By Suanne Mullholland, aka The Batch Lady
Eighteen months ago, I had no real email address of my own (sharing a joint one with my husband). I was such a technophobe that the children regularly had to work the tv remote for mummy, and I was sure that my days of dreaming of starting a business were well behind me. Yet in a very short space of time the here I am sitting in my office with my assistant writing about my business.
I’ve always had a passion for being saving time and being organised. At university I studied Business and focused on time management and entrepreneurship, I went onto work in London teaching sales reps how to manage their time.
When I married my lovely husband and had our first child, I became a stay at home mummy, helping run our rural farm and holiday cottages. I spent most of my time cooking, cleaning and helping look after the older generation in our life’s. Meal times became a huge focus in my life as I spent most days catering for allot of people ranging from toddlers to my 70-year-old father in law with Alzheimer’s and his carers. I decided that things had to change, I was spending allot of my day stuck to the Aga, I was going to devise a plan to have everything ready in advance! 2 hrs each morning my child was in nursery, that became my batching time!
And so, It began, I made a list of all the meals I generally made, I got the recipes and paired them down to the basic ingredients, and I made sure that every recipe was freezeable. In order to save space in my freezer I decided to freeze meals flat in sealable freezer bags, so I was able to stack them up like books.
Over the years, I got this down to a fine art. Living a one-hour drive round trip from a local shop helped me become even more organised. I started using allot of frozen veg and frozen fruit, so I always had it in the freezer and didn’t have to rely on needing fresh ingredients. Due to my father-in-law’s health issues I wanted to make sure that he was getting the best diet possible, so began to research whether frozen vegetables were as good as fresh, and it turns out they often have more goodness in them. They are picked and flash frozen in 15 minutes, so they haven’t hung around the supermarket for days.
I’m an avid fan of frozen vegetables and fruit; it’s cheaper than fresh and someone has done all the chopping and preparing for you, so it was a win-win all round. As I created more recipes for the family to try, I relied on using almost all frozen veg and fruit, that way I was able to make way more dishes in a shorter period of time.
In my bid to feed my small children salt-free meals, our parents’ non-spicy meals and my husband and I something spicy and interesting all from the same pot, I began to look at how I could take say chicken curry and make it taste amazing for everyone. So the basic recipe (no salt and mild) would be made, the children would have this, in the pot I would then add salt and portion out our parents meals adding crème fraise to make it even milder, whatever was left in the one pot I would add more spices and a few fresh herbs and my husband and I would have a tasty meal. One pot, one meal three different ways!
Even if you are only cooking for two and you absolutely adore cooking, there are times (especially mid-week) when you just want a meal all-ready prepared and on the table. The more I cooked like this and organised my meal planners the more I began to see that not only did I save time, I saved money and we were all eating a wide range of healthy homecooked meals…and I was no longer chained to my Aga. Mid-week washing up became cutlery, plates and 1 pot, as everything else had been made in advance.
I’ve now cooked like this for 10 years and life is much calmer and organised. 18 months ago, a few mummies at the school gates asked me how I always knew what was for dinner and how did I manage to feed so many people?
I said I’d have them over for lunch and show them, 20 ladies came over and I did a quick demo with lunch, after the demo they said I should film it and put it on YouTube… eeek did I mention I was a technophobe? Anyway, I decided I would, I bought a camera and a laptop, got myself my own email address and decided to give it a go…and The Batch Lady was born. 18 months ago, I did my first video, today I have 50,000 followers and this is now my full-time job.
I now spend my days, creating new recipes and videos, and doing batch cooking demos around the country. At the end of last year, I was delighted to be asked along to give a demonstration to 80 SWI women. This was probably the most nervous I have ever been before a demo as I was sure that most of the ladies would think that I was teaching them what they already knew.
However, it turned out to be a fantastic event! There were ladies who were on a budget and needed to save costs, some looked after grandchildren and wanted to batch cook some family meals for the days that they needed them, others just wanted a change in variety of meals. No matter whether cooking for two or 10, whether vegan, vegetarian, diabetic, young or old, cooking in this way saves time, money and effort. Allowing you to feel organised, relaxed and enjoy the fun things in life.
My top five tips for batch cooking.
- Make your freezer your friend. Clear it out and make space for full meals that you can grab at a moment’s notice. Using your freezer will save you masses of time, cook when you want instead of every night.
- If new to batch cooking simply follow the rule ‘If you’re going to make one make two’, doubling up will give you one for that night and one for the freezer, giving you a whole night off cooking the next week.
- Use frozen veg and herbs, these save time and money.
- Get used to using sealable freezer bags, and freeze everything flat, you get so much more in your freezer and the meals then defrost really quickly.
- Write down your 10 top evening meals and start with these, that way you know that everyone will like them, then start adding new recipes in.