I’m a food loving gal. I love to cook food, I love to eat food, I love to grow food and I love to preserve food. The only thing I don’t like about food is cleaning up after any of the aforementioned activities!
I like to cook most of our family’s food from scratch. I rarely use “premade” food like frozen dinners, boxed dinner mixes or side dishes, or even much in the way of canned meals.
That’s not to say I’m a fanatic about it. I frequently buy sandwich bread and rolls. I keep instant mashed potatoes and store bought crackers in the cupboard. I stock my deep pantry with Ramen noodles, boxed cake mixes and some of the canned soups and ravioli that we don’t eat on a regular basis but are nice to have on hand “just in case”.
So why? Why do I prefer to cook from scratch?
Cooking from scratch gives me complete control over the ingredients.
Since I’m the one cooking, I get to choose what goes into the dish. I have no need for the “flavor enhancers”, fillers (like cellulose & soy) or preservatives that a mass produced shelf stable item require. My ingredients can a higher quality and much fresher. That usually means they are more nutritious and sometimes even more filling.
Cooking from scratch tastes better.
What is one of the frequent claims that premade food likes to make? “Tastes like homemade!”. I’ll put my homemade chicken pot pie, beef vegetable soup or lasagna up against the premade stuff any day. I can adjust the flavors for our family’s dietary needs and taste preferences. Buddy doesn’t like mushrooms much? Leave them out. Trying to watch our sugar intake? Reduce it. Love the flavor of ginger and lemongrass in chicken soup? Add it in.
Cooking from scratch typically is cheaper than buying a like item, especially when you take quality into account.
Sure if you cook a “gourmet” version of something and then compare it to really inexpensive mass marketed stuff you won’t see a savings. But like for like (remember–if they are using cheap fillers and you are using pure meat, that’s not like for like). Add in additional money saving measures on my ingredients like sale shopping, buying in bulk, growing my own, and purchasing meat by the side or animal and your saving increase even more.
Cooking from scratch effectively uses the items we’ve grown, hunted, foraged, bartered for or preserved.
If you buy a side of beef (or hunt & butcher a deer) but then buy prepackaged dinner entrees, then that meat just sits there in the freezer paid for while you spend additional money on something else. The same goes for spending the time and effort to can, freeze or dehydrate my own vegetables, but then buying store bought frozen vegetable mixes. I’ve already made those other lifestyle choices, and that leads quite naturally into my using the products I’ve created to make my own meals.
Honestly there are only two reasons I can think of NOT to cook from scratch.
#1-If you can’t cook. Cooking is a skill, like any other, and for most things (baking excepted–baking can be more of an art) you just have to follow simple directions. Learn a few vocabulary words, a couple of techniques and become comfortable enough with the process that you can make some additions and substitutions and viola! You are cooking. Today there are so many great website, cookbooks and videos to help you through things for free, and of course many communities have cooking classes available. You probably have a friend or family member who would be happy to cook a few things with you and help you learn as well!
#2-If you don’t have time. Cooking from scratch does take more time than just popping open a box and tossing it in the microwave or oven. I get that. As a matter of fact I get that so much that when I go on trips I leave Yankee Bill those very types of prepackaged meals to feed the kids for that very reason. I also keep a few canned soups and meals in the pantry for days when things have gotten completely out of control for some reason and dinner sneaks up on us. But if time is your main issue, there really are things you can do. Slow cookers are a wonderful–you can put everything together the night before or in the morning and have a scratch meal ready at suppertime. You can build a repertoire of “quick and easy” meals for the busiest nights (meat + gravy + starch is my favorite–like ground beef in gravy over rice). You can make meals ahead “batch” style and then freeze them for your own “prepared meals”. Or you can do your best and mix some prepackaged meals with homemade ones on the weekends.
Do you try to cook from scratch?
Have a question for me in the “Why do you. . . ” series? Just leave it below!