Save money with The Batch Lady’s recipes and food preparation tips

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).

Group 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 have churros, dirty fries, calzones, cheesecakes, koftis and ramen—all really good stuff,” she says.

Peanut Butter Oreo Ice Cream Cake from The Batch Lady: Cooking On A Budget by Suzanne Mulholland Photo: PA Photo/Haarala Hamilton.

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 wondered if I could make a Christmas pasta… “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…

Start small

“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.

Humble Chicken and Mushroom Pie from The Batch Lady: Cooking On A Budget by Suzanne Mulholland.  Photo: PA/Haarala Hamilton.
Humble Chicken and Mushroom Pie from The Batch Lady: Cooking On A Budget by Suzanne Mulholland. Photo: PA/Haarala Hamilton.

Plan ahead

“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.”

Get organized

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”—which could potentially set you back for life.

Oreo Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake Recipe

A decadent delight that you can make months in advance.

Oreo Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake Recipe

Time to prepare

19 minutes

ingredients

  • 1 x 154g pack of Oreos

  • 60g butter, melted, plus extra for spreading

  • 200 g of chocolate digestive biscuits

  • 80g smooth peanut butter, plus a little extra for sprinkling on top

  • 1 x 900 ml vanilla ice cream, softened

Method

  1. Grease an 18cm tin with butter and set aside.

  2. Set aside three Oreos to use for decoration, then add the rest to a large freezer bag along with the digestive biscuits and crush with a rolling pin to a fine crumb consistency. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, add the melted butter and stir to combine. Pour the crumb mixture into the prepared springform pan and press down into the base in an even layer. Transfer to the fridge to set while you prepare the topping.

  3. Transfer the ice cream to a mixing bowl (it should be soft but not runny). Place the peanut butter in a separate small microwaveable bowl and heat it in the microwave for a few seconds until it is liquid, then pour the peanut butter into the ice cream and beat together with a wooden spoon until combined.

  4. Remove the base from the fridge and pour over the ice cream mixture, spreading it out into an even layer. Spread a little more peanut butter on top, then use a knife or skewer to spread the ice cream.

  5. Crush the remaining Oreos and sprinkle over the top, then cover the ice cream cake with plastic wrap and transfer to the freezer for at least three hours to set.

  6. If serving now… Once the ice cream cake is completely set, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw slightly for about 10 minutes. Run a knife around the inner edge of the pan, then open the springform pan, cut the cake into wedges and serve.

  7. Or just leave the cake in the freezer for up to three months. Then remove the cake from the freezer and let it thaw slightly for about 10 minutes. Run a knife around the inner edge of the pan, then open the springform pan, cut the cake into wedges and serve.

A humble recipe for chicken and mushroom pie

You can make this dish vegetarian by replacing the chicken with a similar meat substitute.

A humble recipe for chicken and mushroom pie

Time to prepare

20 min

ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or oil

  • 115 g frozen chopped onion

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces

  • 300 g of chestnut mushrooms, chopped

  • 2 tbsp plain flour

  • 240 ml chicken stock

  • 200 ml of milk

  • 1 tsp whole grain mustard

  • 1 sheet of pre-rolled puff pastry

  • 1 egg, beaten

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large, deep pan over a medium heat, then add the onion and chicken pieces and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft and the chicken is browned. Add the chopped mushrooms to the pan and stir to combine with the chicken and onion, then cook, stirring occasionally, for five to seven minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the mushrooms have released all their water.

  2. Add the flour to the pan and toss to coat the chicken and vegetables, then pour in the chicken stock and toss well. Slowly pour in the milk, stirring and thickening the sauce as you do so, then bring the mixture to the boil, reduce the heat to low and let cook for 10-15 minutes until thickened, then stir in the mustard and season well with salt and pepper . Remove from heat and set aside.

  3. If you are cooking now… Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4. Pour the pie filling into a large, ovenproof baking tray, smaller than the pastry sheet, then place the pastry on top of filling and tuck the edges. Brush the top of the pie with beaten egg, then transfer to the oven for 30-35 minutes, until golden and well risen. Cut into large pieces and serve hot with porridge and vegetables together if desired.

  4. If you plan to freeze in advance… Allow the filling mixture to cool to room temperature, then pour into a large, labeled freezer bag and freeze with the dough sheet for up to three months.

  5. Then… Remove the pie filling and pastry sheet from the freezer and let them thaw in the fridge, ideally overnight. Once thawed, preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4 and assemble, bake and serve the pie in the same way as above.

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

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