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Life on the inside: 10 batch-cooking ideas to save money and time

Make the most of mealtimes when supermarket shelves are running low.


Handy hints for batch-cooking during the lockdown (PA)

Handy hints for batch-cooking during the lockdown (PA)

Handy hints for batch-cooking during the lockdown (PA)

When time, money or ingredients are in short supply, batch-cooking can become a valuable tool in the home-cook’s arsenal.

The coronavirus outbreak has been the greatest challenge to feeding the nation since the Second World War, with supermarket shelves being decimated amid widespread panic buying.

With demand far outstripping supply for some key lines, those wanting to feed their household have had to be resourceful, making do with what they have in the store cupboard, pantry and fridge.

Others have sought to give themselves one less thing to worry about by knocking up meals on a near-industrial scale and popping the plastic containers into the freezer.

So, in fairly unprecedented culinary circumstances, here are 10 batch-cooking recipes to help provide fuel during the lockdown:

Ingredients for a ragu
A few simple ingredients to make a tomato sauce which can be used as a base for a bolognese, chilli or lasagne (Ryan Hooper/PA wire)

1. Slow-cooked spaghetti bolognese

Can easily be done without the meat, and is so versatile it can be used as base for lasagnes, chillis and other tomato-based dishes.

Chefs usually advise against using tins of chopped tomatoes – particularly useful considering there’s been a real run on tinned goods in recent weeks.

Instead, whole salad tomatoes are just as good. Keep the skins on and they hold their shape during the cooking process.


2. Vegetable curry

An evergreen recipe which can be adapted to suit those with a greater capacity for heat.

Sturdy root vegetables can be used liberally, as well as tinned items such as chickpeas and tomatoes.

A useful base, which can be enhanced with beef, chicken or king prawn.


Vegan diet and prostate cancer risk
Fresh vegetables are crucial for getting nutrients into the body, and can be used in a variety of dishes (David Davies/PA)

3. Irish stew

A one-pot family favourite either side of the Irish Sea, which uses a cheaper cut of meat – particularly helpful for those looking to save some money while under lockdown. Few ingredients, so can be adapted where desired.


4. Chicken tagine

The only limit to the batch-cooking ability will be the size of the vessel in which this North African dish is cooked. Chicken thigh, a cheaper cut of meat, is much tastier in a tagine than the more expensive breast.


A tagine, the earthenware pot used to create the famous North African dish
A tagine, the earthenware pot used to create the famous North African dish (Ryan Hooper/PA wire)

5. Ratatouille

An easy way to get rid of all those vegetables nearing their best-before date in the back of the fridge or pantry. Can be easily frozen and served with a range of carbohydrates such as pasta.


6. Chilli con carne

Everyone has their version of this evergreen classic. Some will swap out the beef for soya or another meat-free equivalent, while others will go heavy on the coriander or even add dark chocolate or cocoa powder. Can keep for a few days in the fridge, or be slopped into containers and stored in the freezer.


7. Simple seafood stew

A straightforward dish which is easy to customise. Robust fish such as cod works well for those looking to increase the protein.


8. Chicken and chorizo paella

Contrary to popular belief, paella can be reheated once cooked and chilled, providing it is piping hot.

Many Spaniards would grimace at the idea of using chorizo, while the Valencians prefer rabbit. However, at a time where some food is in short supply, relying on long-life products such as the cured Spanish sausage possibly trumps honouring regional preferences. Items such as peppers and onions often come in bulk, so perfect for making a large batch.


Rabbit stock
The Valencians love a bit of rabbit in a traditional paella. Not needed for the above dish, however (Nick Ansell/PA wire)

9. Back of the cupboard risotto

Again, it is fine to reheat risotto once it’s been cooked then chilled in the fridge.

The dish is perfect for knocking together a decent one-pot meal with stuff left at the back of the cupboard – vegetables, herbs, anything.

Onion and garlic and key, although remember to add them separately as the latter burns faster. White wine is also useful to coat the rice before adding other ingredients such as stock.


10. Easy apple crumble

Dead simple, with only half a dozen ingredients, many of which will be easy to find. Can be customised by adding honey, nutmeg, cinnamon and sultanas. Keeps for months in the freezer.


Fruit and Vegetable stock
Bramley apples are best for making a crumble (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)

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