What is Scratch Cooking? The Basics Plus Tips

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As a home cook, scratch cooking can be intimidating at first, but it doesn’t have to be! Once you get familiar with the basics and find some reliable recipes, cooking from scratch can become an enjoyable and rewarding experience. We’ll cover the benefits of scratch cooking, shopping strategies, skills needed for success, recipe ideas and tips for scratch-made food newbies.

What is Scratch Cooking?

What is scratch cooking?

Scratch cooking refers to the practice of preparing food items from raw, whole ingredients rather than using pre-packaged or processed products. This typically involves techniques such as chopping, measuring, and mixing ingredients by hand, rather than relying on pre-made mixes or prepared ingredients. The goal of scratch cooking is to create meals with whole foods that are fresher, healthier, and often more flavorful than those made with pre-packaged or processed ingredients.

Benefits of Scratch Cooking For Home Cooks

  • Healthier: Scratch cooking allows you to control the ingredients and amounts used, which can result in healthier meals. It can be a good way to reduce processed foods in your diet.
  • Fresher: Using fresh ingredients is must which can result in meals that taste better than packaged store bought foods.
  • Cost-effective: Preparing meals from scratch can be less expensive than buying pre-packaged or processed foods.
  • Rewarding: Cooking meals from scratch gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment. And don’t forget about the oohs and aahs from your family and friends as they devour your creations.
  • Customizable: Scratch cooking allows you to adjust recipes to your personal tastes and dietary needs.
  • Better for the environment: Cooking with whole foods can be more environmentally friendly than relying on pre-packaged or processed foods because there is less waste.

Making dough from scratch

Does everything need to be made from scratch? Can I buy ready-made food products?

Cooking from scratch can be a great way to control the quality and ingredients of the food you eat, but it’s not necessary to make everything single from scratch. It’s perfectly fine to buy items that are already made, especially if you are short on time. We made this cold veggie pizza using organic store bought crescent roll dough.

While it can be fun and rewarding to make bread from scratch, it can also be time-consuming and require a certain level of skill. If you’re just starting out with scratch cooking, it might be more practical to buy bread from a local bakery or store while being mindful of the ingredients.

Similarly, items like pasta, canned tomatoes and stocks can also be bought ready-made and used in your cooking, this can save you time and also allows you to focus on other skills that you want to develop.

It’s also worth considering the time and resources you have available. It’s important to find a balance that works for you, and not to put too much pressure on yourself to cook everything from scratch all the time.

Ultimately, the most important thing is to enjoy the process and to make scratch-cooked meals that you and your family will enjoy. So, whether you choose to make everything from scratch or not, focus on what what works for you, your lifestyle and your skill level.

Cold Veggie Pizza Using Store Bought Dough
Our Cold Veggie Pizza Using Store Bought Dough

Scratch Cooking Shopping Strategies

When it comes to grocery shopping, there are several strategies that will help make the process of scratch cooking easier.

  1. Make a shopping list: Plan out your meals for the week and make a list of the ingredients you’ll need to buy. This will help you stick to your budget and avoid impulse purchases. We use Paprika for meal planning.
  2. Shop the perimeter: The perimeter of the store is where you’ll find the fresh produce, meats, and dairy products. Focusing your shopping here will help you select whole, unprocessed foods that are the foundation of scratch cooking.
  3. Buy in bulk: Buying certain items in bulk, such as grains, beans and nuts can save you money in the long run. Just make sure you have the storage space and the ability to use these items before they expire.
  4. Shop at local farmer’s markets and co-ops: Farmer’s markets offer the freshest seasonal produce and often at a lower cost.
  5. Avoid pre-packaged meals and snacks: These are often more expensive and less nutritious than making from scratch.
  6. Avoid convenience foods: Pre-cut vegetables and grated cheese are often more expensive than buying whole vegetables and grating your own cheese. They also have a shorter shelf life, which can result in spoilage if not used quickly. Additionally, these foods are often treated with preservatives to extend their shelf life, which can affect taste and nutritional value.
  7. Be flexible: If you find that a certain ingredient is not available or too expensive, consider substituting it with something else. Cooking from scratch is about being creative, experimenting with different ingredients and learning new skills.
  8. Plan for leftovers: If you’re cooking a big meal from scratch, plan to have leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day. This can save you time and money.

Shopping tips for scratch cooking

The Best Foods for Cooking From Scratch

Fresh fruits and vegetables: These are the foundation of healthy scratch cooking. They provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber and can be used in a wide variety of dishes.

Whole grains: Whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, and oats are nutritious and versatile ingredients with a very long shelf life.

Proteins: Buying high-quality proteins such as grass-fed beef, organic whole chicken, and wild-caught fish is a great way to ensure that you’re getting the most nutritious and flavorful meats for your meals.

Legumes: Legumes such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas are great sources of plant-based protein and are also high in fiber and other nutrients.

Nuts and seeds: These are great sources of healthy fats.

Spices and herbs: These add flavor and nutrition to dishes, and can be used to make your own spice blends and seasonings.

Dairy and eggs: These are good sources of protein, calcium, and other essential nutrients.

Olive oil and other healthy fats: These are essential for cooking and can also be used in dressings and marinades. Be mindful that most cooking oils are GMO so pay attention to labels.

Condiments and sauces: These can be used to add flavor and texture to dishes, and can be made from scratch using fresh ingredients.

Fresh herbs: Adds flavor and aroma to dishes, and can be grown at home in a windowsill or outdoor garden. We grow our herbs with an indoor farmstand.

By focusing on buying whole, unprocessed foods and high-quality ingredients, you can ensure that your homemade cooking is nutritious, delicious and satisfying.

what to buy at groery store

Scratch Cooking Tips for Success

In order to master scratch cooking, there are certain skills one must learn in order to be successful.

  1. Basic kitchen knowledge: Understanding how to use kitchen tools, equipment and appliances safely and effectively is an important skill for cooking from scratch.
  2. Knife skills: Being able to chop, slice, and dice ingredients quickly and evenly is essential for preparing ingredients for cooking.
  3. Meal planning and organization: Knowing what you want to cook, and having the ingredients and equipment on hand, can help you save time. Menu planning can also reduce stress in the kitchen.
  4. Understanding basic cooking techniques: Knowledge of techniques such as sautéing, roasting, boiling, and braising can help you create a variety of dishes using different ingredients.
  5. Ingredient substitutions: Knowing how to substitute ingredients in a recipe can help you save money and use what you have on hand.
  6. Understanding of flavor profiles: Knowing how different ingredients and spices interact and enhance the flavors of a dish is important for creating delicious and balanced meals.
  7. Time management: Being able to manage multiple tasks and ingredients at once, and knowing how to use your time effectively in the kitchen, can help you cook efficiently and reduce stress.
  8. Creativity and experimentation: Scratch cooking gives you the freedom to experiment with different ingredients and flavors, so being open to trying new things and being creative in the kitchen can lead to exciting and delicious meals.

Young woman cutting vegetables

Tips for Scratch Cooking Beginners

  • Start with simple recipes: Look for recipes with a short ingredient list and clear instructions. This will help you build your confidence and skills before moving on to more complex dishes.
  • Follow recipes closely: When you’re first starting out, it’s important to follow recipes closely to learn the basics of cooking and understand how different ingredients and techniques work together.
  • Learn the basics of kitchen safety: Make sure you understand the basics of kitchen safety, such as how to properly handle knives, use kitchen appliances, and store and prepare food safely.
  • Practice measuring and measuring tools: Measuring ingredients correctly is essential for the success of a recipe, so practice using measuring cups, spoons, and kitchen scales to ensure accurate measurements.
  • Organize your kitchen: Keep your kitchen organized and tidy while cooking, it will make it easier to find what you need, and follow the recipe steps.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes: Cooking is a skill that takes practice to master, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Learn from them and use them as an opportunity to improve your skills.
  • Keep it simple: Start with basic ingredients and simple recipes and gradually build up to more complex dishes as you gain confidence and experience.
  • Experiment with different cuisines and ingredients: Scratch cooking allows you to explore different cuisines and ingredients, so be open to trying new things and experimenting with different flavors.
  • Have fun and enjoy the process: Cooking from scratch can be a relaxing and enjoyable way to spend time. So, make sure you enjoy the process and don’t get too caught up in perfection.

Once you’ve mastered the above, have fun exploring new recipes and flavor combinations!

cooking from scratch

A Few Easy Recipes To Get You Started With Scratch Cooking

  1. Bolognese Sauce with Pasta: This is a classic recipe that requires basic ingredients such as canned tomatoes, garlic, and herbs. It’s a great way to learn how to make a simple sauce from scratch.
  2. Baked potatoes: Baked potatoes are easy to make and can be customized with different toppings such as cheese, sour cream, and chives.
  3. Homemade Spice Blends: Check out our Homemade Chili Powder and Low Carb Taco Seasoning recipes.
  4. Simple Salad: A simple salad like our Classic Copped Salad is a great way to learn how to make a salad from scratch using fresh ingredients such as greens, vegetables, and dressings.

Bolognese Sauce with Pasta
Our Bolognese Sauce with Gigli Pasta

Inspiring Cookbooks

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle: This classic cookbook is a comprehensive guide to French cuisine, teaching the basics of French cooking techniques and ingredients.

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten: This cookbook features simple, delicious recipes for home-cooked meals, with an emphasis on using fresh, high-quality ingredients.

The Silver Spoon by Phaidon Press: This Italian cookbook features over 2,000 authentic recipes from all regions of Italy, covering everything from pasta dishes to desserts.

The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen: This cookbook is a comprehensive guide to vegetarian cooking, featuring hundreds of recipes and tips for incorporating more plant-based meals into your diet.

The Homemade Kitchen by Alana Chernila: This cookbook features recipes and tips for cooking from scratch, with an emphasis on using whole, unprocessed ingredients and simplifying meal planning and preparation.

Plants Only Kitchen by Gaz Oakley: No fuss, no fancy ingredients – just fantastic food using plants, only.

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat: This cookbook is a guide to mastering the four elements of delicious cooking, with recipes and tips for making simple, delicious meals from scratch.

Healthy Meal Prep by Lisa Bryan: This cookbook features over 100 make ahead recipes and quick assembly meals all of which are gluten-free.

These cookbooks are great resources for beginner scratch cooks and also for those who are looking to improve their skills. They offer a wide variety of recipes and techniques and provide useful tips, and information to make cooking from scratch more approachable and enjoyable.

what is scratch cooking

Scratch cooking is an enjoyable and healthy way to make meals from high-quality, unprocessed ingredients. It’s a much healthier option than taking shortcuts with boxed or high sodium canned food items. Even if you don’t consider yourself a skilled cook, scratch cooking can be easily accessible if you take the time to learn the basics.

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Meet Dee

Meet Dee

I love to share recipes with real ingredients that are both sweet and savory (especially sweet:) My mission with Gimme From Scratch is to inspire you with recipes that will bring your families together in the kitchen. I'm introverted at heart but know how important socializing can be for maintaining good relationships, when writing not only am looking forward to sharing information - It's also building connections between readers who love good food as much as I do!

4 Responses

  1. I love scratch cooking! I find it’s so much more cost-effective generally and I love having full control over what I’m eating.

  2. What a great starting point for cooking from scratch for new cooks, plus some useful tips for experienced cooks to! I find meal planning makes it so much easier when cooking from scratch, that way you know you have everything you need 🙂

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I love to share recipes with real ingredients that are both sweet and savory (especially sweet:)

My mission with Gimme From Scratch is to inspire you with recipes that will bring your families together in the kitchen.

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