To batch cook or not to batch cook

March 15, 2021 By

I talk about cooking so much that I figured the topic might as well get its own blog post.

I’ve always loved cooking. I’ve loved cookery shows, loved collecting recipes, I love all my cookbooks. Cooking has been my go-to, it’s inspired me, it’s relaxed me. And cooking has meant connection: pre-covid meet ups with friends where we all brought a dish and tried out new recipes, the family tradition of getting to choose what’s for dinner on your birthday, homemade pizza on a Saturday night, baking competitions in the office, waffles for breakfast on a Sunday, a secret Christmas dessert recipe handed down through generations. My youngest learning to make himself scrambled eggs during lockdown (qualified as home-schooling to me). Sitting around the dinner table talking about everyone’s day.


It’s also a chore. An energy-drainer, physically and mentally – figuring out what to cook for dinner, shopping for it, preparing it. Setting the table, cleaning up. And during lockdown: all day every day. But even before then: fitting it into a busy day, being pressed for time, trying to tick all the boxes.

And then: batch cooking. The thing I thought was going to be a lifesaver when my life was at its busiest and most stressful. I’m not talking about making a double portion of Bolognese when you’re at it anyway. I’m talking about a full-scale operation of the “21 easy freezer meals in 2 hours” type. Only it never took just the 2 hours.

I’ve no doubt that batch cooking is that lifesaver for many. For me, however, it was more like the straw that broke the camel’s back. I would have been much better off spending my weekends resting or going for a walk than to spend them chopping vegetables and making sauces. Having multiple dishes going at the same time became a cognitive nightmare; I was exhausted come Sunday evening. Possibly the worst start to the week I could have given myself, and the fact that I didn’t have to cook during it never really make up for that. I would have been better off picking some simple dinners I could whip up in 20 minutes, or buying ready meals, or getting takeaways.

It took me a long time to realise this. Mainly because it was so tied up with so many things I valued. The very act of cooking. The value of a homemade meal. Teaching my children that food was cooked from scratch and didn’t come out of a jar. The satisfaction of having achieved and produced something tangible, something to tick off my list. Efficiency.

But it doesn’t work like that. What something is supposed to do and what it actually does do can be two different things. And only when we take the time to analyse the outcome based on its real, as opposed to presumed, value can we make the decisions that actually benefit us in the long run.

So I don’t batch cook any more. Instead I take the shortcuts I need to take to make my days manageable. And guess what, there’s still plenty of homecooked meals to go around, my children see me make parsley sauce from scratch and know what goes into waffle batter. But they also see that it’s OK to look after yourself and that your wellbeing matters.

And that’s a life lesson I am grateful that they get too.