Monday, July 22, 2013

The basics, part 3: cooking from scratch

Cooking from scratch strikes fear in many at heart. But, it's not as hard as its meant to be. I like to tell the story my daughter tells. She has been teaching low income and homeless kids for several years now. One day, she was eating with the kids and had brought some leftover Mac and cheese. A child at the table asked her of that was xxxxdelux Mac and cheese. She told her, no, it was some her mother made. The girl was in shock....your mother made Mac and cheese?

There are a lot of recipes that are as easy as making to same thing from scratch. Really, scratch cooking is a matter of mastering a few techniques. There are videos on the television and u tube all the time. There is a Martha Stewart series running on PBS. Whether you like her or not, she covers the basics quite well.

There is not much room for ready made food in a thrifty budget. That being said, there are a few things that are as cheap or cheaper ready made, and a few that the time involved to make them isn't worth the difference I price. Refried beans and tortillas come to mind. Instant mashed potatoes, some times of the year are cheaper in the pouch.
Beans have a very short fridge life. It is not safe to keep rice and beans very long. It is easier for me to use canned, especiallY if I can get them cheap enough.

The crock pot can be your best friend in the kitchen. There is something to be said for coming home after a long day to dinner waiting for you.

Pre cooking a batch of something takes almost no more time than cooking once, and you have several dinners done.
There are books out there that cook a whole months worth of meals in one day, and then the majority of dinner is done all month. I haven't the stamina to do that. I find that if I take one loss leader or really cheap meat a week and cook enough to cover us for the month, I am better off. I've paid the least I could for the meat, I have been able to control the portions so I have no waste, and I have cooked once and cleaned the kitchen once!

The major grocery chains rotate what they put on sale cheap. Typically, I

cook sausage crumbles from a log of sausage I get from Costco.

Cook 9 percent ground beef from Costco wholesale or SAFEWAYS

Cook several chickens when they are 1.00 a pound. ( see previous blog on the difference between deli chicken and scratch chicken) a real eye opener.

Cook a pork loin or beef roast

Cut up beef or pork cubes from a steak cut and braise them.

When the meat is already cooked, it makes cooking dinner really fast and less stressful at the most hectic time of the day for many families.

I did a whole series of blogs on a hamburger meal box. It, too, is a real eye opener.
There is my answer to hamburger pasta bake, my nephew named it no brainier pasta.

Basically, the more scratch you can make something, the cheaper it will be and the more nutritious it will be. The more control you have over what it has in it. There are many recipes that are what my grown children call no Brainer. When a recipe is really easy, and takes almost no non- passive time, it is easy to enlist an older child or spouse to start diner of you are going to be late.

When I make meal plans, I use a matrix so that we are well balanced and everyone is happy some of the time since I have a family with varied wants. My matrix is different than yours probably is and mine might change beforemthemdrought effects are over!

2 Beef
2 pork or chicken
2 vegetarian
1 fish

That's all I can remember to say. Please feel free to read other basic posts. I do it at least once a month.

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