Cooking From Scratch 101
Cooking from scratch can sometimes be overwhelming. There’s more to cooking from scratch than grilling a hamburger on the grill. It can be using a recipe or just cooking the way that comes naturally to you based on your diet and what’s in your pantry. I remember watching my mom cook some of her recipes without a cookbook. It’s because she made that certain recipe just about every week or two.
When I was growing up, my family didn’t eat gourmet meals, but we learned to cook from scratch using basic items from the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer. Oh my goodness, I’m so glad my mom taught me to cook from scratch when I was just a kid! I know I have saved thousands of dollars over my life just because I know how to prepare real food for meals from the items I store in my home.
In case you missed this post, 10 Rules for Organizing Your Pantry
Cooking From Scratch Storage Items:
These are a few of the things I must have in my home at all times. Please keep in mind, when something I use all the time goes on sale, I stock my freezer, fridge, and pantry.
Also, today’s post is not about any particular diet, like The Keto Diet, Atkins, Vegan, The China Study, or whatever approach to eating that seems to have become so popular. Today is about saving money and knowing what you are cooking from scratch is good for you. In other words, good wholesome food is what I strive for when scratch cooking. Many of the items listed below I would consider staples since we should all have them on hand.
- Butter: in quarters, I only buy salted butter, that’s how I roll.
- Bacon: thick, center-cut bacon.
- Frozen peas, chopped onions, and bell peppers: I never throw out wasted veggies from the fridge anymore because I monitor what is in my veggie drawer, other
uses forit while in decent shape,or freeze it before it goes bad.
- Meat: I buy discounted meat in the meat section every six months. I stock up BIG time. Monday morning the grocery stores like to put out fresh meat and unload the meat that didn’t sell over the weekend. If you time it just right, the butcher brings out rack after rack. If the price is right, grab a basket and start throwing them in.
- Flour tortillas: I buy them from Costco and divide them into six in each bag (gallon bags). They freeze really well for future meals. Be sure to take them out in time to thaw for use at the planned mealtime.
- Corn tortillas: also freeze really well, just divide them into bags with the number of tortillas you will use for a casserole or just for tacos. I freeze 12 in each quart-size bag.
- Broccoli: I make chicken and broccoli a couple of times a month, so I like to keep a few large bags of broccoli in the freezer for casseroles or to eat in a salad. Again, take out in time for meal prep.
- SAF Yeast, Dough Enhancer, and Wheat Gluten: I purchase enough for a couple of years and store it in the freezer. I need these to make my bread, dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, and French Bread several times a month. They come in fairly small packages, so the storage space really isn’t an issue.
Stocking The Pantry:
- White bread flour or all-purpose white flour
- White sugar, brown sugar, and powdered sugar
- Lemon juice
- Oil: vegetable, olive, and coconut oil
- Baking Soda
- Baking Powder
- Mayonnaise and Miracle Whip
- Mustard, Barbecue sauce, and Ketchup
- Unsweetened cocoa
- Spices like chili pepper, Cayenne pepper, sage, sweet basil, etc. We all have our favorites, right? In case you missed this post, 33 Essential Spices I Recommend Stocking Up On
- Canned chicken
- Canned tuna
- Maple Syrup
- Peanut butter
- Spaghetti sauce
- Tomato sauce
- Tomato paste
- Diced tomatoes
- Chicken and beef bouillon (Better Than Bouillon brand)
- Cream of chicken soup
- Cream of tomato soup
- Chicken noodle soup (just enough for emergencies)
- White rice
- Canned fruits
- Canned vegetables
- Corn syrup and Sweetened Condensed Milk (to make caramel corn)
- Vinegar: white, apple cider, and Balsamic
- Cream, sour cream, cottage cheese, and cream cheese
- Cheese: blocks of cheddar, shredded cheddar, and shredded Mozzarella
- Fresh fruits and vegetables, when in season
- Celery Stalks
Kitchen Tools We All Should Have:
- Bosch Bread Mixer, Kitchen Aid 6-Quart Mixer, or Zojirushi Bread Maker
- Griddles, waffle maker
- Pressure cooker – Instant Pot
- Soup Pot
- Frying Pans
- Dutch Ovens
- Cookie Sheets
- Muffin Tins
- Food Processor
- Slow Cooker – Crock Pot
I’m looking for new recipes all the time where meals can be prepared from scratch. Consider making this white sauce, you’ll love it.
Cooking From Scratch Recipes
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 gallon of milk
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Sugar optional
Melt the butter, add the flour and quickly start whisking it. This makes a roux. Once it’s smooth and thoroughly mixed, add the milk and keep on whisking, until smooth. This is good for making mac and cheese, Cream Chipped Beef and even gravy.
Some Meals You Should Try With My White Sauce:
- Mac and cheese: you just add about two cups of grated cheese, and stir until it’s melted and creamy. Add some cooked and drained macaroni, and stir until smooth.
- Creamed Tuna on toast or biscuits: just add a can of tuna (drained) to the white sauce. Serve with peas.
- Chicken a la King: add some leftover chopped chicken (2 cups) to the white sauce, 4 ounces of chopped pimentos, and some mushrooms. Serve over cooked rice.
- Creamed Chipped Beef on toast or biscuits: add two 4.5-ounce jars of dried beef, rinsed, and chopped to the white sauce. Add a little sugar (optional) salt and pepper to taste.
- Mushroom soup: add some sliced mushrooms to the white sauce and thin it with milk, if it’s too thick. Salt and Pepper to taste.
- Cream of potato soup: add cubed cooked potatoes to make creamy potato soup. Thin the soup with a little milk, if it’s too thick.
- Sausage gravy:
fryand crumble a small package of sausage and drain it, then add it to the white sauce. Serve over hot biscuits.
Yes, we can make great meals at home with these delicious recipes. There is something special about making our own meals and not just serving packaged foods from the store. If you like shrimp, give this shrimp cocktail sauce a try the next time you entertain.
Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
- 1-1/2-2 cups Ketchup
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
Combine the ingredients and mix until creamy. Refrigerate after mixing. Serve with shrimp and celery sticks.
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons dill pickle relish
- 1 tablespoon minced onion
- 1 tablespoon parsley
- Dash of Worcestershire Sauce
Combine the ingredients together and mix until smooth. Serve with fish sticks or grilled fish of your choice.
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 cup butter
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 1/2 cup water
Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer about 2 minutes. Pour over cakes, banana bread, and puddings.
How To Make Gravy
- 1 cup Turkey, Chicken, or Beef Drippings
- 1-2 cups of Flour
- 1 quart Water or Milk (I use water more than milk)
- Salt & pepper
1. I use the pan that the turkey, chicken, or beef was baked in with the "drippings" and bring the liquid to a boil. If you have very little juice or drippings, add some water. Now, I can't give you exact measurements because this depends on the size of a turkey, chicken, or roast you purchased and how many drippings are available. Over time, with experience, you'll learn.
2. I take about 1-2 cups of flour and put it in a quart jar with cold water and shake it like crazy.
3. I slowly add this mixture to the hot boiling turkey, chicken, or beef drippings. Use a whisk and stir constantly.
4. I have a quart pitcher with cold water to add to this pan as the gravy thickens. I add water until it's the consistency I prefer. Not too runny, but not too thick.
5. I add salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. Yep, it's the sugar that brings out the best flavor. Of course, it's optional.
6. If you have some lumps, no worries, bring out the hand mixer. The flavor is fabulous and so easy to make.
I hope my post today helps someone learn the joy of cooking from scratch. I tried to write down everything that I could visualize in my freezer, pantry, and refrigerator. I probably forgot an item or two, but I will add them as I remember.
Let’s teach the world to eat at home again. Teaching people to cook, set the table, learn manners at the table, and clean up as a family can’t be done through a fast food drive-thru. Part of the fun, and challenge, is to plan ahead and use a list when you grocery shop. It saves you money and prompts you to look ahead at the week’s meals and how best to prepare them. Please let me know the
It’s about teaching the next generation the skills we learned as a child. Thanks for being prepared for the unexpected. No one can take care of your family as well as you can. May God Bless this world, Linda
Copyright Images: AdobeStock_199304079by Magdal3na, Biscuits and Gravy AdobeStock_287776384 by Stephanie Frey
32 thoughts on “Cooking From Scratch 101”
Sauce pans, mixing bowls, knives, tea or coffee pot, peelers, graters, pitchers, dehydrater, blender, cutting boards, pot holders, dish towels, measuring cups and spoons, can openers, garlic press, citrus squeezer, large spoons and ladles, and strainersSharon I use everyday as I cook from scratch. I also could not get by without my large water bath canner and pressure canner that I use monthly to store fruits, vegetables, and even meats when in season.
Linda, as we have gotten older and require a different diet I am finding it more difficult to cook from scratch, to plan meals, recipes and even shopping when we are told to NOT eat anything WHITE. Rice, bread, pasta, wheat, sugar are all off our diet and out of our pantry. I substitute honey for sugar, almond and coconut flours for wheat, and quinoa for rice but still find it challenging to make the old style recipes with the alternate ingredients and make them tasty and appealing to my family. I am looking for recipes and alternate ingredients to create my white sauce, gravies, bread substitutes, etc. All of your recipes and my old standards contain sugar and flour.
Hi Sharon, I totally agree with you on needing to change our diets. What I have found is Mark and I need to eat half of what we used to eat because we are not as active and because we are much older. I’m very concerned about Diabetes, thankfully neither one of has it yet. I guess today’s post is more for teaching others to cook from scratch whether it’s quinoa or brown rice. Almond flour or wheat flour. Does that make sense? I know that King Arthur has a flour that is gluten-free and you can substitute it one cup for one cup. It’s not good for bread but it’s good for everything else. Linda
Sharon, try looking for substitutes that will be allowed on your current diet would be helpful. For sugar there are several things that can be used in a 1:1 ratio, stevia, monk fruit, erythritol, others. My sister uses Bano, a chickpea pasta. If your doctor has put you on that diet, ask to meet with a nutritionist or dietician to learn about substitutes.
A lot of people use aspartame (Nutrasweet) as a sweetener alternative. I get migraines from that so I avoid. I have a horrible aftertaste from stevia. I usually use a monk fruit/erythritol blend and find it a bit sweeter than sugar so I use less. You can find monk fruit blends at most grocery stores today. My sister and family use Bano and they all like it, including my extremely picky niece and her two kids. I haven’t tried it yet, but have it here for when my sister visits in a couple of weeks.
Hi Topaz, great tips, thank you for sharing! Linda
I grew up with a wonderful cook for a mother! We girls learned all of the basics and a lot of specialty cooking. When I was 10, my mother told me that it was now my “responsibility” to start cooking dinner after school for our then family of 5 – Mom, Dad, Brother and younger sister. My 3 older siblings had flown the coop so to speak.
One of the things that my mother drilled into us was how to stretch food for a family of our size or larger. Mom and Dad lived through the depression and knew how to eat well on a very frugal budget. We grew a huge garden and put the veggies up for the winter; we lived in fruit country and purchased fruit that we were unable to grow ourselves and put that up for the winter. And, of course, I was raised on a cattle ranch so we always had beef in the freezer as well as home grown chicken/eggs, pork, rabbit. If my brother was fortunate, we had venison in there as well. We also kept a milk cow so we always had fresh milk and cream. I still prefer homemade butter to store bought but it is not very cost effective to make my own.
One story I will relate as I was growing up: Mom, sis and I used to go to the apple orchards (before spraying) and gather fresh wild asparagus. Well, when the orchardists started spraying for “weeds” we lost our wild asparagus! Mom was so sad about that. But, we planted some in our perennial garden. It takes a few years to really produce, however. I think it was the 2nd or 3rd year that the asparagus plants had been there and we went out and found something like a dozen not very big spears. Mom picked them, brought them in and proceeded to make a white gravy with steamed asparagus to go over our biscuits that night for dinner. It was enough for all of us to get a taste of our own veggies. We ate a lot of gravy because we could stretch our food (meat especially): hamburger gravy, sausage gravy, tuna gravy, chicken gravy, ham gravy! We ate well by stretching the little we had in gravy!!
Now, since I am a single senior, I have found it very difficult to cook everything from scratch. I mean, is there a way to make gravy that only serves 1 or 2?? What I am saying is that it is a challenge. I take favorite recipes or recipes that sound really good and cut them down to 1-2 servings. Some work well but others not so much.
HI Leanne, I love how you were raised! It is very hard to make gravy for one or two people. BUT, you can freeze gravy in jars and leave enough space for the gravy to expand. It takes about three days for it to defrost in the frig, but man is it yummy! Isn’t it wonderful that we learned to make gravy or a white sauce in order to stretch our food budget? We were truly blessed, girlfriend! Linda P.S. I would love to grow asparagus!!
I love to cook, and if you could see me you would also know I love to eat LOL. I can make my own noodles, bread, pudding, gravy, salad dressings, and other goodies. I don’t care for box mac and cheese. I will only eat the home made. I make my own cole slaw dressing, I don’t care for bottle dressings of any kind. One thing I would love to learn to make is ketchup. have tried a few recipes, none of which I really liked. I have even made my own maple pancake syrup when the kids were younger. I try to keep the ingredients I know I will need on hand. I seldom run out of anything,except milk once in a while.And even then I have powdered on hand. I have so many jars of spices and seasonings.I was rotating my stock and only have 12 jars of black pepper now, LOL.( I buy several jars at a time from Big Lots). My grand daughters are pretty good cooks. We recently made home made pizza. They loved it. My 2 year old grand daughter sits on the floor in the kitchen and pretends to cook when I am cooking. She has her own measuring cups, bowls, and pots LOL. (they are mine, she thinks they are hers). Thanks for another great post. Love and God Bless.
Hi Judy, oh my gosh I can picture your granddaughters in the kitchen! Yes, even the 2-year-old on the floor! Oh, what great memories they will have plus the skills needed to save money. I had to giggle over the ten jars of black pepper! I LOVE it! Linda
Linda, awesome post. I’m going to copy and paste each list. I love it! Thank you so much for this!
Have you tried the Ham base in the Better Than Bullion? It’s awesome in cooking beans and such. I keep all three on hand. I use it in my canned beans and such as well.
I use the others in whatever I cook. Love these.
I had to make bread yesterday. And now, need to make more. LOL We ate almost the whole loaf from yesterday. Our store was out and couldn’t get in any trucks due to the road conditions. The weather has been really bad down here in Texas. We aren’t used to to the snow and ice down here. We rarely get it.
I’m so glad I learned to make bread before I had to.
Hi Deborah, oh my gosh, I love hearing you know how to make bread! We can survive if we can make bread, biscuits, crackers, tortillas and soup. It fills the belly! Good job! Linda
I can do all of these. I love soups. I can also make cornbread from scratch. I love it. Now, I’m off to make more bread.
Hi Deborah, oh cornbread is very important!! Love it! Linda
Wow! All of this is such great information! Love the recipes! Thank you sooo much for sharing!❤️
Hi Camille, it’s so fun when we teach our kids how to cook from scratch. It’s a skill they will need for sure. Linda
Yes!!! We all need to be cooking like this. Thank you for the recipes and encouragement!
Hi Tiffany, thank you for your kind words, they mean so much to me! Linda
I love all of this advice! I learn so much from your posts. Thank you!
Hi Alli, oh you are so nice, thank you for your kind words!! Linda
This is an older post, but I did want to comment about making gravy for one or two. A friend shared this tip with me that works great. Make your gravy as usual, eat what you want with your meal. For leftover gravy, pour it into ice cube trays. Each compartment hold about 1 tablespoon of gravy. When fully frozen, pop out, and store in zippy bags. That way, when you need a little gravy, you can take as many cubes as you need. While it’s easier to remember earlier and let the gravy cubes thaw, you can also heat them on the stovetop and let them melt. Ask me how I know this, LOL. I’ve also used broth to make gravy. It’s not as good as the drippings, but it can stretch gravy if you find you need more.
My mother was a wonderful cook and often said, “If you can read, you can cook.” She was right, of course. What I did learn, however, is that I needed to go through the motions to get my traffic pattern and rhythm down. The more often I practiced, the better I got.
For the white sauce above, I could see adding some mustard to it to make a mustard sauce. Pour it over ham and scalloped potatoes. Thanks for giving the recipe and ideas how to use it. I never thought about using it as a base for potato soup. And there it was, staring at me the whole time!
Hi Megan, oh my gosh, I LOVE your comment! “If you can read, you can cook.” Why didn’t I think of that??!!! Love it! I like the idea of freezing broth and gravy in ice cube trays. I never thought about making a mustard sauce to drizzle over ham, I LOVE this tip, mustard in a white sauce!! YUMMY! Linda
i cook almost exclusively from scratch. I love knowing what is in my food. It tastes better, is better for you, and cheaper. Today, I was a little tired, so when I made my meatballs up for tonight’s dinner, I put in an envelope of Onion soup mix. We have been out to dinner once in the last couple years.
If you find a good recipe for tortillas, you don’t even have to buy those.
Hi Janet, I agree about the tortillas, but some people may think they are harder to make than they really are. I should post my tortilla recipes again. Meatballs sound great! I love eating at home more than eating out. We rarely eat out, my cooking is better! Or at least I think so! LOL! Linda
I’m going to try your tartar sauce recipe Linda. Mine is similar but without the Worcestershire sauce. I think that would add a little more zing. Thanks!
Hi Paula, thank you for the 5 stars, my friend! Worcestershire sauce makes so many recipes better, I hope you like it!!! Linda
My daughter in law has started making bread with a bread machine. I am so proud of her. What flours would you recommend?? I know her boys like rye bread, but I have no experience to offer her. She even got the machine for free on a site called Buy Nothing.
Hi Chris, thank you for the 5 stars, my sweet friend!! Oh my gosh, she got it for free?? I grind my own wheat to make whole wheat bread, but I stock white bread flour and app-purpose flour. Bread flour is my favorite but I was unable to get bread flour so I settled for all-purpose white flour. It’s fine. Gosh, I haven’t made rye bread in years, my mom had a good recipe, I wish she was still alive. Hmmm, I may need to practice on that one, great idea Chris! Linda
I became a master at not wasting food. When my mother was still alive I used to push her to buy a little more than she wanted to, but I used to cut up, chop, slice, dice and usually wash everything and then pack the food into bags.
Often times we would buy meat and the plastic would tear, so I repacked it, but I also broke the packages down into fewer pieces to avoid cooking extra that would not get eaten or leave us short for another meal.
I noticed your food list is basically the same as what you store except you have fresh dairy products in the fridge rather than canned, dehydrated or freeze dried.
Hi Frank, I love hearing how you are a master at not wasting food! It’s funny, I taught a bread-making class last night at a local church, and we talked about dehydrated butter! I have yet to try one that I like except for Red Feather Butter (which is canned commercially). The #10 cans are great for baking but not for spreading on freshly baked bread. I have freeze-dried cheese, #10 cans of instant milk, and ten or so cans of evaporated milk. It’s funny how you take for granted what we have and can easily put together a meal. Life is good! Linda
Oh Linda you HAD to open with a picture of Biscuits and Gravy, my all time favorite. I think if I had
to live on one thing the rest of my life it would be that. I was watching a short video on Facebook
and a lady from Maine does all kinds of cooking, so she mentioned Flour soup. I watched with interest
to find a new recipe. When she got done I’m talking to my screen THAT’S GRAVY!!!!!!! She thought it was pretty good. I HAD to read the comments, one dear lady said we throw some sausage in it and add biscuits and it’s called Breakfast. I love that lady. I had no idea people didn’t know that flour soup is
gravy. Guess I’m backwards.
Hi June, oh my gosh, I have never heard of flour soup!!! LOL! I could live on biscuits and gravy the rest of my life as well! What a great Facebook video! Flour Soup is gravy, I learned something new today. I love this!!! I guess we’re both backwards!!! Linda