Cooking from scratch: 4 Moms 35 Kids

“Cooking from scratch, and how we get it all done.”  That was supposed to be today’s topic, but I think it sounds like 2 entirely different genres.  One is non-fiction.  We actually do it in real life.  The other is a dream (or nightmare) most sane moms give up on about 6 weeks after birthing their first child.  I think we both know which is which.

Call it intuition, but I have a sneaking suspicion that my 3 compadres don’t claim to get it all done either.  I think we all breathe a sigh of relief each Thursday when we read each others’ posts and see how alike we actually are.  Maybe we’re all secretly afraid that we have a supermom in our midst who is going to make us look bad.  Or maybe I should speak for myself and stop projecting my own fears onto others around me.  Another possibility: maybe I should remember to write these posts earlier in the day so I don’t say silly things and wind up sounding punch-drunk.

My 3 Amigas who cook from scratch:

What we cook from scratch:

We cook from scratch both to save money and to keep our diet a bit healthier.  This doesn’t mean we don’t use white flour or white sugar, but it does mean that I can pronounce the names of the ingredients in my recipes.

As I mentioned in an earlier 4 Moms post, cooking from scratch also simplifies my grocery shopping since I just need to keep the staples well stocked instead of buying and storing each prepackaged item separately.

What follows is a brief and incomplete list of items that we often or always make from scratch rather than buying prepared.

  • Bread – Usually whole wheat, though we also enjoy Challah Braids.   We make our wheat bread 3 loaves at a time in a big mixer, so it’s a relatively quick job twice a week – or less, if we eat a lot of tortillas.  This is San Antonio, after all.
  • Biscuits – The dough lumps in a cardboard tube sometimes satisfy a certain craving for junk food and adventure, but they bear very little resemblance to the real thing, which is surprisingly quick and easy to whip up.
  • Pancakes – My girls laugh at the thought of buying pancake mix.  Is it really so hard to measure and stir flour, salt, baking powder and sugar?  The 8yo has been making pancakes from scratch since she was 6.
  • Other quick breads – Muffins, cornbread, and other quick (non-yeast) breads are so easy to make from scratch!
  • Pizza – Again, we do buy freezer pizzas once in a great while but we just don’t consider those to be “real” pizza.  We love our homemade version and make it without fail every Friday.
  • Enchilada sauce – My sister-in-law’s recipe, roughly.  Her recipes only exist in rough form.
  • Refried beans – A staple here, and so easy to make from scratch.  Just cook ’em good and soft in the crock pot, then smush with some of the cooking liquid and desired seasonings.  No need to really fry them again as the name would suggest.
  • Macaroni and cheese –  My older cooks have discovered the charm and simplicity of homemade mac-n-cheese.  I don’t think we’ll ever go back to that fakey-orange powder from the box.  Ugh.
  • Pudding – A bit time-consuming, but when you’ve had this from scratch a few times, the instant boxed variety will stop tasting like real food.  Bonus: you can control the level of sweetness.  With less sugar and some extra eggs, pudding can be a nutritious breakfast.
  • Cocoa – It’s no trouble at all to mix up a mug or a whole pot from scratch.  Since there’s only a few ingredients we often don’t bother with a mix, just measuring out the ingredients as we need them.  Why pay for a premade mix that’s far too sweet and costs two or three times as much?
  • Any rice/potato/pasta dish –  Do you have any idea how many of those little packages it would take to feed us?
  • Cake – The texture of a homemade cake is different, but we’ve come to appreciate this difference as the taste of real food.
  • Brownies –  Although I admit the boxed varieties can be pretty good, I love my recipe and have no desire to cook from a box of powder.
  • Cookies – Like pizza, we buy packaged cookies once in a long time, but we just don’t consider them to be real cookies.  Real ones are mixed in a bowl, finished in the oven, and eaten while still warm.
  • Sausage – Since we perfected our seasoning, I can hardly bear the thought of going back to the store-bought tubes of breakfast sausage.  Even the good brands now seem second-best, and the cheap brands are less appealing than ever.
  • Salad dressing – Homemade salad dressings are new to us, but surprisingly easy, cheap, and another good way to get rid of long lists of unpronounceable ingredients.
  • Rice, oats, iced tea – What do these have in common?  Instant or quick varieties of each are available and widely used.  We just make them the old-fashioned way.  It’s not really harder to cook oats for 5-10 minutes than 1 or 3 minutes.
  • Granola – This is our new substitute for our summertime breakfast cereal habit.  Easy, flexible, nutritious and delicious!  btw, thanks to all our readers who contributed granola recipes and tips in the comments on that post.  We’re enjoying new variations of granola every time we make it!

I’m sure I’ve forgotten plenty of foods that could go on the list; the more we cook from scratch, the more deeply ingrained the habit becomes and we forget that many people buy a mix for the recipe that we make from memory.

There are other items that I would love to add to my list this year:

  • Tortillas – We have a small press, but the results just aren’t thin or big enough to wrap around a significant amount of filling.  If we want to eat homemade tortillas, we’ll have to resign ourselves to rolling them by hand.  Did I mention we eat a LOT of tortillas?  They’re cheap, fresh and plentiful here.  It’s hard to get motivated to do these at home.  Can you hear me rationalizing and complaining already?  Not a good sign.
  • Salad dressing – I would like to phase out the store-bought varieties entirely.
  • Mayonnaise – I may have an uprising on my hands if I get pushy about this one, but we always seem to run out of mayo at the worst times.  It would be nice to be able to whip up a batch rather than add a $3 jar of greasy goop to the grocery list.
  • Cream soups – We have nearly quit buying and using these already in favor of simple white sauce, but I would like to make it official.
  • Pancake syrup – just because.  Why buy it when we can make it with ingredients we already keep on hand?
  • Pasta – I have no illusions about making all of our pasta from scratch, but would like to do some. Lasagne noodles would be a good place to start since they’re so big.  We wouldn’t have to make 800 for a single meal, like little egg noodles or spaghetti.
  • Spaghetti sauce – I assume it’s cheaper to make this from canned tomato paste rather than buying the premade sauce?  I also like the idea of knowing and controlling my ingredients.  We might try this soon since we use spaghetti sauce on our pizza every week.

What’s on your list?  What do you hope to add to your list this year?  Do you have a favorite recipe to contribute to my wishlist for this year?

Upcoming topics for 4 Moms 35 Kids

  • April 22 Recipe swap – We’ll all post a couple of our favorite, budget friendly, feed a crowd recipes and a Mr. Linky so that readers can participate by contributing their own recipes.  When you share your link on one of our blogs, it will show up on all 4!  How fun is that?!

Past topics:


  1. Hi there! Love your blog, and I’m so glad I found it :) I always make our food from scratch, to control the ingredients, as much as to afford it. I do make our spaghetti/pizza/pasta sauce, as well as ketchup, tortillas (whole-wheat), pancake syrup, mayonnaise, and cream soups – though we don’t use those very much – hubby just isn’t a “casserole” kind of guy…

    I look forward to reading more and more of your blog, as I find the time :)

  2. Thanks for a great post. I subscribe to your “Frugal Hacks” blog but I think this is the first time I’ve visited your personal website…

    I really admire you and all the things you make from scratch, especially since you live in the “land of plenty.” I am a missionary wife and live overseas, in an area where we can get little to no convenience foods, so I make most of my food from scratch out of necessity. We’re back in the States on furlough right now, and I’m enjoying the convenience foods and eating out while they’re available, but I agree with so many of your comments – why buy many of these “convenience” foods when they’re just as easy to make from scratch? I remember commenting to my husband once, as I was making dinner rolls that if I added up all the time it took me to make the yeast rolls from scratch, I could hardly save time by jumping in the car and driving to the store to buy them, had we been back in the States. Of course, the time it takes to make yeast bread is spread out in little chunks, not all together, but it just is surprising to think about how many times we think we’re saving time, and really we’re not saving any time OR money!

    • Junglewife,
      Thanks for visiting and taking time to introduce yourself. I agree that convenience foods don’t always save time. We may live in “the land of plenty” but we’re 30 minutes from the nearest grocery store, so I have to plan ahead anyway. I find it’s easier and more convenient to buy and store basic ingredients than to find room on my list and in my pantry for a lot of convenience foods. Convenience foods just aren’t all that convenient for us!

  3. Jacqueline says:

    We’ve added tortillas to the “homemade” vs. “premade” list in the last couple years. We’re hispanic and so are most our friends, so I can say these tips are the real deal 😉
    Just remember corn can’t be rolled and flour can’t be pressed. A couple tips: 3 parts Maseca to 1 1/2 to 2 parts wheat (or white) flour mixed with warm water until soft but able to be formed into flat balls make very manageable, very delicious corn tortillas (pressed between two pieces of plastic, grocery bags work the best, even though that is arguably not food safe).
    For flour tortillas I use 2 c flour, 1/2 t salt, 2 T- 1/4 c butter (I take it right out of the fridge and use a box grater), 1/2 t baking powder and 1/2-3/4 c warm (not hot) water. If you grate the butter as suggested, you can use the dough hook on a mixer for these. it is MUCH easier (and faster) if you let the dough rest 10 minutes after kneading and 10 minutes after forming into balls. Use plenty of flour and remember they’ll shrink when they hit the hot pan, so roll accordingly. These are great thick or thin, so either is fine.
    For both corn and flour, place tortillas on a hot griddle and flip once (corn sometimes, 1 extra time). Flip corn when the dough turns sort of grey; flip flour when there are plenty of bubbles. Take either from the griddle to several layers of folded kitchen towels. Flour tortillas benefit from the extra steam provided by placing the towels in a plastic bag. Hope this helps…¡buen provecho!

  4. Just tonight I had planned on making spaghetti with meat sauce only to realize that I was completely out of store-bought spaghetti sauce! I’m not very good at improvising, but I figured I had everything on had I would need so I set out to make my own and my husband said he won’t accept store-bought anymore…uh oh :)

    Anyway, I just added 2 large cans on tomato sauce, 1 small can of tomato paste, oregano, italian seasoning, sea salt, garlic powder (was out of fresh garlic), and dried minced onion (was amazingly out of fresh also). It was a tad on the sweet side, but I think with fresh garlic and onion it would have been perfect! If you like chunky sauce you could also add crushed/diced/fresh tomatoes.

    All of you moms put me to shame on how much you make from scratch, but that is my biggest point to work on this year! Hopefully by the end of the year I will be consistently making our own bread, cream sauces, spaghetti sauce, and refried beans. At least that is what I tell myself right now. 😉

  5. Hi, Kim.

    Very good practical post. We have learned to do most of these “from scratch” items fairly consistently by adding a few skills here and there.

    I have tried to encourage other moms that “you too can do this!” and realized that what we are really talking about is gradual lifestyle changes. Babysteps are definitely the way to go – otherwise it is easy to become overwhelmed (especially for perfectionists!)

    Wonderful wonderful blog!

    Beth Discher
    –Bonnie’s daughter
    (who just moved from a 1000 sq ft house w/ a family of 10 to a much larger one and is loving the extra room but knows we can be reeeely creative when we have to be!)

    • Beth,
      It’s nice to meet you. 10 in 1000 sq ft? Wow! We should swap ideas someday! We hope to have more room someday soon, but in meantime there’s a certain amount of freedom and a sense of accomplishment in knowing that we can live well in so little space.
      I loved meeting your parents and family. Have they decided if/where they’ll be moving?

  6. Jamie-
    An old-fashioned wooden drying rack works great! They are generally available at Walmart and the like for $10-20. I have only made pasta a couple times and have some durum wheat berries on order to try my hand at whole wheat pasta. Looking forward to that adventure but usually I just buy pasta when I have a hankering for it.

  7. This sounds like the battle of the maple syrups.
    Our favorite syrup: brown sugar, water, butter and a touch of vanilla.
    WHERE do you put all the homemade pasta that is supposed to dry do you: stick it to the kitchen backsplash? Tell your children to stand with their arms outstretched and hang it off of them? Hang it on the back of your diningroom chairs? HELP

  8. Margaret says:

    That’s all good.

    However, while fake-maple syrup is totally easy to make, we much prefer to splurge on real maple syrup, which you can’t make at home unless you have sapping trees. 😉

  9. faith marandola says:

    I have the solution to your desire to make pasta….I married an italian, who happens to love his pasta….i started with a simple hand crank that i bought at the outlet kitchen store. Pasta dough is only, flour, eggs, olive oil, and water….super simple. the pasta roller does all the work, and the difference between homemade and store bought is night and day! you can customize your pasta when you make it homemade, we like basil garlic pasta. :) If lasagna is your pleasure, that is the easiest to make with the pasta roller. now, what the cookbooks wont tell you, is…if you use whole wheat flour with pasta, just increase the water a bit. And, my solution for making other forms and shapes of pasta, is a $5 pasta maker, bought at a yardsale. It has dyes to create other shapes. you just put the ingredients in, and it does it’s thing! so, both are super easy. its all a matter of what you have in your kitchen really!

  10. Regards to the mayo recipe by Kelly Schoolfield up there…That looks to be the same one I use and it is mistake free. It has never failed.
    I am looking forward to the enchilada sauce recipe you will be sharing with us next week.

  11. I second what Amanda B said… *real* maple syrup is syrup! We buy ours in the largest container we can (usually from the Amish). Real maple syrup is pricey, very pricey, but it does not take as much to sweeten your pancakes. We use ours very judiciously.

    Bethany W in mid-MO

  12. Yes, please post the enchilada sauce recipe.

    • I’ll be sure to include the recipe for enchilada sauce next Thursday when we do our recipe swap. Remember to come back and link up your own recipe – when you do it on any one of our blogs, it will show up on all 4!

  13. Might I request that enchilada sauce recipe. I never buy enchilada sauce, but every time I want to make some from scratch, the recipe starts “Find can opener…”

  14. We love using our bread machine to make homemade bread but I can’t figure out how to get the right size slices for sandwiches. Nothing like trying to eat a PB&J that has super thick bread or really thin slices with holes in them. Any tips for making nice bread slices from homemade bread?

    • Janelle,
      Is the shape of the loaf the problem, or do you have trouble slicing evenly? It does take some practice, but gets easier as you go. You can buy a guide that helps you slice perfectly; they’re about $10 new but I often see them at thrift stores.
      If it’s the size and shape of the loaf your bread machine makes, you might want to use the machine to mix your dough then bake the loaf in your oven in a regular loaf pan.
      We use a big mixer to mix a batch of dough so we can cook 3 loaves at a time in the oven.

  15. correction above…family of 5. (yes, I am starting to lose track :)

  16. I’m thrilled that this was the topic for today! Just this morning I got back from my first ever cooking-from-scratch-and-nothing-else shopping trip when I saw this! Before I decided to start cooking this way a few weeks ago, I was trying to make a $300/2weeks grocery budget stretch for a family of 4 (with 2 in diapers, and 1 on infant formula). I never could seem to make the money go far enough. But today….I bought everything I needed to cook from scratch and I have $75 left over!! And that included the formula and diapers! I appreciate all the ideas here…thanks!

  17. Jocelyn – Thanks for your honey mustard recipe! I told my husband I wasn’t buying pre-made mustard for awhile, since I have vinegar and ground mustard and wanted to at least try making it.

  18. Okay, NICKI, I want your tortilla recipe. Please? I have yet to find a terrific homemade tortilla recipe.
    We, too, can a LOT of food, including spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce. We also can plain ol’ boneless skinless chicken breasts, when we can get a screamin’ deal on ’em. (We enjoy it much better than cooking and freezing chicken ahead, and it doesn’t take up freezer space.) It’s so tender and handy to put into ANY chicken dish (hotdishes, soups, etc.)
    Blessings! You’re doing the Lord’s work, Kim. :)
    Sheila, Mom 2 Six

  19. I don’t know about getting it all done, but some days I’d be thrilled to get some of it done!

    I think cooking from scratch benefits from a lot of repetition. Anything can be hard if you don’t do it enough to be habit and done nearly by memory.

    Things I do from scratch (even with a newborn and 2 littles); bread, biscuits (so easy), pancakes, pizza, cream soup/white sauce/cheese sauce, cookies, granola, other baked goods, potato/pasta/rice dishes. I love cooking in the crockpot too.

    I’d love to do tortillas too, but flour ones do need to be rolled out. I’m toying with the idea of a tortilla party with a few friends in the home commercial kitchen a friend has. We’ve already had a few bread baking days together- bread is easy, but- baking 16 loaves in one batch is awesome!

    For spaghetti/pizza sauce, I just dress up a basic small can of walmart’s GV tomato sauce with italian spices, onion/onion powder, garlic, and a teaspoon or two of brown sugar which cuts the acidity. Sometimes I add peppers or other veggies.

    My 3 and 5 year old love to help me bake, especially cookies and granola–we need to do more granola or I’ll get as big as a house.

  20. Andrea Lewis says:

    Great post, We are having fish and chips, I bought the fish already prepared, but we are having homemade fries, I like to make our tarter sauce from mayo and relish, I have made mayo in the past but I must have lost the recipe, I made coleslaw and carrot sticks to go with supper, I also liked the post because I have 3 young children and they like to help me, and I needed to be reminded that they will one day be more of a help, while now they tend to slow me down when I am trying to ” get it all done” I have not had it all done since the youngest was born, the work tends to pile up, and I just want to spend more time holding him.

  21. My recipe for homemade Mac-n-Cheese:

    2 T. butter (or more if you like)
    2 T. flour
    1 c. milk (or cream if you like it really creamy)
    1 T. chives
    salt/pepper to taste, garlic powder or onion powder to taste
    2 c. shredded cheese (sharp cheddar works best, but I also add some mozzarella, parmesan, whatever’s around)

    Melt the butter, mix in flour and cook until bubbly. Slowly stir in milk and cook until it becomes creamy. Add cheese and stir until melted. Pour over cooked macaroni. The chives are a must, the other seasonings are optional.

    Just found your blog today, loving it, thank you so much.

  22. Hey- Thanks for the sausage recipe. We make our own pork and venison sausage, but with a spice mix from the Sausage Guy in Buffalo, NY. His mix is a bit too salty though, so I have been looking for a good recipe.
    In exchange, I would like to share my honey mustard recipe. So easy, so delicious.
    1/4 C olive oil, 1/4 C lemon juice, 1/4 C honey, 1/4 C mustard, 1 teaspoon garlic powder (or 1 clove garlic, minced) salt to taste. I measure and mix (by shaking) in a wide mouth pint jar.

  23. Funny the things that seem like no-brainers to some of us are the very things that others will never give up buying pre-made, and vice-versa. We ate a lot of stuff from boxes and cans growing up but I don’t think I have ever eaten spaghetti sauce from a jar, except at someone else’s house. I make it differently from how my mom always did, with more seasonings, but she makes it differently now too :)

    The pancake syrup really is easy. My husband was just telling me 2 days ago (while we were on the phone and he was buying maple flavoring for me) how much he likes the idea of making syrup. The consistency really is more like real maple syrup, but my kids have totally gotten over the goopy thick syrup from the store (and it didn’t take long at all!) I use a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water with 1/4 tsp of maple flavoring for each cup of water. I put the sugar and water in a pot and bring almost to a boil, stirring sometimes and letting the sugar completely dissolve. Then I put the lid on for 2-3 minutes while it boils/simmers which seems to keep it from crystallizing around the edges in the fridge. After it’s cooked for a few minutes I turn off the heat and add the flavoring. Some people have 6 or more ingredients in a syrup recipe but I am not trying to copy Mrs. Butterface. I also am MUCH more aware of how much sugar is in syrup when I have to measure and add it myself- yikes! Which means we use less. Win-win! Even if we’re out of syrup, I can easily whip up a batch while I make pancakes or waffles. I store it in a jar in the fridge and heat it in a pot of simmering water while everything else cooks. Then I pour it into a special little pitcher thing with its own plate underneath to catch the drips. Feels so much nicer than a big squeezie bottle.

    Also, regarding mayo, if you add a couple tablespoons of whey to the recipe and then let it sit on the counter for about 6-8 hours after you make it it will keep for weeks on end in the fridge. I have been known to make it just before we eat it (I leave out the whey then) but if I am on the ball (hahahahaha) I make it with whey and let it lacto-ferment and then I can eat it with impunity for weeks on end.

    Your post (once again) has inspired me to get my kids more involved in “my” chores. My oldest 2 are almost 9 and newly 7 but I know if I don’t teach them now they’ll never learn. At the moment they still want to. Must seize the moment!!

  24. Kim,
    You have your own egg source. Go for it with the homemade mayo! Also I make my spag. sauce from canned, unsweetened tomato sauce. The can plus a tablespoon of sugar and spices/salt/pepper to taste and I have a quick, yummy, from scratch sauce. Right now I buy my tomato sauce in bulk from Costco but I hope to increase my homegrown tomato crop to can my own.
    I love this series and look forward to Thursdays!

  25. Kelly Schoolfield says:

    LOVE your blog! I like to make things from scratch as much as possible too. I have 2 recipes to add for your “would like to make” list:

    EASY “condensed soup” recipe: (we use this ALL the time)
    1/2 cups of Chicken Broth
    (its even tastier/healthier/cheaper if you use some of your own broth from cooking chicken)
    1/2 t. poultry seasoning or to taste
    1/2 t. onion powder or use a little bit of mince onion
    1/2 t. garlic powder or a clove or 2 of minced garlic
    1/4 t. salt or to taste
    1/8 t. pepper or to taste
    1/4 t. parsley or any herb you prefer
    dash of paprika (opt.)
    1 1/2 cups of milk
    (I use powdered milk to save even more money)
    3/4 cup flour
    *if making a mushroom or celery might can omit poultry seasoning or not and add minced pieces to the boiling broth
    In medium saucepan bring to boil chicken broth, 1/2 c. milk, and the seasonings for a minute or two (longer if using fresh ingredients).
    In a bowl whisk together the remaining milk and flour Add to boiling mixture and continue whisking briskly until mixture boils and thickens.
    *If using chicken bouillon and water for your broth, you may want to add a little extra seasonings, such as lemon pepper, extra garlic, or seasoned salt, and maybe even bits of chicken.
    Use in any recipe that calls for can of condensed soup. This makes about 2 cans worth

    MAYO: It is EASY to make and taste soooooo good, but only draw back is raw eggs (but with your chickens you are fine!) AND it doesn’t keep well, you will have to make regularly, but if your family eats mayo often I guess that isn’t a problem…we don’t eat alot of mayo.
    1 egg or egg yolk
    Dash of cayenne opt.
    1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
    salt and pepper to taste
    1 Tb. lemon juice, fresh is best tasting here, or white wine or vinegar mixed with half water.
    1 cup extra virgin olive oil or canola or any neutral oil or combination…more if needed
    Combine the egg, cayenne, mustard, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup oil in the container of a blender or food processor; turn machine on and with it running add the oil in a thin steady stream. After adding about half the oil the mixture will thicken and you can add the rest of oil a bit quicker. You can add up to 1 1/2 cups of oil and still have a pleasant yellow or pale yellow mayonnaise. If it is thicker than you like add a little bit of warm water with the machine still running or stir in a little cream or sour cream by hand. Serve right away or store in fridge up to a week. You can add lots of things to this to make garlicky or herby or even a tartar sauce.

  26. Jennifer says:

    HA! I just read the comment before mine… same recipe! I concur: AMAZING!

  27. Jennifer says:

    We double this recipe
    making multiple meals out of the results: spaghetti, pizza, chicken parm. I love it especially in the summer b/c it’s not too heavy AND it’s so easy and quick. Hope you enjoy!
    I love your blog btw! I’ve been reading silently for a few weeks, appreciating the life you and your family live and share here!

  28. Homemade syrup is easy. It is runny compared to the store bought but my family likes it just fine. I make a bunch and keep it it the fridge. I only wish I could find the maple flavouring in HUGE bottles!

    Spaghetti sauce-I am going to try and can my own this year. We make it from scratch but it would be nice if I could pop a can when I am in a hurry.

    -6lb 6oz (#10 can from sams) tomatoes (I have used whole, diced and crushed)
    -2 sticks and 2T. butter
    -3 1/2 onions cut in half
    put it all in a pot, let is simmer for awhile (I just let it go for the after noon but I think the directions say to cook it for like 20min)
    -take onions out when it is done

    This sounds plain but let me tell you it is amazing and SUPER easy! I plan on using tomatoes from our garden this year to make it, that should be ridiculous! My hubs does love his meat but he has been fine eating this without meat! That says something for the taste:)

  29. Hi Kim,
    We love the Buttermilk recipe from the Better Home and Gardens cookbook. It is now my 12 yo daughters job to make a quadruple batch every other week. We put it on everything! We also substitute plain organic yogurt instead of buttermilk. Also, I am a fan of the huge can of plain sauce from Sams Club. I throw the sauce in my crock pot (with or without ground beef) along with some olive oil, lots of chopped garlic, oregano, basil, and a bit of garlic salt. Everyone loves it and it gives me a bit of extra sauce for making pizza or smothering homemade bread (that constitutes a meal in itself!). I love your comment about “pancake mix.” We feel the same way…you need a box mix for that? huh?! I have to get thinking on the next thing that people will buy a box mix for…someone is making some great money!

  30. ooh. can you share that pudding recipe?? please???

  31. Spaghetti Sauce recipe that I have evolved over the years.
    2 pounds lean ground turkey(sausage would be great here too) browned in large skillet in sm amount olive oil
    add 1 each chopped large onion and green pepper diced
    4 or to taste cloves garlic minced
    salt and pepper to taste…cook until veggies are soft.
    add 1 can rotel, 3-4 cans diced tomatoes,1 t. dried basil or herb of your choice to taste, 1 cup finely grated carrot. simmer 30 minutes for a fresh tomato flavor or all day for jar sauce texture.( may need to add up to 1 tbsp sugar near the end. )

  32. I pretty much make most of the things on your list from scratch, except for those things that we don’t eat (no sausage, no pudding).

    We do bread, yogurt, biscuits, mac and cheese, on occasion bagels and pretzels, granola bars, granola, pizza, brownies, cookies, cakes, muffins, pizza/spaghetti sauce, as well as a few others that I’m sure I’m forgetting. We also try to soak as many grains as possible to make them easier to digest, so that takes some planning ahead, but isn’t at all difficult.

    These things have certainly come one at a time, and I’m always adding more. By no means did I just decide one day to make everything from scratch; that would be overwhelming!

    My goals for the future include tortillas, maybe cheese (maybe), pasta (probably not all the time), mustard, and pickles.

  33. I just printed out this mayo recipe to try.. They say it tastes like Hellman’s/Best Foods, which is one of our last “fake foods” to be rid of. I’d love to know what you think if you get around to trying it before we do!

    If you need motivation for the syrup-switch, read this. Yikes.

    Thanks for the great post!

  34. If you are interested in making pasta, you should check out this blog Hunter Angler Gardner. This guy makes pasta from literally just about everything. The possibilites for variety alone just might get your kids interested in a new hobby – you do have acorns, right?

  35. Next project to add to your “to do this year” (please to do this with pictures and a blog post): make your own marshmallows!

    (oh, you can make oodles of really cool stuff yourself. I was delighted to see this morning that our oats are coming up through the earth! This will take our home made rolled oats to a new level!)

  36. Um…there is only one ingredient in real syrup and you can’t make it from scratch without a tree. Other than that, great write up.

    • Amanda,
      I wasn’t referring to real maple syrup, but the cheap stuff we buy in a plastic bottle. We can make cheaper and better ourselves, with cane sugar instead of corn syrup. I prefer the real maple myself, but the kids don’t properly appreciate it and I can’t bring myself to force it upon them when it’s so expensive.

  37. It helps to have, perhaps, a particular child responsible for one thing in particular. For instance, my 11 year old son makes all of the homemade mayonnaise. It is easy to make in a blender and always turns out. He has other chores and duties and helps with other cooking jobs but he is solely responsible for mayo. As is my daughter. Her job is salad dressings. She knows whenever we need a dressing-vinegar based or creamy-she will make it.
    So one might designate the quick bread baker, the ground beef -sauce maker, the granola preparer, the cookie maker, etc. However it would make sense in your own home. It helps everyone know what they are supposed to be doing, it makes me sort it out easier in my head, and we all are busy helping to prepare meals.

  38. I would love to do bread and now feel silly as we started dong pancakes(bought the mixes in the past). Homemade sauce is something I did grow up w/ being that my Mom is 1/2 Italian : )
    I don’t know how to make much from scratch, but was raised in s single parent home so it’s new to me. WE do make cookies, cinnamon rolls, have made pizza(cheated as the dough was a mix, haha), pies. Recently tried Chicken Pot pie and it was awesome! Have also made applesauce and homemade baby foods, On my list to try is bread, bagels, oatmeal. Yes I have bought the packets and yes I know it’s a ripoff…haha

  39. Love your list, and we make some of those same things. I don’t even LIKE storebought tortillas since I learned to make my own. Same for biscuits. The problem with tortillas is that we like them so much that we eat them as they come off the griddle, and then there aren’t any left for dinner. : )

    We are coming to San Antonio next month and really looking forward to it! 2nd honeymoon with the kids!

  40. I wonder how you make your mac & cheese? I would love to find a creamy not dried out tasting recipe so I didn’t have to buy the blue boxes with orange powder.

    Right now the only things I make from scratch are breads, quick breads, chicken nuggets and pizza(on occasion). I grew up with lots of from scratch items but my hubby grew up with lots of convenience items so I have tried to mesh the two together. Recently due to hubby’s health issues, I have been working at expanding the from scratch category and decreasing the convenience. This has been a slow process!

    If you are looking for a yummy, easy spaghetti sauce recipe from scratch, I have a great one on my blog that was given to me by my mom. :) Growing up we used it in all of our italian style dishes. :) We did fresh tomatoes from the garden most of the time when we would cook the sauce up. :) here is a link to the recipe…

  41. Oops, I forgot to add that there is 1 tsp of cumin in the bean base, and the Cajun seasoning is only 1 tsp. Serves me right for trying to type it up from memory!

  42. My mom never taught how to cook, my MIL however is an AMAZING cook who has a plethora of recipes, so between her and the website (love her site!!!!) I thought I had this cooking from scratch thing down….until I read your list, LOL.

    Way to go, I agree, I think you are supermom as well :)

  43. I don’t know why I thought of this but I think it’s important to encourage those new to cooking from scratch to take baby steps. Pick one thing (I think the Common Room mentioned this idea briefly.) The supermom syndrome can be paralyzing for some mom’s (like me :) and so encouraging them to pick one thing may be just what they need to realize that cooking from scratch really isn’t so hard. I finally picked one thing and it lead to being able to do much more.

    We also have to help other recognize that some things will work for one family that don’t for another. We can’t do alot of dairy from scratch until summer because my 3 yod is allergic to cow’s milk. I have to wait for my local farmer to have goat’s milk. So we don’t do alot of dairy (like yogurt & and such) from scratch. If I cook with it it doesn’t bother him but I still try to limit it. So buying a small quart of buttermilk is actually better for us than for me to try and maintain cultures and such (I know, I’ve tried.)

    Kim, this was great. These were just a couple of things I thought of as I read all the posts. I am one of those women that thinks I can do everything and then get overwhelmed when I realize that I can’t. It causes me give up on alot of really simple things. I have had to learn to take it all one step at a time. I guess I just wanted to offer a comment that would encourage mom’s new to all this that it can be done but it doesn’t have to be done all at one time. And those with little ones, it’s great to have them in the kitchen but sometimes that is limiting in what you can do. I can do so much more now that my Bigs are getting older. I helps to have a born chef in the family. :) But I just realized, having the little ones in the kitchen might actually help someone take those baby steps. There is only so much that can be done when small children are helping you.

    I am loving this series. It’s inspiring me to post a few things myself. I hope you don’t mind me adding my thoughts here.

    God bless.

    • Karen,
      You’re absolutely right about taking it one step at a time! I’m no supermom, and I certainly don’t do all the cooking alone. I didn’t cook nearly as much from scratch when I was surrounded by small people, but now I’ve reached a season in life where we can do more of this as a family and we enjoy it.
      I think the Headmistress does far more from scratch than we do, but they’ve had older children for longer, and I expect our list to continue to grow over the upcoming years.
      I hope my list is encouraging to other moms, not intimidating. I didn’t mean for it to sound as though nobody should ever buy the items that we make from scratch. (Does it sound that way?) We’ve added to it bit by bit over the years, and I’m surprised at how many things we don’t even consider buying any more.

  44. I have been making spaghetti and pizza sauce for years. I make a huge batch and bag it for the freezer. Spaghetti is my “fast food”.

    Syrup is easy!! 3 cups of sugar to 1 cup of water, add 1 tsp vanilla and/or maple flavoring and a touch of molasses if you like. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. If you boil too long you will make candy ; ) . We keep leftovers in a canning jar in the fridge and reheat as needed. We’ve been doing this for about 15 years.

    We have an electric tortilla press that the kids love to use. We haven’t figured out how to make them soft and flexible, but use them as flat breads with hummus and tsatziki, raw veggies and a roasted chicken. Delicious!!

    We have also been making salad dressings…vinegrettes and buttermilk dressing. Dh will still pick up a bottle or two of Caesar or bleu cheese when he is in the store though.

  45. Thanks for sharing! I make most things from scratch myself (with a few short cuts here and there) and I can applesauce, salsa, pasta sauce and the base for our rice and beans dish every summer (possibly not this summer b/c of extenuating circs) and I will say that it is VERY hard to get pasta sauce to be the same consistency as the store-bought kinds. My husband likes it but I don’t and I’m considering throwing in the towel on that particular canning venture. Ditto for pasta–way too much work for something that is cheap and easy from the store. Plus I don’t really think there is a big taste difference.

    The bean base, however, is invaluable, as it is a quick meal on those days when everything goes wrong. Plus it means we can eat fresh tomatoes out of season! It is pretty easy to make even at the last minute too.

    For a pot that will serve 5-6 people (obviously, you will want to double or triple this), take 6 c. diced tomatoes (about 8 romas or 5-6 regular size), put in large skillet with olive oil, add 3 cloves minced garlic, one bunch chopped scallions or one yellow onion, handful of chopped cilantro, 1 T. cajun seasoning, plus salt (probably a tsp or so). Simmer until flavors combine (about 15-20 minutes). The short cut from here is to add a big can of beans of choice, but you can also just simmer dry beans in the crock pot or pan until soft (be sure to add salt) and add to tomato base. Serve with seasoned rice (add onion powder and garlic powder to cooking water) or over corn bread. Goes well with avacado.

  46. Wow this post is so similar to one I did yesterday… that I keep adding to because I keep forgetting things that I make from scratch! :) You just reminded me of a few more.

  47. Hi Kim, your list is great! We also try to make most things from scatch, and I think our lives are blessed from it. Just think of all the wonderful skills you kids are learning! Plus health, taste, and savings. As far as spaghetti sauce; we haven’t bought premade for years and I think we have a super quick way to do it. We just cook up ground beef with garlic, Italian herb BLEND (just one jar to get out!), and salt/pepper. If you have time and helpers, add chopped onions, peppers, or mushrooms. When done throw in a few cans of tomato PASTE and enough water to make it the consistancy you like. Heat up and taste/add whatever it’s missing: more salt, a spoon of brown sugar, some olive oil. The whole thing can be done start to finish in the time it takes for the water to boil and pasta to cook! (I’ve tried making our pasta from scratch, but it’s just too much trouble…esp. when Walmart has $1 boxes of whole wheat pasta that is excellent, much better than the white.)

    I really enjoy your blog! Checking it is a fun part of my day!

  48. OK, I found the supermom in our midst. You put me to shame with your list of from scratch cooking.

    I’m not sure that writing the post earlier in the morning is a good idea, unless you mean earlier in the morning on the day before it’s supposed to be posted. (Trust me on this one)


  1. […] 15 – Cooking from Scratch.   What we make from scratch and what we would like to make from […]

  2. […] 15 – Cooking from Scratch.   What we make from scratch and what we would like to make from […]

  3. […] things first.  In my last 4 Moms post, I promised you recipes for some of our cooked-from-scratch foods.  Here are the 3 most-requested. […]

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