The Cooking From Scratch Experiment

Have you ever wondered how much money can be save cooking from scratch?  Have you ever wondered if it was even possible to make everything your family eats from scratch – and by possible I mean not consuming the entire day?  I have been thinking a lot lately about those questions and more.  For example, what would we eat for snacks?  What would I do if we ran out of ketchup?  So….I have decided to conduct a little experiment.

Starting on Monday, April 16th I will be attempting to make everything my family eats completely from scratch for two weeks.  I will be tracking how much money, time and effort are spent to see if it is indeed worth it (nutritional value aside).

  • Cost- I typically spend between $400 and $500 per month on groceries and household items (this is for all 7 of us).  I would like to see how low this can get, although I’m not sure what is reasonable to expect.
  • Time – I will be using recipes that don’t take a large amount of time, or if they do, require little “hands on” time.  I  realize that just about anything can be made from scratch, but I don’t think it should take the entire day, every day.

Later this week I will post my shopping list and menu ideas.  Then, each day I will post the recipes including time and money spent, as well as any challenges that come up.

What about you? Do you cook from scratch, and if so, how often?  Do you have any tips or tricks for avoiding pre-packaged foods? How much money do you think can be saved by cooking this way?

I would love to hear from you!

 

Update:  Here is the recap – you can read about it here, here and here!

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58 thoughts on “The Cooking From Scratch Experiment

  1. What a great idea! We did something similar last month – we ate only “real food” for 10 days. This meant no highly processed foods, no white flour, no white sugar, only whole grains, fruits and veggies, responsibly raised meats, etc. I ended up making almost everything from scratch. I recommend making double or triple batches of recipes so you can have a break some days. We did lots of muffins, homemade granola bars, popcorn, and fruit for snacks. My children loved having homemade breakfast every day! You may be interested in reading the book, “Make the Bread, Buy the Butter.” The author compares homemade and store bought versions of many foods, and she found that homemade isn’t always less expensive. Good luck and I’ll be interested to hear how it goes for you.

    • Thank you so much for the tips, I really appreciate it! Double and triple batching is a great idea! I tend to make a lot of things from scratch, but not consistently – more like as I feel like it. I too am very excited/anxious to see how it turns out!

    • I too make food in batches, so that I can have an evening off. Some foods are more expensive to make at home but I cook as much from scratch as possible to avoid hidden nasties in pre-packaged food in supermarkets (for example).

  2. I have been cooking from scratch for a long time, mainly because that was how I was raised. Canned and boxed items just didn’t taste very good, so I stopped being them. You can make a much better tasting macaroni and cheese from scratch than you can get from a box! Good luck to you!

    • Thank you – I completely agree. I have been making a lot of our food from scratch, just not all of it and definitely not consistently enough. Stay tuned for the updates!

  3. Thanks for liking my post. I see you’re cooking for 7, the cookbook says that recipe serves 8. I’m not sure if I agree with that… If you’re cooking for 7 I recommend adding a salad or something to your menu, otherwise it just might not be enough to satisfy everyone. A tip I’d share with you, as far as saving money is that if you’re cooking from scratch, try to plan your menu so that your meals don’t all use all different ingredients. It adds up a lot less at the register when you buy one thing that you can use in several different dishes than when you buy 7 different things. I see you’re going to be planning your menus, that’s a very good thing, because knowing what you’re cooking and exactly what you’ll need before you go to the store will eliminate a lot of waste both in the way of having things that are unused and in spending on unnecessary items. I like the look of your blog, I’ll be back to check it out again.

  4. Good luck Stephanie. If you have a degree in culinary arts, you probably know all about prep lists! They will come in handy…and yes, I am sure you will be saving quite a bit. Curious as to how much

    • Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I am very familiar with prep lists – I make them all the time! So much that my family often teases that I can’t go anywhere without a list and a plan!

  5. Good luck! I try to make as many things from scratch as possible- every time we cross off a processed item from the grocery list and substitute it with ingredients for a homemade version, I get so happy! If you’re looking to make long term changes I tried starting out with one or two items, like granola and bread, and getting into the habit of making those every week or two. Then I kept adding new projects until, eventually, I don’t even think about buying hummus, bread, mustard, salad dressing, almond milk etc… I just think about making them! Good luck, I find crossing things off my list of processed foods to be addictive 🙂 I look forward to following your journey!

    • Thank you so much for the advice and I know what you mean with the list! I was starting to get a little overwhelmed, but then I decided to keep it simple and take it one item at a time! I’m really enjoying the process!

  6. What an adventure you have embarked on! I’m not sure exactly were to draw the line. I think the book “Make the Bread, Buy the Butter” sounds like a great place to start. I’d like to think that I make most thing from scratch. I don’t make home made ketchup, but I’m a huge fan of home made salad dressing, mayonaise and bread. I look at all the prepared meals at Sam’s and Costco just to get ideas for what I might like to cook that evening. Making it myself is ALWAYS better. It’s gotten to the point were there are certain meals that I won’t even order in restaurants because I know I can make them better at home. i look forward to hearing your conclusions about makingthings from scrach.

  7. Thanks for liking my post! Exciting project you are taking on and I’ll absolutely be returning to your blogg and see how you’re doing. Good luck!

  8. Thanks for stopping by my blog and ‘liking’ it. Cooking from scratch has been an up and down journey for me. I definetly prefer the making by scratch better, but it does take a little more time and organization.

  9. Fabulous! I cook from scratch most days….6 out of 7, but never actually thought of condiments, such as ketchup and all that. Brilliant idea. I commend you for your effort, not only culinarily, but monetarily! We all need to save up, and I am sure you will all be the happier and healthier for it! Enjoy your experiment!

    • I think the hardest part is the timing and preparation – for example, making enough bread at one time to last us through the week, instead of trying to do it every day. Also keeping organized…knowing what I’m making in advance and being prepped for it saves alot of time and money! Before starting this I would just make whatever sounded good – so it’s been a little hard to stick to the plan…but soooo worth it!

      • I could see how having a plan would be great and hard at the same time–great since you know what you’re going to prepare, but hard if you run out of time or nobody feels like that dish. (Or maybe that’s me, and I just have bad luck!) Do you think you’ll continue making things from scratch after the two weeks are over?

      • I think so, I really like knowing exactly what we are eating – although I am sure there will be times when it’s easier to buy something!

  10. Hi!

    Thanks for liking my blog!

    I think your cooking from scratch experiment sounds like a great idea! I’d been talking to my boyfriend about doing this but we started listing lots of loopholes, but this has inspired me to give it a go!

    • It has been such a great experience! One thing I have learned is to start with one thing (like homemade pizza) and go from there…but I tend to go “all or nothing”!

      • I’m definitely going to give it a go – I feel inspired now! I’ll have to spend a bit of time thinking and planning my batch cooking, but it’s definitely something I’d like to do more of long-term!

  11. I’m BIG on my own food. I’d rather eat at home than eat out most of the time and I know it’s because when I cook at home I use better ingredients AND save money at the same time. I’m looking forward to surfing your site!

  12. Love this idea- an interesting thought to consider is this: in some parts of the world this is the only way you can cook. I am moving to a relatively rural area of Mexico in a few years, and I think everything will have to be from scratch! Thanks for visiting my blog, I like yours!

    • I never thought of that – very interesting! It really makes you think about the things we here in the states take for granted….Thanks for sharing – and for visiting! I like your blog too!

  13. i didn’t realize you were doing a 2 week experiment ~ silly me didn’t notice this page until now.

    i do cook from scratch with the exception of certain things like roasted red peppers and most condiments, and some conveniences like doughs {pizza, pie shells} but i make sure these pre-made items are from organic and/or wholesome sources.

    i do believe it saves a bunch of money, but then i tend to spend the extra money on gourmet items like capers and fancy vinegars! oh well, there are worse ways to splurge.

    your recipes have been inspiring and even if you don’t continue to cook 100% from scratch i’m sure this experiment was a valuable one ~ cheers!

    • It was! I am so interested in finding even more things to make from scratch! It has been very eye-opening, especially in terms of cost and nutritional value.

  14. Pingback: Learning To Cook From Scratch « A Modern Christian Woman

  15. I’m in awe…I have 3 children, and while I mostly cook from scratch, sometimes I stray. But, my grocery bill has never been under $700/month. Clearly I need help! I’ll be sure to catch more of your tips to see if I can whittle that down. Thanks for stopping by my blog, by the way.

    • Our grocery bill is low out of necessity – usually I try to stock up on meats and staples as much as I can when prices are low – and I add in fresh ingredients as I go. We don’t keep a lot of snacks or packaged foods in the house, so that helps keep it low too. If we want something, I usually make it or occasionally we buy it. It’s the little things that really add up!

  16. Stephanie, that sounds incredibly cheap, and I live in Bangkok! I have a similar-size household, and my monthly bill is over $800, not including school lunches. Admittedly this includes households items as well, but – you must be doing something right!

    I’m inspired by your cooking from scratch idea. I bake occasionally, but everyone loves it so much, the products never hang around as long as the store-bought versions…

    • Thank you! Our budget is low out of necessity – but I think it’s possible to reduce any budget with planning! I agree – when I bake, the items are gone pretty quick!

  17. I avoid prepackaged foods (aka: processed foods) by sticking to the outside of the grocery store isles. The outside isles is where the produce, meat department, dairy, etc. are. Most everything else is processed food. Actually, I avoid the typical grocery store for the most part and do the bulk of my shopping at a farmer’s market, where there are less prepackaged foods to tempt me and prices are better (at least at Trader Joe’s).

    I have been forced to make a lot more from scratch due to my candida diet (as you read in at least one of my posts . . . thanks for stopping by!). I have become somewhat empowered, having made things like ranch dressing, not only from scratch but candida diet friendly. I also made cashew butter, because I can’t have peanut butter, although I am now going to try sunflower butter (i.e. sun butter), because I hear it has a taste and consistency closer to peanut butter.

    I know I’m saving a lot of money simply because we’re not going out to eat very much. It’s very hard for me to find things I can eat at a restaurant and, often, it’s not as good as what I can make at home because I can’t have their salad dressings or sauces, or they don’t have brown rice (one of the few grains I can have). As for making things from scratch as opposed to buying them pre-made, I haven’t paid attention to the price difference. For me, it’s just how I have to live right now.

    I mostly buy organic, which is costly, but again, since I’m not going out to eat, I’m saving more money on food than I used to.

    It’s a big lifestyle change to “make everything you eat”. I have had meltdowns when I was hungry and there was nothing quick to grab and/or I was tired of eating the same thing, or I ruined my soup with organic broth that I realized contained sugar and yeast. But when you make a big batch of things ahead, you can then just grab them and eat just as you would grab a prepackaged food.

    • Thanks for stopping by! I completely agree with shopping on the outside aisle of the grocery store – it helps us stay away from processed foods too. It is definitely an adjustment, making your food from scratch – but so worth it. I’ve been doing it for a while now, and I have noticed when we do go out to eat or buy something ready made – we are so disappointed! You can definitely do better at home! I’m so glad you stopped by – thanks for the great tips!

  18. A little late with a reply (just found your blog) but my wife and I decided to cook and bake from scratch as often as possible a few years ago. We eliminated high fructose corn syrup completely, replaced white flour with whole wheat flour wherever possible, made every effort to eliminate cans (high sodium) and boxes (high sugar and sodium) and I became an annoying amateur nutritionist. I can tell you that costs are a little higher (unless you count reducing restaurant meals, which we did significantly) but the change in philosophy eventually manifested in our kids thinking which means they’re turning into healthier adults. We eat better, we eat together more often and I know just about everything that goes into our bodies. Give it two weeks and it just might stick. Hope it went well and good luck to other readers that get inspired to try it.

    • Thanks for stopping by! We are just starting to use more whole wheat flours and are loving it so far! The experiment went very well – we are hooked!

  19. Yummy recipes! My favorite homemade condiment is flavored vinegars. Red basil is a staple at our house, as well as taragon. I’m looking forward to raspberry season–homemade raspberry vinegar is a really good.

  20. Thanks for liking my easy-peel eggs tip, Stephanie! I’d love to hear if it works for you. We (mostly) gave up processed foods a few years ago. For me, the key has been not to be fanatical so there’s not pressure (cooking should be fun!) and batch cooking. Things I don’t make from scratch yet, like baked beans, I try to buy organic (Trader Joe’s organic baked beans are pretty darn good). There have been successes and failures along the way but when it’s a winner the food is soooo much better! Good luck! (P.S. If you like chicken, you might try this recipe http://eveorio.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/say-no-to-costco-relatively-quick-roasted-chicken-recipe/)

    • Thank you so much for the link and for stopping by! I completely agree, batch cooking is key (as well as keeping it simple!) – I am finding that out!

  21. I like the cooking from scratch experiment and hope it works for you and your family. I also do a lot of “scratch” cooking on a budget with a hectic modern schedule. Our CSA keeps us stocked with healthy produce, I can plan for the week, and make sure my plans keep prep and cook time down to minimum. Looking forward to hearing more about your experiments!

    • Thanks! It’s working well so far – I haven’t tried a CSA yet but have been looking into it. Our local farmers market opens this weekend – I’m pretty excited for all the produce!

  22. What a great idea! I’ve never thought to track the cost or time. Your family will be super healthy by the of the two weeks as you’ll have total control over what’s going into what they are eating.

  23. I’ve cooked from scratch most of my life mostly because I love to cook and bake and find it fun. Even when I was little, I loved vegetables, so those are usually my favorite snack. Learning I was allergic to wheat made adding in cooking breads, cookies and crackers from scratch a necessity (gluten-free stuff is made with highly-processed flours, and taste kind of weird, so I make mine from scratch with healthy almond flour instead).

    I don’t find that cooking from scratch takes any more time than using a pre-packaged mixture like Rice a Roni. It means going to the grocery more often since cooking from scratch means using fresh foods, remembering to water the garden, but it keeps a gratitude for food and where it comes from fresh, which really adds to life’s beauty.

    • I couldn’t of said it better myself! I completely agree – it doesn’t really take me any more time than using a mix, just a little more planning. I love that even with a food allergy you are still cooking from scratch and not relying on mixes!

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