“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?!
- March 18 - Live-blog day, in which all 4 of us live-blog a real day in our home. Find out what we really do all day. It’s our own reality show, just for you. Who needs TV?
- March 25 – Outings with only little ones. Mom’s rules of order, and how notto become the poster family for birth control.
- April 1 - A baker’s dozen for managing the food budget: budgeting in the kitchen to feed a crowd.
- April 8 – Menu planning, how we plan (or don’t plan) to feed our hungry crewmates.