli and spaghetti bolognese.
“While the meat’s browning, I make two family portions of burgers and meatballs, which I freeze raw. Then I divide up my pot, to make two portions of the other three recipes.”
You’ve then got 10 portions of five different meals for your freezer.
This way of cooking comes naturally to Mulholland, 47, who used to work as a time-management expert. She took all the tools from her previous job and applied them to cooking when she had children. After sharing recipes on YouTube and Instagram, The Batch Lady was born (she currently has around 27.7K subscribers and 157K followers on each platform respectively).
Batch cooking doesn’t have to be an endless parade of stews, either – the recipes in Mulholland’s new book, The Batch Lady: Cooking On A Budget, are vibrant and interesting. “We’ve got churros, dirty fries, calzones, cheesecakes, koftas and ramen – all really good stuff,” she says.
She might now be on her fourth cookbook, but Mulholland doesn’t claim to have perfected everything. When asked if she’s ever had a disaster in the kitchen, she laughs: “I had one last night! I’m always trying out new recipes… so, I was doing a Christmas dinner for a reel, and it worked perfectly. But I wondered if I could make a Christmas pasta bake…
“It was not nice. Don’t chop up your Christmas dinner and leftovers and make it into a pasta bake, because it really wasn’t good.”
You can’t deny the benefits of batch cooking, though – particularly in a cost-of-living crisis.
“My whole ethos is, you don’t need to cook every single night, you don’t need to cook when you want to eat – you can cook whenever you want to,” Mulholland says. And this could help save money on takeaways or last-minute trips to the supermarket, too.
If you want to save time and cash by batch cooking, here’s how to get into it.
“I always say start small,” Mulholland advises. “All you need to do is choose two meals a week that you eat regularly, and find a recipe you can freeze.
“Every time you make it, double it up – have one that night, put one in the freezer. That means, another night, you won’t need to cook, because you’ve got a meal in the freezer.”
She suggests this type of cooking is “addictive” – once you’ve started, you’ll want to do it more and more.
“You don’t have to plan every meal, planning just one extra meal will save you money,” she says.
“These days, we all shop back to front – we arrive at the supermarket, then we think, ‘Right, what do I want to eat? What do I want to buy?’ – and of course, supermarkets are set up for you to pick items they’re going to make the most money on.
“So, before doing your food shop, decide what you want to eat, then see what you’ve already got in. This will stop you wasting food and save you money.”
Unsurprisingly for a time-management expert, Mulholland has plenty of handy tips for making batch cooking as quick and easy as possible.
“When you’re going to batch cook, it’s good to be organised – lay out all your ingredients and have everything else you need ready,” she advises. “It’s also worth having an empty dishwasher, or a sink full of hot, soapy water.”
This way, when you’ve finished cooking, you’re not then faced with “a huge kitchen to clean up” – potentially putting you off for life.
‘The Batch Lady: Cooking On A Budget’ by Suzanne Mulholland (published by HQ, £22; photography by Haarala Hamilton), available now.