OPINION: Batch cooking really is the secret to affordable eating

Making Christmas pudding get set for christmas thinkstock pic

Stir up Sunday this weekend might represent the nearest some of us get to batch cooking this year - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Given that the UK has one of the most obese populations in the western world, it really is incredible that we still seem to accept as gospel truth the assertion that eating healthily is an option only open to those with both time and money.

How often have you heard people excuse their diets of convenience junk food and takeaways by claiming that they ‘can’t afford’ to eat more nutritious food, and/or that they don’t have the time to go shopping for proper ingredients and turning them into nourishing meals?

Well, next time someone makes that claim, I suggest you tell them about Liane Greenly from Lincoln.

Facing the prospect of being out of action following a shoulder operation, she decided to get organised, and turned a £137 shop in Aldi into three months’ worth of home-cooked meals for herself and her partner.

That’s less than £1.50 per day for a menu which included everything from cottage pie to Chinese chicken curry, as well as home-baked cardamom biscuits and even naan bread.

And having batched-cooked all this in advance of her operation, portioned it up and frozen it, these delicious and healthy meals will take her minutes to defrost and reheat each day.

She even pre-made marinated fajita kits, batch-baked bread, and created treats such as millionaire cheesecake and iced Christmas cookies.

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The combination of astute shopping (she created what she called an ‘anti-shopping list’ of stuff she already had in her cupboards before hitting the supermarket), careful menu-planning and a big freezer enabled her to go three months without buying any food, except the odd meal out as a treat.

At a time when household finances are facing a severe squeeze, this inspiring story nails the lie that even modest budgets can’t be used to create healthy, nutritious food – and food which is also delicious, importantly.

Liana told the website LatestDeals.co.uk that batch cooking is not only cheaper than cooking every evening, but has freed up her time to do other things. What’s more, it has reduced her food waste to almost zero.

Personally, I enjoy getting into the kitchen each evening and cooking, but I get that many people prefer to spend their time in other ways. Liane’s example proves that lack of time is as poor an excuse for culinary laziness as a limited budget.

Stirring It Up:

Talking of thinking ahead and getting organised in the kitchen, this weekend sees ‘Stir Up Sunday’, the day five weeks before Christmas when traditionally (like so many of our Christmas customs, it dates from Victorian times) the family would come together to make the Christmas pudding.

It’s a deeply symbolic ritual, with the pudding traditionally containing 13 ingredients – one each for Jesus and the disciples – and the mixture stirred by each member of the family from East to West, recalling the three Wise Men who travelled in a similar direction to visit the baby Jesus in Bethlehem.

Most people know of the custom of adding coins to the mix to bring luck to the person who found them in their portion on Christmas Day (although this tradition is rather more likely to bring good luck to their dentists in the form of additional work), but did you know that the garnish of holly represents the crown of thorns?

Anyway, with many supermarkets reporting shortages of ready-made Christmas puddings this year as part of our exciting journey into being a self-sufficient nation, Stir Up Sunday may well be something which many undertake out of necessity rather than to follow quaint superstitions.

Personally, I have a Stir Up Sunday only every other year.

As Christmas pudding aficionados will know, this is a dish which gets better with age, so I follow Liane Greenly’s philosophy of batch cooking, making enough for two years’ worth. As long as you are generous with the brandy, the puddings will keep very well for 12 months.

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