Cooking from scratch is it a thing of the past? Every time my family comes to our home or I go to their homes, I try to teach them some new skills by having them cook from scratch.
Most of my daughters cook from scratch even though all four daughters have one or two jobs each. Proud mama here that my daughters know how to work. My one daughter is a single mom and her son enjoys cooking from scratch, I love it!
I have watched a few Netflix documentaries that have opened my eyes to the quality of the food we are able to buy and prepare at home. It’s not good, my friends, to see all the people around us dealing with being overweight and other health issues.
We must grow our own food or buy from local Farmer’s markets, if at all possible. I have watched some documentaries that show how overweight people are in the US. Here’s the deal, when we eat out the food tastes yummy because they sometimes add more butter, salt, and sugar than we may realize on that oversized plate of food. We are what we eat.
Cooking From Scratch Is It A Thing Of The Past?
Dinner Plate Sizes
I love comparing the dinner plate sizes of today to the pioneer plate sizes from yesteryear. They used salad size plates and they worked on farms. It was hard work, and they most often had to stay at it six or seven days a week. Picture eight-inch plates to the 12-inch plates many of us are using today.
I swear, they bring out a platter of food at a local Mexican food restaurant here in Southern Utah for one person. The plates above show approximately the white eight-inch plate sizes from years ago and the cute 12-inch turquoise plate size today.
Cooking From Scratch
Here are my favorite basics you need in order to cook from scratch. Feel free to tell me some items I should add to my list. I’ll provide a little detail about the items on the list in an effort to get your creative juices flowing as you contemplate your personal efforts to cook from scratch.
- White bread flour
- Peanut butter
- Jams and jelly
- Powdered eggs
- Instant milk
- Dehydrated onions
- Lemon juice
- Chicken broth
- Olive oil/Coconut oil
- Dehydrated or fresh potatoes
- Pasta: who loves spaghetti?
- Tomato paste or flakes
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
- Cream of tartar
- Canned meat
- Dehydrated carrots & celery
- Salsa and green chilies
- Fresh produce, when possible
How To Make A Roux
A roux is usually made from flour and fat cooked together as a means to thicken sauces we use when cooking. If you are wondering how to make a roux (pronounced roo), all you do is take a saucepan and use equal amounts of butter and flour. Then add milk according to how thick you want your cream sauce or roux. For instance, melt one cup of butter in the saucepan and then add one cup of flour. Stir quickly with a whisk. Whisk until smooth and add milk slowly. Sometimes it takes 2-quarts of milk or more. You must stir or whisk constantly. I add salt, pepper, and sugar.
Yes, sugar, it makes my sauce taste fabulous! You can cook it for 20-30 minutes to make the flavors stand out and to reach the full flavor and thickening you want. Again, you will add more or less milk depending on how thick you want your roux or creamy white sauce to be.
If you make a roux, you can make creamed chipped beef on toast or biscuits, add cheese to make mac and cheese, or add clams simmered with onions and celery to make clam chowder. The possibilities are endless. You can make just about any creamy soup you can think of with leftovers. love this recipe!
I gave this roux example to show how we all can add flexibility to our meal planning by using ingredients found in most pantries. Every time family members visit our home they ask for creamed chip beef on toast. I know I’ll always have what’s needed for the roux, and away we go in preparing a tasty meal the whole family looks forward to. In case you missed this post, Cream Chipped Beef: Step By Step Pictures
Beans and Lentils
You can buy dried beans in a bag or purchase ready-to-use canned beans. You can make soups, hummus, side dishes, chili, and so much more. The good thing is, you have a great protein meal that usually doesn’t take much time, and the beans are a staple you have available in your pantry inventory. I can make a meal with beans and my favorite spices, then add some tortillas and salsa for a filling a healthy Mexican-themed lunch or dinner.
I would add lentils to your pantry if you haven’t already, you can make soups, stews, chili, and even tacos! You can stretch meals with lentils just like beans!
White rice has a longer shelf life than brown rice, so I store very little brown rice. I can use rice to stretch so many frugal meals, love it! It’s fairly inexpensive even in smaller bags. I like to buy white rice in #10 cans, the shelf life is 30 years (unopened) because it is commercially packed compared to the bagged rice from supermarkets. I prefer not to use mylar bags. I only want to buy food storage once with zero-waste. Brown rice lasts about 6 months from the grocery store because it has a higher fat content than white rice. You can store brown rice in the refrigerator for 2-3 months longer if kept in an airtight container.
Rice can be a great base for so many tasty and healthy meals. There are thousands of recipes on the web where rice is the key ingredient. Many of those recipes include ingredients found in the typical pantry, hopefully just like yours.
Some people make their own creamed soups from scratch. I buy Campbell’s cream of chicken by the case. I can make just about any casserole or soup with it. I watch for the case lot sales in the fall. Be sure and check the expiration dates.
Now winter is headed our way, who doesn’t like a warm bowl of soup to change the mood? Soups are often used as a quick remedy for common illnesses. I’m not sure how soup does its trick, but it has sure made me feel better on a day when I feel out of sorts.
White Bread Flour
If you can make bread you can barter and survive. Trust me, people love hot bread right out of the oven. You can make muffins, pancakes, waffles, cookies, cakes and so much more with flour of any kind.
Yeast: I purchase the brand SAF Yeast for my bread and biscuits. Period. I have not had good luck with other yeast brands. I store the amount of yeast I will use for a month in the refrigerator. The rest of the packages I store in my freezer. They have lasted three years for me in the freezer, if unopened. If you can’t find it where you live, you can buy it online: Saf Instant Yeast, 1 Pound Pouch
I have handed out in person and online my “no-fail” bread recipe. I always mention that the steps to make it are important and need to be followed closely. But, I also state the importance of having FRESH ingredients if you want the best results. They truly make a difference.
Need I say more. Crackers are great with chili, soups, and topped with your favorite chicken salad made with mayonnaise. We just talked about soup, and what better add-on is there than some fresh and flavorful crackers.
I was in a locally owned grocery store yesterday, and although the store is fairly small compared to the mega-stores we often frequent, I couldn’t believe all the choices of crackers. If you were to add chips to those choices it is truly mind-boggling.
Sometimes my husband and I have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. I make homemade whole wheat bread which is a bonus for my budget. The last time I bought my stock of the Jif brand, I was not only reminded of how many varieties of Jif there are, but how many competing brands are available.
The great thing about peanut butter is how many variations you can make just by using the hundreds of choices of jams and jellies that are also available. Let’s discuss some of those next.
Jams and Jellies
I mentioned above how much jams and jellies add to peanut butter sandwiches. I’ve also found they can be used alone when served with pancakes, biscuits, rolls, and bread. It seems the most common varieties are made from fruits and berries, like peaches, apricots, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, and more.
When our girls were at home we had an annual tradition of making our own raspberry and strawberry jams. When we lived in River Heights, UT, near Logan, we had a half-acre lot and a huge garden (it took Mark three hours to just mow the lawn). On both sides of the backyard, we planted strawberry plants, one side with June-bearing and one side with everbearing plants.
The girls loved to see “their” strawberry plants bloom, grow, and then bear fruit. During the summer they’d go out and pick enough to enjoy some with dinner. At the peak of the season, we’d pick enough to make a few pints of jam. Some we’d cook up as a “preserve,” others we’d make as a freezer variety. I look back at those days with real fondness. Give it a try, you’ll love it!
These are great for baking only, it’s nice to have a can of powdered eggs in the pantry if you run out of eggs. Of course, fresh eggs are better, but if you have an ice storm you can still make cookies or other recipes and stay off the icy roads if your egg cartons are empty. My favorite shelf-stable egg product is: OvaEasy
If you think about it, I high percentage of recipes call for eggs as one of the key ingredients. I always have powdered eggs on the shelf, just in case.
This is a bonus for every family. I store my opened #10 can of instant milk in the refrigerator so it’s ready in a flash if I run out of milk. It’s good for two years after it’s opened. Check the “best if used by” date on the instant milk you buy because every manufacturer is different.
As I think about it, the use by dates should be checked on all your “cook from scratch” pantry products. It goes back to what I mentioned above about bread, if you want a successful result from your cooking efforts, be sure to use fresh ingredients.
Popcorn is a great tummy filler and comfort food in a bad storm. Add some melted butter to popped corn with a smidge of salt and you have a great treat for everyone! You can add other spices as well and flavor the popcorn to your preference.
Mark’s mom made the best caramel corn. She’d bring some to the family get-togethers and it was always a favorite. Be creative and try to make some for your family, you’ll be glad you did.
I personally rarely buy fresh onions, except maybe in the summer if my garden hasn’t produced enough yet. I love knowing I can add a scoop of dehydrated onions to taco meat, soups, chili, casseroles, omelets, and other recipes and not have to peel, cut or chop them. I also love stocking 10-12 bags of frozen chopped onions in the freezer, no waste ever.
If you have a dehydrator, consider making dehydrated onions one of your annual projects. Onions of all kinds tend to be fairly inexpensive, and dehydrating them is a breeze. One of the biggest challenges is cutting them up, and trying to keep a dry eye at the same time. A hint, if you have a plug outside your home, consider using the dehydrator outside so your home isn’t filled with the pungent smell of onions for the next few days.
I do buy lemon juice for the refrigerator, but I also buy these packets I use every day and for emergencies: True Lemon Bulk Pack, 500 Count
Can you smell the chocolate cake baking or relish the taste of hot chocolate right now? Cocoa is a great addition to meal planning in the cold winter months when you want a warm drink or a tasty cake or brownies. Always stock some cocoa for that “just in time” treat the whole family with enjoy.
Now you can buy a HUGE jar like my daughter, Heidi, and store it in the refrigerator or buy some fresh garlic. I have to be careful how much garlic I add to recipes. For some reason, Mark tends to get an upset stomach if he eats too much. What’s interesting, he loves the flavor garlic gives foods like pizza.
These are great for snacks, muffins, bread pudding, etc. Mark’s mom used to add raisins to so many of her desserts. She had a big container in the kitchen, so raisins were available for cooking and snacking.
Be sure and keep your pantry full of your favorite spices. I can’t get by without vanilla, chili powder, cinnamon, and many others. You know the ones you need, right?
I can make my own tortillas with the stuff on this list, except my corn tortillas. Keep a few tortillas on your pantry shelves (check the expiration dates) and a few in the freezer. If you feel so inclined, learn to make tortillas. They taste yummy and fresh!
If I have some leftover broth from cooking a chicken I will freeze it, but I prefer to use: Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base 8 oz. Of course, you will need water. If I see a good buy on canned or boxed chicken broth, I will pick up a few for the pantry.
Olive oil/Coconut Oil
We can make so many things with oil. I just added it to the list because we know we need some. Again, be sure to check the expiration dates since some oils can go bad, possibly putting your cooking plans on hold.
Dehydrated or Fresh Potatoes
We can mash, fry, or bake potatoes. I love dehydrated potatoes to add to soups and chowders. No peeling, chopping, or dicing. I can add them right from the can to my soups.
Who loves spaghetti? Oh, and mac and cheese. Everyone needs pasta in a pantry, right? I really appreciate the fact that pasta lasts so long on your shelf. It is one of the foods I don’t worry as much about when I buy it in volume.
Tomato Paste, Flakes or Diced
You can make soups, spaghetti, chili, stews, etc. Tomatoes are such a versatile food item. They can be used in hundreds of recipes, you just need to make sure you have some on the shelf, ready to go. Having a variety of tomato offerings available makes meal planning easier since you’ll have many options at your disposal.
It’s all about flavor. I know we are cautioned to watch how much sodium (salt) we consume each day, but if you add it in moderation without smothering your food with it, you should be ok.
I have to have sugar to make my bread, cookies, cakes and to put on certain cereals. Just like I mentioned above with salt, try to watch how much you add to recipes and eat. Most items on this list are ok to eat when trying to have healthy meals, just use them in moderation. Keep in mind, these types of ingredients are generally added for flavor and not texture. You can follow the recipe as directed, or make adjustments as per your personal preference.
You can make bread with honey, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, cookies, and all kinds of other baked goods. I only buy honey from Cox’s Honey because it’s pure, raw honey. Honey is a natural food and is so good for you. Give it a try in place of sugar next time.
I need it for baking muffins, cookies, etc. This is one of the key ingredients in most baked goods recipes, just like our next item, baking powder. Having a FRESH supply of both is vital if you plan to bake when cooking from scratch.
I quote Wikipedia, “In cooking, baking soda is primarily used in baking as a leavening agent. When it reacts with the acid, carbon dioxide is released, which causes expansion of the batter and forms the characteristic texture and grain in cakes, quick bread, soda bread, and other baked and fried foods.”
I need it for baking, muffins, biscuits, etc. I quote Wikipedia, “Baking powder is used to increase the volume and lighten the texture of baked goods. It works by releasing carbon dioxide gas into a batter or dough through an acid-base reaction, causing bubbles in the wet mixture to expand and thus leavening the mixture.”
Cream of Tartar
I know this is a spice, but I need to make my biscuits and play dough for kids with this pantry item. Not a real common item found in recipes, but often enough to keep a supply on hand.
If you pressure can your own, that’s awesome! I buy mine at Costco. I like their chicken and tuna packed in water rather than oil. I stock up big time when they go on sale. Mark and I enjoy the chicken salad as a salad and also in sandwiches. That also goes for the canned tuna.
Mark used to buy sardines and eat them right out of the can. He hasn’t done that for years. Also, there weren’t many recipes calling for them. I wonder why?
If you can grind wheat and make bread, that is awesome. You can also make hot cereal with just wheat and water to make a wholesome meal. Here is how I make hot whole wheat cereal: 1 cup washed whole wheat berries, 3 cups water, 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional), place all the ingredients in a slow cooker at night for 12 hours and you will have hot cereal in the morning.
Drain off excess water and store unused wheat in the refrigerator. Add a little milk and honey when serving, if desired. You can double or triple the recipe if your slow cooker will hold it. You can add the cooked wheat to many meals, as you do rice or quinoa.
Carrots, onions, and celery are always in my pantry. I can throw them in soups and stews. Over the years, we have dehydrated a wide variety of veggies. I try to buy them in season and make the most of my dehydrating efforts when they cost the least. This past year I took on a different veggie each week and had a blast seeing my pantry shelves fill up as each project was completed. We’ll have veggies available all winter and spring.
Salsa and Green Chilies
I can eat these on everything, just saying.
Store as much as your budget allows. We need water to survive and to make most meals out of our pantry stash.
Cans of fruit, freeze-dried fruit (longer shelf life), or dehydrate your own for one-year shelf life. As mentioned above, fruits of all kinds can be canned, dehydrated, made into jams and jellies, and eaten right out of the bushel box. I love fruit and know when I’m eating them in all their forms and varieties that the meal is healthy. Of course, adding lots of sugar can change that, but the fruit itself is good for you.
Canned, freeze-dried, or dehydrated, studies from all over the world have shown that meals planned around fruits and veggies will extend your life. If we planned more meals with fruits and vegetables as a base, we’d steer clear of meats and the ill effects from eating a high concentration of meats.
Typically lasts about 2-3 years depending, on the type you buy and whether it’s steel-cut, old-fashioned, or instant (quick). Always store these in airtight containers in a cool place.
We can always use a thickener, right? Like baking powder and baking soda, cornstarch is found in many baked goods and sauces.
I have written a few posts about the awesome benefits of vinegar. It’s inexpensive and has so many uses. 35 Reasons Why You Should Store Vinegar
Boy, we’ve covered a lot of material in this post. I hope you’ve stayed with me as we’ve detailed why you should learn to cook from scratch, what items are needed in the pantry to support that effort, and how best to use those items when planning meals. Let me know if you have ideas to bring back cooking from scratch, we need to keep these skills going.
Thanks again for being prepared for the unexpected. If you have time to teach classes to your neighbors, please do it. In this crazy world, we all need to know how to cook from scratch, I promise. May God bless this world. Linda
Please be prepared: “Prepare Your Family For Survival” by Linda Loosli, thank you!
Copyright Images: Making Bread Depositphotos_204557008_S