Cooking from Scratch

Updated on November 15, 2012
L.M. asks from Conneaut, OH
21 answers

THis is what we ate for dinner last week,

crock pot beef with potatos and corn

Tyson frozen chicken nuggest, carrots and dip, cottage cheese, frozen blueberries

Spaghetti ( Rague with hamburger meat added)

chicken and rice in crock pot

pizza take out

tacos, with corn

ham and scalloped potatoes (boxed)

So first off, what is considered from scratch??? Not the take out pizza, and not Tyson nuggets and not the boxed potatoes , but the boxed minute rice yes? does from scratch mean you mixed it up in your ktichen isntead of driving through? or does it mean you ground the corn to make the taco shells?

I work full time unfortunately, so i need some short cuts so i'm not in the kitchen all night and i realize bisquick and betty crocker are not my friends, so some suggestions on how to save time and still be healthier would be great.

Those of you that cook on the weekends and then freeze for the month, can you suggest 2 of your favorite recipies or meals. with out peppers or tomatoes.

I know it's a lot, Thanks.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

My rule of thumb? If I'm shopping the edges of the grocery store, I'm cooking from scratch & eating healthier. Avoid boxes, frozen meals and canned stuff.


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

I toss a lot of left overs in the freezer. If there is some rice, broccoli, and chicken (breast) left over, it all goes in a bag and in the freezer. I will usually take it to work the next day.

I toss rice in the freezer and then add it to meals when needed.

When I make pasta, I cook the entire package and then whatever is left goes in the freezer. I just add about 1/4 cup water to the pasta and toss it in.

If I cut an onion, most often I cut the entire onion and freeze what I don't use. Same goes for the bell peppers.

If you freeze a lot of the items flat as opposed to in a ball or wad, it is easy to break off a piece you need for another meal.

When tomatoes are too ripe, they go in the freezer too. Later they are added to rice or stew.

When you buy a big pack of meat and are going to freeze half of it and cook half...season it all and then freeze what you don't need. There is no need to pull all the seasonings off the shelf twice.

Have extra bags of cooked ground beef on hand. You can add it to tacos or spaghetti later.

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answers from Tampa on

Over the past couple of years, I've been trying to make more things from scratch. I've tried my own chicken nuggets for the kids, macaroni and cheese fresh instead of from a box, granola bars from scratch, pancakes instead of the boxed kind, etc. We used to eat Hamburger helper but I won't do that anymore. Many of my relatives haver or had cancer and other health problems, so I've changed our eating habits. Last night, we tried Kale for the first time. It wasn't bad at all.

I can't make my own pasta or ice cream, so there are certain limits on what I can do from scratch. Start slow. I have found a few websites that focus on nutrition and cooking from scratch-

Jaime Oliver, the chef, promotes healthy, fresh eating as well. Good luck to you!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Cooking from scratch means starting with basic ingredients, not prepared items or things that are pre seasoned . It doesn't mean that you have to make your own mayonnaise, churn your own butter, make your own pasta. It means you know whats in the dish and controlled the quality of the ingredients, like the amount of salt and fat. Doctoring food means using some fresh ingredients with prepared ingredients which is what you did with your spaghetti meal. A sauce from scratch could have included canned tomatoes, but not pre seasoned sauce. A meal from scratch does not eliminate all canned, jared, frozen ingredients. And the line from doctoring to cooking from scratch can indeed be a little grey.
Another litmus test is do you have to clean a lot of dishes and chop a lot of food? Then you probably cooked from scratch.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Wow! Add a tossed salad with lots of (oops, tomatoes), and I am a fan of your dinners!

When I say/think cooking from scratch, I think of Soul Food from my youth. You could smell all of the mamas foods as we walked home from school. Nostalgia now forming... :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I work full time also and do not do the cooking marathons on the weekends. There are, however, a lot of "fast" things you can make.

Broiled steak with rice and green salad - takes less than 30 minutes - all from scratch

Broiled Hamburgers and pasta salad or canned baked beans - make the hamburger patties yourself with some bar-b-que sauce and seasonings in the meat - cheese, lettuce, tomato on top - takes less than 30 minutes (make the pasta salad the night before so it's nice and cold!)

Spaghetti with homemade sauce using a flavor packet - takes about 30 - 40 minutes

Breakfast - scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage, biscuits and gravy - takes about 30 minutes depending on if you use bacon or sausage or how you cook the bacon

Meatloaf - mix it up the night before. When you get home, pop it in the oven with some baked potatoes, throw together a salad and relax until dinner is ready!

Happy cooking!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I don't consider minute rice as "scratch" ....... regular rice only takes 15 minutes.... heck, if you were cooking the chicken and rice in the crock pot, why would you use minute rice to begin with? Use regular rice... or even brown rice! Much healthier!

As far as "scratch" vs convenience...... the taco shells are convenience.. I can't imagine making them myself.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

From scratch to me means not out of a box or package. It takes very little time to make rice from scratch. Truly from scratch would be with homemade broth. Pasta with jar sauce isn't from scratch either. I cook from scratch, i.e. I make my own pasta and sauce. I can make 4 dinners of ravioli's in about 2 hours. Most of my sauces are last minute ones with fresh ingredients, to the table in 45 minutes or less. Most of the time I double recipes and freeze another portion for later.

From scratch means fresh ingredients. Stuff out of boxes (including prepackaged broth) is high in sodium and lots of other fillers that aren't really healthy.

Two of my favorite recipes that I get tons of millage out of are: (1) roasted chicken (either with pasta --allrecipies has a killer red pepper sauce-- or potatoes and carrots.)Hubby and the kids eat everything but the breasts. I then take the breasts and use them to make pot pies or chicken soup. We then take the carcass and make stock. And (2) a roast. I take some of the left overs for tacos, and the rest goes into shephard's pie.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cincinnati on

I do all my cooking from scratch. I currently live in Japan. If I want to eat anything that isn't Japanese, or a Japanese spin on western food, then I have no choice but to cook from scratch. I buy the majority of vegetables fresh. The exceptions: I buy frozen green peas, edamame, corn, and green beans. I buy boxed tomatoes to use as a base in soups, stews, spaghetti sauce, and chilli. I sometimes use canned beans if I can find them unsalted. Usually, I try to get the beans dry. I buy whole wheat pasta (spaghetti, maccaroni, lasagne), but I make my own egg noodles. I will also use boxed curry rue or cream stew rue.

It sometimes sounds intimidating or time consuming to try to cook from scratch, but with a little practice it gets easier. I cook large batches about four times a week. That usually covers the majority of our meals. Most things can be frozen, so after two weeks, you can start to get a bigger variety of meals per week. Experiment with herbs and spices. They are so healthy to use and can really help to curb the reliance on salt and sugar to flavor foods. You could probably find books on herbs and spices at your library.

Here is one of our favorite comfort soups. It is loaded with green vegetables. My son loved the green vegetables from the beginning. I made my own baby food using Annabel Karmel's Top 100 Baby Purees. She had one called Eat Your Greens which contained spinach, green peas, broccoli and potatoes. I used sweet potatoes instead. He loved it so much that I experimented with adding different vegetables, meats, herbs and spices and came up with this green soup recipe that the whole family could eat. My 5 year old son loves this and has eaten it since he was a year old. When he was younger I left the salt out and just added it to ours after.

D.'s Green soup

2 onions, chopped
1 celery stock (chopped) plus leaves (finely chopped)
2cups cabbage, chopped
5-6 bundles of spinach (only use the leaves), finely chopped
1 head broccoli (about 4 cups)
1 cup split red lentils (rinsed)
2.5 cups green peas (puréed into a paste)
4 cups sweet potatoes, cubed
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cubes chicken bouillion with no added salt (or you can use your own stock)
2 Tbsp freshly ground ginger root
2 bay leaves
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1 tsp sweet basil
Black pepper to taste
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch of salt for cooking spinach
400g cooked chicken (legs, thighs, breast meat), optional

1. Wash spinach well. In large pot ( mine is 4.5L), boil water. Add a pinch of salt. Boil spinach for 2 minutes. Remove from water and rinse with cold water. Put cooked spinach in a bowl of ice water for 10 minutes. Cooking the spinach in salt and soaking it in the ice water will keep it a nice green color.
2. (I just rinse out the pot I used to cook the spinach and dry it.) In a large pot, lightly brown onion and celery stock in olive oil.
3. Add the cabbage, sweet potatoes, lentils and broccoli. Fill to about 3.5L with water. I usually heat some in a kettle to pour over immediately after browning the onion and celery stock. If you are adding chicken, do so at this time. Bring to a boil and remove any scum (starch from lentils and potatoes) from the surface.
4. Add the bouillion, celery leaves, ginger, bay leaves, garlic powder, cumin, coriander, basil, pepper, and salt. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through, stirring minimally so as to not have sweet potatoes turn to mush. The lentils and broccoli will practically disappear forming the stock of your soup, along with the puréed green peas and spinach.
5. While the sweet potatoes are getting tender, drain the spinach. Remove the stems. Finely chop the spinach. It should look like a fresh herb when you are finished.
6. Purée the green peas into a paste. I use frozen peas.
7. Once the sweet potatoes are tender, add the chopped spinach and puréed peas. Bring to a boil, and serve. Freezes well. I can usually make this in about 40 minutes. To save some time the day you cook, you can pre-chop the veggies the night before. Rinse the sweet potatoes in a little salt water to keep them from getting brown spots. If you don't want to go vegetarian, you can add about 400g cooked chicken. If I add chicken, I usually increase the garlic powder and cumin a little.

Happy cooking and eating!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kalamazoo on

I know this isn't what you are asking - but from that menu, you need more actual veggies in your diet, like green stuff. Potatoes and corn just don't count.
"boxed" anything = no
but that doesn't mean you can't eat it once in awhile.
Try to do just a simple meat, steamed veg and light on the carb/potatoes.
Like crock pot beef - serve with steamed broccoli and a little potatoes OR corn.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Missoula on

For me from scratch means that I started with the ingredients, for example flour, eggs, sugar, baking powder etc. and ended up a with a cake.

I try to make sure that when I go to the grocery store I am buying mostly "ingredients" rather than prepared food. If we are having spaghetti, I buy the pasta, but red sauce is a breeze to make from fresh or canned tomatoes, depending on time of year. If you make something like that, make a ton and freeze it for later.

Yes, some of it takes a bit more time, but the results are worth it, and with some planning you can start to reduce the amount of packaged/processed food and replace it with fresh. You don't have to do everything at once. Try regular rice instead of minute. Or try quinoa. Start small. Bannish the minute rice :-) and build from there.

Here are a few quick, easy recipes that I like:

Good luck. You can do this :-)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

Cooking from scratch to me means you make it. That sometimes includes box items but you basically find out the ingredients of a meal and make it.

Let's say you wanted to make stewed tomatoes. Okay, get two cans of diced tomatoes, a large green pepper, celery, onion and a bit of sugar. You can use a crock pot or a sauce pan and put the tomatoes in the pot, chop up the pepper, onion and two stalks of celery with about two tablespoons of sugar to cut the tart tomato taste and simmer for about two hours. You have eliminated all of the preservatives that are in the canned product and your product will remain fresh for about the same amount of time. --Sorry I didn't see your note until I finished typing.--

The meals you posted were not bad you need to add a green vegetable or salad to it. Make your meals colorful and appealing to the eye.

The best thing you can do is to sit down and plan what you want to eat for a week. If you want to have a soup or something make a roast for Sunday and then use the leftover meat for the soup later in the week (2 meals). Cook ahead the meat and then portion it off into meal size portions and then add the veggies. A microwave can be used to do real homemade mashed potatoes. Get a large glass measuring cup and cut up several potatoes, add 1/2 cup water and cover with press n seal, cook on high for about 10 min. If there is any water in cup, drain. Mash your potatoes and prepare as usual. Steamed veggies can be done the same way without having to buy them in the microwave bag.

If you like stir fry dishes, cut up a bunch of veggies and then stir fry in pan with a little oil and sesame seeds over rice. You could get the bag rice and microwave it instead of cooking for the 20 to 25 min. In a separate pan you could be cooking your meat. So at the end of 25 min your meal would be ready.

Good luck to you.

The other Suzane



answers from Cincinnati on

to me from scratch is stuff that is not processed or boxed. You would make mashed potatoes with real potatoes not the boxed stuff. You could make hamburgers but make the patties yourself, they taste better. How about soup and grilled cheese or breakfast for dinner. You could wait for chicken tenders to go on sale and make your own chicken strips from "scratch"
once in awhile, I will cut up zucchini, red peppers, tomatoes, onions, mince garlic, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle on my favorite seasonings and bake in the oven. I know tomatoes and peppers are out but you could replace them with another vegetable.



answers from Evansville on

Cavitini is our favorite fix and freeze meal.

16oz box of rotini pasta (cooked)
1 to 1 1/2 jars of your favorite pasta sauce
1lb ground beef (cooked)
1/2 to 1 whole bag of pepperoni (we like the little ones or cut up big ones)
2 cups of mozzarella cheese
parmesan cheese (to taste)
Italian seasoning (to taste)

Mix together in a large bowl the rotini, pasta sauce, beef pepperoni and half the cheese.

Pour this into a sprayed 9X13 baking dish. Top with remaining cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan and Italian seasoning if you like them.

Bake at 350 for 20-30 min- Longer if still frozen.

This is also a great dish to make and give to a friend!



answers from Evansville on

Lilly, there's nothing wrong with what you ate last week and don't you let anybody tell you otherwise :) I buy a bag of frozen chicken tenders every week. I find them easier than other chicken "parts", and they're smaller so they cook faster too. Do you eat salads? Taco salad...? Whole wheat rice and pastas can be made and mixed with a variety of ingredients you like and not seem like the same meal over and over. Add whatever veggies you like, seasonings, a quick light white sauce is just melt a little butter or margarine, add some whole wheat flour and stir, add milk, whisk. To your desired consistency. Add lemon, season, a little chicken base, whatever you want. One of my favorite "ingredients" is a cab of low sodium V8. I put that in almost everything :) and usually nobody even knows. Lasagna is so high maintenance that I Always make a spare for the freezer. You don't, contrary to popular opinion, have to cook the noodles first either. Here's a trick, I but a 5# hamburger, cook it All, cool and then portion it out into smaller zip bags, put those in a gallon zip bag & put it in the freezer.
Its a challenge, cooking every day, I know, don't let it get you down : )



answers from Cincinnati on

I love my crock pot dearly. I will either get what I need together the night before-like cleaning and cutting the veggies and then before I leave the house I put everything in that and let it cook on low all day so by the time you come home you have a hot meal already waiting for you.

What is home cooked food? Anything that isn't fast food or comes out of a box. Although don't knock the box foods sometimes they are great because they are easy to put together and everything that you need is in that box.

One thing that you can look into that helps with cooking and reusing left overs-if you have the problem of having leftovers-is finding ways to reuse the leftovers as a new meal.

I'm at work so I can't think of my cookbooks offhand but I know Rachel Ray has a cookbook out there that shows you how to cook a meal and then using pretty much the left overs and maybe a few other items you can turn the leftovers into a new meal without doing a lot of fussing. It's great if you have a husband like mine who won't eat left overs and you end up throwing away the food after awhile because it just sits in your fridge.

Better Homes and Garden Cookbook (What I like to call my red and white book or the Bible of cooking) is GREAT. I have an older version of it but the new ones contain a section of how to reuse leftovers to make something new.

If you have an android/iphone/ipad whatever there is an app called bigoven. Or (didn't know it was online as well) and you can just type in what you have and you can look up recipes based on what you have in your pantry/fridge. I've made a ton of new recipes like that.

The last one I made was a taco quiche-super easy: 1lb ground beef (and you can add taco seasoning to it OR the recipe had the separate herbs you could use instead), take tortillas and put that in the bottom of a pie pan (crust), put the ground beef in it, add 1 cup of cheese and then the topping was a egg and sourcream mixture and then you cook it. It was great and very easy to make. I don't like sourcream but you couldn't taste it.

So just some easy ideas there.

I hope that helps you some.



answers from Minneapolis on

I cook from scratch nearly 100% of the time. I use real rice (not boxed minute rice), make sides with noodles and my own sauce (not a box with sauce). ON OCCASION I make my own noodles, but that is a total treat. I buy whole grain noodles (or at least part whole wheat). I buy taco shells and tortilla's. I make my own spaghetti sauce (with canned tomatoes).

The reason the minute rice doesn't count, is that it's processed more to make it cook fast. I would guess that it looses some nutritional value in the processing.

I am a huge fan of Cooking Light magazine. I've gotten it for years, and every month they include recipes that are meant for week nights. They use some convenience foods, but are generally from "scratch" recipes.

For example, I make a pork tenderloin recipe regularly from them. It cooks so fast (you make the pork into medallions) and the kids love it. And, last night I made fish taco's with a mango salsa - it was done in 40 minutes, and so tasty. The kids ate the fish on the side, and had just cheese and beans in their tortilla's, but my husband and I devoured the salsa with our fish - it was so so so good.

Here is the pork recipe:

And here is the fish taco:

Oh - and I try to have a green vegetable (broccoli or green beans or salad) and a fruit on our table with dinner. Some times we have two vegi's (broccoli and cauliflower or peas and carrots). I use a lot of frozen vegi's in the winter when my garden is done. We buy them at Costco - big bags, organic, nice quality, inexpensive.



answers from Dallas on

You are getting there! Pretty good for a working mom.
Work on those veggies a bit. Frozen work fine.

Work on making one meat that works for at least 2 different meals. I put chicken breast in the crockpot on a bed of chopped onions and a bit of water. With that you can make many things. Chicken tacos, Mac and cheese with chicken in it, chicken enchiladas, chicken soup, white chili, BBQ chicken sandwiches, chicken tortilla soup. (you can tell I am from Texas!)

Make a pork roast in it for one night and make cheese quesadillas with pork the next night and BBQ pork sandwiches the next.

Hope I've helped!


answers from Grand Forks on

I do most of my cooking from scratch. I do use store bought pasta. I often make my own pasta sauce with garden tomatoes in the fall and freeze it. I will sometimes add a jar of Ragu to my own sauce though. I also use the frozen gardent tomatoes as a base for soups and chili. I use boullion cubes as a base for homemade soup unless I happen to have a chicken or turkey carcass, a ham bone, pork shoulder bones or beef bones I want to make soup with. I also buy tortillas and taco shells. I do not bake my own bread. I do avoid making stuff from a box or a kit, or frozen entrees or any other pre-made meals. I sometimes buy frozen chicken nuggets, sometime make my own (I only have one kid and me who likes nuggets). I do like to keep a Delissio pizza in the freezer, and Pizza Pops (although I am the only one who eats them). I buy frozen perogies because I am not a great perogie maker. I also buy Campbells soups. I use them in recipes, and I like them for a quick lunch. Cooking from scratch is healthier, but it is also much more economical. I can buy a 5 pound bag of potatoes for the same price as a box of scalloped potato mix. Hamburger Helper takes as much time to make as homemade, but it is way more expensive and full of salt and who knows what. My kids like simple meals, so a roast (chicken, beef, pork), potatoes and veggie, all things you would do easily from scratch.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I feel I generally cook from 'scratch'. The things I consider ok out of a box are pasta (generally whole grain), bread, tortillas and cereal. The things I use canned are tomatoes, beans (yes they are better cooked from dried but I think this is an acceptable convenience), jams, relishes. I will use frozen peas and corn when these are out of season.

Tonight we had pasta with sausage and peppers. Start to finish under 45 minutes - canned tomatoes, fresh green peppers, fresh chopped carrots and onions, turkey sausage and a little olive oil. Big salad on the side. Sorry - this had peppers and tomatoes.

Last night - roast chicken, roast delicata squash, sauteed green beans and salad. Fresh fruit for dessert. Prep for the chicken and squash - under 10 minutes, 1 hour to roast (unattended), green beans - 5-7 minutes max. plus however long it takes to make a salad. I will use the left over chicken tomorrow and probably put it in a soup or a rice dish.


answers from Norfolk on

When I think of 'from scratch', I tend to think of baking.
Mixing the flour, eggs, oil, salt, vanilla, milk, baking soda, baking powder, mashed bananas and crushed walnuts together to bake banana bread instead of using a store bought mix from a box.
I don't grind my own flour or hull and crush my own nuts or grow my own bananas.
You can bake your own bread from scratch (and it's no crime to use a bread machine to do it).
It's easy to chop up some cooked chicken breasts, thaw some mixed frozen veggies, put them in a casserole with a white sauce and cover with a pie crust for an easy pot pie.

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