Day 4 | Start Cooking From Scratch

Welcome to Homesteading Bootcamp!

Today we’re going to shift gears again and talk about a topic that causes a lot of stress for a lot of people – Cooking From Scratch & Meal Planning. 

We know one of the most challenging aspects is trying to figure out what to actually make for dinner. After all, there is nothing worse than suddenly realizing it is quarter after five, the kids are starving, and you have a pantry FULL of food, but absolutely NO idea what to cook!  Add the fact that you are trying to cook from scratch and you are probably completely overwhelmed!!

While there are times when we really enjoy the challenge of creating tasty new recipes using whatever ingredients we have on hand, there are plenty of times when it feels like dinner is more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants kind of show. 

The reality is that there are a lot of different approaches we can take. Depending on your personality, food preferences, and time constraints, some will work better than others. It may take some trial & error to find out what works best for your family, and you may also find that what worked for you at one point isn’t working so well anymore. In that case, don’t be afraid to try something new. 

Before we dive into meal planning let’s chat about what exactly it means to cook a meal from scratch. The core of from scratch cooking is the use of “basic ingredients”. And this means different things to different people, but I’ll make it simple for you: use the least processed and highest quality version of the ingredient that is practical and you can afford.

If a recipe calls for three cups of grated mozzarella, it might be tempting to grab a bag of pre-shredded mozzarella cheese in a brightly colored ziplock bag. It’s convenient and saves you time, right? Well sure, but to make sure the cheese is stable and to keep all those little bits from clumping together into a gross looking lump, they coat the cheese in cellulose or cornstarch. It’s also going to be a less quality product because you’re certainly not going to take premium imported mozzarella, remove much of its moisture content, shred it down, and coat it cellulose. You’ll also get an ingredient that doesn’t taste as good, or melt as well and interact with the recipe as intended, resulting in less than ideal results.

So what does that mean for an aspiring home cook who wants to cook from scratch? For me, it meant changing the way I buy groceries and how I meal prep.  Want to know more about From Scratch Cooking click -HERE.

Cooking from scratch takes time and if you are scrambling to find dinner options then you are most likely going to be overwhelmed.  Which is why I want to encourage you to meal plan!

Approaches to Meal Planning

The “Just Wint It” Approach

If you are goign to take the Just Wing It approach, you can’t be afraid to experiment and improvise. This approach will probably save you the most money since essentially you will be forcing yourself to use exclusively what you have on hand in your stockpile and almost nothing else. We have come up with a lot of delicious stockpile meals this way, but we have also had more than a few flops. there are a few things you can do to make your life easier:

  • Be sure to keep a good supply of basics on hand, such as butter, milk, sour cream, cheese, flour, & olive oil, as well as some onions and garlic. 
  • Keep an ongoing list of dishes that you’ve made that you can refer to when you get stuck- you may not be able to recreate something exactly, but it might get the creative juices flowing. 
  • Don’t always wait until the last minute. It happens, I get it. But once the panic has passed, try to think ahead to the next meal. Is there some frozen meat you can thaw overnight or something you can throw in the crockpot in the morning so it is ready by dinnertime?

Freezer Cooking Approach

Freezer cooking might feel intimidating, but there is a “cheater” method! Over the last couple of years, we’ve put together several different Freezer Meal plans that allow you to whip up ten meals in almost no time at all. All of the recipes use basic, easy-to-find ingredients and allow you to “shop” from your pantry as much as possible. 

It does take a little planning to gear up for a freezer cooking day, but we love the convenience of having so many pre-made meals at our disposal. Here are a few more tips to keep in mind: 

  • If you can, plan your menu & print your list at least a month in advance. Figure out what meals you want to make, then shop the store sales each week to avoid paying too much at the last minute
  • In your regular shopping trips, be sure to continue stocking up. on-sale items when they are at their rock bottom price.
  • Don’t forget to stock up on food storage items when you find them on sale! The cost of things like freezer bags, heavy-duty foil, & baking pans can add up quickly. 

Traditional Meal Planning

It is possible to take a more traditional approach to planning your meals and still save money with coupons, even if the savings are not quite as dramatic.

  • Before you sit down to plan your meals, take a moment to peek in your pantry and refrigerator, and glance over the upcoming sale ads. Are there any meals that come to mind based solely on the contents of your stockpile or upcoming sale ad? Add those to your meal plan first.
  • Try to pick recipes that include a majority of ingredients you already have on hand. The fewer items you have to buy, the more you will save.
  • Be sure when you shop, that you are not only buying the items from your meal plan but also stocking up on any sale items that happen to be at a rock bottom price. This will keep your pantry full, and make it easier to plan your meals next week.

 

We absolutely love using thecookbookapp to organize all of our recipes, make meal plans and even grocery list.  Be sure to check it out!!

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