5 Ways to Make Cooking from Scratch Easier

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Cooking Tips

Cooking from scratch is one of my favorite ways to incorporate DIY into my daily life.

I love knowing that I’m feeding my family nourishing food and saving money on healthy groceries. I also enjoy the challenge of recreating unhealthy favorites and finding ways to save time in the kitchen.

Because it is a challenge.

With so many pre-prepared options available to us, cooking from scratch means a whole new way of shopping and, possibly, the need to learn how to cook all over again. But it can be done. And it can be done in a way that’s simple and even enjoyable.

Here are some helpful tips.

Menu Plan

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to recommend menu planning. (Here are some tips if you feel overwhelmed with menu planning. You can also purchase a Real Food Meal Plan that’s already done for you here!) Whether you do it for a month, week or day in advance, it is so handy to know what’s for dinner when you’re starving and the only option that sounds good is take out.

I’ve found myself in that situation too many times and have been saved by looking at my menu plan and knowing that I only have a little work to do to make a tasty meal.

Prep Ahead of Time

The menu plan is only so helpful if you don’t prepare in advance. Does meat need to be pulled out of the freezer to thaw? Do beans or grains need to soak overnight? This kind of prep work takes only a few minutes the day/night before and will save lots of time when it comes time to cook.

If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you could even cook breakfast the night before, like hash browns or pancakes and just heat them up in the morning.

Make Double

You could also cook double the food. It usually requires just a little extra prep time, if say, you have more potatoes to peel or something like that. But this way, you save so much time and frustration by simply doubling a recipe and sticking half of it in the freezer for later.

Do this with casseroles, soups, pizzas, burritos, enchiladas, etc. Really, if you’ve seen it in the freezer section at the store, you can probably do it at home (with healthy ingredients, of course).

Pick a Few Simple Recipes

I have a secret…I don’t use many recipes. Yes, I cook from scratch every day, but it’s mostly different variations of the same food.

One week, we might have a roasted chicken with roasted potatoes and carrots and the next it’ll be grilled chicken breast with mashed potatoes and a salad. This focaccia bread is awesome with soup one week and the next week the recipe can be used for homemade pizza.

It’s anything but complicated, but it’s so delicious.

Cook Your Favorites

This is the best tip if you have picky eaters. One hesitation I hear about cooking from scratch is that the kids/husband/wife won’t like all this new, weird food. So…don’t make weird food. Make food you like.

If your family loves macaroni and cheese, learn how to make it with healthy ingredients. Same with pizza. Or chicken nuggets. And even dessert.

There’s a huge misconception that healthy, homemade food has to be less than satisfying. And it’s simply not true.

Cooking from scratch can be easy, fun and oh, so delicious. Just give it a go.

What are your favorite foods to make from scratch? What intimidates you most?


About Nina Nelson

Nina is a writer, student midwife, and mama of four. She blogs regularly at Shalom Mama and loves helping others create wellness through simple living. Check out her website for more simple wellness tips.

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  1. Joanne says

    I’ve cooked primarily from scratch for years – I’m not a meal planner although its probably a good idea I just never could switch from the idea of having basics in the house and working from that…
    More recently I’ve been focusing on eating healthier than before and I’ve discovered Rice Pasta. My husband has always had digestive difficulty with pasta but not knowing if it was the pasta, the sauce or what. Well rice pasta has given us the answer – no more tummy troubles for either of us.

  2. Tiffany @ DontWastetheCrumbs says

    Matt & Betsy – thank you so much for sharing my focaccia recipe with your readers! It’s one of our favorites, and the blue cheese & black pepper version is AMAZING! Here’s a little tip for your readers: instead of pounding the dough into the bottom of the pan, pull it apart into balls and place 1/2″ apart before the rise. Continue the recipe and in the end, you’ll have pull-apart focaccia. So good!!

  3. Laura Arlington says

    I prepare Chicken Nuggets for my grandchildren. We buy 5-10 lbs of boneless chicken breasts. My husband cuts the chicken into nugget sized pieces.

    I prepare the the egg mixture and season the breadcrumbs, then I coat the chicken and & cook till browned in my fryer.

    Then I take 2 lbs of the cut chicken, coat them in egg mixture with 1/2 cup of Frank’s hot sauce. I then coat with breadcrumb mixture and fry until browned.

    My grandkids get “real” chicken nuggets and my honey gets spicy hot bites.

  4. Kathleen says

    After a year of gut issues, I’ve finally completely transitioned and LOVE eating this way (And my but is healthy too!)! Clean and natural. I also love to take “bad meals” and turn them into good…it’s a challenge that I enjoy taking on.
    I’ve come to find your blog the best for all DIY. With you guys, I know I’m getting real, healthy, inexpensive, quality ingredients….both nutritional and for cleaning….all while learning that frugal is fun! Mostly though is the knowledge that I’m being the best steward of what I’ve been blessed to take care of….my body and environment.
    Thanks Matt and Betsy for all you’ve taught me!
    God bless you!

  5. María says

    I love making soup, I can get two meals out of the soup, if I make chicken soup once is done I remove the chicken and separate the meat form the bone and make a chicken fricasee and you can make some rice and that’s your second meal, and if I make beef soup I do the same I removed the beef and sheared the meat and add garlic, onion, some lemon or lime juice and olive oil and make rice or mash potatoe and you have another meal, I come form a country that cooking from scratch was the only way, I made my children baby, food and if I had a long weekend off I would prepare the meal for the whole week

  6. KayDee says

    Just wanted to say that I Love and look forward to getting your wonderful tips through email! It may sound crazy but it seems like every time I’m wondering how to… or thinking about something I might want to try or start doing, the next day I get an email about it! Thank you so much.

  7. Cheryl says

    I’ve been cooking from scratch since I was 13 and I’m now nearly 60. But this went to a whole new level when I found out I was gluten intolerant and dairy sensitive–and had nearly 70 foods that I was sensitive to a year ago. I have simplified so much. But still make very tasty meals. One of my favorites to make is to brown brussel sprouts in olive oil with a chopped onion, bit of garlic, and chicken strips. You can also do this with broccoli or green peppers instead of the brussel sprouts. When the chicken and sprouts are almost done, add 1/2 cup of white wine or chicken stock, almond milk, and coconut crème to make a sauce with the meat and vegetables. Simmer for a few minutes. Serve over a bed of gluten free pasta. You can substitute shrimp or bacon for the chicken.
    Another very fast meal to prepare is to put rice and water into crockpot, top with salmon, other fish, or chicken or pork cutlets. Season with salt, pepper, and herbs de province. Let cook for 2-3 hours or until rice is done–this will depend on your crock pot. The meat juices seep into the rice and flavor it wonderfully. I do this on Sunday mornings before church.
    I have to rotate my meats on a 4 day basis, so always get out a week of meat on Saturdays and let it thaw. I don’t make a whole menu plan, but at least I have the meats out and thawed and usually plan for the next day the night before.
    Another fast meal is to brown bacon or sausage, chopped onion and garlic in a skillet with seasonings. I do 1/2# of sausage usually with 1/2 onion. Can add green pepper if you want. Sometimes I add a bit of pesto and 1/2# frozen broccoli or spinach. Fry until the water dissipates. You can tell when by the sound of the skillet. Whisk 5 eggs and 3 cups cheese as the meat cooks. The slowly stir the meat into the eggs, then put into a pie pan and bake 350 for 30 minutes for crustless quiche. So easy, fast, and we love it. Served with a fresh fruit, you have a full satisfying meal.
    I have been buying whole pork loins and cutting them into cutlets at home. I cut across the grain 1/2 to 3/4 inch cutlets. Then freeze them 2 per package. If you have more in your family, freeze the number you need. If you forget to get out of the freezer early, these will thaw in hot water in about 5 minutes. I made up 2 whole loins for my elderly mother and packaged in 1 piece portions. To cook them, just sear in a skillet with a bit of olive oil until both sides are brown, then put a lid on and let them simmer for about 3 minutes longer. I also season them with salt and pepper as they are frying. We love them done this way–and for my mother, it is a fast, tender meat that she can do when she forgets to get food out early. While the meat is cooking, you can make a salad or other vegetable for a side. I watch for the loins to be on sale–then stock up.

  8. Julia @ Save Big Live Better! says

    Menu planning is such a huge time saver in our house! It’s amazing how much less stressful your day can be when you go into it with a plan!
    Thanks for the great post!

  9. paola says

    I am from a country where people cook from scratch as daily basis,Just a few years ago business start corrupting people eating habits, But I am lucky that I learn from my mom who always cook something delicious out nature. And as you get use and learn the basic you can cook anything in no time. Tips, meat are cook on cold water so they can release the “juice”, and vegetables are cook on boiling water so they can maintain the flavor and vitamins. So you first put the meat on the pot with seasoning (onion and garlic my favorites)then you add some rice or kinoa (if you are making a souppy plate) when the meat is cook you add the vegetable, just enough to cook but not overcook, potatoes 8min,green 2min. Then I turn off the gas and let it stay and cook but itself ( season as you like when you cook the meat)