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Living next to a big Sainsbury’s means two things: one, I spend half my life there, and two, that “weekly food shop” I’ve heard other people referring to? Pretty much an alien concept to me. I’m sometimes OK with this.
The pros are avoiding a crusty pot of hummus camping out at the back of the fridge or a slimy lettuce at the end of the week. But the cons include trudging around Sainsbury’s practically every night, tired, hangry (a dangerous combination in my opinion) and ready to lose it with the self-scanner.
Or I’ll avoid the battle all together and have eggs on toast as its ingredients are practically the only thing I buy in bulk. Or soup, with bread, because soup without bread for dinner is just plain sad.
It’s during this time I have a serious word with myself. Why don’t I buy in bulk and prepare meals to last the week? Because, I’m told by my (horrified) brigade of weekly shopping, meal-prepping, organised-in-every-way-shape-and-form friends, I’m “indecisive and ridiculous”. They could be onto something.
A fear of overkill
I first swore against batch cooking after a two-week spell at university when I made a red lentil curry and ate it for almost 13 days in a row while waiting for my student loan. Four years on and just the sight of a soaked lentil makes my stomach turn.
But I should get over it: four years is a long time. I’m ready to change – ready to become a new batch-cooking woman armed with Tupperware boxes, freezer bags and a cupboard full of herbs and tomato puree.
With visions of defrosted chilli and portions of cheesy lasagne waiting for me after work, I accepted the challenge to turn my disorganised food routine around.
Pinterest is an app where you can find ideas for pretty much everything. Organised desk? Check. A bathroom so nice you actually want to spend time in it? Check. But the ability to allow me to enjoy delicious homemade dinners every night but with less time and effort than my current routine? We’ll see.
I downloaded the app, and began saving a shortlist of meal ideas. The shocking realisation was that my usual diet is a rotation of five different foods, only slightly varied and almost entirely chicken-based. So. Much. Chicken.
Why am I not making my life easier? And cheaper? A quick search for ‘cheap batch dinner’ gave me heaps of ideas: lamb and spinach curry, marmalade chicken (I can’t go completely cold turkey) and a bean and sausage hotpot, which has actually got me excited about cold evenings in December, preferably when it’s snowing. I also discovered nine different ways to eat chilli. NINE. My joint favourites are; in a hot dog bun with guacamole and layered over sweet potato fries.
Meanwhile, searching for ‘meal prep combinations’ introduced me to a spinach and pumpkin lasagne and a cheesy fajita pasta both of which have secured a spot on my new, very creativelynamed board: “Batch Cooking Inspiration”. Staring at my freezer (which is basically a cold shelf), I had to narrow down my options to three. The chilli was a definite, what with its with nine new incarnations, and my next choice was lasagne, as I could use a lot of the same ingredients.
It’s also my ideal hangover food and with a 30th birthday party coming up at the weekend I knew I’d be patting myself on the back for this one come Sunday lunchtime. Lastly, I decided to make paella, with extra chorizo. I also discovered an amazing recipe for baba ganoush from Corinne Springthorpe’s fabulously-named board “Nom nom nom” and made two bags of it to freeze – tripling the ingredient quantities because I’d live on the stuff if I could.
Spice of life
Three weeks since stuffing my fridge Jengastyle, my life has changed. I love my new Sunday routine, when I cook three different dishes for variety. There are always enough ideas on Pinterest to avoid another chicken rut, and I haven’t fallen into a red lentil curry trap.
I don’t avoid Sainsbury’s altogether – but my more organised approach to dinners means we’ve demoted our relationship. Mere acquaintances, rather than close friends.