Between the demands of work and family, who has time to cook from scratch? It is much more convenient to buy something ready-made or almost made. Don’t you just love those veggies in the produce section that are already prepped and all you have to do is perhaps mix in a couple more ingredients and you’ve got dinner? After a full day at work, who wants to come home to more work?
But if you’re trying to make ends meet, cooking from scratch is one of the best things you can do to keep the food budget under control.
When you first start cooking from scratch it may seem to take forever to make a meal. But that is only because you haven’t practiced enough. Don’t jump into this all at once. You’ll burn out and quit. Instead, start slow, adding one or two things to your “cook from scratch” routine until it becomes an easy and efficient thing for you to do.
The more you cook from scratch the more efficient you will become. In time you will find that cooking a meal from scratch takes about the same amount of time as ordering and picking up meals to go.
Start with treats
Stop buying cakes, cookies and chips from the store. Make them from scratch instead. If you don’t already have a popcorn popper, get one and make popcorn instead of snacking on chips. Make pita bread and serve it with homemade hummus or salsa.
If you make baked or sweet treats once or twice a month it will soon become an easy thing to do. These homemade treats cost a fraction of the store-bought varieties. They also taste better because they are fresher and don’t have the preservatives, artificial flavors and saturated fats that store-bought treats do.
And look how much you’ll save just on snacks alone:
That’s $2-3 every day, for a savings of $60-90 every month.
How much can you save?
The weekend schedule tends to be more relaxed, so the next step is to start having made-from-scratch meals on the weekends. That’s where’s you’ll really
start saving a lot of money. You could save $20-30 for each meal that you cook at home.
After you’ve made your weekend meals from scratch a few times and you feel you’ve gotten proficient at that, make an extra meal on Sunday that you can then quickly and easily heat up for dinner on Monday,
Buy a couple rotisserie chickens and use them as the base for meals throughout the week. It’s a great way to combine the convenience of ready-cooked meat with the economy of made-from-scratch meals. You’ll
want to check out my cookbook titled Five Meals for $5. It shows you how you can make five meals from a single rotisserie chicken. That’s bargain cooking at its most convenient.
After you’ve done this for a while, if you start to feel really ambitious, try making up a week’s worth of meals on the weekend and freeze them. Then make a big tossed salad, enough to last 4-5 days and you’ll have healthy meals all week long that are easy to put on the table after a busy day at work.
Have your children help
Deputize your children to be your junior sous chefs. Give them age-appropriate jobs to do and have them help you put dinner on the table each night. When you make meal preparation a family affair you will all have time to catch up with each other and reconnect. It makes meal prep a lot quicker and easier for everyone.
There are added bonuses to having your children help you put dinner on the table: your children will develop important life skills. They’ll not only learn to cook, they’ll learn what makes a nutritionally balanced meal, how to multi-task and how to manage time.
My boys start helping me at a young age, peeling potatoes and carrots and learning to chop vegetables. By the time they were 10 or 11, they could follow a recipe with little or no supervision. By age 12 or 13 they could make a meal on their own. I’m delighted that all three of my sons are now very good cooks.
Salad for a Week
Make a large tossed salad at the beginning of the week. If you follow these pointers, you will have a nutritious addition to your meals that will stay fresh and tasty all week long:
- Make your salad with crispy, low-moisture veggies, things like lettuce and other greens, celery, grated carrot, parsnip or turnip, peppers and herbs.
- Store it in a large bowl with an airtight seal (like a Tupperware bowl or a glass bowl with a tight-fitting lid.)
- Put 1-2 paper towels on top. Fold the towel if needed to fit the bowl. and turn the bowl upside down when you store it in the fridge. The towel will absorb excess moisture, ensuring the vegetables do not spoil prematurely.
- Serve moist vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes and mushrooms on the side.
- When dinner is done, put a fresh paper towel on top of the salad, seal the lid, turn the bowl upside down and store in the refrigerator.
Practice Makes it Easy
As you practice making snacks and meals from scratch, you’ll find ways to shorten the process, little tricks or practices that make meal prep quicker and easier. It won’t be long before you find that cooking from scratch takes very little time and yields so many rewards: tastier meals, more nutritious food, closer family connections and more money in your budget.
Click here for more tips on how to keep your grocery budget under control.