A food revolution

5 March 2018
March, week 1 in The Simple Home

Going back to basics
This is one of the most important chapters in The Simple Home as it deals with something we all do - we all eat. Providing food for yourself and a family, getting value for your food dollar, buying as close to home as possible, storing food, organising your food stocks and being able to cook and bake in the time you have available, all come into play this month. If you can work out a food system that works for you, you'll increase your chances of eating well, you'll provide good nutrition in your family meals, work to a budget, get value for money and add the power of your dollars to your own community when you buy local.

Cinnamon tea cake is a favourite cake in our home. I made it again yesterday because Jamie loves it and it's a good cake for his lunchbox. He usually has it for afternoon tea with a glass of milk.  It's one of the many excellent recipes in The Country Table cookbook - details below.

I was born in an era of delicious food, when food was not a product, a fad or a super-food, it was just food. Most women and girls knew how to cook and bake and, with few exceptions, dining out and convenience food were seen as inferior to home cooking. I still think that, although having raised two sons who are chefs, my horizons are wider now than they used to be. Nowadays men and boys know how to cook too, interest in food has increased enormously and although the numbers of cooking shows on TV indicates many of us are in the kitchen cooking our favourite meals, there have never been so many people eating out and buying frozen pre-cooked meals. On a recent Sunday morning I went to the supermarket to do my shopping, something I usually do later in the week, and I was amazed at how few people were in there at 8am. I was almost finished my shopping when I went into the last aisle to get Australian frozen peas and after seeing only about 10 people in the shop, there were 20 - 30 people staring into the freezer cabinets, choosing frozen meals! I wish it wasn't like that - we all deserve better. I know many people think cooking takes a lot of time but it can fit into even the busiest of schedules. Cooking your own food will cost less, you'll increase your level of self-reliance and you'll know exactly what you're eating.

When we look back and see how food culture has changed, particularly over the past ten years, it's wonderful knowing there are more people getting back to basics and growing their own food, there are more community gardens, more backyard chickens and there seems to be a growing awareness of real food. But even though that's happening, there are more people who prefer to have food prepared for them. Shopping, storing and cooking food are life skills we all need and we should be teaching our children as they grow.

I'm not trying to convince you that I have all the answers or that what I do is THE right way.  There isn't one. Everyone has to work this out for themselves based on their daily workload, available time and budget. This month I'm sharing ways to shop for, store and prepare food that will help you save money and cut your food waste.  I hope our readers share what they do too

Cooking from scratch 
I’ve been cooking from scratch for longer than I care to remember. It makes sense to me because it’s tastier, it’s cheaper and I know what’s in our food. Years ago, I went through my ‘convenience phase’ of adding gravy powder to my gravy, buying pastry cases and making stock with stock cubes, but none of these habits lasted long. My gravy didn’t taste as good, the pastry I bought was capable of sitting on the shelf for weeks (and tasted like it), and I remembered that making stock with bones and herbs was much more satisfying than boiling water and stirring in a cube of who-knows-what. I am much more cautious of synthetic food preservatives and additives than I am of the fungus and bacteria they prevent. If I want to provide my family with healthy and safe meals, I prefer to use fresh food, add only natural seasonings and cook it from scratch. We want to eat real food.



As far as I’m concerned, cooking from scratch is the basic cooking our grandmothers did, which uses fresh ingredients and nothing that contains preservatives or artificial colours or flavours. So bread, cakes and biscuits are made with basic flour, fruit or cocoa rather than with pre-mixes, cake mixes or frozen commercial cookie doughs. Flavour is built up in savoury food by caramelisation, spices and herbs and not by adding a can of soup or a packet of premixed "spices". Raw foods such as salads are made using the freshest in-season produce and dressed with ingredients you mix at home. Soups are made with marrow bones; grains are soaked; yoghurt, sauces, relishes and cordials are made from scratch. You might be a long way from that now, but you don't have to stay there and small steps will get you there.

Cooked from scratch recipes

The most common complaint I hear is that cooking from scratch takes too much time. And yes, I agree that if you make a meal every night from scratch, you’ll spend a lot of time at the stove. So you have to be smart about it and work out a few shortcuts and time savers and make sure you have a stock of basic staples on hand that you can use. My sanity is saved by double-batch cooking and my slow cooker but if you've got a larger family, or a large freezer to store your food, you might like to try once-a-month batch cooking. 

Batch cooking 
A wonderful habit to get into is doing some batch cooking. If you have a spare couple of hours, have a cooking session and then you’ll have three or four meals in the freezer for during the week. In the morning, transfer one meal from the freezer to the fridge. When you come home from work, or when you’ve finished your home chores, you know the meal is there; all you have to do is warm it up. If there is someone around to help, get them to set the table and prepare some drinks. Goodbye, takeaways and convenience foods! But I know that many of you don’t have that spare time on the weekends, and even if you do, you’re so tired that cooking is the last thing you want to give two hours to.


There is another way to squirrel away a meal or two without going to much extra effort: many meals that you can cook on a weeknight can easily be doubled up. That is what I do and it's called double batch cooking. You cook double amounts, eat half straight away and freeze the other half for later. Curry, stew, soups, pizza, stroganoff and meatballs in sauce can all be made in a double batch and the second half frozen. You can also be creative and turn one meal into a different meal, such as using meat sauce for pasta one night and tacos the next. Any roast meat or chicken can be eaten as a hot roast one night and turned into a quick curry, hash or stir-fry the following night, or stored in the freezer with your increasing stash of home-cooked meals. If one chicken is enough for your family for one meal, then cook two at a time, save the second in the fridge or pick the meat off the bones and store it in portions in the freezer. It saves electricity/gas, time and effort. If you can get into this habit of cooking double batches, and you seal them and mark them correctly, you’ll have a meal waiting in the freezer on those nights when you run late or you’re just too tired to cook everything from scratch.  Here is a great resource that may help you establish this form of cooking in your own home.

Slow cooking 
Another cooking method that will save your sanity and time is slow cooking. Just load the slow cooker in the morning before you go to work, turn it on low, make sure it’s on a sturdy surface and that the cord is safety tucked away, and you can leave it all day to cook. All stews, soups and curries can be made this way, and corned beef is soft and tender after a few hours of slow cooking. If you have a large slow cooker, make a double batch and freeze half of it. Another bonus of slow cooking is that you can use the cheaper cuts of meat. The longer cooking times tenderise the meat and dissolve the gristle giving you rich sauces with many health benefits.

Interesting information about slow cooking, and some recipes

Vegetable, beef and barley soup made on a stock of marrow bones. Absolutely delicious, healthy, inexpensive and easy to freeze or take in a Thermos for lunch the following day.  Add a homemade bread roll and you've got a meal that will fill most people.

I don’t often recommend buying new appliances, but if you don’t have a slow cooker and you’re a family who likes soups, casseroles, curries and braised meats, it would be wise economy to buy one.  A good large freezer is also a good investment, especially for a larger family but it will also work well if it's just the two of you.


Cook book recommendation:
The Country Table is an excellent book, published by the Australian Women's Weekly. It contains a variety of wholesome and easy to prepare traditional Australian meals, preserves and baked goods.

Next week our topic will be shopping for food, getting the most from your food budget, menu planning, permanent shopping lists and stockpiling.

63 comments

  1. I agree completely Rhonda. I rarely eat out and always cook from scratch. I always cook extra and freeze 2-3 portions and eventually I have a stack of different frozen meals. They cost way less and more nutritious than frozen meals bought at the store.
    When I buy food (ice cream, yoghurt etc)I always read the list of ingredients. I avoid long lists with unpronounceable names and try to buy certified organic products.

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  2. I would say that I cook from scratch about 80% of the time and I always try to batch cook and freeze a few for future use - saves so much time! I have a yogurt maker but only use it sometimes as it is usually cheaper to buy yogurt although do have to say that I love the way that homemade tastes so I think you have convinced me to get my yogurt make out and set up again!
    I'm trying not to bake right now as I'm trying to lose weight but I do enjoy it when company is coming and I have the excuse of guests!
    I think what I need to do this year is to break out of my comfort zone and try a few new recipes - I've gotten a bit complacent over the winter and it is time to try something new!
    Great advice as always.

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  3. The more you cook from scratch the easier it becomes. As a family of seven when our kids were growing up we would have eaten very poorly if I had not made our meals from scratch. One day my husband and I saw a family in the frozen meal isle of the store and they were each choosing seven meals for the week. That made me sad but it is certainly better than fast food eaten in the car.

    I do quite a bit of doubling up on the cooking and freezing of meals. My meat sauce recipe makes enough for 8 meals for two with not much more effort than a pot for 2 or 4 meals. I try to double up on things such as boiling extra cubed potatoes that can be used in a day or two in a different way if I am making mashed potatoes. Last week I made mashed potatoes but cooked enough to make some potato salad which I quickly finished right after that meal. It made a nice addition to lunch for the next two days. It really saves on the work to think ahead and do things like cook extra rice for fried rice and such. Three days ago I roasted a large chicken and we are still enjoying meals and sandwiches from that one chicken. The remaining bits will make a pot pie tomorrow. We will have eaten seven meals from that one bird. For just the two of us I can make a recipe for a casserole that goes in a 13 x 9 inch pan and divide it into 4 glass loaf dishes. We bake and eat one and the other three go into the freezer. One of my daughter in laws commented on how easily I can get a pan of biscuits/scones in the oven. I told her that I had made hundreds of pans of them when the kids were all home and that is so easy since I have done it so many times. Hot bread makes any meal nicer and fills up those teens. Practice results in it just being easier.

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  4. Rhonda, I usually make a double batch when cooking a meal too. It just makes sense to do that doesn't it? I hope you are enjoying the cooler weather.

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  5. All great suggestions for busy lives. I know that some may think that making a meal at home is time consuming but as you said make more and freeze. I know that I get vegetables such as peppers, carrots and celery, chop up what I don't use right away and put into the freezer - easy to just add some precut vegs to your soup preparation. Same thing with cookies, baked goods, etc. making extra and put in freezer. Food prepared at home and shared with your family at the table is always better and a great way to set down with the rest of the family for conversation. I also utilized a menu plan for the week - you know in advance what you need when shopping for groceries and it is a great way to not deal with "what do I make for dinner". Of course you can always be flexible and switch around a bit for those busy evenings. It is a pleasure to have your family help in the kitchen, learning our young ones how to cook to feed themselves, sharing with our loved ones open the doors to a closer relationship.

    BP Laramie, USA

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  6. I love cooking from scratch but often struggle to find recipes that match my ideas. Most have far too many ingredients and are very complicated event though i know that they should be simple (like bread, my bread maker has 8ingredients! where as i know bread is just flour, water, yeast and sugar.) I compile all my recipes into my own cookbook using Blurb (online). you can enter them into their template or make your own worddoc to upload. I have finished my first hardcover book a few years ago and am working on making another with updated recipes.

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  7. Hi Rhonda! I don't often (ever) comment, but I read regularly and have very much been enjoying your Monday series. I'm gradually getting into the habit of cooking in batches using a slow cooker. I freeze it and use it for lunches during my work week. The thing is, I'm not saving any money doing it. I am eating breakfast now during the week, which I didn't do before (just as easy to throw something into the slow cooker for breakfast, and take a small portion to work with the lunch). But the fact that I'm spending more on food is really depressing--I'd hoped to save. Any tips?

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    1. If you're cooking and eating more of course you won't be cutting down on your expenses. You'll either have to go back to no breakfast or make some tea and toast. Are you buying cheaper cuts of meat for the slow cooker?

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    2. I hope you'll keep on eating breakfast but maybe have a look at what you are having and see if there's cheaper options?? At our place there's toast or porridge or breakfast muffins that I make sometimes. There's always an egg, omelette with leftover roast veg or greens from garden or occasionally baked beans. I wonder if you had a brekkie like that, and saved slow cooker portions for lunches and dinners, that you might save a bit more. Meg:)

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    3. Yes, I've only used meat twice and purchased it as cheaply as I could. It might be the addition of breakfast, or the volume since my freezer still has quite a bit in it. I'll have to look at the expense over a longer period of time perhaps.

      For those who work outside the home, or inside it, and are willing to use cans or cubes occasionally, I highly recommend www.ayearofslowcooking.com All slow-cooker recipes, and a very practical mindset.

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  8. I cook from scratch each night but at this busy stage of life I do take a few convenience routes such as you mentioned with gravy and stock cubes at times. I feel it’s a compromise I’m willing to make to be able to achieve balance and sanity. If I had more time I would do it all from scratch. Fresh healthy food, prepared with thought and love, served at the table with gratitude make for a happy home and family.

    Leiani - Perth

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  9. I use leftovers for lunches instead of making sandwiches all of the time; a nice hot lunch in autumn and winter is better I think, and more enjoyable than a cold one. Sometimes I will also make double batches or even halve them and freeze the the other half for later. Also, I had to laugh at a video I saw earlier this week advertising cinnamon rolls that come from a roll you snap open. In it, the woman is talking about how her mother took the time to teach her to bake; and that she herself is glad she is able to do the same with her daughter. The point of the ad is that it is important to "make it at home." In my opinion, it is hardly making it at home when all you do is open a cardboard tube and place the rolls in a pan to bake. How our perceptions of "home-cooked" has changed!

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  10. I do some double batch cooking whenever I can--just made a double batch of beef and veggie taco filling the other night, for example. I'm trying to find some time to do some simple batch cooking--even just marinara sauce or something--because if the next month looks anything like the last month, I'd be doing my future self an enormous favor by squirreling some meals away in the freezer.

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  11. This is a great reminder Rhonda about getting back to basics.
    I think like most things in life if we value something we will prioritise it and find the time. I really value eating tasty and nourishing foods and so I make the time to cook from scratch. The extra time is paid for easily with the money savings and the health benefits. Sometimes I think it actually saves time too if we keep it simple (last time we got a take away we had to wait 45mins plus go and pick it up). The most important thing is finding a system that works for your own individual family - this may mean trying a few different things or a combination of things rather than just trying one thing and throwing your hands up in despair when it doesn't work. For me those things are: meal planning, bulk cooking/prep and more recently using the slow cooker. I also like to have the ingredients for a few 'quick' meals in the pantry for when things go awry or I just don't feel like cooking what I had planned.
    For anyone out there who doesn't cook from scratch try not to get too overwhelmed - perhaps just start with one meal a week when you have more time or do one bulk cook a fortnight or whatever might work for you. Small changes will be easier and more likely to stick than trying a full overhaul if you are just starting out. Good luck.
    Cheers,
    Laura

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  12. I am guessing that I cook from scratch around 80% of the time also. I do use jars of pasta sauce and jars of savoury sauces when I make my stir fries but I also have homemade savoury plum sauce and bolognaise sauce Till they run out. I have a well stocked freezer and when I was working I would be able to take a frozen homemade meal on and heat it up in the microwave for lunch. Trouble is cooking for one. You end up with 6 or so meals of pasta bolognaise, pork and veg stir fry and something else in the freezer and meal time becomes a wee bit repetitive.
    I find it a bit sad that my niece thinks making a packet cake is baking. I was responsible for the desserts in my family from around the age of 10 & they were always made from scratch.
    Claire in Melbourne

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  13. For me this is a post to think about. Since I started working more hours recently, I struggle a bit with balancing the housework and the cooking in the hours that are left. I was used to be cooking from scratch every night, but am using my slowcooker now more often, I can recommend that too to everyone pressed for time! I just don't have a lot of recipes yet that are not using premixed packets or jars of something. And I must admit, I am still a user of gravypowder...
    We are saving up for a large freezer, so I can cook double as you mention.
    As I am still in the balancing process, this was a great motivational post to do some online research for recipes. When I thought about it after reading this post and the part in your book, I had to admit that I have not been able to make the most of your advice yet and are making it harder on myself than I should. Food for thought!:)

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    1. I don't think anyone should feel bad if they use gravy mix or sauce out of a jar,just do as much from scratch as you can manage, or not if thats what you want. No one is here to judge, we are all just trying to make our way in life in a way we are comfortable with.

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  14. I grew up in a single parent household and, even though things were always tough money-wise, there were always home cooked meals. I remember that fondly! Simple meals like spaghetti bolognese, corned beef fritters, fish cakes & savoury mince on toast were what we ate. Leftovers got put into toasted sandwiches or served on toast for brekkie. There were batches of homemade biscuits and simple sandwiches for lunches with a piece of fruit. I cook most of our food from scratch too, many of the things I learned from my Mum. I find my pantry is stocked with basic ingredients like flours, rolled oats, rice, quinoa and so on rather than packet biscuits, ready meals or the like. That's where I make some savings given I can often buy that in bulk. It's great reading about what others do and getting more ideas. Thanks, Rhonda! Meg:)

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  15. What a lot of common sense. We have recently experienced bad weather which meant we could not go out to shop in the UK. I have always cooked from scratch and double up recipes for the freezer so it meant there were plenty of meals cooked just needing to be defrosted and heated. My husband made bread and I baked. A full store cupboard meant the only thing we got short of was fresh fruit and vegetables so made good use of tinned tomatoes and corn.
    Home Ec was dropped as a subject in UK schools years ago which has meant many young people never learn to cook or see basic meals cooked from scratch.

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    1. Don’t think you can blame dropping home ec for people not learning to cook... cooking is best learnt at home as a kid, I reckon. My old home ec. classes were ridiculously dated making things no-one wanted to eat... put me off cooking more than anything! My mum was always too mess averse to let me too loose in the kitchen as a kid, which was a shame but I still picked up the basics justgrom seeing her do it. I see it as a responsibility I have to my kids for them to see us cook from scratch, and help where they can (biting my tongue a bit as the 5 and 2 year old trash the kitchen!) - it’s something I can give them for their future. And you know what? They love to get stuck in, and it’s honestly a lovely thing to do as a family.
      I work full time, so it’s not every night - but Sunday is ‘cooking for the week’ day (batch cooking a soup, roast something be it veggies or meat, so there’s stuff ready to go in the week). I always try and bake with them (bread and sweet stuff) when I can, as that’s the bit they love best.

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  16. PS. I forgot to say that I make soup for lunches 2 or 3 times a week in the Winter. Last week it was big pots of minestrone and French onion soup. We turned my husbands bread into toasts with gruyere cheese to float on the onion soup and served the minestrone with croutons and Parmesan. Delicious!

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  17. Gosh I enjoyed this post. My mother was a bland repetitive cook (was very good at other things however e.g. pattern making from scratch) but my grandmother could make a delicious feast from just about anything. My mother in law is a plain cook but her food is very tasty indeed. Mignonne (DW) is a truly fabulous cook and can literally whip up a super tasty meal for the 7 of us and another 4 or 5 unexpected hanger-on-ers in half an hour flat - she has 100's of recipes memorised. She whizzes around the kitchen and before you know it, there it is on the table. I cannot remember seeing her look at a recipe book whilst cooking. I love cooking too but my cooking is more ponderous. I am happy to say that most of our daughters are capable cooks too .... this mainly relegates me to cleaning up, which I am very happy to do.

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    1. Blessed are those who clean up! :)

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  18. I learn so much from you, Rhonda. This week (just ended)I've made a ham and brie quiche using half & half and pie crust from the freezer. Cut in 6 slices and froze 3.Also discovered a small container of blueberries so made muffins (at 82 I'm a bit forgetful! lol.) Question: I took out a quart of 2% milk from the freezer (tiny freezer in my apt.) Will milk work in a quiche? I want to use my last frozen crust and make a spinach, bacon and cheddar cheese before I lose it. Thanks so much. Now I'm off to make banana, applesauce, pecan muffins. Also yesterday I made beef stew with some "sad" vegies! I'm on a roll! Shirley near Seattle USA

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    1. Shirley, yes, it's fine to use milk in a quiche.

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  19. I think perhaps that if cooking from scratch is not saving money, it may be that portion control is the problem. Home cooked food tastes good so you want to eat more, but also modern plates are much larger and we tend to fill them. Look at the size of container of your frozen meal, then compare it to your home made portions. If the size of your frozen meal satisfied you then you don't need to eat more. Both your wallet and your waistline will thank you.

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  20. Rhonda, you are spot on! I have always cooked from scratch for my family of 5. The kids are grown up now and only are home once in a while. Son lives with us and works away on weekends. So I still cook from scratch and I always buy discounted items whenever possible. I freeze a lot of single portions for our son for his weekends. I also make him bagel sandwiches with mayo, cheese, sausage patty and egg. I freeze those so when he leaves for work (out of town) he takes six meals and eats oatmeal for breakfast.

    I love my pressure cooker as it makes meals very quickly at night when I get home from work. I never have to plan well because the Instant Pot can cook from frozen. We do, however, have a big problem. MIL likes to have us over once in a while but she serves only prepackaged foods that we desperately try to stay away from. She only cooks from those horrible prepackaged stuff because she is a widow and doesn't want all the fresh stuff because she says she can't use it all. I get indigestion every time we eat at her house. But we have to do so to be polite.

    I also wish fast food restaurants would just go away. They are contributing to a lot of bad things. I never even go into the frozen food aisles at grocery stores anymore. I don't go into the bread aisles either. For a long time I didn't even know where the bread aisle was!There are so many good youtube videos to show how to cook something that you might like to try. Even sauces like teriyaki sauce is so easy to make at home. Salad dressings are also so easy to make and they stay good for a long time. Bread is easy to make at home too.

    I do have a little trouble with leftover cooked chicken. I don't always like the taste of it. Does anyone have ideas on how to make it taste good in a recipe the next day?

    Alice

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    1. I wish fast food restaurants would go away too, Alice. A while ago, near where we live, a lovely little greengrocer, with wonderful fresh fruit, veg, milk, cheese etc. closed down. The building was bulldozed and we wondered what would be built there in its place. A fast food restaurant it seems. I just think that is sad. Meg

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  21. I love making two meals instead of one and stashing the spare in the freezer for a later 'can't be bothered to cook' evening. I also like leftovers that make me think 'outside of the box' and turn a few spoonfuls of something into the base of a whole new meal.

    I find it's setting myself little challenges like this that keeps me interested in cooking and my kitchen. It's so easy for things to become a bit of a drudge when you are cooking every day without fail.

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  22. I didn't learn to cook when I was young. I was going to be a 'career woman' and couldn't be bothered with all that homemaking stuff. I hate to think how much money was wasted eating out the first few years. Then I got tired of fast food and cracked open a cookbook. That improved things a bit, but I was still just playing. It wasn't until I found myself with a small step-son to raise and child care and diapers ate up the paychecks. I subscribed to the Tightwad Gazette and learned about 'universal' recipes, where you could use what you happened to have on hand. That was when I began to see cooking as a not a 'chore' so much as a creative outlet. It was till work when I was tired, but I looked at it altogether differently. My husband now queries why I make 'too much food'. He doesn't get it that today's leftovers are tomorrow's convenience food. Leftovers don't mean eating the same thing every day, as he seems to think, but about finding something new to do with the same ingredient. Much more fun!

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  23. The amount of food consumed by children at home aged 18, 17, 15, and 11 means that I find from-scratch cooking more crucial than ever before! Just making homemade bread saves us a lot of money, as where we live in the US decent-quality bread is about $4 a loaf, and our family can easily use 5 loaves a week, all told. I noticed at least one person mentioned disappointment at spending more on from-scratch cooking than she had before, and I think we need to be aware that (at least in the US), much processed food is on the surface a "cheaper" alternative -- in that processed food is often made from low-quality materials and even government subsidized. This means that the real cost is hidden (both in terms of health impact and tax money). In other words, it's hard to argue that an instant package of noodles (which sell for .99 here) is more expensive that a more quality dish when looking strictly at how many dollars/cents are involved. But that instant noodle package is dreadful for your health, not sustaining in terms of nutrition, does not provide you with any leftovers that can be used in other meals, and you may have already paid money towards it in terms of what your tax dollars were used for.

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  24. I do the majority of my cooking from scratch, too. I'd say closer to 95%. With my food allergies, there just isn't any way around that. I do enjoy my time in the kitchen though. This year, we have the largest garden we have ever attempted,so we will get to enjoy more fresh food. We also do batch cooking, though the extra some days ends up in my growing son's belly instead of the freezer. Teenage boys must have black holes for stomachs. :-)

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  25. This isn't about food Rhonda but before I forget there was an interesting article in the Daily Telegraph (UK) today 5 March about a zero waste village in Japan called Kamikatsu. Extraordinary and very heartening that people are leaving cities to live in the country near the village for a different, slower life. This might already have been featured in the Australian press but if not its worth a look.

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  26. Home cooking is so much nicer to eat than purchased goods.They say self praise is no recommendation but l know my cooking is nicer than purchased.
    The freezer and the garden are used to add variety and make life easy for me. l often do double batches.
    The only regular vegie l buy all year around is potatoes as we have little luck growing them . Each year we try and are hopeful but noooo.
    With fruit, herbs and veg and our own hens eggs and locally grown meat we are well aware of what we are putting into bodies.
    Our own tomatoes, onions and herbs make good pasta sauces, our citrus trees give desserts and cordials and marmalade. So easy so yummy.
    Another good point is that l never need to go down about 2/3rds of the aisles in a supermarket. So grocery shopping is quick.
    Rhonda l have tried many of the simple recipes in your books and find them easy and reliable. Thank you for them.
    To me there is no need to go to the local cheescake shop for a dessert when our own eggs and lemons can help make a good sized lemon meringue for a few dollars and added chemicals are minimal.
    If l am in a hurry and the freezer has no morning tea items tucked into it, l can whip up a batch of scones in less than 30 mins and served with home made rosella jam they are as good as anything with a cuppa. What would the cost be ummm less than a packet of biscuits l feel.

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  27. Hi Rhonda,

    Long time reader, first time commenter :)

    I do most of my cooking from scratch, having been modeled good behaviour by my mum. However, as I don't love cooking I'm a big fan of making large batches, especially on a Sunday afternoon, so that we are set for the week. As my partner does shift work it is even more important that there are leftovers at hand in the fridge as we are often not home for dinner together.

    Over the last 6 months I have been growing more food at home. It has been a challenge, and occasionally a stress, to ensure it all gets used and processed because, having gone to the effort to grow it, you really do not want to waste it. But it's been great as I have branched out and learnt new recipes and methods - and if all else failed I always had friends and family who were happy to receive the excess :)

    Cheers

    Katy

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  28. I have cooked from scratch all my life, since that's what I learned from my mother. I don't believe I've ever bought a frozen ready meal; in fact, the only frozen foods I buy are peas and occasionally berries out of season for some specific purpose. I don't use recipes much either except for baking, where proportions are important; my husband calls it 'cooking the fridge'; I look in there, see what I have and make something from that. Sometimes it's only OK, mostly it's good and sometimes it's fabulous; you learn as go along. I buy large amounts of cheap meats (a whole brisket, for example) and make a number of different things from it. I use a Römertopf rather than a slow cooker, because that's how I was taught, but the effect is very similar. We've also found that if you have the freezer space and a good butcher, it's much more economical to buy half a pig or hogget at once. You can specify how you want it butchered, you get the bits most people don't want but which make great meals, and you pay a fraction of the price per kilo that you'd pay in the supermarket. I also buy 'dog bones' for making stock. There's nothing wrong with the meat, there's plenty of it on the bones and the stock is fantastic. And no chicken makes it out of my kitchen without surrendering the last possible gram of nutrition - just the bare, bleached bones. I wish I had children to pass on some of these lessons. It makes me sad to think that so many of them think that a run to Macca's is the norm on a busy weeknight.

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  29. I am still learning a great deal when it comes to cooking even at my age of 58. I would not say I am a natural cook, but reading books like yours Rhonda is giving me a lot more confidence. I now have The Simple Home ☺ After leaving paid work 18 mths ago I am trying to concentrate on organizing the home and meals. My husband never buys lunch anymore, he has his own special lunch boxes in a certain part of the freezer, marked with the meal contents. He makes a choice from 'our'frozen section. We now have one vehicle and he cycles to work so he needs a good lunch.
    Thank you for all your encouragement Rhonda.
    Karen Berwick

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  30. I was very fortunate to be taught home cooking by my grandmother, still grow my own fruit/veg/herbs and homemade meals are our mainstay and what we prefer. If I can't pronounce the ingredients or don't know what they are, why should we be eating them? Most importantly, fresh home cooking is fantastic!

    I know exactly what goes into my food. There is a reassurance in knowing that you aren't eating something a company brewed up in a laboratory.

    Two points I would like to make-

    1. there are some quick and easy homemade meals that a person can whip up in a few minutes. You just have to gather a few recipes together or ask for recommendations from friends/family. Omelettes, soups, etc. And left-overs make a great quick meal.

    2. so many people give up on a recipe or cooking altogether after the first time due to it 'taking too long' to put together, or 'it didn't come out like store-bought'. Have patience, give yourself grace to learn how to make the recipe (you will get quicker as you become more confident) and learn how to refine it to your taste. Everyone is slow at first. It's all about practice, confidence and re-educating your palate to what real food tastes like.

    Also, the wonderful thing about real, home cooked meals is that they are adaptable. Want more zing? Add spice. Want less salt? Add a little while cooking, then add more when it is on your plate. Don't like a certain ingredient? Substitute it or completely leave it out- as applicable to what you are making. Experiment to see what you (and your family) like best.

    And get your family and/or friends involved, even just once in a while. It's building memories, having companionship and sharing the experience. The added bonus is that young ones will be learning valuable skills while spending time with you. Most of all, relax and enjoy!

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  31. We do all of this at our home..and find it hard to enjoy food in a restaurant. We source most of our food from local farmers, and grow veg ourselves. We forage for blueberries, and have local farmers for strawberries. One of my favorite pieces of kitchen equipment is our canner, and pressure canner. We also cook once, eat twice...repurposing leftovers creatively! I also batch cook bone broth, usually making a couple of gallons at a time, and freezing in 1 litre portions.

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  32. I know that some people think that home cooking takes "too long" but it really isn't true, or at least it doesn't have to be. Last night I remembered at 9 p.m. that I had offered to bring in a cake for a birthday at work the next day. I mixed up a nice pecan streusal coffee cake and popped it in the oven. It took about 15 minutes to get it in the oven. While it was baking I got into my pajamas, brushed my teeth, and took the dogs out. I took out the cake 25 minutes later, covered it very loosely to cool and it was ready to go to work in the morning. It would absolutely have taken me more than 15 minutes to drive to a store, find parking, scrounge around for something acceptable (knowing it wouldn't actually taste very good), and it would probably have cost around $10 which is almost a half hours worth of working for me. Nearly every meal that I make regularly takes less preparation time than stopping at a supermarket and if something needs to cook for a while, I can use that time at time to do what I want - I can clean the kitchen, read a book, do some sewing, or work on an on-line class. So please add saving time to the reasons of saving money, eating healthier food, and eating tastier food!

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  33. I once read a quote along the lines of 'if you can't find the time to cook you will have to find the time to be sick'! Food for thought for sure.

    My chest freezer is one of the best things I ever purchased for my home. When I'm exhausted or have just had enough of cooking I am so grateful when I open the freezer and see my pre-cooked, delicious meals waiting there. This year I saved the last of our cherry harvest (they freeze beautifully) and am looking forward to cherries and homemade custard in the cooler weather.

    Madeleine.x

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  34. Your photos of your meals always look so delicious! Your advice is spot on! I find it great fun to batch cook on the weekend, and whenever I am using the oven I make sure that I am filling it to capacity. Trays of roasted vegetables can be done on the bottom shelf while a casserole is on the top. You would think with all the cooking shows that people would be cooking more! I cooked a meal from my kitchen rules for the extended family the other day and they all enjoyed it and gave it a 10 out of 10! I think my problem is that I see so many tasty recipes that it is hard to decide what to cook!

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  35. Thanks Rhonda for such a good topic. I had a very similar home cooking experience growing up as you, Meg Hopeful, so I started out with all good intentions as an adult. However, there came a time in my Corporate Career days where lunch at the fancy restaurants in the city were a weekly or often more frequent occasion. It derailed me into some terrible shopping and eating habits for years, which weren't helped by meeting hubby with the same sort of "champagne taste". Luckily, we eventually came to our collective sense and I am back to cooking from scratch and apart from the occasional bit of fancy cooking, our meals these days are rather simple and costed accordingly, and the freezer and leftovers-creativity get a real workout. Even without much storage in our small apartment, I'm starting to stockpile pantry staples that come on sale, but I think the only prepared food I have bought in a couple of years would be tinned tomatoes and some crackers for cheese. The truth is that I prefer my own cooking to cafe and restaurant fare, in spite of the amazing chefs out there. If I'm really lazy or am cooking for myself for some reason, my favourite fast food is spaghetti alio e olio and it can be whipped up faster than any takeaway could be possibly purchased, and is costed in cents not dollars!

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  36. What a great post Rhonda, and what great advice and strategies to take on board.
    I am a real mix of cooking processes here, much from scratch,plenty of bulk cooking for freezer and pantry and lits of short cuts
    . Mind you , I do enjoy a meal out now and then too ..lol.
    I will look foward to your next post.
    Cheers
    Jane.

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  37. I agree Rhonda, there are ways to make scratch cooking easier and I use my slow cooker at least once a week to make a big batch of something that we will take for lunches or eat for dinner sometimes several days in a row.

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  38. Helle from DenmarkMarch 06, 2018 10:26 pm

    I totally agree that cooking from scratch is the best: nutrition wise, taste wise and economically. We don't go out to eat much, it is too expensive, and if it isn't, it's not very good. As our freezer is too small to stock up on pre-prepared meals I try instead to make the dishes look a little different from day to day. For instance with a boiled chicken we get the thighs and drumsticks one night in a bechamel sauce with carrots, leek, root celery and parsley. The breasts the next day in a tomato sauce with chick peas and different veggies and rice, And a minestronelike soup with the wings and the rest of the meat and lots of vegetables. Even when the two kids lived at home I managed to make three meals out of one chicken this way. I also freeze parsley- and dill stems, the greens from root celery, fresh thyme and so on to have flavour to add to soups, sauces and just boiled potatoes. If you need to shop for things like that in the winter (here in Denmark) it is expensive, as many vegetables will have to be imported. But if you freeze a supply of greens, variation gets easier.

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  39. I love these comments on your fabulous post Rhonda! I commented on your financial post about getting out of debt, retiring, and becoming a domestic goddess (which you are the queen). I grew up with all home made meals, learned to cook from my mother (all of her food and desserts looked like they came out of BH&Gardens and were divine), we never ate out growing up, but once I started working I wanted to eat out all of the time. I enjoyed someone else preparing the food and cleaning up; I was not focused on the future of finances or health. I paid for that service all of my adult life with several dinners out and several lunches out a week, with a family of 4. I would not eat left overs and I wouldn't batch cook. Fast forward to today, after having your books for several years and reading your blog: we might eat out once every two weeks for dinner (Mexican food or pizza, once a month for lunch for me at work. It is now a game for me to use left overs and see how creative I can get. I meal plan to a slight extent, but always keep on hand simpler ingredients to make a nutritious meal. I don't even crave going out anymore and I cringe when I think about how much money we wasted on food out over the last 38 years. I use my crockpot at least once a week, sometimes twice, but do not cook with canned soups or soy; I have food sensitivities. I can look in my freezer and take out a meal to defrost on a night when I am too tired to think. My point to all of this is that I had to have a goal to change, and that goal is to become debt free and retired. Our food was a great place to start that journey. Thank you so much, Rhonda, for showing me that home is where I want to be.
    Robin (Montana,USA)

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  40. A couple of cookbook suggestions. These have been very helpful in getting back into making my own meals.

    Anything by Alana Chernila
    I have her latest, Eating from the Ground Up:Recipes for Simple Perfect Vegetables

    The Kitchen Ecosystem and Well-Preserved: Recipes for Putting up Small Batches of Seasonal Food
    Eugenia Bone

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  41. Hahaha. Love your comment on not so long ago dining out or take away foods were looked on as inferior to home made meals! I think in some cases it still is. I personally find foraging in my fridge/cupboards and cooking from scratch quite satisfying. As for batch cooking, there is nothing better than leftovers to add to a quick meal for another day.

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  42. Love it Rhonda! I have gone from a stay at home worker to the primary income earner working 40+ hours per week and I still manage to bake cakes, biscuits, slices and bread from scratch. I also try and support my husband in our small business, so my time is extremely limited. Not to mention that where I live we don't have the options of the larger cities or towns. All it takes is good time management and priority setting. Eating well and healthy is a priority to me and therefore I make the time.
    As always your posts are so supporting and helpful.
    Regards
    Andrea Saunders
    Blackall Qld

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  43. Oh yes, I know where Blackall is. It's way out the back of our place. It sounds to me like you're very good at home and time management, Andrea. xx

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  44. What a great post Rhonda. I have managed to stock my freezer with a number of meals. I only use these when there is nothing left over from the night before ie when a freezer meal has been eaten for tea. I usually cook of a weekend and always do enough vegetables for a large family (it's just my son and I) which we eat the next night and again I freeze what's left. We generally eat vegetables during the week and eat lasanges, savoury mince,, zucchini fritters and a number of other dishes in between. I think it is so quick to put together a meal of vegetables, slice some cold meat and make a quick cheese or whatever takes your fancy sauce. Of course I understand there is some preparation that goes with this as in cooking a roast the day before and having the ingredients for a tasty sauce. I don't have a slow cooker but I manage well with freezer meals. It's definitely cheaper for me.

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  45. I (or husband) do cook from scratch most nights. We use double batch cooking or cooking double on Sunday nights to help us a bit during the week. We also use a menu plan, which I plan out weekly. I make it according to what our weekly veggie-box has to offer (we have a subscription on a weekly veggie box). The menu plan tells us what to cook, which saves time and energy.
    We are in a very busy phase of life - both of us working and small children (under 5). So I/we do use short cuts. No shame in using stock cubes, bake off bread or eating cookies or yoghurt from the shop. I even buy a mix with beans and sauce for very busy nights when I go out after dinner to exercise, which I could easily make, but not in 10 mins. I realised in reading your post that we use a lot more ready made products than I woud think, they are that normal to me. I mean yoghurt, cookies, bread, tortillas or muesli bars. (Note, these are all relatively healthy products which are mostly used in cooking meals, except for cookies, but hey, home made cake and cookies would not be healthy either...).
    Yes, I could make all of that myself. However, it would take too much time and energy at the moment. I love cooking, so I can imagine very well that in later phases of life I will go back to baking our own bread (I used to do this), making yoghurt etc.
    I really liked the post about phases and stages in life and that you included the stage 'double income with kids'. I strive for simple living, and do not want to keep wanting more stuff/nicer house etc etc, but I do love my job and would not want to miss it. - Hannah

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  46. Great topic, love reading everyone’s posts. I have always enjoyed cooking for my family. But when my kids grew up and I was alone I started eating out more. Then when I remarried I cooked 4-5 nights and ate out the other nights. Most lunches came from one of the many food trucks around where I worked. Then 2 years ago a family member became very sick. My days were taken up with work and living at the hospital. I only came home to shower and sleep for 6 months. All meals was eaten out. We tried to eat healthy but that’s was hard and expensive. I gained 30 pounds by husband 25. We both missed eating meals cooked at home. Now we only eat out once a month if at all for our date night.
    The USDA says I should be spending 80+ dollars a week on food for my husband and myself to eat thrifty. I’m spending around 50 a week and we eat well. I buy in bulk and do batch cooking. Make what I can from scratch. I’m hoping my food budget goes down when my garden comes in this summer. Right now I buy everything.

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  47. I'm not that great at completely cooking/baking from scratch, but the more I practice the easier it gets. My mom has often said it's a shame she didn't teach me and she regrets it. I think so too! That's why I'm making it my mission to teach my daughter, and if I have a son I'll teach him as well. Thank you for reminding us of why we do this, encouragement is so important! 😊

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  48. The kitchen is the last place I want to spend my time but I do like good tasting food and I want to know what is in my food so I force myself to spend time preparing good meals for my family. Every once in a while I feel I am missing out by not dining out so we go out to dinner and each time we are disappointed because the food just doesn't taste as good or it taste good but later causes health issues- not sure what chemicals they put in restaurant food here in the United States but I know it can't be good for us.
    Due to the climate in my area, I can only grow food about 3-4 months of the year but I try to grow as much as possible during that time and use it throughout the year. That way I know how the food was grown. I think most of the food grown in the U.S. is not really 'food' anymore. They like to grow things in labs-currently they are growing meat in labs and selling it as 'food'.
    I will stay in my garden and grow my own real food and stay in my kitchen and prepare meals that don't make us sick.

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  49. Love this post. This week I have made beef stock, vegetable stock and currently have chicken stock on the go. I freeze it in either cup or 2 cup lots - so much tastier and preservative free than bought stuff. I do mine in the slow cooker, so it doesn't use up much my time. I've gone back to home baking to fill the young adults work lunch boxes - cheaper than buying bought biscuits and muesli bars. Now that the weather is cooling down, I'll start planting the vegetable garden up with leafy greens, beans, zucchini and salad vegetables, which is what I eat most of. Cheers Lyndie

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  50. Your food looks divine! I love the homemade raviolis. How sweet that your grandson enjoys a piece of cake with a glass of milk. That image made me smile...

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  51. My tip is to menu plan. We are a busy household, and I have to know who's doing what each day of the week, so I know how much time I'll have in the kitchen. I use every one of my appliances to make life easier - especially the crockpot, pressure cooker, breadmaker, rice cooker and microwave. Doesn't have to be expensive - two were gifts, one a hand me down, and I bought the pressure cooker at half price!

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  52. Hi Rhonda! I haven't posted in a while but just wanted to drop in and say that I have been reading along and enjoying the series. I have stepped up my cooking from scratch for both economic and good health reasons. A while ago I started on a ketogenic (low carb) diet and it's a challenge. For a while I was really making boring meals (baked chicken and salad for example) and thought that there was no way i was going to be able to sustain this lifestyle with such boring food choices! So I started searching the internet and am coming up with new recipes to incorporate here. And I love using a slow cooker, even though I am home. It fills the house with good smells all day long! :)

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  53. After I posted here, I read an article in the March issue of Reader's Digest. For people who have never heard of the magazine, it's a collection of interesting and varied stories, some original and some reprints from other publications. In an original article called "40 Smart Ways to Save at the Supermarket" I saw this comment that reminded me of your grocery store trip. "...more than 25 percent of the average (US) family food budget now goes to easy-prep meals and grab-and-go foods, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA)" Another part of the article stated "We spend nearly 25 percent of our grocery dollars on processed foods and sweets, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics". So basically my take away from all of this is by becoming more self reliant, and following some of the things you have suggested, we will be able to stretch or reduce our food budget while eating better quality food.

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  54. Thank you for another wonderful post. I am really going to enjoy this month in the series, as it is one of my goals this year to improve in the areas of meal planning and cooking more meals and snacks from scratch. I am finding that it really isn't that hard, but it is a matter of being organised and MAKING time for it. Thank you for sharing your recipes and knowledge with us Rhonda. I like using your recipes as I know its always going to turn out well and be delicious! Have a nice weekend, Kelly

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  55. Thanks Rhonda! We cook basically all our meal from scratch, and I like to freeze portions of soups, curries, fried rice, pasta etc so that if my husband and I are having a meal we know the kids won't enjoy (we are trying to follow a more plant based diet and the kids love meat!) that they can defrost something for themselves. I've seen the Country Table cookbook but haven't had a good look through it, will have a look next time I'm in the shops. Thanks again!

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