Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course
If you compare the meals served in many of the kitchens today to meals served 100+ years ago, there is one very big difference. Nearly every meal served in North America has at least one dish that has come from a box, bag, or pouch.
Take breakfast, for example. Did you have toast? If so, did you make the bread? Cereal? One of those little packs of Quaker oatmeal, all flavored up and just waiting for you to add water? Did your breakfast originate in the freezer? Frozen toaster versions of pancakes, waffles, and pastries abound in many kitchens.
Several years ago, I did a “Scratch Challenge” during which everything we ate had to be made from scratch – no convenience ingredients allowed. It wasn’t until I did this that I realized that even in my fairly “clean” kitchen, there still remained a lot of processed items.
If you do a quick survey of your own kitchen, you may be surprised at what you find. I discovered that the best way to clean up my act was to focus on cooking only from scratch. Now, my kitchen has only a few holdouts, most of which are there for food storage purposes.
Some of the most common processed items that “sneak in” are dairy and grain products:
- Cottage Cheese
None of these would be incredibly difficult to make, but they ARE time-consuming. In a world that is ever-increasingly geared towards convenience, few people take the time to roll out noodles or bake cookies these days. Birthday cakes come from the bakery, cookies come from a bag with a convenient tab to reseal it, and bread comes from a shelf at the grocery store, so perfectly uniform that if you put it back and mixed all the loaves up, you’d never find the original loaf. (Anyone who has ever baked a loaf of bread will tell you, they all get a funny lump here and there!)
All of this easy-access food has taken a deeper toll than you might imagine.
…A toll on our health.
…A toll on our waistlines.
…A toll on our ability to make the simplest item on our own.
…A toll on the time we spend with our families.
…A toll on the next generation, when we fail to teach them the arts that are vanishing as our grandparents pass away.
Cooking from scratch is actually an analogy for today’s society. Those who take the road less traveled are considered eccentric throw-backs to a far away time.
People feel that we are making unnecessary work for ourselves and that our lives would be vastly improved by tossing a shiny cellophane bag of bread into the grocery cart instead of taking a couple of hours to mix the ingredients, knead the dough, let it rise, knead it some more, then shape it into the desired form.
But when you toss that bag of bread into the cart, you are getting undesirable ingredients (and in many cases, toxins). You are missing out on teaching your child how to judge the composition of the dough by the feel of it in her hands when she kneads it. You don’t get to inhale that delicious aroma emanating from your oven, and you totally skip that mouth-watering anticipation as you let the loaf rest long enough for you to slice it. Packaged bread from the store doesn’t serve as so fine a vehicle for melting fresh butter and transferring it your mouth once you finally get to cut into your fresh, wholesome bread.
Scratch cooking is easier than it seems.
Media is partly to blame for making it seem difficult to actually cook. Most of the advertisements for processed food available at the grocery store tout the convenience of these items. You never see a mom with flour all over the front of her apron and her hair in a ponytail. Instead, the TV-commercial mothers are perfectly coiffed, wearing high heels and a skirt, placing a dish on the table with a flawlessly manicured hand. They are never rushed or harried, of course, because they’ve used pre-shredded cheese along with their premade noodles and their can of sauce. They look like they just stepped out of the office and “poof” a dinner has appeared in their kitchens.
If you can read and possess the ability to use a measuring cup, you can cook. It’s that simple. It seems almost fashionable lately to claim an inability to cook, as though preparing food is beneath a certain level of sophistication. When you start out, sure, there is some trial and error. Sometimes you end up having a peanut butter sandwich in the early years. But for the most part, with some very basic tools, cooking is foolproof.
Case in point: my oldest daughter was a little bit behind on reading when she was in 3rd grade. However, she had a fascination with cooking. So, to help improve her reading skills, I began letting her cook. She would pore through my cookbooks and choose a meal. She’d make a list, then we’d check what we had in the house and what we needed from the store. When she was 9 years old, she made a cheese lasagna, from scratch, including the marinara sauce, completely unaided. (And it was delicious!)
Basic scratch cooking is not some mysterious art that requires 4 years at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris – it’s just a simple matter of reading instructions and putting them into action.
It doesn’t take that much additional time.
The thing is, with a bit of pre-planning, even the busiest working mother can cook from scratch, without the use of convenience items.
Every weekend I spend a few hours in the kitchen prepping food for the week ahead. I do some baking (cookies, granola bars, and bread), clean and chop up veggies, pack little containers of healthy snacks for my daughter’s lunch, and cook a few items to be used throughout the week. I usually roast something on the weekend and cook up some seasoned ground beef or turkey, then add these things to meals throughout the week. I was more focused on this when I worked outside the home, but still do it to some degree.
Never forget about your crockpot! That valuable kitchen appliance can have dinner ready and waiting when you get home from a long day at the office, in the garden, or out with the kiddos. It makes delicious pot roasts and even rotisserie-style chicken! It’s also great for soups, stews, chili, and spaghetti sauce. You can make the cheapest cut of meat tender and delicious by slow-cooking it for 10 hours on low, so this is helpful to the budget as well. (Check out more time-saving suggestions HERE.)
There are many healthy foods that are convenient when you’re in a pinch.
If you’re looking for convenience (and let’s face it, we all need convenience sometimes!) here are a few “fast foods” that fall into the scratch category.
- Trail mix
- Fresh fruit
- Dried Fruit
- Salad (extra points if you’ve already assembled it and just need to dip some out and add dressing!)
- Veggies like carrots, radishes, sugar snap peas, celery and cherry tomatoes
- Steamed veggies with cheese
- Eggs (super fast to fry, scramble or boil)
- Yogurt (that has already been made earlier) topped with fruit and granola)
- Cheese (opt for a healthy version without additives and artificial colors)
Check out THIS ARTICLE for more convenient non-processed meal ideas.
Any item you make from scratch is going to be far healthier than its convenience food equivalent. Take cookies, for example. Who doesn’t love cookies? I bake them 2-3 times per week – there are always some in the jar. However, the ones I make at home contain wholesome ingredients like freshly ground flour, organic sugar, coconut oil and dried fruit. The ones that I would buy at the grocery store, 9 times out of ten, would contain unsavory items like HFCS, genetically modified ingredients and fruit preserved with sulfites.
The sad thing is, if you look at the labels on the convenience items at the store, they like to tout the health benefits all over the brightly colored package. It makes me livid that people are being fooled by this. Stamps of approval from the FDA, the American Heart Association, the USDA and other nutritional agencies mean absolutely nothing except that the manufacturer of the product has made all the right donations. If a food has to be “fortified” with vitamins and minerals, that essentially means that the basic food has been depleted of those beneficial nutrients and that they had to be added back in artificially. Your body is miraculously designed to take nutrients from food and doesn’t recognize many of these artificial versions of nutrients as such.
When you make it yourself, you know precisely what is in it. You know that your family member with allergies is safe, that you aren’t unknowingly consuming GMOs and that you aren’t ingesting preservatives that do double duty as drain cleaner.
You will save a TON of money cooking it yourself. For example, a one cup serving of brown rice, cooked in broth and prepared from scratch costs less than 10 cents (and contains nothing yucky). A one cup serving of flavored Uncle You-Know-Who’s rice costs up to $1. A cup of oatmeal from bulk-purchased steel cut oats costs about 5 cents, but a little brown packet that you pour boiling water over costs 50 cents.
The reason for this? Time is money. Whether it’s your time or the food manufacturer’s time, there is a cost involved. Some people feel that it’s worth it to pay for this convenience. What they don’t consider is that the hands-on time in cooking these items from scratch is often minimal. I use the oven to bake my brown rice and all I have to do is bring the pot to a boil on the stove top, put it in the oven for 1 hour, and walk away. If that hour is not “hands-on time” then I really don’t think that it could be considered an hour of actual work, do you?
Shopping to stock your pantry and purchasing basic items in bulk will save you a fortune at the grocery store. As an added bonus, you’ll find that by keeping a good supply of all of your basic items, you will end up having to make fewer trips to the grocery store. (And come on, every time you go to the store, if you’re anything like me, you end up with at least ONE thing that wasn’t on your list! See? More savings!)
It’s a necessary skill for a prepper.
When you think about the skills you need for preparedness, cooking might not be the first thing to come to mind. You might consider marksmanship, carpentry, bush crafting or first aid, but keep in mind that a good hot meal is too valuable to be overlooked. Not only does it nourish your family, but it is also a comfort in a world that might have just become incredibly frightening.
Many of your preparedness purchases will be “ingredients” rather than meals. Many preppers have pounds and pounds of rice, beans, wheat berries and oats, but they won’t do you much good if you don’t know how to prepare them. It’s important to learn now what to do with these items when back-up is as close as the grocery store or pizza delivery. It takes practice to make a tasty pot of beans or to cook brown rice to the perfect fluffy consistency and in an SHTF scenario, you don’t want to risk wasting precious food.
The other thing to consider from a preparedness point of view is that if the supply lines are down, you won’t be able to go to the grocery store to replace your boxes of Rice-A-Roni. You may, however, be able to replenish basics like flour or grains through barter with local farmers. One of these days, so-called convenience items may be a thing of the past, an artifact from a world rocketing towards collapse.
Here’s how to get started with scratch cooking.
The first thing you need to do is acquire a good cookbook. I have lots of cookbooks that have been purchased at yard sales and library sales over the years. I find that the most valuable, the ones I turn to again and again, are the old books. I really love cookbooks that were written during the Great Depression, or even earlier. My prized possession is my Fanny Farmer cookbook, written in 1896 and originally published as The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. I have referred to this book again and again because it has instructions for things that are rather difficult to find in more modern tomes. As well, you don’t find ingredients like canned “cream of chemical” soup – you are walked through making a basic bechamel sauce instead.
With the internet, you can find basic instructions for making just about anything. Find an author that doesn’t use hard-to-find ingredients and that shows step by step illustrations. I really love the Martha Stewart website for the clarity of the instructions, but Martha is in a rather different economic bracket and sometimes her recipes contain very pricey ingredients. Her 101 articles can’t be beaten, though!
Next, be sure you have some basic kitchen supplies. You need basic cookware and utensils, obviously. Other useful (but not 100% necessary) items are:
- a kitchen timer (this is very very important unless your attention span is far more keen than mine)
- an inexpensive little food processor
- an instant-read thermometer (more important when you’re just starting out – later you will be able to judge when something is the “right” temperature)
- a good sharp knife
- a box grater with different sized holes
- a set of measuring cups and spoons
- a colander
- a whisk
- a potato masher
- a crock pot
I’m not a huge fan of gadgets, particularly electric ones. You don’t want to be reliant on those and then suddenly have to make everything without them in the event that the grid goes down. Bread machines, for example, while wonderfully convenient, would be of little use without power. If you are already faced with having to cook using alternative methods (like over an open fire) you don’t want to also have to learn how to knead dough. Trust me, in such a situation, you’ll have enough challenges!
Once you have the basics down, you can begin to experiment, and this is what separates the “decent” cooks from the really “great” cooks. Initially, don’t veer too far from the original recipe. You can start by altering the spices to suit the preferences of your family. Next thing you know, you’ll look at a recipe, get a general idea of what they’re making and then set off to create your own unique dish!
- The Fannie Farmer Cookbook
- A Cabin Full of Food
- Never Buy Bread Again (absolutely the best bread-making book on the planet)
- Better from Scratch
- The Elliott Homestead Cookbook
We are having Salmon for dinner tonight. When I told the man behind the fish counter what I wanted, he pointed out that the breaded and seasoned Salmon was on sale — didn’t I want some of it? My answer was, “no” I don’t buy things that are preprepared. I don’t know what has been put on it, and I want to be in control of what I eat. His reply was that he just wanted something to stick in the microwave or oven, no preperation needed. I think that is the general idea for most people today. Either that or a fast food place on the home from work. Consequently we have very unhealthy, fat people.
Your fish monger cooks his fish in the microwave? ????
No, he was just saying he wanted something easy, that he could microwave.
(Wait… You were joking, eh? You got me good!)
This really hits the spot for me,… I have been reading for awhile–first time poster. I live a busy life, but try to keep things as basic as possible. Cooking is one of those things. Homecooked meals are a must!! (even if they were heated in the microwave–on our way to busy things) I value knowing how to do things. I work every other weekend. Plan on trying to learn how to do homemade noodles, and granola this weekend off.
Hope the noodles came out well! I remember helping my Nana make noodles – I still haven’t mastered getting the full cup of flour into ONE large egg! That & a pinch of salt was all Nana used in her noodles – or dumplings.
I use 2 cups of flour for 3 regular eggs, hope that helps.
We NEVER buy processed food; only 100% organic.
The skill or knowledge of how to sharpen a good knife is very valuable too.
Also a candy thermometer is best for hot liquids only, so a large dial (easy to read) meat thermometer is also a necessity, two would be even better (back up). And they are about $5 or less.
A good wooden spoon or bamboo or nylon set (99cents at wally world) is also a necessity. I’ve found that wooden spoons are not as good as they used to be, bamboo is good, but you get what you pay for there, and the nylon are cheap, easy to clean but can melt.
Also a good cutting board, again, whether you go plastic, wood or bamboo – that is your choice – but never glass unless you are looking to dull your knives. (and a way to clean & sanitize it!!)
I did check the white nylon type spoons and they say Made in USA on the bottom
There is a huge network of bloggers, primarily women, that promote what they call Real Food. Almost all of it is from scratch with healthy foods: fruit, veggies, meat, dairy. Breads and sweets are made from recipes that still promote healthy options. These are great resources for great recipes.
Also, many include do it yourself formulas for soaps, deodorant,window cleaner and makeup or baby needs.
The whole concept of the Real Food bloggers is to have healthy options without the chemicals and poisons which we are polluting our bodies.
Oh – thank you! I’ll look for this! 🙂
Daisy, I just found you within the past few weeks, via Lew Rockwell. What a blessing!
Quick suggestion, although I’m certain the more experienced readers already utilize this technique:
When you buy the bulk steel cut oats, put them in the crock pot the night before, about 8 hours prior to the time you have breakfast.
I find (at a lower altitude)that a 4 parts liquid to 1 part oats works great.
Put the oats and water in the crock pot, set on low, and turn off after approx 7-8 hours. If you let it set for awhile, then stir it well, it’s beautiful.
You can add any ingredients you like at the time you blend the oats and water together – it all cooks together wonderfully.
We’ve tried bananas and nuts, blueberries and other berries, or just plain butter.
And we prefer adding raw milk or cream to the bowl when eating, with raw honey if you need sweetener.
I never liked oatmeal before I played with this recipe and got it just right.
Thank you for sharing your adventures with us, Daisy. You’re an inspiration.
Even the foods we choose as ingredients may introduce toxins or be genetically modified, so not only should we cook from scratch, we should be aware of the foods’ sources. Shop with care!
When I was younger, everything I did was from scratch. I was taught by many ladies who grew up during the great depression.
Canning, baking, gardening, etc. All of it.
When I got married, I canned just about everything and baked bread two or three times a week. I could whip up a fresh pie in less than an hour. My pantry was always full and I had good health.
He became an alcoholic, an abusive one. Ended up divorced, living alone, moved to the city and started working construction.
Convenience became a necessity. I was so tired, hot and sweaty when I got home from work I didn’t want to cook. So I got into processed foods and many times it was easier to buy at the drive through.
Decades later, my health had deteriorated and “garbage in garbage out” was never truer.
I got back to scratch cooking and refused to live where I couldn’t have a garden, chickens and rabbits. Now, I won’t lie. I still have some processed foods in my house. And sometimes, it is just easier to buy and cook, but after I recently remarried, I’ve made a commitment to go back to scratch again.
I even bought a pasta extruder to make macaroni. Now if I could just find some cheddar cheese powder without GMO’s!
Hi Stephanie! That story is true for me too, with the comparison between declining health and declining food. I am so glad you are back to good food!
If you have a dehydrator, you can actually dry regular cheese, then turn it to a powder in the food processor. Then you’d make a roue with milk and flour and stir in cheese powder to taste. (This suggestion was passed on by a reader a while back and it works wonderfully!)
Thanks for reading!
Also, it’s good to see other canadians doing things to be self-sufficient.
I took it even further and started eliminating chemicals in cleaning. These products are so amazing I can clean with just water. I now save about 250-300 a year in cleaning supplies. Check out my website:)
Thank you for this blog I am learning a lot
As a recent kidney failure patient, I have had to go back to “scratch” cooking (that I was raised on) to reduce the phophorus that is in processed meals. I also consider myself a “prepper” to some extent and realized there was much I would not know how to make (such as condiments) unless I learned how to do them, now, before the need might arise.
What I found to be helpful was to create Word Docs for the various things such as Homemade meals, cleaning products, etc. Once I gather the info, I print the Word Doc and put it in a folder so it can be carried with me, should I need to. It also allows you to know what supplies you would need to have, on hand, to make the various items.
That’s a fantastic way to organize your information, Faye! I hope that the change in diet has supported an improvement in your health.
I want to offer a bit of grace. Life has seasons and as ideal as scratch cooking is sometimes it just isn’t possible and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for not cooking everything from scratch. Before you bash me for this opinion let me give you a bit of background. I have a degree in culinary arts, I know how to scratch cook and I did. Right now I have two kids 5 and under and I have breast cancer. I am exhausted all the time. Just going to the grocery store takes everything I’ve got. I am picky about my convenience foods but without them we would be eating a lot of take out. I feel if you are careful about what you buy convenience foods are still better than take out both financially and health wise. I know how to make bread but I couldn’t stand long enough to do it. There are fairly good organic breads at the store, and at this point in my life that has to be good enough. Articles like this make me feel guilty, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Yes cooking from scratch is the ideal, I did and hopefully will again but right now the best thing I can offer myself is grace. What good is a scratch cooked meal if I’m too tired to sit down and eat with my family?
Hi, Kristie – I’m sorry if this made you feel bad, as of course, that was not my intention. I hope that you noticed the link to the article with 99 meal ideas for people who aren’t able to cook for whatever reason.
I wish you the very best in your recovery.
I did not notice the link but I will look into it, thanks. Honestly, it isn’t you who makes me feel bad,it’s me. And I guess that is more the point of my comment, that sometimes we are too hard on ourselves. We …and by we I mean me…feel guilty for what we can’t do instead of being happy with what we can do. I’m feeling bad because I’m not making my own pizza dough instead of being happy that I make my own stock in the crock pot. Sick or not, nobody can do it all. We have to make choices on what to do with our resources both monetary and time/energy. However one of the choices we all can make is to celebrate the good and let the rest go. Quite honestly none of us will ever be”perfect” but we can all be good enough. We can all try to improve on what we do but that is a journey with no end so it is important to be happy on the way. I obviously have trouble with this, I am such a type A person, but I’m working on it. Thanks for the good wishes and the great info. I do enjoy your website.
I am so very late to the party, having discovered the wonderful resource that is Daisy several years later than I wish I had, and I read your kind words tonight, nearly (a day less) one year after you wrote it. If you do happen to see this, I would love to know how you are doing, but if not, I’m sending you so much love and prayers and healing thoughts.
Thanks for this post! I love to cook from scratch and I have a 1950’s edition of Fanny Farmer. I work 4 ten hour days a week so I am fortunate to have Friday, Saturday and Sundays off. I make good use of that by cooking and preparing meals for the coming week. Prepared box food is just a chemical experiment on the general public. Keep up the great work!
My crock pot and bread maker are my two favorites time savers in fixing healthy homemade food. We have a home-based business. With customers coming in and answering phone calls, these two time savers give me needed flexibility.
We have made bread, cakes, jelly and even meat loaf in the bread maker. The best part of from scratch cooking is you KNOW the ingredients. In baking cakes, I substitute apple sauce for the oil in many recipes. The cakes are still moist and delicious.
I believe we eat healthier since we started baking our own bread earlier this year. My husband has lost 15 pounds in the past 6 months.
Love your picture up top, especially the period dress.
Daisy, let me offer a little different perspective on electric versus non-electric gadgetry. In general, I see the electric side as the time-saving and training wheels stage of learning to cook while power is still available, and the non-electric side as the next but vital stage when power goes out for short, or really long, term cases. Some examples:
An electric blender obvious can do lots of things, but a classic rectangular stainless steel Chinese cleaver and an easy-to-clean poly cutting board can do many things a blender can, plus a few others.
An electric crockpot does wonders in learning to perfect your skills for slow cooking recipes, which transfer almost perfectly to some kinds of non-electric solar cookers (especially panel cookers and some box cookers that let you keep the temperature somewhat low. Some smaller parabolic solar cookers can do this as well. India has the world’s longest history of solar cooking, and they believe that nutritional values are preserved far better at the lower temperatures of slow cooking, so their solar cookers tend to reflect that. I have one of theirs that even has electric backup, in case you’re learning your slow cooking skills and the sun vanishes behind some clouds in the middle of your recipe process — it’s the same type they issue to some Indian army units, although mine doesn’t have their camo paint.)
An electric food dehydrator is a wonderful tool to perfect your skills, but a solar box cooker can also do the same job if you use a drying rack and keep the correct low temperature for each food type, typically by leaving one side of the glass cover open a wee bit while monitoring the temperature very closely.
Another electric or non-electric kitchen tool is a kitchen countertop grain mill that has both a pulley for belt-driven motor power and a hand-crank for non-electric use. I’ve never felt the need to hook up a motor drive because hand cranking has always worked well for me to grind (long term storable) wheat berries (or almost any other kind of grain) or dried beans into flour for bread, pancakes, soups, etc. It can also turn almost any blend of nuts into nut butter (peanuts, walnuts, almonds, you name it). It can also turn herbs into powder form. It did help a lot to make an oak cranking arm a bit longer than what the factory supplied, but that was easy.
I have every respect for multi-function electric pressure cookers like the Instant Pot, the Cosori, and several others, but I started with stand-alone cookers that could be used over an electric, gas, wood, propane or whatever heat source — even solar. The multi-function electrics make good trainers for lots of cooking styles, so you learn how good recipes should turn out. Then you’re better prepared to transfer those recipes to non-electric cooking methods (good training for when or if there’s a need) with better expectations as to what works, and how they should turn out.
An electric microwave can produce bread, but once you learn how freshly ground ginger can enhance the flavor of moist gingerbread baked over rising steam (produced from all kinds of electric OR non-electric methods), you’ll never want to go back to store-bought. Steam cooking has some really interesting virtues. The Chinese and the French steam cooking literature is fantastic, with centuries of experience behind it. (You learn from the Chinese that thin-slicing your meats and veggies gives you much faster results, and conserves what may be scarce fuel.) There are few things that you can’t cook over rising steam, which can be produced by clean water heated by almost any electric or non-electric method. If clean water is really scarce in desperate cases (like really bad hurricane flooding — think Puerto Rico today), you can even steam cook over dirty water if you first boil off any VOCs for a few minutes, and then leave enough space above the boiling water so that there’s no splashing that can reach your goodies being cooked. You could probably even use that rising steam from even dirty water to wash dishes, if you use heat-insulated gloves and a long handled scrub brush.
So if you think of the electrics as time-savers while power is readily available, but also training wheels for when power might be down, and only non-electric gadgetry is usable, you’ll see both sides in a different light.
Thank you for this article Daisy. This comes at the perfect time for me personally. I spent too many years commuting two and a half hours a day and not eating a healthy diet. Now I’m blessed to be a stay at home mom but it’s caught up with me! Time to learn how to really cook and improve my health as well as my dear husband’s! No more excuses.
Due to high blood pressure and kidney issues I cannot eat anything in a box bag or restaurant. So out of default I had to learn to cook everything myself. Everything. And I did. Everything is scratch. I bake and make soups, stews, everything. I needed flavor so went spicy and that works for me most times. I am no means overweight, probably underweight now. But I was heavy. Lost 40 pounds in a month going sodium free. I get sodium from what is in the food naturally.
It gets difficult socially because I can’t eat anything if I go out. Ladies like to go eat somewhere. Home made food is accepted… but they want to go out too.
Great article, the original Fanny Farmer Cookbook is available as a free pdf download here: https://www.cookipedia.co.uk/wiki/images/7/7c/FannyFarmerCookbook-1918.pdf
Preservatives – chemical byproducts – food coloring …. Top three reasons to make your own as much as possible. Make it a goal to take something you usually buy (let’s say frozen waffles) and make it yourself. And guess what, they freeze the same and you can pop them into your toaster the same. The point is – try something new each week to make yourself more reliable. When the SHTF there will be more relying on you. Respectfully, The Break Away Homesteader.
There are people who live to eat, and those who eat to live. Scratch cooking is a lot easier for the latter group. I’m one of the latter group.
For example, I could eat for days on sticky, short grain rice (I prefer that to the long grain fluffy kind), pinto beans, a sprinkle of crushed chili peppers, cheese, an egg and a tomato, and not get tired of it. Except for the beans, everything else is quick and easy to make.
Breads and pancakes taste sweeter with freshly ground flour—the oils in the grains haven’t had a chance to get rancid as usually happens when buying already ground flour. I have a hand grinder, which also allows me to make specialty flours, such as a mixed legume and grain flour for pancakes.
One tool I recommend is a wide mouth thermos—for example just bring the rice to a boil, then pop it into the thermos and in a few hours it’s ready to eat. Almost no cooking time.
Steaming means that your breads are never burned. Also steaming can be done over open fires as well as stoves, while the boiling water provides a constant temperature.
A pair of chopsticks mix pancake batters quicker and easier than a fork, and are easier to clean than a whisk.
For a long time I had to live on a dollar a day or less for food, and cooking from scratch was the only way to have enough to eat. It was a good thing I wasn’t looking for gourmet fare.
A nice little fun book to give as a gift this Christmas is “Clara’s Kitchen” She talks about her life in the US during the Great Depression and WWII rationing. Each chapter has a simple, from-scratch recipe, such as “Poor Man’s Meal”.
She also has videos on YouTube under the title “Great Depression Cooking”; with a separate video for each recipe.
PS. I get nothing for this plug. I just happen to think the recipes are nice and simple so that even a beginner-cook can come up with a masterpiece.
Don’t forget about the Insta-pot. The best new cooking product in a couple of decades. It’s a user friendly pressure cooker for everyday use. It’s great.
Don’t forget about the Insta-pot. The revolutionary pressure cooker for everyday use. The best new cooking product in the past 20 years. I’m not a troll pushing a product that I have a stake in.
Also, let’s not forget that men, fathers, can cook from scratch, too. Just like my husband did, and does.
I can remember my grandmother making everything from scratch, even the wine. I have been on a journey from cooking to cleaning using the older ways. It’s actually cheaper and more effective. As for food, the taste is the best from scratch and your right it’s healthier and cheaper in the long run. My family won’t eat boxed cakes after I made them from scratch. Everything just tastes better.
You are healthier and your body rewards you.
The advantages of cooking from scratch are that its cheaper, you can control what goes into your food, it tastes better, and (if you like to cook) its fun and enjoyable. You can incorporate seasonal food items that may not be available year-round. The disadvantages is that its time consuming (usually) and if you dislike cooking, drudgery. Unfortunately, the Ozzie and Harriet days are long gone. Increasingly the household is headed by a single parent who has to work. Even two-parent households today often require both work. Adding children additionally limits the time available in the kitchen.
Even if you cook from scratch doesn’t necessarily mean what you are serving over the long term is really healthier. Many convenience foods can be found without the added chemicals, including bread. Additionally, its important to know what ingredients are healthy and which are not, even for scratch cooking. Currently, 70% of Americans nutrition comes from carbohydrates – sugars, grains, and starches. No wonder so many are obese, diabetic, and/or suffer other chronic illnesses! Vegetable oils, loaded with omega 6 fatty acids are the other culprits as well as any ingredients that is hydrolyzed . Do you incorporate any of those in your meals? You can live a healthy live without carbohydrates. You cannot live without healthy fats.
If you scratch cook (as I do), take the next step and learn what unhealthy ingredients you should avoid.
Very good article and comments. Thank you!
Scratch cooking is the only way to go. Healthy, saves money, and make a home a home.
After years of reluctance and fear of bottles exploding in boiling water, I finally taught myself how to can. It is a wonderful skill to have. A bonus is that you can make things that you cannot find in the grocery stores.
Here’s a good tip when you’re looking for kitchen gadgets, bowls, and all kinds of kitchenware. The thrift stores have an amazing selection of all kinds of stuff. My kitchen is filled with a huge selection of kitchen items I found at these wonderful stores. For example, I just bought a professional quality, stainless steel mandolin with all the attachments for $4.99. I looked it up online and they go for $150. You cannot beat a deal like that.
Finally, everyone should have a vegetable garden. It is so convenient to just go to the backyard and pick a few leaves of fresh lettuce and a few tomatoes to make a sandwich or salad. Every garden should include these as well as green onions, rhubarb, collards, sorrel, etc. And it’s so much fun saying “hello” to the little bugs, birds and squirrels while you’re outside.
We need to get back to the way we were supposed to live.