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A student’s guide to cooking in bulk

By Claire Thomson

Cooking in bulk can save you time and money as a student; Sports Editor Claire Thomson shares her versatile mince recipe that can form the base for various dishes.

Students and cooking are not exactly a match made in heaven, but cooking in bulk can be a complete and utter lifesaver. It can save a lot of time, money and stress, without mentioning the health benefits of pulling something out of the freezer that’s not pesto pasta for the fifth night in a row. The freezer is for more than chicken nuggets and frozen chips, so here’s a simple recipe, along with a few serving options, that will help fill up that excess space!

Everything and anything mince
500g mince (pork, beef or Quorn) 
3 cloves of garlic
1 large red onion 
1 large carrot
100-200g mushrooms 
1 pepper 
100-200g frozen spinach 

500g tomato pasta or bolognese sauce (homemade or shop-bought)

As far as recipes go, this one really couldn’t be easier, and it is also perfect for a student budget. Its serving possibilities are almost endless, and the vegetables can be substituted to suit all tastes and preferences. 

Simply chop up all the vegetables and throw them in a large frying pan along with the mince. Cook until the mince has browned and the vegetables are beginning to soften, then add the jar of sauce and any additional seasoning and stir well. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. 

To freeze, divide the mixture into freezer bags and leave to cool completely before putting them into the freezer for future meals. DO NOT use plastic containers! Yes, they may be slightly better for the environment, but to batch cook properly you need all the space you can get out of your allotted drawer in the freezer, so freezer bags are the perfect solution. 

Serving option 1: Spaghetti bolognese 
Extra ingredients:
65g spaghetti per person
Cheese to serve (optional)

A classic student meal, bulked out with vegetables and finished with pasta, this recipe contains a good balance of nutrients to give you plenty of energy for late night study sessions. 

Cook approximately 65g of spaghetti per person according to the instructions on the packet. Either defrost the mince the night before or add it frozen to a pan and heat thoroughly until warm the whole way through. Spoon over the mince and top it off with grated cheese for a perfectly quick and easy meal!

Serving option 2: Lasagne
Extra ingredients:
500g pack of lasagne pasta sheets
500g white sauce (homemade or shop-bought)
Cheese to serve (optional)

Looking to impress or just fancy a change? A tray of lasagne is the ideal solution. It may sound complicated, but with the mince mixture already made, it’s now only a case of assembly. To a disposable tin foil container (another key to bulk cooking, as they come in all shapes and sizes making them perfect for portioning, and they can go straight in the oven or freezer), add two or three tablespoons of white sauce and spread to cover the bottom of the tray. Next is the pasta. Place down enough lasagne sheets to cover the white sauce. Then, spoon over a few tablespoons of the warm mince mixture and add another layer of pasta. Cover the pasta in white sauce as before, then add the mince, pasta, and white sauce in thin layers until you reach the top of the tray. Sprinkle the top layer with grated cheese and cook in the oven for around 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pasta is fully cooked.

I would recommend layering up several trays of lasagne before freezing the mince mixture as the whole tray can go in the freezer before cooking. Defrost the tray of the lasagne and then simply cook it in the oven for a meal in less than 30 minutes.

Serving option 3: Moussaka 
Extra ingredients:
1 large aubergine, sliced into disks
3/4 medium sized potatoes, parboiled and sliced into disks
500g white sauce 

This comfort meal is perfect for the non-pasta lovers, or those who are hoping to move away from the starchy favourite. Running exactly the same as the lasagne, the only change is swapping the pasta for a layer of aubergine and a layer of potatoes. 

Serving option 4: Baked potatoes 
Extra ingredients:
1 large baking potato
Cheese to serve (optional)

Another lazy meal to add to the repertoire. Either rub a potato with oil and salt and bake in the oven for around two hours, or forget about all that and microwave the potato for eight minutes, flipping it halfway through. To serve, top it with a knob of butter, the mince mixture and grated cheese. 

Cooking in bulk doesn’t necessarily need to be complicated. It only requires some thinking ahead and pre-planning for a whole selection of meals that can be made ahead of time and pulled out when you really can’t be bothered.


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