My mother isn’t much of a cook (don’t worry, she’d admit it herself), and dinners growing up were always more along the lines of quick, cheap, easy, and picky-child-friendly. Plus, asking us kids to help make dinner seemed to just result in more stress, screwups, and mess than she wanted to deal with. I moved out of the house at 18 never having boiled a pot of water.
For the next few years, I lived in dorms. Then I moved into an off-campus house, but still depended mostly on frozen foods or maybe a super-simple mix of chicken and veggies that I could cook in 15 minutes in a single pan.
When I started reading more frugal-living blogs about a year ago, I couldn’t help but notice how so many of them constantly harped on the importance of making food at home, from scratch. They’d mention “a simple meal of pasta, homemade sauce (not from a jar??? what???), a roasted vegetable side (but how long do you roast for? at what temperature? what seasonings? how do you know all of these things???) and homemade soup (!!!) that they had made with the leftover stock from the chicken they cooked over the weekend (you can make stock??), with a dessert of freshly baked bread (but that takes forever!) and jam they preserved from last summer’s backyard raspberry crop (okay, I give up).”
It seemed so overwhelming, and I didn’t even know where to start with feeding myself better. Most recipes were way too complicated and expensive, but things aimed at “total beginners” were too simple (I know how to put cheese and vegetables on top of pasta, thanks).
So I started with things that cost a lot. Last winter, I made hummus in my blender for the first time. It took me way longer than it should have because I was busy Googling eight different recipes and measuring ingredients carefully. But it turned out well, and now making a batch of hummus takes me about five minutes. I buy cans of garbanzo beans instead of hummus, and it’s just part of my routine now.
Then, a little while later, I wanted some flat bread with my soup (the soup came from a can, I’m not that fancy yet). I checked out the trusty internet and learned that I had everything on hand to make some and it would take about 15 minutes (did you know that you cook flat bread stovetop, not in the oven?). I haven’t bought naan since.
I told some friends I would bring chips and salsa on a weekend trip this summer. I had a whole bunch of tortillas that were on the verge of going stale, so I just baked them into chips. Easy, delicious, and will be even better whenever I start making my own tortillas.
Just yesterday, I made homemade applesauce in my crockpot. Last week, a friend mentioned making applesauce offhand and I got so excited about the possibility that I went out and bought a bag of apples that night. I chopped them up, added cinnamon, turned the slow cooker on overnight, and mashed them in the morning. It was amazing, and I don’t expect I’ll be buying a jar again anytime soon.
I still buy a heck of a lot of things premade. I bake bread every once in a while, but it’s definitely not my go-to. I have cans of soup in the cupboard. I take little instant oatmeal packets to work. I even have some packaged frozen meals in my freezer. I know.
But I don’t buy hummus.
The bigger deal is that making my own hummus is not something I think about anymore. It becomes a habit, which leaves room for more habits to form. It’s a virtuous snowball effect, where I’m slowly making more and more things from scratch, resulting in eating better, spending less on groceries, being super proud of myself, and getting plenty of use out of my tupperware.
I’m always looking for new projects! Have you recently started making anything from scratch?