Menus4Mums Article: Batch Cooking Top Tips

Have you resolved to cook more family meals, but just don’t have much time?  One solution may be to batch cook in advance.  This could be as simple as cooking double the amount of a favourite dish, eating one half then cooling and freezing the other.  Or you may like to spend a couple of hours in the kitchen making bumper portions of favourite meals, then dividing them into handy portions straight for the freezer.  Either way, you’ll be saving time and money, and avoiding waste.  Plus you’ll have a delicious meal to welcome you home without all the hard work.  To celebrate the launch of their ingenious Summer Batch Cook Plan, Menus4Mums, the online family meal planners, have these great tips to make the most of batch cooking

Tip 1: You’ll be cooking bigger quantities than normal, so make sure you have big enough pans to cope – or borrow some.

Tip 2: You’re likely to be cutting up large quantities of certain ingredients, eg onion, so a food processor could come in handy and save time.

Tip 3: Make sure you have enough containers or bags to freeze the food in:

  • Thick plastic freezer bags are great for soups and pasta sauces, and if you place them inside a container for freezing they take on an easy stackable shape.
  • Foil trays are ideal for items which will be cooked in the oven, such as cottage pies, but they will need to be defrosted overnight as they are not microwavable.
  • Plastic boxes make easy work of defrosting food and heating them up in the microwave, but they are not best for items which you will finish off in the oven or under the grill, eg fish pie.  Cartons from Chinese takeaways make cheap freezable boxes.

Tip 4: After cooking, cool quickly then freeze in suitable portions, eg for the whole family or individual sizes.  Remember to label  – chilli and Bolognese sauce can look similar once frozen!

Tip 5: Defrost the food completely and then reheat it until it is really piping hot.  Do not be tempted to refreeze any cooked food that has previously been frozen.

Fancy giving it a go?  Here are some ideas:

  • Stews and casseroles, chilli-con-carne, curry, shepherd’s pie.
  • Bolognese sauce/lasagne/pasta bake, pasta sauces and cheese sauce.
  • Soups
  • Chicken nuggets, burgers, and fish fingers – freeze them uncooked on a tray, then transfer to a freezer bag or box.
  • Sponge cake (without icing), cookie dough, crumble mixture.


Menus4Mums is a fabulous online family meal planning service for busy parents. Members get a new meal plan each week for dinners the whole family will enjoy, with recipe cards and a super-handy shopping list broken down into supermarket aisles.  The meals take advantage of supermarket special offers to keep grocery bills down.  All this from £6.95 for four weeks.   Visit for more information and to download a FREE one week sample menu plan.


Mum in the Middle: Explore the world on your doorstep

There can be no denying that my children are all growing up – fast! I want to have as many memories of their childhood as I possibly can. Looking through some old photographs recently, I realised how many happy days out we have enjoyed as a family – many of them in Essex.

With the soaring cost of everything from food to fuel, going out as a family can seem like an expensive luxury but enjoying a day out needn’t be expensive. We are very fortunate in this county to have so much on our doorstep from coast to countryside and it costs nothing to swim in the sea, walk in the woods or play in the park. When they were very young, our children all enjoyed Sunday afternoons at a local playground and as they got older, this turned into trips out on bikes to be replaced again by walks along the estuary, sometimes now, joined by one of their friends or boyfriends. These occasions are the glue that holds families together and they are the times that our children will also remember when they look back on their childhoods. I can remember days out with my own parents and sister and how much I loved it when aunts, uncles and cousins all joined in an impromptu game of cricket or rounders.

The summer holidays are nearly upon us. Families are being squeezed financially at the moment, making it harder than ever to get away but it is still important to have time out together. With ‘staycations’ becoming more popular, it is time to take a good look at what is on our own doorstep. Some of our happiest times been those that have cost the least; the day we got our kite stuck in a tree, getting lost in the woods, building a damn in a stream, running barefoot across the mud, crabbing, walking the dog… the list goes on.

I must admit, that now the house is largely occupied by teenagers, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get everyone together. The kids would naturally rather spend time with their friends than mum and dad, but there are still times when we manage to pull it off. And the summer months do offer opportunities if you look for them, such as free concerts or festivals, boot sales (my girls love a bargain), or camping.

When my husband first suggested that we bought our own tent, I wasn’t at all sure that I would take to sleeping in the great outdoors. However, our first trip was a resounding success, thanks in part to the glorious sunshine (I should add that we have since had several trips in the rain so we always have a pack of cards handy!). The children all love camping, they have so much freedom on a campsite and always make loads of friends. And they don’t seem to care about the weather. Another good thing about camping is that you really don’t have to travel very far. Our own county has lots of good sites, making it an ideal choice for a weekend away and no moaning about the long journey.

So I for one, intend to get out and explore the best of what Essex has to offer again this summer.


By Essex Mums Guest Blogger Kim, author of the blog Mum in the Middle


For ideas to keep the family entertained this summer, take a look at the Things to Do section and browse events in your area.




Pregnancy Pals & Birth Buddies

Cornwallis House, Howard Chase, Basildon, Essex. SS14 3BB

Tel 01268 525758 / Mobile 07807 688248


In Communities and By Communities Life-Changing Programmes

Delivered by Local Parents

What We Do

Parents 1st is a grass roots social enterprise dedicated to enhancing community development and sustainability through nationally acclaimed peer support programmes. Our passion is building the strengths and skills of parents living in less advantaged communities. Community ownership is at the heart of our work. We operate on both a national and local level. Some local examples of delivery in Thurrock are antenatal parent craft sessions, fitness classes for mums-to-be, addressing the needs of fathers-to-be, as well as the programme outlined below.

Local Parents Supporting Local Parents-to-be

We have been funded by NHS South West Essex and Thurrock Council to develop a pregnancy peer support and doula (birth partner) programme across South West Essex. We will recruit and train experienced local parents who will provide support to other parents during pregnancy, childbirth and up to 6 weeks post birth as:

• Pregnancy Peer Support Workers (Pregnancy Pals)

• Doulas (Birth Buddies)

The Pregnancy Pals will be a more universal service whereas Birth Buddies will be particularly focused on parents who are considered to be vulnerable. The first group of 16 volunteers has already completed an 8 week taster course and has also embarked on the introductory training programme which will provide City and Guilds accreditation. This training programme will give the volunteers the skills they need to begin delivering support to parents-to-be. It includes principles and values, the postnatal role, the antenatal role, active birth, breastfeeding, child safeguarding, providing information and signposting. We hope to be in a position to accept referrals and begin offering this service to parents-to-be towards the end of July 2010, and aim to recruit a second set of volunteers to undertake training in the autumn.

Please contact us for more information

We would especially like to hear from:

• Organisations or agencies that might refer parents-to-be to the programme

• Organisations or agencies that might signpost volunteers to the programme

• Individuals who would like information about volunteering as a Pregnancy Pal or Birth Buddy

• Pregnant mums or expectant dads who feel they would benefit from a Pregnancy Pal or Birth Buddy

Claire Downes

Service Manager

07765 401107

Marsia Charman

Locality Development Worker

07776 253591


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