Do you want to start cooking from scratch? Cool! I am cheering for you right now. I probably don’t need to tell you how much more nutritious your meals will be for you. I do want to let you know what you’re getting yourself into, what I’ve found myself struggling with, how I’ve adjusted and what I’ve learned.
The dirt: Cooking and baking from scratch means I have more dishes to wash. Seriously, we now run the dishwasher (an energy-efficient one) once a day, or every 24 hour period. It also means more time spent preparing and creating meals or snacks. I am making a huge effort to streamline the time I spend cooking, but that usually means I put in a chunk every few days on things like Bread, Soup, or Crackers. I have to think ahead about ingredients like Yeast, Butter, Vegetables, Flour, Salt, Olive Oil, and on the list goes. Basically, it can get as long and arduous as you chose to make it. For our household, I make every meal from scratch. That includes staples and treats like Cupcakes. All of these things require more individual purchases when you count flour, salt, Baking Soda, etc., but, they actually reduce my grocery bill. And that helps me justify buying more expensive ingredients or giving me room to experiment with new ones.
The benefits: Surprisingly, the things that are the least expensive and prepackaged like Tortillas or Bread are easy to make and even taste better. I never would have thought a Tortilla made at home could taste so yummy! Somewhere along the line of our industrialist revolution we started buying the easy things to make: soup and bread, for example. The things that take some time to make were some of the first to be sold in markets.
Less waste: I know, I know, who would have thought I could get excited about garbage and compost? For our house, we found ourselves only
filling our garbage can half full. We’ve downsized it and save about $36 a year (not huge, but still provides at least one movie date out for my Honey and me). Our compost bin, on the other hand is almost full every week. It’s really satisfying to physically see a difference our food choices are making on our garbage output.
Starting from Scratch
If you’re ready, here we go:
1) Start small – Trying to cook every meal from scratch is overwhelming. Try starting with whatever meal you’ll have the most time to prepare – lunches might be a good place since you can make them ahead of time (don’t need to be piping hot from the oven). Look up recipes and learn one new one every couple of days. If at first you don’t succeed, try it again. Seriously. It took me several tries to come up with a good cookie recipe to meet my daughter’s dietary restrictions. We had a few batches of some that were either too bland, too crunchy or too soft.
2) Get help – If you have a family you’re cooking for, I strongly suggest letting them know you’re going to try something new. Perhaps you can bring it up at dinner or hold a family meeting. Invite them to help you, but don’t get stuck if no one is interested. You can do this. Another place
to look for support and inspiration is from food blogs or recipe type forums to see how others experimented with a recipe or how they overcame a problem.
For Vegan/Vegetarian recipes I really like: www.Vegweb.com
Websites that host “recipe swaps” or “rounds” are a lot of fun if you’d like to discover individual bloggers like mine. I really like these ones:
3) Host a social meal – It might sound daunting, but it can be a lot of fun. You can do a traditional potluck with the theme of “cooked from scratch” or try something like a “soup swap” where folks bring a set number of soups to trade. Or try something totally new – the only limitation here is your imagination.
Last year for my birthday, we had friends come over with instructions to bring two things from the Farmer’s Market or our beloved Seattle’s Pike Place Market. We didn’t plan ahead for types of foods, just that everyone needed to bring two things. I was a little bit nervous that we’d end up with a bunch of bread and apricots, and agreed with my husband that our plan B could be to order Pizza. But, we never needed our plan B.
The experiment was an exciting, fun, delicious success!
Once everyone had arrived, we laid all the food out, made a list, then brainstormed what to create from it all. We then divided and conquered the prepping and cooking. Our menu included: Grilled Salmon, Spinach-Raspberry Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette and Olive Oil, Pesto Pasta with Bacon bits, Chicken Sausage, Grilled Zucchini and Apricots (glazed with Honey), Bacon (not my personal favorite but did add flavor to the pasta and Spinach salad), Sliced Rainbow Carrots, Celery and Cucumber for munching, Rye Sourdough Bread and hard Apple Cider. We finished the meal off with Chocolate Sponge Cake, sliced Strawberries and Vanilla Ice Cream (not made from scratch, but made from only 5 real ingredients).
I want to host more of these Farmer’s Market Meals. We were able to host 10 people and our 2 little kids only because we ate outdoors. Our home will only fit about 6-8 adults if eating and cooking inside.
Okay, now go out there and have fun!
p.s. I’m still learning. I’d love to hear about your favorite food blogs or cook books or general words of wisdom.