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Do you cook from scratch every day?

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 

I spent the last two months at my mother's house. We went shopping, watched TV sitcoms and reality TV shows (Duck Dynasty anyone? lol.gif) and generally just enjoyed each other's company and relaxed.


In my home, our meals are almost always made from scratch. I prefer the fresh taste but I love to go out to eat too and let someone else do the cooking. While at my mom's I found myself leaning toward frozen meals, quick and easy stuff like sandwiches, breakfast for dinner, and so on. It was so much easier and much less stressful! We made some mad dashes to the grocery store when dinner time got close and we realized we had nothing in mind for dinner and there was no time to cook. And off we went to pick something up that we could just heat in the oven. That's not to say that the food was great. It was okay. But it made me wonder if I do spend too much time and effort doing things from scratch and if frozen foods are close to what I'd be making myself at home. 


Do you cook from scratch every day? Are there things you always make at home and other things you buy frozen or ready to eat? I'd love to figure out what I can do without compromising our health but spend less time in the kitchen. Or even be able to walk into the kitchen and pull something our of the freezer and stick it into the oven. 

post #2 of 43

I would say that we cook/eat from scratch every day.  It's pretty easy for us because we're vegetarians and we tend to eat mostly stir fry type dishes and rice.  We never got into the habit of utilizing frozen meals or pre-packaged stuff.  Probably the most prep work we do is to cut up vegetables and refrigerate them so that we can make a quick stir fry or steam something.  I do keep things like canned kidney beans if I want to throw something into the mix quickly (rather than going through the process of boiling raw beans).


For us, convenience and ease is totally contingent on weekly meal planning.  Plus, we live in a small apartment with a small kitchen, so our shopping is weekly and we eat everything up in week.  In addition, DH and I both WOH so it is even more critical that we plan our meals in advance.  On weekends, we all like to experiment in the kitchen with breads and other dishes that require more time and effort. 

post #3 of 43

OP, have you thought about feeding your freezer, doing bulk cooking on the weekend, or crockpot cooking? 


We cook nearly every meal from scratch.  It's not always easy for me-I was raised on cans and boxes and I don't necessarily enjoy cooking.  But it's defenitely cheaper and healthier, and now that I've gotten into the rhythm of it it doesn't usually take up much time.


For breakfasts we typically eat muffins or quick breads.  If we have a surplus of eggs we will have omelets for breakfast.  If we are running of the door or it's hot out and nobody is very hungry we will do smoothies.   There is also oatmeal, but typically its baked oatmeal.  Very seldom do we have cereal-if we find a super deal or something we will eat fiber rich breakfast cereals.


For lunch it's typically leftovers or peanut butter jelly sandwiches.  I usually make the bread from scratch but I need to buy oil so I've been on a hiatus.  Peanut butter and jelly is storebought though, and we will typically have a piece of cheese and/or fruit on the side.


We usually have leftovers from dinner that go to my dh for work, and/or to us for lunch at home.  If there is a lot of something or we just didn't end up eating it all for some reason it goes into the freezer.  That way hubby can grab lunch from the freezer or I can pull it out and reheat it for a hot lunch.


We also do kale chips or air popped popcorn for snacks. 


Dinner is stuff like meatloaf, different casseroles, chicken breast with potatoes or rice, etc.  Standard fare but I try to add healthier touches like no canned soups, extra veggies, brown rice, higher quality meats, etc.  I've been starting to sub maple syrup and honey for sugar in baked goods, when I'm not using sucanat and I'm planning on making a big batch of applesauce I can use for subbing oil in may recipes. 

post #4 of 43
We don't use any bought, frozen/packaged meals but I do freeze a lot of our own, home-cooked meals. I cook almost every day but if DH is working an evening shift then we will usually have leftovers or something I froze previously. DH also takes frozen meals to work with him most days.

I recently started meal planning which helps a lot. I do my shopping (market and grocery, it's a family outing with my parents) on a Friday morning. On Thursday night I do a meal plan and a shopping list to match. Then I have everything I need to do our meals to the week.

Are you familiar with the blog "Like Mother, Like Daugter"? She has some excellent meal prep/planning advice. And it is mostly for large families too, although easily adapted to smaller ones.
post #5 of 43

Everything is from scratch for us. I do use a lot of frozen veggies and make very simple foods. We use nothing with grains, msg, much added sugars, hfcs, or hydrogenated oils, so that rules out most everything pre made. 


Every morning I make eggs and bacon and sausage, with some fruit on the side and sometimes sauteed veggies mixed in. I'd like to start making up batches of scotch eggs and other make ahead high protein things, I don't like tending things on the stove first thing. Lunch is often cold, like veggies and dressing, fruit, and ham or sausage or previously grilled chicken. Or a salad but that isn't the kids' preference. Occasionally I'll make a smaller version of a dinner.


I do a lot of really easy from scratch meals for dinner. Shrimp and veggies stir fried, grilled meat and simmered veggies and/or a salad, even roasting a meatloaf or chicken I throw it together and pop it in the oven, no more time invested than opening and assembling a package of pre made stuff. That time of day the baby is needy plus our new diet/lifestyle doesn't involve complicated foods.


Snacks I often make up all at once, like almond butter or trail mix or jerky or salsa. Desserts I'll make ice cream now and then, make almond&coconut flour brownies or banana bread if I get a serious craving, or we'll eat fruit and dark chocolate. The kids snack on whole fruit all day, more than I'd like but hey they don't eat the sugar added junk that their friends eat.

post #6 of 43
Originally Posted by Cynthia Mosher View Post

In my home, our meals are almost always made from scratch. I prefer the fresh taste but I love to go out to eat too and let someone else do the cooking. ...


Do you cook from scratch every day? Are there things you always make at home and other things you buy frozen or ready to eat? I'd love to figure out what I can do without compromising our health but spend less time in the kitchen. Or even be able to walk into the kitchen and pull something our of the freezer and stick it into the oven. 

Same considerations here right now - exactly. We have a busy schedule during the school year - by virtue of having a WOHD and a WAHM, and our choice of activities (adults and kids). This means I need to "cut corners" here and there for everything to work out. I look for convenience foods to make for dinner, but one look at the ingredients sends it back to the shelf, usually. I know stores vary by location (particularly internationally!), but we have found that Trader Joe's has some pretty tasty, not horribly horrible stuff, so we're adding that to the mix - stuff like dumplings, tater tots, etc. Otherwise I try to freeze portions of the dried beans I make in the crockpot or stuff like that to speed meal prep. Having a crockpot and rice cooker helps a lot. Also, I just got a toaster oven (we don't have a microwave), so I'm trying to figure out quick meals to make in that.

post #7 of 43

Most days, but not every day. 


Dinners this week have been made from scratch and included felafels (from dried chickpeas) with homemade lemon tahini sauce, pork cubano (homemade mojo) with fresh corn on the cob, salade nicoise (homemade vinaigrette), and for tonight, a Thai chicken mango salad. I've made granola once and bread twice. 


We all like the stuffed pastas like ravioli or tortellini. Making them from scratch is a big production (at least as far as I am concerned) but the "fresh" versions from the supermarket are passable. They are quick dinners when everyone is busy. I'll buy a couple of packages of the "fresh" versions (NEVER canned) and keep them in the freezer. 


DH likes to pick up a BBQ'd chicken from the supermarket when he makes dinner. He'll use the chicken in burritos or risotto or other dishes. That will happen a couple of times a month. 


There is a small, independent shop that sells awesome perogies, meat pies, samosas, and assorted salads. I'll buy stuff there if we're busy and I don't have a chance to cook. Again, that might be once a month or less. 


I can't remember the last time we ate a complete frozen dinner. 

post #8 of 43
Thread Starter 

I've considered the make your own freezer meals idea but it seems like a lot of work. happyhats, do you have something more to share about that? Maybe websites or recipes?


I do need to get my weekly meal plans done to make anything work well. I had no meal plans last year and it was really stressful some days. 

post #9 of 43
Making your own freezer meals really isn't that hard. We occasionally do special cooking for the freezer but usually it's just a matter of making extras of whatever we cool for dinner.

The blog I recommended also has lots of ideas for reducing steps with minimal effort pre-prep stuff as well. Things like, if you are making roast chicken, cool two instead of one (minimal extra effort) then freeze the second one to use later for a different meal - chicken wraps or salad or pasta or whatever.
post #10 of 43

I wish we had a standalone freezer so I could prep more meals ahead of time. The little freezer on our refrigerator fills up so quickly. 

post #11 of 43
Not from scratch everyday, but most of the time. We do batch cooking where I double up so that we can have leftovers 2 nights per week. I also do cook-ahead freezer meals (about 1 weekend day every couple of months), which are a great time saver on busy nights. I absolutely have a weekly meal plan that I rotate through by season, if I don't have that then I'm totally lost at the grocery store and just wander around aimlessly with a bunch of stuff in my cart that does't make a meal! We do lots of salads in the summer and lots of fish (2-3 nights per week) which is quick & easy. Smoothies or something baked for breakfast, leftovers for lunch and dinners vary. We probably do (on average) 1 meal "out" per week, either at friend's homes, or the occasional restaurant. We would probably eat out more often, but I usually feel so yucky after, so it's just no worth it.
post #12 of 43

Pretty much from scratch every day, but I do feed the freezer often, so much of the cooking is made easier by that.

post #13 of 43

We cook at home most of the time. I have celiac and my DD1 has a peanut allergy. When she was little her allergies were much more and she could eat less than what she couldn't. And we've moved to a place with very little family friendly places to eat out and almost no knowledge of other dietary needs. So cooking at home is very important to our health. 

I do feed my freezer but it's with simple things. If I'm making spaghetti sauce (also my lasagna sauce) I make sure to make enough to put some in the freezer, same with taco meat (good for nachos as well) and other things like sheppards pie meat, mini meatloafs (I just freeze it in the pan I plan to cook it in with some plastic wrap and tinfoil over top. Basically anything that I can easily make extras of and freeze well then I cook extra and feed the freezer. I don't specifically cook for the freezer however. 

Most of what I cook for dinner goes for extras for DH's lunch the next day.


And I stick to easy things. I probably have 20-30 different items on rotation and we have our favorites that we have each week or every couple weeks. Not many of our meals are classified as "fancy" or if they would be it's only because I've cooked them enough that I don't find them as time consuming as new meals. 


Also my cooking from "scratch" is usually more "scratch with a bit of help" added in. Like I don't make my own tomato sauce, but I do make my own spaghetti sauce... I will cut and prep and cook the veggies, cook the meat and then just add in our favorite tomato sauce. It's a bit of a cheat but it is still full of love, home cooking and veggies. Other sauces I do make my own. I'll use other similar little cheats but the only "boxed" food we eat is Thai once in awhile (usually when DH isn't home it's my quick make fix for myself) and the kids will eat some ready made stuff on nights when DH isn't home as well because those nights I usually eat late and they usually eat early. 

I don't cook a full breakfast each day, we may cook a hot full breakfast 1-2 Weekend days a month and lunch for my DH is leftovers or sandwiches, the kids it's sandwiches or "cold" plates and I just grab what ever is easy or I feel like. We keep lots of fresh easy grab fruit and veggies on hand for snacks and add ons to lunches and more unhealthy dinners. So I'm really only cooking dinner each night :)


Both my kids will be in school this year and I'm hoping with a bit of extra time to shop and prep that I can cook some more "involved" or new to us dinners this school year :)

post #14 of 43

This is such a great question. I try to, but find i put far too much pressure on myself when i do. Then the tension and pressure builds up and there's a crabby mommy, a messy kitchen, and too much money being spent out. We need to find more of an equilibrium. :) You only live once!!


I would guess we eat out once a week. Boxed/prepared food, maybe 3 times a week (if we are just talking dinner).


Funny, I"m actually prepping ingredients for a freezer meal workshop put on by a consultant for a national direct sales group. :) I'm hoping it takes the stress out of cooking...for a little while, at least!

post #15 of 43

I usually cook from scratch in big batches that will last two or three days.  I try to plan it so I don't have to cook on my busiest days.  I'm not opposed to takeout or frozen stuff, though my choices are limited because I'm vegan and it can get expensive.  Before I went vegan I would order pizza sometimes.  I miss that!

post #16 of 43
Yeah, I spend an awful lot of time cooking every day. We try to eat mostly produce, protein, and healthy fats, and none of us enjoys the texture of frozen stir fry for example. I'm far from perfect especially during summer with all these grain food treats, but the goal is to eat fresh whole foods for every meal.

The easiest meal for me is to put a chicken in the oven to roast and put artichokes to steam in the rice cooker. They are done after about an hour with no tending. We eat half the chicken and save the rest for lunch.

I also make giant salads periodically which last for 3 meals or so. Caprese salad is pretty fast, and so is kale salad with warm dressing.
I use this recipe for parmesan kale salad, everyone likes it - substituting tamari pumpkin seeds for the bread crumbs:

Another quick choice is pan-fried fish (no breading) with sauteed asparagus.

As often as possible, leftovers for lunch. Some people do leftovers for breakfast, maybe add stuff into an omelette to make it more breakfasty. Or, eat very lightly (fruit or nut bar).

The best way to have a quick dinner is to have a clean kitchen beforehand, lol... Still working on that.
Edited by moonjunio - 8/23/13 at 3:34pm
post #17 of 43

I have a small freezer and no microwave (read: I'm forgetful and never remember to thaw things), but since the birth of my third child two months ago, I'm making better use of that small freezer and miraculously finding a place in my memory for the freezer contents. 


I make pretty much everything from scratch. My convenience foods are things like jarred salsa, canned beans when I'm behind on my large batches of dried beans, and canned tomato puree to make my own sauce.


I've been getting better at making a little extra of the dinners I'm already making to be rotated in within the next two weeks or so. When I sit down to plan meals for the week, I plan on pulling a meal out of the freezer and putting at least one back in.


My current favorite freeze-ahead meals are curries (with frozen homemade paranthas), shredded taco meat from the crock pot (I do a big roast for like four meals worth of tacos), and these amazing sweet potato/black bean patties (which I serve with frozen green beans).

post #18 of 43

I pretty much cook from scratch every day, every meal.  We homeschool and deal with food allergies, plus it keeps things healthy and all natural and saves us a TON of money.  With five kids (two of them teens), we couldn't afford to eat well if we bought packaged stuff. 


I also work from home so I know how tiring it can be.  Here's some super fast meals you can make that are healthy, natural and quick! 


  • Tostadas-- Heat some refried beans (homemade or canned -- I pressure cook a bunch and use them all week) and spread on tostada shells that have been warmed 3 minutes in the oven.  Let kids top them with preferred toppings: chopped lettuce, tomatoes, avocado/guacamole, black olives, salsa, chopped onions, shredded cheese, etc.  I put sour cream in a sandwich bag and snip the corner to pipe a design on top.  The whole thing takes just minutes.
  • Open faced ranch sandwiches-- Toast gluten free or whole wheat bread and spread each with smashed avocado (or something like hummus if your kids don't like avocado). Drizzle with ranch dressing (making your own is surprisingly easy or buy natural stuff) and top with chopped tomatoes and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese.  Broil just till cheese melts.
  • Fast pasta casserole-- Boil a big pot of water, add pasta (I make my own a lot but we buy gluten free at Trader Joe's for quick meals) and then add a bag of frozen veggies (peas, broccoli, mix, whatever) about halfway through the cooking time.  Drain and toss with olive oil, melted butter, spices, parmesan, whatever flavors you like, and stir in a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas for protein (or butter beans or chopped leftover chicken if you're not vegetarian).
  • Spaghetti-- Enough said.  :)
  • Tortilla casserole-- Layer corn tortillas, refried beans, frozen corn and salsa in layers in a microwave safe dish.  Top with cheddar cheese and cover.  Microwave about 6 minutes or until heated throughout. 
  • Broiled fish, rice and veggies (takes under a half hour to throw together, especially if you spring for an inexpensive rice cooker)
  • Quick vegetarian chili -- Throw an onion and green pepper in the food processor and finely chop (or do by hand), saute in a big pot with a splash of olive oil, then stir in one can of drained and rinsed black beans and one of kidney beans, two cans of beans in chili sauce, a can of chopped tomatoes or one or two chopped fresh tomatoes, a bunch of cumin, salt and pepper to taste and any leftovers you feel like tossing in.  Warm throughout, serve with shredded cheese and add hot sauce at the table to accommodate mild tastes.
  • Baked potato bar -- bake or microwave a bunch of potatoes until fork tender and serve with toppings to personalize them such as leftover chili, steamed broccoli, shredded cheese, sour cream, chives, crumbled bacon, chopped leftover meat, roasted chickpeas, pesto, sauteed mushrooms, you name it.
  • Stir fry veggies with rice & tofu, egg, leftover meat, etc.
  • Black bean salsa tacos -- Stir together equal amounts of black beans, salsa and frozen corn, heat and spoon into warmed taco shells.  Top with cheese if you like.


I also try to save time by making extra up of everything when I cook, so I make up a double batch of black beans so I have them ready to cook with later in the week, for instance.  I do that with rice too, so I can make a super fast lunch with just heating it up and tossing in some fresh or frozen veggies and seasoning, for instance.


I also find that it helps enormously to buy quick ingredients for those nights I'm exhausted and to plan a week's worth of dinners ahead of time (not assigning a day, just making sure I have the ingredients for that many) so I don't have to plan a big meal at the last minute.


I know it gets old sometimes!  Enlist the kids to help if they can too.  :)  Hopefully one or two of those will work for you?


post #19 of 43

I rarely buy any canned or prepared foods, with the following exceptions:


condiments: mayo, mustard, "Hot Lime Relish" (an Indian jar I love on anything), Thai curry paste, horseradish, certain salad dressings (I mostly make my own), soy sauce


certain ingredients I just can't do: olives, black or green, peanut butter, coconut milk, pasta, gnocchi. 


bread - we make scratch muffins, pancakes, etc. but rarely do bread. I have tried making tortillas, but don't really have the knack.


I suppose cheese and wine could be called prepared foods, but somehow they feel different. Same for salami and sausages.


I make my own broths to freeze (veggie from saved frozen scraps, chicken or beef from bones and leftovers), tomato sauce, and grow most of my own herbs (to use fresh, dried, or frozen). Once in a while I buy some frozen pre-made something, but always am disappointed at the results. Maybe that is because it sits in the freezer for months before I remember to use it orngtongue.gif. I generally make blackberry jam and applesauce at home. I freeze corn and green beans in season, but would like to expand that list. I make my own salsa, but use it fresh - I haven't figured out how to preserve it that I am happy with. 


I WOH full-time, so I have several stand-bys for nights when I am tired - stir-fry with rice, omelettes, etc. I also usually have made extra of something to freeze for times like this - soup, chili, stew, etc. If I know I am going to be late, I often start something in the crock-pot in the morning. 


True confessions: tonight I wanted to try a recipe for Tamale Pie that called for corn muffin mix. I knew the bread would be too sweet for me, but followed the recipe anyway. Went out just to buy the silly mix. Yup, way too sweet and packaged tasting. It would not have been that much more difficult to make the muffin batter part myself. Live and learn...

post #20 of 43

I almost never buy packaged, prepared foods.  Too many ingredients I don't want to have and I actually don't like most of them.  I do cook from scratch almost every day, but it's not always complex stuff.  And I don't cook a big meal 3 times a day.  Breakfast is muffins, yogurt, fruit, and sometimes eggs or waffles/pancakes.  Lunch is usually sandwiches or leftovers.  Dinner is the meal I cook most.  Many days it is just chicken breasts cooked on the stove with some veggies, a stir fry, soup or something easy.  I save longer cooking things like meatloaf, stews for the weekend.  At least 2 dinners a week are leftovers from a previous dinner, so I'm not cooking 7 nights a week.  On occasion, if we are super busy and I am very short on time, or just too tired and not feeling like cooking, I'll buy a cooked rotisserie chicken at Whole Foods and serve that with a salad or rice and veggies that cook quick.

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