Many years ago, I ate takeout for nearly every meal, and when I did cook at home, it was mostly the cheapest macaroni and cheese I could buy and maybe a frozen buffalo strip or five.
When Ryan and I moved to Idaho was back in 2011, we realized that we should probably start cooking at home a little more. Plus, the takeout/delivery options were pretty limited in our little town, so we really didn’t have another option.
Knowing we needed to cook at home, we headed to the grocery store, filled our cart with mac and cheese, hot dogs, and frozen pizza, and started “cooking.”
Soon, we realized we were spending a ton on groceries and that everything we had was processed, full of high fructose corn syrup, and loaded with sodium.
Over the years, we’ve tried a lot of things when it comes to diets-counting calories (ha), trying to cut out sugar (haha), ditching carbs (hahaha). Obviously, none of those things worked for very long.
But the one thing that we’ve been able to stick to fairly well is cooking from scratch. We’re not the picture of health by any means, but I do know that cooking from scratch keeps us healthier than if we were throwing prepackaged food into the oven or microwave.
It took awhile to make it a habit, but we did a few things that made it easier and sustainable, and I wanted to share a few tips for getting started in case you want to incorporate more “from scratch” cooking into your cooking routine and aren’t really sure what do to.
Stop Buying Crap
I didn’t make the switch overnight. I started slow and worked on getting rid of a few things at at time.
We stopped buying boxed macaroni and cheese and cut back on frozen pizzas.
I stopped buying 12 packs of Diet Coke.
We cleared out the chips-by eating them, of course. We didn’t throw them away-and stopped buying them all the time.
My cousin came to visit last summer, and I asked her if she wanted to stop at the store on our way home from the airport to pick up snacks. She said no and that whatever we had at home would work. I told her we didn’t have anything to snack on, and she said that was fine.
That afternoon, she wandered to the pantry looking for a snack. When she opened it up she said, “Oh. Wow. You really don’t have anything.” I laughed and said, “I told you!”
Since we don’t buy crap, we don’t eat crap at home. And if we do, we’ve decided that we’re not going to eat well that day and then gorge on chips and cookies that we decided to buy. It’s easier to just not have it in the house.
Another time, I was shopping with a friend, and she looked at my cart that held vegetables, canola oil, coffee, and sour cream, and asked me what I was going to cook. Since we don’t buy prepackaged food, we buy some things in bulk-like rice and flour and noodles-and we have our own meat, it looked like I didn’t have anything to make a meal out of when really our cupboards are stocked and ready for cooking!
Once we stopped buying crap, we really had no choice but to start making things from scratch, and it had the added bonus of reducing mindless snacking.
Find Easy Recipes
I started out making just a few recipes that were pretty easy.
Cajun Chicken Pasta was an early favorite along with venison (or beef) steaks and stir fried rice. I found a great, simple recipe for chicken soup. Nothing complicated.
My dream was to be able to cook without a recipe and just make something up with whatever we had on hand. But Ryan reminded me that it would take practice.
To build up my “cooking from scratch” muscles, I made a few easy recipes over and over again until I got the hang of it, and some of them are still favorites.
Be Ok with Messing Up
If you know me, you know that I sometimes just jump into things, and when I did this with cooking, I made quite a few mistakes…
We still talk about the vinegar rice and SPICY Cajun Chicken Pasta.
Our teeny town in Idaho didn’t have sushi, so I decided to make my own (remember when I said I jump into things). I followed a recipe for sushi rice that I got from a mother daughter team that used to make sushi on Thursdays at the bar where I worked (weird, right?).
Somewhere in the process of following the recipe, I added entirely too much vinegar. I tried to salvage it by turning it into stir fried rice. Didn’t work. I ate it because I really don’t like wasting food. But I didn’t enjoy it.
Cajun Chicken Pasta was a quick favorite. Once when I was making it, Ryan and I were talking while I was prepping the chicken. I shook on a lot of Cajun, which was good. But then I started shaking on the cayenne. And I just kept shaking. All of a sudden I realized that the chicken was caked in cayenne, but I used it anyway.
Noses running and eyes watering, we tried to power through. Ryan gave up, but I didn’t. I ate all of it. And it was hot.
After years of cooking meals from scratch, I’ve amassed an arsenal of everything from pizza crust to alfredo sauce. Things that I can do quickly. But I still mess up and try a recipe that’s no good or try to adjust a recipe based on what we have on hand to disastrous results.
There are going to be missteps. You’re going to ruin meals. But cooking a meal from scratch is really one of the best feelings there is.
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