Batch cooking gran reveals how prepping meals in advance saves her £150 a month
- Margaret McKinley has been batch cooking for 18 months
- She saves up to £150 a month and has also slimmed down
- She says batch cooking will save family time and ensure they’re eating healthily
If food shopping and cooking has been the bane of your finances since the lockdown, take a leaf out of this batch cooking gran’s book.
Margaret McKinley, a mum of four and grandmother of six from Edinburgh, has revealed how she saves up to £150 a month batch cooking - and has also improved her waistline and increased her free time.
Margaret, who is in her 50s, told money-saving community LatestDeals.co.uk: "I started batch cooking about 18 months ago, because my then 18-year-old son left school and was taking a year or two out to decide what he wants to do, such as uni or college.
“Because Connor ate meals at school and my husband was on the oil rigs for three weeks in and three weeks off, I never really had to cook much.
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"Then when Connor was home all day, I found he was a typical 18-year-old who ate and snacked all day long!
"I also wanted to lose some weight. I am not heavy but I wanted to lose some weight and start eating some proper meals, but if nothing is ready then people just tend to snack and eat all the wrong foods.
“I felt that if I was going to buy ready meals or convenient foods, I would at least make my own.
"I have now found a love for cooking that I never ever had before! I was the biggest food waster that you could ever know - normally I would buy a bag of onions and lemons, use one of each and throw the rest away after a few days.
“After years of also buying frozen chopped onions, I now buy a bag of onions, chop them up and put them in freezer bags, and do the same with lemons, limes and more.
“Now they are always at hand, especially when I need a wee slice of lemon for my vodka.
"A typical batch cooking day depending on what I make can take from four to six hours, but it is well worth the effort as I can then have days where I do not need to do any cooking and it frees up my time for other activities.
"I have posted my pics on a few social media pages and have always mostly got the same answer from lots of people with young kids - that they never have the time to do it.
“But I always say that a couple of hours one day a week would actually save them time in the long run.
"I also tell them to start off with easy foods which all mine are as I am by no means a cook but I have learnt. I tell them to make simple things like spag bol sauce for a evening meal, but double it up and keep a batch in the freezer for the next time they are struggling for time or generally just not in the mood to cook.
"I also suggest starting off with homemade soups, and to chop potatoes into chips, parboil them, then put them into containers ready to just add to the oven when needed.
“One of the biggest comments I get is that they don’t have enough freezer space. I am lucky enough to have a large freezer, so my answer to that is when you buy the food to put in a freezer, cook it first and then freeze it.
“It takes up the same amount of space but it is already cooked for you and it also lasts up to three days in the fridge.
“When I do any batch cooking, I have three days' worth of meals in the fridge before I even freeze any.
“My other top tips are to chop up any leftover veg and fruit to freeze for another day.
"Before lockdown, I was using a great local company here in Edinburgh run by two sisters called Balmoral Foods. Their food is sourced from farmers and it is all high quality.
“I had actually had two large delivery packs from them before lockdown, and during lockdown, I have only ever topped up my foods, such as mince, chicken and fish at Lidl or Aldi. I'm lucky to have them not far away from me.
"I also wanted to lose some weight, and I find by batch cooking meals and having them ready and portion controlled, it is better than any ready salty pre-packed meals.
“That is a preference - I would not slate anyone who needs to eat pre-packed frozen dinners, but there really is no need to.
“My favourite thing of all time to batch cook is breakfasts, sausage, bacon, black pudding and potato scones, and while they are heating up in the microwave for two minutes, you can do a fresh egg and toast.
“It's the most simple meal and it still looks good, but I had to learn that you don’t put the bacon in for the whole cooking time or it comes out brick hard, and I also learnt don’t freeze scrambled eggs!
"I have just learnt as I go and it gets easier but the preparation is the key - have a clutter-free kitchen and prep your food!”
Margaret has saved up to £150 a month by batch cooking, and she stresses that the meals she makes are easy and uncomplicated to cook.
She has even started her own batch cooking Facebook group, Easy Batch Cooking with T, to help others learn her tips and tricks.
“I have four grown up kids and six grandkids, so there is always a big pot of mac and cheese or chicken curry on the go when they come over,” Margaret adds.
"I cook what I call proper family food - nothing too fancy as my son and husband who is still at home don’t want anything fancy - I save that for my pals!
“So my meals are always simple like lasagne, then it takes 10 minutes to do some garlic bread. I do good old mince and tatties, stovies, fish, homemade soups, sausage and mash and more - it's what I call proper family foods.
"I hardly use an oven - my best friends are the slow cooker, my Actifry and the hob.
"I also highly recommend the Pinch Of Nom cookbook - it is so simple and uses minimum ingredients.
“It is all low calorie so it’s amazing for anyone trying to lose weight.
“Thanks to batch cooking, I have probably saved about £100 to £150 on my monthly shop. The money just goes on proper food, and I have had hardly any takeaways as the food is ready.
“The best thing for me about batch cooking was more about losing weight and eating healthily, and not being stuck in the kitchen every day.
"I still have days where I am too busy to batch cook as it does need at need a half or a full day depending on how much I am making.
“I get told all the time I must have a big freezer which I have, so I know large batch cooking is not for everyone, but it teaches me about portion control sizes as well. I have also now learnt not to waste any food!”
Tom Church, co-founder of LatestDeals.co.uk, comments: “If you’re getting fed up and overwhelmed by planning meals, buying ingredients and cooking, take inspiration from Margaret.
“Spending one day every week or two weeks planning and batch cooking your meals means you’ll only shop for ingredients you really need, that you won’t be tempted to splurge on takeaways or ready meals, and that your family will have a selection of nutritious meals ready to be defrosted whenever they get hungry!"
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