How I Make 90% Of Our Food From Scratch
I’ve always made a lot from scratch, but a few years ago J and I decided that we also wanted to do away with store bought bread products. As the title suggests, we don’t always eat scratch cooking and there are the rare nights where we resort to a box or pre-prepared items because, well, life. But I make a conscious effort to do as much as I can from scratch. This includes any kind of bread product, tortillas, salad dressings, some condiments, some pasta, yogurt, some cheese, and the occasional batch of crackers. When I initially became committed to scratch cooking, it was overwhelming. Unfortunately, I don’t have hours to spend in my kitchen every day. Fairly long workdays and a healthy commute mean that I don’t have large amounts of time to devote to nightly meal prep or breakfast or lunch making. Through trial and error, I learned how to make scratch cooking work. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:
- Planning ahead is key to being able to pull off scratch cooking. There is no way that I could get through an entire week of eating and feeding both of us without the help of pre-made and packaged items if I didn’t plan ahead. I menu plan almost every Saturday morning and don’t grocery shop until after I’ve done a scan of the cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what I need to buy in order to make sure we don’t resort to eating out because deciding what’s for dinner after a long day is too overwhelming.
- Meal planning’s twin is meal prep. If there is one key to being able to successfully make a majority of the meals your family eats from scratch, this is it. Once I’ve planned a menu and shopped, I break down the menu by preparation steps and decide what I need to do over the weekend versus what I can do the day of. This includes things like washing and chopping veggies, making any yeasted bread products that need time to rise and bake, making any salad dressings or marinades that can be made ahead of time, pre-packing lunches (usually salads with some kind of protein), pre-making pasta, etc. This could also include pre-cooking meat on the rare occasion that it can work for the recipe.
- Leftovers are king (or queen). I try to make at least one meal a week that we can eat twice. This might not be the most exciting way to approach things, but it means that we eat healthier that night than we would if we were relying on something frozen or pre-made. Leftovers also make great lunches when I get tired of salads.
- The freezer will become your new best friend. There are so many things that can be made ahead of time and frozen. From pizza crust and bread to dump and heat crock pot meals. Embrace prepping on a larger scale and freeze what you can. I always make a big batch of mirepoux and chicken stock and freeze them in smaller bags at the beginning of winter so pulling a soup together at the last minute is a snap. I also double or triple my pizza crust recipe and freeze the leftovers, so pizza is only a thawed crust away.
- Recipe fatigue is real, so always be prepared with some good ideas. Luckily, the internet has made it much easier to find new meal ideas, but I keep a running list of our favorites in Google docs so when we’re both stuck for ideas, we have a list of tried and true favorites at the ready.
- Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. I’m a perfectionists and to all my fellow perfectionistas in arms out there – I get it, I really do. Sometimes it’s so hard to realize that while 90% isn’t 100%, it’s also better than whatever is less than 90%. There are always going to be those nights when prep didn’t happen and take-out becomes the best option or when lunches didn’t get pre-packed and early meetings mean I’m going out for lunch that day. That’s ok. Life happens. Some scratch cooking is better than no scratch cooking.