The weaning journey with your little one is such an exciting time for so many reasons. But let’s be honest…. regardless of whether you’re a ‘working mum’ or a ‘stay at home’ mum, preparing 3 meals a day can be nothing short of exhausting!
Grabbing a homecooked meal from the freezer after a busy day or when you quite frankly just need a break is why bulk or batch cooking, or freezing portioned leftovers, is an absolute lifesaver!
Whether you’re at the start of your weaning journey or not, this blog will give you some pointers about batch cooking to help you stock up your freezer safely. Remember that infants and young children do not have the same immune system as us adults so it’s always important to be extra careful when preparing and handling food for your little one.
What foods can be batch cooked?
You can of course make recipes specifically to portion and freeze, or you could just make more of what you’re already cooking so you can pop the leftovers in the freezer ready for another day! Whichever way you decide to batch cook, the good news is that you can freeze almost anything!!
That’s right… even if you defrost raw chicken, meat or fish from the freezer, you can still portion and freeze the leftovers of the cooked meal to reheat another day. It’s important to remember here that you aren’t ‘re-freezing’ the meat as it has been cooked in between.
The only exception to freezing of course are when you are simply reheating a previous meal, as you can only reheat food once.
Regardless of what you have cooked, it’s important to make sure you cool hot foods as quickly as possible, ideally within an hour and a half as you want the food to be cold within 2 hours of cooking.
Top Tips for Cooling Food Quickly
Hot food should always be cooled as quickly as possible, but always within 2 hours, to make sure bacteria does not multiply rapidly to levels which would make the food unsafe to eat.
Whilst you don’t want to leave your food on the side for so long you forget about it, don’t be tempted to simply put a bowl of hot food straight in the fridge for it to cool down. Putting hot food in the fridge will raise the temperature of the fridge and other foods around it; which not only puts other foods at risk, but also affects the capability of the fridge to cool down your food quickly! In addition, putting hot food in the fridge doesn’t guarantee it will adequately cool down quickly enough.
Instead, here are some tips to help you cool down your food as quickly as possible so you can pop it in the freezer (or fridge) and forget about it… until you’re in need of a homecooked meal in a hurry!
- Divide into smaller portions
- Use an ice bath! I always recommend using a separate container to do this, but you can of course use your sink if you’d like.
- Run food under cold running water – This won’t work for everything! But perfect for quickly cooling down foods such as rice, pasta or a hard-boiled egg for example
- Regularly stir food whilst you are cooling it down as this will help to chill food more evenly, preventing ‘hot spots’ within the core of the dish
- Spread out into a container with a larger surface area – for example….
A bowl will hold the heat for longer but….. A plate will increase the surface area!
Just make sure if you have foods on the side, you don’t allow flies to land on the food! Particularly in hot weather but is important any time of the year so you may find a mesh cover is a good investment!
Once cooled, your portions of batch cooked food can go in the freezer ready to save your sanity another day…. And voila!
How long can batch cooked foods last in the freezer?
Ideally, as a general rule of thumb, you should aim to use food that’s in the freezer within 3 months.
BUT…. It’s important to know that there are no safety concerns if you feed your baby food which has been in the freezer for longer than this! The freezer acts as a ‘pause button’ on bacteria, but just be aware that the quality of food in the freezer will deteriorate over time.
If you decide not to freeze some of your batch cooked food, remember you can always keep the leftovers in the fridge for 2 days or 1 day if the dish contains rice.
Happy Batch Cooking!
For more safety information, follow me on Instagram @Foodsafetymum
For some ideas on meals you can batch cook for your little one, check out Charlotte’s recipes here.