Master these six scratch cooking skills to enable you to make easy, fun, and healthy meals from home. Scratch cooking is not mysterious or impossible, but is actually easy, healthy, and fun.
Sometimes we tell ourselves, I don’t have time for scratch cooking tonight. I’ll just open a box. The box contains a flavor packet full of chemicals, MSG, salt, corn syrup, sugar, and spices. It has either pasta or rice. It requires a pound of ground meat to be fried in oil with onions. When you are done, you realize that it took just as long to cook the box as it would have taken had you started from scratch. You didn’t save any time. It cost more money than scratch cooking.
And now you feel worse. Bloated, more tired, and determined that, if you ever get your mojo back, you’ll get back to cooking from scratch.
Brazil has new food guidelines
Brazil just came out with new food guidelines.
The new guidelines encourage Brazilians to:
- eat the food that is native to Brazil
- cook from scratch
- avoid processed food
- eat slowly
- include lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, grown in Brazil
- share cooking skills
- eat with friends and family.
Like the US, Brazil has an obesity problem. The new guidelines address this. They are culturally appropriate. They encourage the youth to seek out their elders and learn the basic scratch cooking skills. Brazil has chosen a wise policy that will improve the health and wellbeing of Brazil`s people.
Basic Skills to Make Scratch Cooking Easier
If getting back to basics in the kitchen is overwhelming, breaking it down into skillsets can help. Once you can see the roadmap, you’ll be able to take the first step with confidence.
Some of these skills can be learned from an online class, some can be learned from books. Some of the skills just require a good basic recipe. And some of the skills, like meal planning, just need practice.
If you are already a master in the kitchen, but you’ve slid into the same old meals week in and week out, polishing these basic skills can give you back your JOY in the kitchen.
Here’s the basic scratch cooking skills you need to learn to master scratch cooking. Learning these skills will save you both time and money. These scratch cooking skills will remove the overwhelmed feeling of being in the kitchen and preparing food every day. They will give you pleasure, confidence, and creativity, when you hear those infamous words, “When’s dinner?”
1. Knife Skills
Have you cut your finger when you’ve been slicing vegetables, peeling carrots, or cutting into an apple? I’m not surprised. Most of us were never taught how to safely, and efficiently use a knife.
Most of us don’t know how to sharpen our knives and keep them in good shape.
In fact many of us don’t even know which knives to use for which kitchen task. Have you ever used a serrated bread knife to cut a slice of cheese? Was the slice of cheese a little uneven? Maybe too thick? Knife skills are foundational to everything else we do in the kitchen. Don’t skip them.
Knife skills you need to know include:
- Sharpening your knives
- Choosing which knives you should have in the kitchen
- Choosing the best knife for the job
- Holding your hand when slicing so you don’t cut your fingers
- Moving the knife so you don’t injure your body with repetitive stress
- Cutting various fruits, vegetables, and herbs, ideally
- Making specialty cuts like julienne and dice
- Cutting onions without crying (or learning to be super fast at it)
- Choosing the best cutting board for food safety, and to avoid dulling your knives
Learning good knife skills will make you safer in the kitchen and give you confidence to handle the other aspects of scratch cooking.Never rush when working with a knife, and remember that a sharp knife is less dangerous than a dull knife, and sharp knives give you more control. Knife control is one of the most valuable scratch cooking skills. Learn more on Blueprint here (ad).
2. Cooking dry beans and whole grains
Whole grains like rice, quinoa, and faro, plus dried beans like kidney beans, lentils, and white navy beans are the foundation of frugal, nutritious meals. They are also the basis of many emergency food storage plans. Cooking from the dry staple rather than a can or a box will save you money. While it may seem like it will take more time to cook this way, most of the time is spent soaking, simmering, and waiting.
Cooking with the dry ingredient is among the most basic scratch cooking skills. Everyone who cooks from scratch needs to know how simple it is. I’ve got a few resources that will help you learn this skill easily.
Here are some blog resources for working with Whole grains and dried beans and peas. You can download my personal cheat sheets and keep them on your fridge for handy reference.
3. Baking bread from scratch
A form of bread like
- sandwich bread
is the staple food in many countries. It is a sign of agreement or covenant in cultures around the world. What passes for bread at the bakery section of many grocery stores is not bread. It is a chemical concoction of food-like dough.
Learning to make bread from scratch will not only stretch your budget, but fill your home with warmth and welcoming scents. Nothing says, “I love you” like the smell of homemade bread. You can make Artisan bread in minutes a day, and keep your family in bread all year round. Bread making is another basic scratch cooking skill, and various types of breads are actually very simple to make.
Bread is one of the simplest baked goods to master, and still have fun making. Here are some bread baking tips you might need.
If anyone in your family is Gluten-Free, check out this method for gluten free baking of bagels too.
4. Making soup stock and sauces
Making stock is another foundational scratch cooking skill. Stock making lets you draw the nutrients, flavors, minerals, and gelatin out of bones, and vegetable trimmings, making use of an otherwise discarded food. This is healthy for you and healthy for the environment.
You can make soup stock in a big stock pot like they do in restaurants, or you can use your crock pot and simmer it on low, overnight. But however you decide to do it, you need to make stock. (Here’s my crockpot method of making bone broth.)
You can make stock out of vegetable trimmings, bones, and left overs. What you might otherwise compost, but is still fresh food, can be added to a stock for flavour and vital nutrients.
Buying stock in cubes or cans adds a lot of salt, chemicals, and colouring to your diet, as well as sugar. When you make it from scratch you control the ingredients. And you save money.
Homemade stock is the basis for soups, sauces, and gravy – the heart of the meal. Learn how to make it. Clear broth is a great base for any broth or stock, and is ultimately simple and easy to make with just a bit of forethought. Scratch cooking doesn’t need to be complex to be flavorful and healthy.
5. Meal planning and kitchen Organization
Once you’ve mastered knife skills, cooking beans and grains, baking bread, and making stock, you need to put it all together with organization and planning. But how do you take all those pieces and use them to actually put healthy meals on the table?
While there isn’t one right method of meal planning, I’ve got some tips to share. I use the pantry method of meal planning. You can download my handy chart here. By planning based on cuisine rather than specific recipes, I can always get something on the table in a hurry, if I have the staple ingredients in my pantry. Remember that cooking from scratch usually takes between 20 and 40 minutes, the same length of time the average pre-packaged food item takes.
6. Making condiments, snacks, and staples from scratch
Salad dressings, dips, sauces, jams, and jellies seem to be the last thing people become determined to learn, when they switch from a processed food diet to scratch cooking. It’s as if keeping one food in the convenience aisle will keep them from feeling deprived. As if scratch cooking is austerity. It’s not!
Scratch cooking is the best way to eat. Food is so much more flavorful when cooked from scratch. And when you’ve been off of processed crack, so many amazing changes start to happen in your body.
You might lose weight, get your energy back, awaken your taste buds again. Don’t delay learning to make your condiments from scratch. It’s really not as mysterious as it sounds. And when you make them from scratch you can leave out the GMOs, soy and cotton seed oil, msg, sugar, and high fructose corn syrup. Jams are one of the simplest condiments to make when you’re learning scratch cooking skills, and you can make small batches so you don’t have to learn canning at the same time!
A really good book that will guide you with some easy to follow recipes is The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila and her other book,The Homemade Kitchen. (See my review here.)
The people of Brazil have a new start with their new food guidelines that recommend scratch cooking from local ingredients that are eaten in community. These guidelines, when applied will give their citizens resilience in these challenging economic times. These guidelines will also improve the well-being of their people.
But cooking from scratch with local ingredients and eating in community is within your reach, too. If you lack a few skills to make this easier for you, I trust this has given you the information you need to make it work for you. Pick just one skill and make it yours today. Don’t think, good idea, I’ll do it later. Do it now while the idea is fresh.
Which skill are you going to master this week, to make cooking from scratch easier for you?
Nicole @Little Blog on the Homestead says
What a great policy response from Brazil! Wish we would adopt more of that here. I was blessed that my grandparents taught me to cook and then I did it in the military so I learned a lot of skills that way. I meet too many people in my generation who don’t have even the most basic skills! Thanks for sharing 😀
Kris @ Attainable Sustainable says
Aw. Thanks for the mention, Chris!