Your browser isn't supported
It looks like you're using an old web browser. To get the most out of the site and to ensure guides display correctly, we suggest upgrading your browser now. Download the latest:

Welcome to the MSE Forums

We're home to a fantastic community of MoneySavers but anyone can post. Please exercise caution & report spam, illegal, offensive or libellous posts/messages: click "report" or email forumteam@.

Search
  • FIRST POST
    • Citygirl1
    • By Citygirl1 27th Sep 17, 9:41 PM
    • 876Posts
    • 450Thanks
    Citygirl1
    Ready meals/prepared food
    • #1
    • 27th Sep 17, 9:41 PM
    Ready meals/prepared food 27th Sep 17 at 9:41 PM
    Hi everyone, I live alone and work full time and find myself eating a lot of ready meals and Birds Eye type frozen foods because its more convenient, especially the ready meals.

    Someone at work says she batch cooks but that must take more time and not to mention washing up afterwards. Is this method really healthier and cheaper? Plenty of ready meals get sold so they must be some good.
Page 2
    • queengoth
    • By queengoth 30th Sep 17, 5:54 PM
    • 116 Posts
    • 277 Thanks
    queengoth
    I batch cook so I can take a meal to work. About once a month I do a big shop then spend about 2 hours to cook and put away the meals. I have three massive pans. I split the cooking into rounds and wash the pans between. I buy a big box of chicken two large boxes of lean mince and whatever veg looks nice, minimum is mushrooms, peppers and onions and a largish bag of spuds. I cut up all the veg to start then prep the rest while the first lot is cooking.
    Round 1 I usually make something like

    Smallish pan Mince with onions carrots mushrooms and stock, hendersons relish
    Big pan of spuds for mash (sometimes add carrots swede or sweet pots)
    Mince with peppers onions mushrooms and tinned tomato, garlic, tomato pur!e.

    Takes about 1/2 hour, then I make individual shepherds pies,
    And some portions of mash to freeze
    I split the mince with tomato in two and freeze half as bolognaise or starter for a lasagne (lasagne is usual the only ready meal I buy as I think it's a faff to make)
    And the rest I add kidney beans and chilli give it another 20 minute then portion and freeze.

    While this is cooking I divide up the chicken, freeze some as butterflied breasts and some as fillets or chunks to use as stir fry or fajitas
    Round 2 is cooking the remaining chicken
    Pan one chicken and veg stew
    Pan two chicken curry
    Pan three is chicken and mushrooms with noodles (garlic and ginger)! Or sweet and sour (slimming world style)

    I bought a job lot of takeaway boxes off eBay and I reuse them either 2 or 3 times before binning, before that I used to use food bags but I found boxes stack better in the fridge and I can just drop one in my cool bag for work.

    Round 3 is to cut and parboil the remaining spuds into chips so I have my own ready oven chips.

    I live on a boat so I have a tiny galley kitchen so I have to be organised and a small under the counter freezer so I bought a small chest freezer which sits in the spare room, and contains frozen fish.

    Hope this gives you some ideas
    Shady pines ma, shady pines
    • Slinky
    • By Slinky 30th Sep 17, 5:57 PM
    • 4,758 Posts
    • 20,765 Thanks
    Slinky
    My MIL went down the M&S ready meals route as she was fed up cooking for 1. She's been doing this for a couple of years and recently ended up at the doctors having blood tests and found to have vitamin B12 deficiency and vitamin D deficiency. She now sees that she has to go back to preparing some of her own food again as they are not a full time substitute for proper eating.
    • scottish lassy
    • By scottish lassy 30th Sep 17, 6:11 PM
    • 244 Posts
    • 1,322 Thanks
    scottish lassy
    I batch cook about once a month, on a Sunday, when Im around the house anyway. I make a number of dishes - mince, chillie, bolognaise (all which can go with pasta or baked potatoe). I also freeze portions of stir fries, curries etc.

    Fish is always in my freezer as it is my 'go to' if I've forgotton to take something out of the freezer in the morning as it is really easy to cook from frozen.

    I put 2 portions in each container and if I have to cook potatoes, I'll cook enough for 2 nights and just reheat in microwave the second. I find I get the food I like, can be imaginative with what I eat it with and I'm also not keen on salt, so pre-prepared is not the tastiest for me.

    Just start by freezing leftovers from meals you do cook and find the balance that suits your life (and purse!)
    • purpleybat
    • By purpleybat 30th Sep 17, 11:19 PM
    • 277 Posts
    • 2,123 Thanks
    purpleybat
    Hi everyone, I live alone and work full time and find myself eating a lot of ready meals and Birds Eye type frozen foods because its more convenient, especially the ready meals.

    Someone at work says she batch cooks but that must take more time and not to mention washing up afterwards. Is this method really healthier and cheaper? Plenty of ready meals get sold so they must be some good.
    Originally posted by Citygirl1

    I think it's a case of finding your own happy medium. i personally don't know anyone who relishes cooking most days.


    I like to batch cook but I won't make a specific meal, what i'll do is if I want eg Bolognese i'll make a vat of it, eat what I want, keep some for the next day, and then portion and freeze the rest. then I have the options of what I want to do with it... lasagne, spag bol, potato type moussaka, chilli etc. no extra washing up as was making it anyway.
    i find it handy that if i see something like peppers, onions etc on a special offer, to prep and freeze them in an old bread bag. then if i want jambalaya or something all the prep is done and it can simmer as i have a shower. washing up.... one knife and a board.
    as a lot of recipes come in 'serves 4' i do often have curry duplicates in the freezer until I've tweeked the recipe, but often i like them and end up keeping cooking the 4 portions.


    i see it as no bad thing to have some convenience type food knocking about, breaded things, a ready meal or two, frozen chips etc. but as i said its down to how you want to live.
    i find most really salty so prefer to buy a pack of chicken breasts and crumb them and freeze separately, spud wedges take 2 mins to chop and bung in oven etc etc.
    also when buying bigger packs of fresh sausages, chops etc portion them before you freeze them, pop into the fridge in the morning and they'll be ready to cook when home.


    the advice i would give tho before you consider batch cooking is to save lots of old margarine tubs to freeze your homemade goodies in. and while i don't mind ufos and find them amusing lots get frustrated, so you might want to label them
    gc jan 148.59/150 feb 134.58/150 mar 148.35/160 apr 139.24/160 may 165.78/160 june 129.05/160 july 148.23/170 aug 163/170 sep 123.67/160 oct 151.56/160 nov 141.30/150
    • determined new ms
    • By determined new ms 1st Oct 17, 8:49 AM
    • 6,609 Posts
    • 38,115 Thanks
    determined new ms
    I mostly cook - as I enjoy it, think I'm good at it, and like to keep my gc costs as low as possible. However I love the skinny kitchen ready meals but they are quite expensive so I only get them if I see them ys and freeze
    DF as at 30/12/16
    Wombling '16 £287.33 Roadkill £28.25
    Wombling YTD £2982.2/Roadkill £8.63
    SFDs Oct 13/15 CC saved £2372.50
    • Prinzessilein
    • By Prinzessilein 1st Oct 17, 8:55 AM
    • 2,094 Posts
    • 9,723 Thanks
    Prinzessilein
    I think the main thing is to find what works for you.

    It is easy to say that home cooked is better than ready meals...but it really depends on WHAT you are home cooking...if the extent of your home cooking was deep-frying chicken and chips (or similar) 7 nights a week, 52 weeks a year, you could claim you cooked from scratch every evening, but it wouldn't be the healthiest of diets!

    Equally home cooking only works if you will actually eat what you have cooked!...I have seen cookery classes where students are taught to cook 'healthy' meals...a nice veggie pasta bake for example...which 90% of the class tipped into the bin on the way home - because neither they nor their family would eat that sort of meal!

    Personally, I enjoy cooking - and time is not an issue (good thing as disability means it takes me more than twice as long to prepare food!)...but that doesn't mean that you won't find some breaded chicken pieces...and some good quality (venison) sausages in my freezer...and if I cook them with some steamed greens then I will tell you it is home-cooked!

    Soup is quick and easy to make - slow cooker or soupmaker...cheaper and tastier than any tinned or packet variety.

    I defy any curry take-away place to beat my curries! (And my Mum's)...for price and flavour mine win hands down....and a slowcooker means I can prep in the morning and eat in the evening (cook four portions...eat one, freeze 3 - my own 'ready meals')......but I DO buy naans if I want one with the curry.

    Since buying my Halo oven I have never bought frozen chips...I can have low/no fat chips in 20 minutes with my Halo!
    Last edited by Prinzessilein; 01-10-2017 at 9:42 AM.
    • jackyann
    • By jackyann 1st Oct 17, 2:29 PM
    • 3,273 Posts
    • 6,889 Thanks
    jackyann
    I do batch cooking on a Saturday afternoon - put the afternoon drama on the radio, or tune the kitchen TV to rugby or horse racing - which I like to follow but not solemnly sit and watch.
    • Tink_04
    • By Tink_04 1st Oct 17, 6:05 PM
    • 861 Posts
    • 4,275 Thanks
    Tink_04
    I love batch cooking as I have health issues and it means I can give my family a home cooked meal every night and know what's in in.

    I cook
    Bolognaise and just cook the pasta on the day
    Chilli and cook the rice on the day
    Curry cook the rice on the day
    Shepherds pie and top with left over mash from the day befores meal
    Sausage casserole and soup in the slow cooker make a huge batch and they freeze well!

    It all depends on if you eat this type of foods - look at the meals your eating and try to replace one and see how you feel having a home made version?

    Oh and get some good tubs too!
    Last edited by Tink_04; 01-10-2017 at 6:07 PM.
    P.A.D challenge 2017
    £2 savings challenge
    • maman
    • By maman 1st Oct 17, 8:38 PM
    • 17,135 Posts
    • 102,473 Thanks
    maman
    Round 3 is to cut and parboil the remaining spuds into chips so I have my own ready oven chips.

    Hope this gives you some ideas
    Originally posted by queengoth

    Hope you don't mind me asking but do you have a 'recipe'? I make my own oven chips but always start from scratch on the day. Do you freeze yours? At what stage? Parboil first? Oil? Seasoning?
    • queengoth
    • By queengoth 2nd Oct 17, 2:27 PM
    • 116 Posts
    • 277 Thanks
    queengoth
    Nope no recipe, just spuds skins left on cut into chips. Par boil until they just start to go soft then out of the water, drained, then straight into freezer. I have tried the slimming world version where they are boiled in a stock cube but to be honest I can't taste the difference. I do cook them on a tray with holes in (don't know the correct name) so they get the heat from underneath. No oil, makes chips that are soft in the middle and crispy outside. I don't see why you couldn't flavour them? I would add the spices while they were hot before they go in freezer.
    I also leave the skins on for mash, life's too short to peel spuds.
    Last edited by queengoth; 02-10-2017 at 2:28 PM. Reason: Spelling
    Shady pines ma, shady pines
    • maman
    • By maman 2nd Oct 17, 3:02 PM
    • 17,135 Posts
    • 102,473 Thanks
    maman
    Nope no recipe, just spuds skins left on cut into chips. Par boil until they just start to go soft then out of the water, drained, then straight into freezer. I have tried the slimming world version where they are boiled in a stock cube but to be honest I can't taste the difference. I do cook them on a tray with holes in (don't know the correct name) so they get the heat from underneath. No oil, makes chips that are soft in the middle and crispy outside. I don't see why you couldn't flavour them? I would add the spices while they were hot before they go in freezer.
    I also leave the skins on for mash, life's too short to peel spuds.
    Originally posted by queengoth
    Thanks so much for that. I'll give it a go. Would that be about 30 minutes at 200 degrees?
    • queengoth
    • By queengoth 3rd Oct 17, 9:23 AM
    • 116 Posts
    • 277 Thanks
    queengoth
    I can't answer that because I have a calor gas cooker, it only does does 2 settings, barely warm and inferno, I just move the shelves about to even out the heat lol. 25 to 30 mins sounds about right though.
    Shady pines ma, shady pines
    • jackyann
    • By jackyann 3rd Oct 17, 10:22 AM
    • 3,273 Posts
    • 6,889 Thanks
    jackyann
    Thinking of baby steps, I did something yesterday that I haven't done for ages, because plans changed at the last minute.
    I got a Pataks spice paste - tikka masala. Not the 'ready sauce', just paste, but it makes a very easy meal: chopped onion, ginger & garlic (if you're not someone who keep ginger & garlic by, you can buy tubes of paste to keep in the fridge), chopped chicken, tin of tomatoes & creme fraiche. Took less than 30 minutes whilst the rice was cooking.
    • MallyGirl
    • By MallyGirl 3rd Oct 17, 11:10 AM
    • 2,098 Posts
    • 6,967 Thanks
    MallyGirl
    I think the Pataks pastes are very good - I use them to make a sort of curried pilaff with chickpeas quite regularly.
    • maman
    • By maman 3rd Oct 17, 11:41 AM
    • 17,135 Posts
    • 102,473 Thanks
    maman
    I can't answer that because I have a calor gas cooker, it only does does 2 settings, barely warm and inferno, I just move the shelves about to even out the heat lol. 25 to 30 mins sounds about right though.
    Originally posted by queengoth



    Thanks anyway. I experimented yesterday with half a dozen frozen chips alongside my freshly prepared ones and they were fine but, as I usually spray with oil, not the same as I'm used to. I'm going to keep experimenting as at the moment I do chips from scratch when I have time and resort to an emergency bag of bought oven chips when I'm pushed for time. Making my own would be far more mse and healthier.
    • patchwork cat
    • By patchwork cat 3rd Oct 17, 5:18 PM
    • 5,652 Posts
    • 8,743 Thanks
    patchwork cat
    My MIL went down the M&S ready meals route as she was fed up cooking for 1. She's been doing this for a couple of years and recently ended up at the doctors having blood tests and found to have vitamin B12 deficiency and vitamin D deficiency. She now sees that she has to go back to preparing some of her own food again as they are not a full time substitute for proper eating.
    Originally posted by Slinky
    The vit d has nothing to do with what she is eating, despite the rubbish about salmon and eggs containing it, in the winter in this country you need to supplement. The vit b12 may also be nothing to do with her diet if she has absorption issues or pernicious anaemia.
    Last edited by patchwork cat; 03-10-2017 at 5:20 PM.

    • firebubble
    • By firebubble 3rd Oct 17, 6:19 PM
    • 39 Posts
    • 412 Thanks
    firebubble
    The thing with batch cooking is that you basically end up with soups and stews, and after a while, the mushy texture starts to drive me insane if I eat batch cooked stuff constantly. I also only have an icebox compartment, not a freezer, which basically fits two or three portions only.

    I also question the nutrition levels of something that has been cooked for hours, frozen for weeks, defrosted, and boiled again...I have no idea whether there are any vitamins at all which can survive that.

    My current solution is to use one of the meal kit delivery services - I get three meals for two delivered once a week, in the form of the raw ingredients. I pick my three choices from 6 options. Then I cook the meal for two, and plate up the second portion to be warmed up the next day. That way, I only cook every other day.

    I find this brilliant as I can eat a better variety of food (for example, an exotic curry - cooking this myself means spending a fortune on spices, most of which I will probably never use again and will lurk dustily in the back of my cupboard, whereas little teaspoon-sized portions of each is included in the kit), and as I'm actually cooking a properly substantial hot meal, I'm less likely to snack.

    I also found that buying ready meals on the way home from work meant that I would also pick up a few 'treats' as I was starving, so I was eating and spending a lot more.

    It costs £40 a week, so £6.66 a meal. Some may baulk at this, and if it was more than one person, I think it would work out as expensive, but given that I'm eating better, spending less overall as a proper wholesome meal means snacks aren't required and there's no food waste, this is the best solution I have found for my circumstances.

    Yes, I could spend £5, batch cook a chilli, spend another pound on pasta and eat that, and if I've ever been absolutely brassic, I've done it. But TBH, after a few weeks, I find my 'treats' budget slowly creeps up as I get bored, eventually getting to the point where I can't face defrosting another package of mushy slop, so just eat sweets all evening. So there isn't really much of a saving after a while.
    • jackyann
    • By jackyann 4th Oct 17, 9:54 AM
    • 3,273 Posts
    • 6,889 Thanks
    jackyann
    As we have said, firebubble, it's what works for you. If it suits you in the life you're leading now, that's fine.
    Personally, I found a way around 'eating mush' by planning, and using 'building blocks'.
    Here is a recipe that I have been cooking for 50 years and have done loads of variations, as you find a version in any country that grows peppers and tomatoes.I've posted it before, so apologies for repetition - also for saying that when I first cooked it, I had to use expensive tinned peppers. Now it's a useful way of using up soft peppers!

    This is for 1- 2:

    Gently fry a medium chopped onion in oil, chop a pepper (any colour)add and let soften. Add a can of chopped tomatoes (or chop in the can, using scissors)and boil until there is no liquid.
    Now, you can set some aside for another day if you want.
    Whisk some eggs, season, turn the heat down, and stir in gently, allowing them to scramble into the mixture.
    Eat with plenty of bread, and if you like, some bacon or sausage you cooked whilst preparing,or a piece of left over ham, anything really, or just on its own.

    I know this as piperade (southern France) - a soft version of Spanish omelette (also quick to prepare).
    You can make dents in the mixture, break eggs in and slide under the grill - if you add chilli to this version, you can call it 'huevos rancheros'. Some sprinkle cheese on top - lovely and crunchy, but to my mind, interferes with the lovely pepper and tomato taste.
    Turkey has a version that uses cumin to spice it up.

    I always have some 'half baked' bread by me so I can make this dish, although I've also seen a version where you stir the veges into cooked rice, and poach the eggs in that.
    • Hedgehog99
    • By Hedgehog99 4th Oct 17, 10:27 AM
    • 1,394 Posts
    • 2,885 Thanks
    Hedgehog99
    I regularly "cook for one" and do a mix of batch-cooking, quick meals and meals needing a longer prep time. I occasionally have pizza (closest I get to a ready meal).

    Some of the batch cooking is a complete meal ready to just heat, other times it's the time-consuming component of something I just have to add the last bit to (e.g. as others have suggested, rice, veg or pasta etc).

    Batch-cooking saves on washing-up - get the pans dirty for four portions at once instead of four separate times. Then you only have to wash the freezing container & serving dish.

    You get to change the recipe too - add more or less of an ingredient, make it spicier or less spicy etc, or add an extra ingredient (I often add quinoa for extra nutrition and texture).

    Fish pie takes a lot of prep, but is worth it for the home-made taste and it freezes well. I can't eat fish any more ( a sudden-onset dietary intolerance), but a couple of hours' prep with the radio on didn't seem a chore and it means you have a home-cooked treat for a work night.

    Fresh fish only takes minutes to grill and you can buy individual servings from the fish counter.

    These are some of my after-work meals:

    Batch cook:
    Aubergine & tomato pasta bake - either freeze just the aubergine & tomato mix or as a finished dish.
    Tomato-based pasta sauce with veg + meat/veggie alternative

    Quick meals:
    Baked potato + cheese + beans or whatever preferred topping
    Quick tomato & pasta (tinned chopped toms, bit of tom puree + quinoa / veg / fried Quorn etc) - sause prepped in the time it takes to cook pasta.
    Used to do a quick tuna & pasta bake - Bechamel sauce with cheese, sweetcorn & tuna added, cooked penne pasta & grated cheese on top.
    Halloumi, chips & tinned sweetcorn.

    When I have more time:
    Risotto - e.g. butternut squash & wild rocket. Stirring is a good way for me to de-stress if I am home for the evening rather than rushing out again.

    HTH
    • PipneyJane
    • By PipneyJane 4th Oct 17, 1:23 PM
    • 611 Posts
    • 3,871 Thanks
    PipneyJane
    There's batch cooking and then there's batch cooking...

    You don't have to do everything at once, nor do you have to make a big song-and-dance of it when you do. There's two of us and virtually every recipe is for four, so we routinely take today's leftovers to work tomorrow as lunch. Also, we both work long hours, normally with commutes of over 1 hour each way. Until recently, I never got home before 6.30pm (I'm the primary cook). Dinner is usually served by 8pm and almost everything we eat is home made.


    Very early on, I realised that phoning for a takeaway or cooking a ready-meal took as long as cooking my own food. I have a few tricks up my sleeve:-

    • Planning. Even if you don't do full scale menu planning, waiting until you get home from work before you decide what you're having for supper is madness. I usually plan 2-3 days ahead, so that I can defrost what I need.
    • Cooking double quantities of some recipes and freezing half. Works well for chilli, Bolognese sauce, dhal, etc.
    • Cook up bases for your favourite meals and freeze those. What do I mean by base? Well, virtually every recipe in this house starts "fry onion with mushrooms, add garlic" so I will chop and fry two huge onions, add 500g of mushrooms and 4 cloves of garlic and fry those until the mushroom water has evaporated. Then I'll portion it into 4, freeze 3 and use the fourth for dinner tonight. (This takes maybe 5 minutes longer than normally prepping a meal.) Having boxes of base in the freezer means that I have cut out the worst and most laborious part of cooking dinner. When you're ready to use, brown your meat as usual then add the base and whatever other ingredients you need.
    • We had a glut of tomatoes this year, so I also have 10 boxes of "tomato base" in the freezer. (In this case, fry onion with garlic, add chopped tomatoes - I didn't bother peeling - put the lid on tight and simmer until it's a thick mush.)
    • If you cook dried beans and lentils from scratch, always do triple quantities and freeze 2 portions. I got fed up with buying cans containing hard, barely cooked kidney beans, so now soak and batch cook my own.
    • One of my friends - a mother of twin boys who worked full time when they were small - used to prepare and/or cook tomorrow's dinner tonight. That way when she got home from work, having collected the twins on the way, she could feed them rapidly and spend time with them rather than cooking dinner. Once the twins were in bed, she'd prepare tomorrow's meal and cook it as far along as possible.
    • Utilise frozen veg to skip some of the laborious food preparation stages. You may even find it cheaper to buy frozen onions, mushrooms, spinach, etc. You can also chop and freeze your own - I did this with onions at one point, didn't bother blanching them but used them all within a month.
    HTH.


    - Pip
    "Be the type of woman that when you get out of bed in the morning, the devil says 'Oh crap. She's up.' "

    C.R.A.P R.O.L.L.Z. #47 Official Brain Harvesting Body Counter
Welcome to our new Forum!

Our aim is to save you money quickly and easily. We hope you like it!

Forum Team Contact us

Live Stats

5,112Posts Today

7,023Users online

Martin's Twitter