Learning To Cook From Scratch

I ended my self-imposed “Cooking From Scratch Experiment” this weekend…and what an experience!  It was so much fun thinking “outside the box” in terms of food for my family.  I am a firm believer in eating real food – not processed and full of chemicals, additives and preservatives.  I also think it’s very important to teach my children the value in a real, home-cooked meal – nutritionally and emotionally.  Food is meant to nourish both our bodies and our spirits – something I want my children to know first hand.   If that wasn’t enough, it’s much more frugal to cook from scratch.  I saved a lot of money!  I have learned so much already, yet I know it’s just the beginning.  I have decided to continue cooking the majority of our food from scratch – replacing one store-bought item at a time.

I was recently asked what I wished I knew when I started the experiment, so…I put together a list of what I should have done in the beginning to make life a little easier.

Have A Plan

I definitely should have worked up a complete menu and shopping list first – then I would have known exactly what I was going to be preparing and had my time planned out accordingly.

Start Small

It would have definitely been easier to start with one item at a time, for example pre-packaged rice mixes, instead of doing it all at once.  Once I mastered one dish –  I could then move on to the next one,  like maybe homemade bread, then condiments….you get the idea.  I totally overwhelmed myself doing so much at one time.

Think Easy At First

Just because a meal is made from scratch doesn’t mean it has to be complicated.  I could have relied more on fresh salads with grilled meat and an easy homemade vinaigrette.  I also could have utilized my slow cooker more often for things like soups or stews.

Double Up

The best advice I received during this experiment was to double up on whatever I made – serve one and freeze one.  I should have done this much more!

Be Prepared

This is more for ongoing cooking from scratch and ties in with point number four.   The biggest issue most people have is the lack of time to devote to preparing meals.  To make it easier:

  • Keep some items tucked away in the freezer – it really helps.
  • Having a pantry stocked with necessary items to prevent extra trips to the store.
  • Keep a list of easy to make meals for when you are really short on time – because sometimes life gets crazy!

 

There are many more tips and tricks, as I find them I will pass them on to you!   As I mentioned, I will continue to eliminate as much processed foods as I can from our diet.  I realize this is going to be an ongoing project, and there will be many twists and turns along the way.  I’ll be sharing the ups and downs as I go so be sure to stay-tuned!

 

How much do you cook from scratch?  What additional tips do you have for people just starting out?  What has stopped you from cooking from scratch – either now or in the past?  I love hearing your comments – I learn so much from them!

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46 thoughts on “Learning To Cook From Scratch

  1. The downside of cooking from scratch is that you will become increasingly difficult to please when you eat out – there’s always that nagging feeling that for the cost of the meal out you could have done so much better at home, including the price of a bottle of wine!

  2. We almost always cook from scratch. One of the biggest things we do is re-purpose our leftovers. (Example:roasted veggies one night might become soup the next night, which is transformed into pasta sauce the night after that.) This was a gradual change for us over a few years, but now I can’t imagine going back to a pre-packaged, processed way of life! Kudos to you for trying this experiment.

    • Thanks! That’s a great idea- turning leftovers into something else….my husband would love it because he hates leftovers! Thanks for the tip!

  3. What great suggestions on cooking from scratch! I especially agree with you on starting small. I tend to be overly ambitious when I take on a new project, and more often than not, I get overwhelmed. One approach I’m trying to work toward is keeping meals simple during weekdays (like a grilled meat and salad for dinner) and then on weekends splurging with a bigger cooking project when I have more time and energy to commit. As far as cooking from scratch, I’ve recently starting making my dressings from scratch. I’m amazed at how simple, cost-effective, and delicious homemade dressings are.:0)

    • That is sound advice – keeping it simple during the week. I love homemade dressings – you can customize them however you like and they taste great!

  4. I try to cook most of our meals from scratch (hardest thing to get rid of is the cereal in the morning, but I’m getting good at making muffins/pancakes to store in the freezer for quick morning breakfasts). I don’t think I could live without my bread maker–use it at least 3 times a week (when life doesn’t get in the way). I also love using my rice cooker and slow cooker at least once a week. My advice is to keep a binder of recipes that you want to try/like (with notes of what to do differently), and try to pick at least one new meal a week to cook from scratch–that way it isn’t too overwhelming.

  5. Hello! Thanks for the comment! In my “cooking from scratch” journey, I’ve discovered that things may not be as hard as I think they are. From making french onion soup to cakes with REAL icing, I’ve discovered that as long as I have the time, most things aren’t that difficult.

    But, I agree with your tip on thinking easy at first. I’m pretty simple when it comes to food. If the directions in a recipe don’t make sense then I normally steer clear from it.

  6. Your Modern Pantry List (a few posts ago) was a great “base” for your cooking from scratch adventure — lots of potential meals in that line up! I cook from scratch out of necessity (budget!) but I also have the “luxury” of enough time to do it. Sounds like you’re well on your way! Tanya’s comment above was great advice — staying one or two meals ahead in your mind allows for a “never the same meal twice” experience. A leftover chicken breast can become chicken fajitas a night or two later; the remaining peppers and onions from that can be transformed into stir fry over rice (make a double batch of rice) with other leftover meat (pork chops, beef, etc.), while the rest of the rice can be incorporated into soup, casseroles, or even a desert later in the week. Really enjoyed your blog!

    • Thank you so much! That is great advice – it’s something I’ve been trying to incorporate for my menu planning. I’m so glad there are others out there who are doing the same thing!

  7. We normally cook from scratch, and try to avoid processed stuff. One thing we found was that it was often easier to adjust our expectations and/or make substitutions than to try to re-create everything you could buy from the store. For instance, we snack on sliced vegetables and raw nuts, rather than trying to bake all our own crackers, chips, pretzels, etc. Just as satisfying, probably healthier, and less time-consuming. Likewise, we bake chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, rather than trying for Oreos…

    • That is a great tip – it’s so easy to get cought up in trying to re-create everything from the store! It’s much healthier snacking on veges and fruit and nuts!

  8. Neat experiment! My husband has diet issues that actually mean he HAS to cook from scratch virtually all his food. It’s funny, but I’ve found that some simple changes in my diet make cooking every meal so much easier – porridge from a variety of grains (amaranth, grits, oats, rice, quinoa, whatever) keeps breakfast interesting without baking special waffles or muffins. My default lunch is soup or stew made in a pressure cooker or slow cooker (so easy, and reheating improves it), and dinner is usually some form of stir fry over rice or a casserole. We have a couple of basic recipes that we can vary with a simple ingredient change (my “lasagna” can be veggies [endless variety], beef, chicken, or just cheese; his “burritos” consist of almost anything, some home-mixed taco seasoning, and a tortilla shell). The more you can adapt a recipe, the better, especially to allow for seasonal veg (or ingredients on sale). It allows for changes in flavors and textures without drastic changes in preparation, keeping it easy and fast… but we’re not cooking for 7. That’s just impressive!

    • Hi Thanks for stopping by! In the winter we do a lot of soup and stews for lunch also – easy to make a large amount and they reheat great! I really like the idea of adapting base recipes – that makes so much sense, and much easier preparation!

  9. About the porridge – we eat quite a lot of it here, too; it is much faster than pancakes or waffles, not to mention healthy and cheap. We change the flavor by adding dried or canned fruit, or even jam; my own favorite combo is to add applesauce, cinnamon, and a bit of maple syrup, then serve with cream. You can also cook the oatmeal in juice instead of water; another great combo is to cook the porridge in orange juice, and add cranberries and a bit of sugar. The possibilities are endless.

    • I really like the idea of cooking the oatmeal in juice – I think I will be trying that out very soon. My kids might even try it! Thanks for the tip!

  10. I’m not entirely sure what you mean by cooking from scratch. I envision myself trying to squeeze tomatoes till they turn to ketchup! But I have been trying to use less packaged, canned and frozen foods which is a big step forward for me. I’ve just started cooking for myself this year so I’m trying lots of recipes that don’t seem too scary.

    • For me, cooking from scratch is about using less processed foods and more whole, real foods. It can be overwhelming and scary at times – but take it one recipe at a time and before you know it, you’ll be a pro!

  11. We have 3 cooks in the house and we all prefer to cook from scratch, when we can. While it also helps to have a plan (menu, lists and all) we discovered there was also fun in cooking from whatever ingredients we have left (fresh or leftovers!) and coming up with new dishes.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a “like”. I like your blog, too and will look around some more…

    Happy and blessed cooking!

    Best regards,
    Mary

    • Thanks for stopping by! I also think it’s fun to come up with new dishes based on what’s leftover – some of the best meals come from that!

  12. Hi,
    Many thanks for visiting my blog! I have been cooking for many years now and much prefer to prepare from scratch. My Grandmother Kath, whose book I am gradually publishing to the world on my blog, was an old-fashioned housewife. Her life was dictated by the needs/wants/care of home, husband and family. She would not have a refrigerator in the house and would never have dreamed of going to the corner shop for a packet of biscuits! Good luck!
    Kevin

    • Thank you! My grandmother was very much the same way – I started cooking when I was very young, standing by her side! I think it’s wonderful you are sharing your grandmother’s recipes!

  13. Hey, great blog!
    Seeing this page fuels my desire to cook from scratch and your blog reminds me that quality meals can still be made at home. Thanks for sharing these posts. May God continue to bless you.

  14. My recommendations for others starting to cook from scratch: Start with simple recipes to boost your confidence before tackling something more complex. I also like to make huge batches (soups are good for this) to have in the fridge or freezer for those days you don’t feel like making anything.

    And if you really aren’t sure, don’t be embarrassed to ask your friends or family for help! I remember having a friend who really had no idea how to cook from scratch and lived pretty much on cereal and microwave foods. I would bring some homemade foods to get-togethers, and eventually he asked me to show him something. I started small with French toast, taking the time to show him step by step how to do everything – at his request, since he really didn’t know some of the stuff I thought he might. Someone who really has your back will try to slow down and show you the way.

    Most importantly, be patient with yourself! Screw-ups happen, and that’s OK. It helps you learn for next time.

  15. One tip is to keep commonly used veggies ready to go. I use chopped onion and bell pepper pretty much daily (onion more). I chop a full onion and keep it in a ziplock bag so it’s ready to grab when I need it. This also helps the rest of my family eat healthier, cause they’ll grab a bag of already chopped veggies and add some to eggs or whatever they’re making, but they are less likely to chop the onion themselves.

    • That is such a great tip – I can’t say enough how wonderful it is to have your veges prepped and ready to go – it really does make life easier!

  16. Thanks for liking my post! I love the idea of slowly working your way into making everything from scratch. I keep meaning to learn how to make things like stocks and condiments – your tip to work on one thing at time should make this more achievable!

  17. I like it. I did, or am, doing something similar. I started with one loaf of bread a week at a cost of $0.26 and now I make 2-4 a week. I learned pie crusts next. The crust I use for pasties and quiche too. I do all that I can to use all the leftovers I can is some way. You are right: you need a plan! And, take it one step at a time. I have become a better cook since I started doing this scratch cooking thing. Good blog!

    • Thanks! I think it’s so much easier to tackle cooking one step at a time – and bread is a great way to start! Utilizing leftovers is the best way to save money – it’s amazing how far certain foods can stretch!

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