Published April 20, 2022

Saving on Groceries Part 3: Cook from Scratch

Written by
Charlene Nelson
| The Dakotan

In our attempt to lower the grocery bill we've covered things like shop with a list, have a super pantry and cut down on food waste. These all sound like Grandma skills. And the truth is, these are things your grandma did. If your Grandma lived during the depression (like mine did), she learned all sorts of habits and skills to make the food budget stretch.

So here's another Grandma skill that is becoming a dying art but could save you hundreds of dollars every month:

Tip #5: Cook from scratch

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. We 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 heat it up. And after a full day at work, who wants to come home to more work?

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. 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 becomes 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.

Weekend Meals

The weekend schedule tends to be more relaxed, so start having made-from-scratch meals on the weekends.  After you’ve done that for a few weekends and have gotten proficient at that, make an extra meal on Sunday that can be easily heated 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. I have a 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 and the cookbook is free this month.

If you get really ambitious, you can make up a week's worth of meals on the weekend and freeze them. 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.

And then there’s an added bonus: 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.

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. 

Five meals from a $5 rotisserie chicken: https://www.providenthomecompanion.com/product/five-meals-five-dollars/

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