Is batch cooking the secret to saving money?

Meal prepping is the gold standard for saving money, reducing waste and staying healthy – but have you ever cooked 10 meals in an hour?

It might seem like an impossible feat, but it’s a regular occurrence for Suzanne Mulholland, aka The Batch Lady (@thebatchlady) – and the key to success is making a plan.

As an example of how he does it, Mulholland, which is based in the Scottish Borders, starts with food like fajitas. “There’s ground beef and onions in the pot, and everything else for fajitas,” she says—and it also works as the base for two other dishes: chili and spaghetti Bolognese.

“While the meat is browning, I make two family portions of burgers and meatballs that I freeze raw. Then I split my pot to make two batches of the other three recipes.

Then you have 10 servings of five different meals for your freezer.

This style of cooking comes naturally to Mulholland, 47, who has worked 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 lively and interesting. “We have churros, dirty fries, calzones, cheesecakes, koftis and ramen—all really good stuff,” she says.

She may be on her fourth cookbook now, but Mulholland doesn’t claim to have it all perfected. 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 made a Christmas reel dinner and it turned out perfectly. But I was wondering if I could make a Christmas pasta bake…

“It wasn’t nice. Don’t cut up your Christmas dinner and leftovers and make them into pasta because it really wasn’t good.

Still, you can’t deny the benefits of group cooking—especially in a cost-of-living crisis.

“My whole point is, you don’t have to cook every night, you don’t have to cook when you want to eat—you can cook whenever you want,” says Mulholland. And it can also help save money on takeout or last-minute trips to the supermarket.

If you’re looking to save time and money by group cooking, here’s how to get in on it…

“I always say start small,” advises Mulholland. “All you have to do is pick two meals a week to eat regularly and find a recipe that you can freeze.

“Every time you make it, double it – have one tonight, put one in the freezer. This means another night you won’t have to cook because you have food in the freezer.

She suggests that this type of cooking is “addictive” – once you start, 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 backwards – we get to the supermarket, then we think, ‘OK, what do I want to eat?’ What do I want to buy?” – and of course the supermarkets are set up so that you choose items that will make them the most money.

“So before you go food shopping, decide what you want to eat, then look at what you already have. This will stop you wasting food and save you money.”

Not surprisingly for a time management expert, Mulholland has plenty of helpful tips to make batch cooking as quick and easy as possible.

“When you’re going to be cooking in batches, it’s good to be organized—lay out all your ingredients and prepare everything else you need,” she advises. “It’s also worth having an empty dishwasher or sink full of hot, soapy water.”

That way, when you’re done cooking, you’re not faced with a “huge kitchen to clean up” – which could potentially put you off for life.

The Batch Lady: Cooking On A Budget by Suzanne Mulholland is published by HQ priced £22. Photo by Haarala Hamilton. Available now.

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