Do you want to cook more quickly, simply, healthily and cheaply? Er, YES! It sounds like a pipe dream but the queen of batch cooking is here to help.

The Batch Lady, for the lowdown on how it works and for some recipe inspiration. Suzanne, a fortysomething former time management trainer and mother-of-two, shapeshifted into The Batch Lady after running an informal cooking session for some of her friends from the school run a few years ago. Wowed by her organisational skills, they encouraged Suzanne, who lives in the Scottish Borders, to share her skills with a wider audience. Today she has nearly 150k Instagram followers and four cookbooks under her apron string and you might have spotted her on ITV's This Morning this week whipping up a warming hotpot.

Her latest, The Batch Lady: Cooking On A Budget, covers light bites, midweek meals, dupes for your favourite takeaways and more elaborate dinners; complete with different recipe routes, depending on whether you’re going to scoff the fruits of your labour straight away or freeze it for another time. There are loads of clever tricks, including a guide to batch cooking 10 different days’ worth of chicken dinners in just one hour, involving butter chicken curry, fried chicken, burgers, meatballs and pesto and mozzarella stuffed chicken breasts. The woman is a marvel!

Intrigued? Over to you, Suzanne….

“When I first started batch cooking it was all about saving time – as a busy working mum, I didn’t want to spend every evening dashing home in a panic, wondering what I was going to feed the family.

“As the years went on, however, I quickly realised that another benefit of batching was that I was saving money, without even thinking about it! Gone were the days of panic buying at the expensive corner shop on my way home, or trolley dashing around the supermarket, throwing in anything that caught my eye and hoping that I had at least a few night’s dinners in there before I had to repeat the process a few days later. Sound familiar?

“The magic of batch cooking isn’t, as many might think, just about cooking things in bulk. The magic is in being organised. By planning and preparing your meals in advance, you’re investing in your future, saving yourself time and money and stopping yourself from panic impulse buying or reaching for that expensive takeaway menu. When you cook your meals in advance, you also portion them in advance, meaning the opportunity to waste food (and the temptation to eat huge double portions just because they’re there) is much lower.

“Cooking in this way also saves money in other areas, such as your gas and electricity bill, as well as being better for the planet – whenever I have the oven on, I’m generally cooking at least two meals, and I might also throw some baked potatoes in for the week ahead, making maximum use of the energy from the oven.”

Here are three recipes to try:

Chicken & mushroom ramen

Image: Haarala Hamilton

This recipe serves four but I like to freeze it in individual portions so that it can easily be grabbed from the freezer for an easy solo meal. It would make a great option for a work lunch, as all you need to do is add boiling water at the office for something much more exciting (and kinder on the wallet) than a sandwich from the local supermarket!

PREP: 10 MINS
COOK: 12–14 MINS
SERVES: 4

1 tbsp sesame or vegetable oil
1 tbsp frozen chopped garlic
1 tbsp frozen chopped ginger
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
8 white mushrooms, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 chicken stock cubes
2 tbsp chopped chives
4 blocks dried chicken noodles
4 eggs, to serve (optional)

  1. 1 Heat the oil in a large, deep-sided frying pan over a medium heat, then add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, until soft and fragrant.
  2. Add the sliced chicken to the pan and cook, stirring continuously, for 2–3 minutes, until well-sealed and coated in the garlic and ginger.
  3. Add the mushrooms, carrot and soy sauce to the pan and cook for a further 2 minutes, until the veg are just starting to soften.

IF YOU’RE COOKING NOW... 

Dissolve the stock cubes in 8 cups (2 litres) of boiling water, then add to the pan along with the chives and the dried noodles. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and leave to cook for 6 minutes. Meanwhile, if you are serving the ramen with boiled eggs, bring a separate pan of water to the boil and cook the eggs for 7 minutes, then immediately drain and rinse under cold running water to stop the eggs from cooking further (this should give you eggs that are firm enough to peel, with yolks that are still slightly soft and jammy). Peel the eggs and cut into halves. Divide the noodles, veg and broth between 4 serving bowls, then add half a boiled egg to each bowl. Serve hot.

IF YOU’RE MAKING AHEAD TO FREEZE...

Remove the pan from the heat and set aside until the vegetables have cooled to room temperature, then divide the mixture equally between 4 small, labelled freezer bags. Grate half a stock cube into each bag along with 1 block of dried noodles and half a tablespoon of chives, then seal and freeze flat for up to 3 months. 

Then...
Remove as many portions of ramen mixture as you would like from the freezer and add to a large bowl (use an individual serving bowl if you are defrosting a single portion). Pour over 2 cups (480ml) of boiling water for each portion of ramen you have defrosted, then cook on high in the microwave for 8 minutes, stirring the mixture halfway through. If you want to serve the ramen with the boiled eggs, cook these as described above whilst the ramen mixture is cooking in the microwave. Divide the mixture between serving bowls, top each with half a boiled egg, if using, then serve hot.

Sweet potato miso medley

Image: Haarala Hamilton

This delicious one-pot meal can be prepped ahead and ready for the freezer in a matter of moments. If you’re not familiar with miso, don’t be scared – it brings a delicious savoury edge to the dish that works wonderfully with the sweetness of the vegetables.

PREP: 5 MINS
COOK: 15–20 MINS
SERVES 4

1 cup (115g) frozen chopped onions
2 tsp frozen chopped garlic
1 x 500g bag frozen sweet potato chunks
1 cup (175g) frozen sliced peppers
1 x 400g tin butter beans, drained
4 tsp miso paste
1 x 400g tin coconut milk

IF YOU’RE COOKING NOW... 

Put all the ingredients in a large pan over a medium heat and stir to combine. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and leave to cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Spoon into serving bowls and serve hot.

IF YOU’RE MAKING AHEAD TO FREEZE...

Tip all the ingredients into a large, labelled freezer bag, then give the contents of the bag a gentle stir to combine. Freeze flat for up to 3 months.

Then...
Remove the bag from the freezer and leave to fully defrost in the fridge, ideally overnight. Once defrosted, tip the medley into a large pan over a medium heat and stir to combine. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and leave to cook, stirring occasionally, for 15–20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Spoon into serving bowls and serve hot.

Roast butternut squash with a couscous crust

Image: Haarala Hamilton

Roasting butternut squash in this way brings out its natural sweetness and delicious earthy flavours. Bulked up with fluffy couscous this is substantial enough to make a main meal, but would also work as a side dish or even a dinner party starter.

PREP: 10 MINS
COOK: 70 MINS
SERVES 4

glug of olive or vegetable oil
1 large butternut squash, topped, tailed, cut into quarters and seeds removed
½ cup (100g) couscous
½ cup (120ml) boiling water
100g feta cheese
juice of 1 lemon
2 heaped tbsp pesto
8 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil, for roasting

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4. Add a glug of oil to a lipped baking sheet and place in the oven to warm.
  2. Once the oil is hot, add the butternut wedges to the tray, turning to coat in the hot oil as you do. Bake for 40 minutes, turning halfway through until the squash is golden and just tender.
  3. While the squash is cooking, transfer the couscous to a large bowl and pour over ½ cup (120ml) of boiling water. Cover and set aside for 5 minutes, then fluff the couscous up with a fork.
  4. Crumble the feta into the bowl, then add the lemon juice, pesto, cherry tomatoes and a generous grinding of salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

IF YOU’RE COOKING NOW... 

Spoon the couscous mixture over the roasted squash slices and return to the oven for another 30 minutes. Divide the squash wedges between serving plates and serve. Zhuzh it up... With a good drizzle of balsamic glaze

IF YOU’RE MAKING AHEAD TO FREEZE...

Set the squash and couscous aside until cooled to room temperature, then transfer the squash wedges to a large freezer bag and the couscous to a smaller bag. Seal the couscous bag and then place inside the bag with the squash before sealing. Label and freeze flat for up to 3 months.

Then...
Remove the squash and couscous from the freezer and place in the fridge to defrost, ideally overnight. Once defrosted lay the squash on a foil-lined baking sheet and spoon over the couscous. Transfer to an oven preheated to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4 and bake for 30 minutes, until piping hot all the way through. Serve as above.

The Batch Lady: Cooking on a Budget by Suzanne Mulholland (HQ, HarperCollins) is out now (£22)