My Story: Batch Cooking a Month of Meals!

Meal planning isn’t really my strength. I can remember as a kid when I would ask Mum what we were having for dinner and she’d say ‘I don’t know’. Now that I am a mum, I know how difficult it is to plan and make a meal EVERY SINGLE DAY!

My meal planning was usually about seeing what specials I could get at the supermarket, and then trying to cobble together a list of weekly dinners. In fact, I honestly get a little overwhelmed every New Years when I have to think of cooking for the next 365 days!!!

I thought I should try something new, so this week I attempted to prepare all of our family dinners for the month. You’ve probably heard about batch cooking. It’s when you spend a few hours preparing and cooking food that you can use over the week – and it saves time and money in your household budget as well.

And it all seemed a little bit hard for me… I’ve got recipe books on freezer cooking and meal planning, but I haven’t ever had time to really look through them. But when I came across the book $1.50 Dinners by Penina Peterson, I thought that this would be worth having a look at. It’s quick to print out and use, and the planning steps and shopping list answered all my questions!

After I had bought the ingredients according to the shopping list, I planned my cooking day for when the kids were at school. Here are a couple of videos I filmed talking through the experience:

Intro video

I explain here that even though I didn’t buy EVERYTHING according to the shopping list, I did purchase a few extra things for our breakfast and other meals. And I still stayed under budget! If this works, I should save about $200 from our grocery budget by the end of the month.

PS I showed my food stash in this video, but I didn’t include all the food in the fridge and freezer that I bought with my food budget, too!

Progress Video

I filmed this one half way through the cooking process (there’s even a coffee break built into the plan!) I found that the only problem I really had was that I ran out of room in my large saucepans and needed to change my cooking order around a bit so that I could get everything done. This first stage took me about 2 hours.

Finished cooking!

I finished all my cooking after another 90 minutes, and then needed to go and pick the kids up from school. I left the cleaning up for when I came home, and all together, this cooking day took me around four hours, with cooking, clean up and packing food. Here’s my summary at the end of the day:

Tips and hints

As I mentioned earlier, the process in this book is super easy to follow along and if you keep moving, you will get it all done! My only issue was that I didn’t have quite enough room in my freezer, but after I used a couple of the meals this week, I’ve been able to get it all stored away! Some of the dishes made extra, which is even better value! I am keeping a record of what meals we have and I’ll provide some follow up thoughts as we go through the month!

Here are some extra tips about the whole experience:

  • If you can, go shopping and do your cooking without your children. I don’t know about you, but shopping with my children makes me cry, and I did have a really full trolley at the end of the trip! Cooking for a day without the kids around just made it all faster because I wasn’t interrupted as much as I normally would be.
  • Get prepared: clean out your freezer. We are fortunate enough that we’ve actually got a large upright freezer as well as the fridge-freezer. But I needed to do a bit of squeezing and shoving to get everything in there!
  • Be flexible about the containers you use: I ended up using what I already had on hand: Tupperware and other plastic containers, and instead of the foil tins that were suggested, I used ziploc bags that I were easier to fit in!
  • Clean as you go: My kitchen is not large, but it was great to wash up as I went along, because that meant that I could reuse my important pots and tools and it decreased the amount of cleanup at the end of the day!
  • Be prepared to bulk up the meals with extra veg: I’m thinking ahead, and I think that I’ll probably add some extra steamed vegetables to some of the dishes, just to make sure we’re getting enough fresh food as well.
  • Adjust recipes to taste: I think it’s really important to taste as you go, and add the spices and seasonings that you know you will enjoy. The recipes are basic and easy, but you shouldn’t take off your thinking cap about what it will mean to make a meal that you will truly enjoy!

 

Summary

I am really excited about what I’ve done. It’s so great to have a plan and know that dinners for this month are sorted! I’ve got the list on the fridge and I’ll get the kids to help me cross things off as we eat them, and also take a vote on what they like and what they don’t, so next time around I can make sure we’re really going to make the most of the whole thing!

I’m planning on doing weekly updates with how we are finding the meals and what we’re enjoying! I can’t give you the list of the meals because they are not mine to give away, but if you want to know more, click here and watch the short video!

 

Update 18th May:

  • Okay, so we’re nearly three weeks into the month and we’ve been trying out all the dishes in the $1.50 Dinners cookbook. I’ve printed out the meal plan for the month and the kids tick what we’re eating each night.
  • I haven’t stuck to ‘what-to-eat-day-by-day’ part of the plan, but having the whole menu in front of me does help to plan ahead: I get dinner for the next day out of the freezer so that it can defrost in the fridge before heating it up. A couple of times, I have added in an extra ‘meat & three veg’ meal because I already had meat in the freezer and I craved vegies!!
  • Some dishes have been clear winners, some I would keep on the list but make my own recipe! I have still needed to go shopping each week to do a ‘top-up’ for fruit, milk, breakfast foods and other household items, but I’m keeping tabs on the spending and I’ll post an update at the end of the month. xx

 

Update 31st May

Well, it’s the end of the month and I have to say I’ve quite enjoyed not having to think too much about what’s for dinner this month! Even though we weren’t strict about sticking exactly to the meal plan that was provided, I could always see at a glance what we had left in the freezer! Now that’s over, I’m back to half-planning meals for the week and sometimes wondering what on earth we’re going to be eating!

Here’s a few more thoughts at the end of the month:

  • We’ve certainly got a few new favourites from $1.50 Dinners, but there’s also a few dishes where I’ll keep them on the plan, but stick to my recipes instead.
  • I loved having minimal preparation, and being able to take a meal out of the freezer and know what the options were for dinner!
  • I was surprised that all together, we still spent about $125/week on groceries (this included breakfast/lunch/dinner/household items) – I was probably expecting to save a little bit more on my usual household budget (which is about $140 per week)
  • I did bulk up the meals a bit sometimes with extra veg, and because my husband usually takes leftover dinner for lunch I found that some of the servings were a little bit small for us!
  • Pleasingly, we only had takeaway for one dinner during the month – my son’s request for his birthday. This is an improvement on my normal ‘It’s Friday and I don’t feel like cooking’ routine!
  • The biggest thing I learned was that doing the planning and having a day to do all my preparation really saved time over the month, and was a great help with the busy month our family had.

 

All together it was definitely a worthwhile experience and I think using the process by Penina in the workbook was the easiest way to give it a try!

 

Batch cooking for a month – do you love or hate the idea? Comment below!

 

*Disclaimer: I signed up as an affiliate for Penina’s book, so if you purchase the resource using my link, I’ll receive a small commission. Thanks!

About The Author

Tanya

Tanya lives in Canberra with her husband and two sons. She is passionate about helping women to live fulfilled, purposeful lives. She enjoys reading, cooking, craft and creating memorable moments for her family.

1 Comment

  • Kylie

    Reply Reply 03/06/2017

    I have recently started monthly batch cooking myself but there is no cooking involved! And I can freeze them all! Each meal serves 6 people so that’s great as we can have leftovers for another meal! I have done oven meals and saucepan/pot meals! I still takes a few hours to prepare and I do it at night when my little ones are in bed so I only do a few meals each night over 3 days usually! But definitely worth it! I much like the little prep that I have to do!

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