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Tam’s best batch-cooking recipes for winter

Chilli Con Carne

Saving time and money is a priority these days, so cooking meals in bulk (or at least with leftovers in mind!) is a no-brainer. It means you’ll always have something delicious and hearty to heat up at the end of a busy day, because all the preparation is done in advance. All of these recipes are easy to make, freezer-friendly, and cost less than $5 per serve.

Fresh Ideas expert Tamara

“Often, the last thing I feel like doing on a weeknight is cooking something from scratch. Yes, even me! I’m always on the lookout for recipes that I can cook in bulk, so I can freeze any leftovers for later. I’ll often double up on the quantities – particularly when I find seasonal ingredients on special – to save money and time. If you’re cooking for multiple meals, you’ve only got to do all the preparation once! Keep an eye out for what’s cheap and in season. Stock up on frozen and canned veggies and pantry staples including rice, pasta and canned lentils and beans. Then set aside a chilly Sunday to cook up a storm – you (and your wallet) will thank yourself later on a busy weeknight!”

– Tam

basic batch mince

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Basic batch mince

There are so many ways to use beef mince that I regularly cook a batch of this basic mixture to divide up and freeze for later. You can’t go wrong when you start with a strong foundation of Australian beef and tasty Italian herbs. With enough for 12 serves, at $1.86 per serve, this mixture can be used in so many recipes, from ragu to pastitsio!

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Cheats ragu

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Cheat’s ragu with creamy polenta

This cheat’s ragu is quick to prepare and – at $3.75 per serve – it’s easy on the wallet. If you have leftover polenta or make a double quantity, spread it evenly over a paper-lined baking tray, cover it with baking paper and leave it to set in the fridge overnight. It freezes well, and makes a great snack or side when cut into logs and fried to make chips, or sliced to serve with a simple tomato sauce.

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Easy Pastitsio

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Easy pastitsio

This recipe is ideal for bulk cooking, as it freezes beautifully, either in individual portions or simply doubled up for another family meal. It’s also another creative way to use some basic batch mince – one of my freezer staples! I’ll often swap out the penne for macaroni or rigatoni, depending on what’s in my pantry. This hearty winter warmer is great value at $2.60 per serve.

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Mexican-style chicken tortilla bake

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Mexican-style chicken tortilla bake

Take your roast chicken to the next level with this simple Mexican-style traybake. Perfect for batch portions, this recipe creates eight servings that you can divide and freeze for up to three months – and it’s only $4.84 per serve! Make the most of great value chicken, affordable canned produce and fresh Hass avocados, with a midweek dinner the whole family will love.

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Italian-style chicken and bean soup

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Italian-style chicken & bean soup

This warming Italian-style chicken & bean soup is an affordable winter dinner, coming in at $3.86 per serve, and a great way to use up leftover roast chicken. While the whole chook is the star of this soup, cannellini beans, spiral pasta and lots of parmesan add crunchy texture and flavour to make this hearty meal an instant favourite.

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Roast chicken lasagne

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Roast chicken lasagne

Looking for a twist on an old classic? With familiar flavours, this roast chicken lasagne is bound to make it on the regular rotation. This recipe serves eight, so cut up your leftover cold lasagne into portions and freeze it for up to three months. It’s perfect for lunches or reheated dinners. At $4.47 per serve, this affordable winter winner is one you’ll want to bookmark.

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Lentil cottage pie

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Lentil cottage pie

At just $2.19 per serve, this vegetarian version of a hearty family favourite is just what the doctor ordered on a cold winter’s night. It also freezes and reheats well. I’ll often divide the leftovers into individual serves before freezing to make them easier to reheat quickly. Once the leftover cottage pie has been heated through, pop it under a preheated grill to brown the top. Classic beef-mince cottage pie or lamb-mince shepherd’s pie are also on my bulk-cooking roster.

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Creamy chicken & bacon pasta

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Creamy chicken & bacon pasta

Here’s a recipe I’ll happily double to freeze, because it’s just as delicious when it’s reheated. At $2.79 per serve, it’s also friendly on the budget. I always keep an eye out for specials in the pasta aisle, and have a variety of shapes and sizes ready to go in the pantry. If you don’t have rigatoni, any short pasta – such as penne or farfelle – will work just as well.

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Chilli Con Carne

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Freezer-friendly chilli con carne

Double up the quantities for this recipe, because it’s sure to be on high rotation as a midweek (or weekend) dinner. This warm and spicy chilli con carne tallies up to $3.75 per serve, and any leftovers are perfect for nachos night, if you feel like mixing things up. I sometimes swap out the black beans for red kidney beans and chop up any leftover coriander to stir through the mixture before I freeze it.

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Healthier pumpkin & ricotta pasta bake

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Healthier baked ricotta & pumpkin pasta

This super-tasty, nutritionally approved vegetarian pasta bake is comfort food at its best, with a gentle chilli hit adding just the right level of heat to the sweet pumpkin. At just $2.71 per serve, it’s also very easy on the weekly food bill. On the off-chance you have leftovers – not likely at my place! – just transfer them to an airtight container and freeze. Or do as I do and make double the quantity to freeze for another time, leaving out the rocket and parmesan.

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Freezer-friendly Chickpea Curry

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Freezer-friendly chickpea curry

Canned chickpeas (and other pulses) make an ideal base for a wide variety of vegetarian dishes and are very easy on the budget. This warming veggie curry costs just $2.92 per serve and is a great one to double up and freeze for another meal. I like to keep a stock of curry pastes and seasonings, as they add an instant flavour boost to all kinds of recipes.

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Cheat's bbq pork & kimchi fried rice

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Cheat’s barbecue pork & kimchi fried rice

When I’m cooking rice, I’ll often make double quantities and freeze the leftovers for another meal. Just make sure you refrigerate any leftover cooked rice in an airtight container as soon as it’s cooled a little, then freeze it once it’s chilled through. Otherwise, I’ll use a packet of microwave rice instead – it’s such a handy staple to keep for a quick stir-fry like this, or to serve with a curry. This recipe freezes well and comes in at just $3.65 per serve. Any leftover kimchi can be put to good use and dolloped on anything and everything: salads, sandwiches, toasties, hot dogs and burgers.

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Quick sausage & pesto pasta