A dear friend was discussing one of her favorite cookbooks today. Sally Fallon’s “Nourishing Traditions.” The book discusses the way our grandmothers used to cook, and why their wisdom, as it turns out, is more than relevant today. Butter is a health food. Low-fat diets can cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Make a bone broth every week. Homemade bread tastes better than store bought. Our grandmothers cooked by touch, by smell and by taste, pulling from the intuitive knowledge that only develops from years and years of experience, failures and successes.
The conversation took a left turn, though, when we began to discuss WHY that style of scratch cooking and conventional wisdom has become so difficult. TIME! With both parents in the workforce, time is a precious commodity. That, combined with the extensive extracurricular schedules that children and teens employ, is why the dinner hour has been reduced to the dinner 10-minutes. Our friend phrased it this way: “By the time we all get home, there’s no time to cook! I just end up throwing something on the table.”
We’ve all been there. Oh … that familiar blue box of pasta and florescent orange cheese powder that we fed to our own children many a time. In fact, our oldest child, now nearly 30, still stocks that blue box in his own kitchen. History repeats itself. Remember, they watch what you do more than they listen to what you say. Ouch.
So … my friend posed the question: “HOW can we manage to cook from scratch, like our grandmothers did, when we aren’t home to do it?”
We wouldn’t have an important client meeting with an incomplete proposal. We wouldn’t plan a business lunch without entering it first into our e-calendar. So why do we approach eating; the fuel we LIVE by, with little-to-no planning at all? The planning can’t occur in the aisle at the Shop Rite. It starts way before that, just like our grandmothers did it. They were busy all day long, just like we are. Their tasks were piles of laundry, ironing, darning socks, sewing, gardening. And LOTS of cooking. But they planned it, and so should we.
Here’s our dirty dozen: 12 Tips for implementing scratch cooking.
Tip #1. If you do meal prep, don’t cook all your food in your meal prep routine. PREPARE to cook for your meal prep routine. (Re-read last week’s post: “Leftovers vs. Planning.”
Tip #2. Our grandmothers made a bone broth each week and cooked with it all week long. How do we manage that? PLAN FOR IT. Make a Sunday roast chicken, (and roast a 2nd one at the same time.) Afterwards, trim the leftovers (for Monday’s Chicken & Whole Wheat Pasta Toss and Tuesday’s Tacos) and simmer the bones for a beautiful bone broth. On Wednesday night, use the broth for a soup base and add the vegetables you prepped on Sunday and the leftover pasta you cooked on Monday night. That wasn’t so hard, was it? You’re half-way through the week already! It takes planning, though.
Tip #3. Invest in a great blender. We aren’t sponsored by anyone here at K2.0, so we can promote whatever we want, and get away with it! We were gifted a high-end Vitamix by our adult children, and we use it almost every day. Tomato sauces take 10 minutes. Soups take 15, if you include chopping. Hummus takes 3 minutes. If my husband ever leaves me, I’m running away with my Vitamix.
Tip #4. We were foolish enough to donate almost all the food in our cupboards all at once, and then we looked at each other and thought: “What do we EAT?” Make your changes slowly, unless jumping in the deep end is your jam. Start with wrapping your head around the planning. Invest in a meal planner that will organize you, like the one we are giving away next week. (Follow this blog for a chance to win!)
Tip #5. Cook what you and your family love to eat. Here at K2.0, we still eat pizza and tacos. Every. Single. Week. We just eat the super healthy versions.
Tip #6. Clean up the kitchen. This kind of a change takes motivation. If you are the primary cook, think about what inspires you. We started with a full fridge clean-out. Sparkling clean glass shelves make us swoon. And knowing that the fridge was clean inspired us to go through the spices and check the expiration dates. Anything a year over the expiry date was tossed. (It took weeks to build up our arsenal again. Spices are expensive!) Each small project beget another small project. Here we are, 4 months in, and every drawer, shelf and cabinet has had a complete overhaul.
Tip #7. Minimalism RULES! A future post is in the works for the benefits of minimalism in the kitchen, but for now: If you have 3, donate 2. Why waste time digging though the drawer for your favorite vegetable peeler when you don’t have to? If you have only one, you put it away in the same place every time, and it’s there when you want it. There are plenty of places in your town that can use extra kitchen tools in good condition. Share with them.
Tip #8. Organization. Minimalism and organization go hand in hand, but for the planning phase of cooking from scratch, organization is your BFF. Again, don’t tackle the whole thing all at once. Back in Tip #2, we meal planned 4 meals in 3 sentences. Okay… one of them was a run-on sentence. Sue me. Maybe planning for the beginning of the week is all you can handle. Thursday night can be breakfast for dinner, and Friday night you and your spouse can escape for date night. Do what you can. It’s better than doing nothing!
Tip #9. Involve others. You might be the primary cook, but anyone can prep the veggies for the week. Teach others in your home the how to’s, and if YOU don’t know, YouTube is a great resource. What’s the worst that can happen? They make a mess? Well, then they have to clean up their mess.
Tip #10. It costs more to eat well. That’s a cruel fact of life. But if you plan for those expenses, you won’t be paying the doctor. Farmers Market season is about to begin, which is less expensive than the big supermarkets. Plant-based meals are generally less expensive.
Tip #11. Try a new food or cooking technique each week. How many of us go to the same meals over and over again, with little variation? Have you ever tried grilling romaine, or steaming romanesco broccoli? Ever braised poultry or blanched veggies before adding them to the salad? None of those things are difficult, but they are things you may not have tried. Mixing it up keeps it interesting. Interesting keeps us motivated. And learning. And satisfied. Yum.
Tip #12. It shouldn’t make you crazy to eat well and feel satisfied. Four months in, we are feeling comfortable with the pre-planning, the actual meal preparation and the self-imposed pressure to keep it going. But it has taken us every bit of those four months to get to the comfortable place we are right now. So be patient with yourself, but make the effort to do something. YOU CAN DO IT!