Cooking From Scratch, What Advice Do You Have?

by Katy on February 6, 2010 · 42 comments

Alice, a Non-Consumer Advocate reader asked this question in the comments section of my column about Frugal Living Without Gogurt or Hamburger Helper.

“Katy, how about some meal ideas for those of us trying to cook from scratch more? I would love to hear what you make from that list of shopping! Thanks.”

I don’t have time to answer Alice’s question with the attention that it deserves, (I have to be at work in six hours and 49 minutes) but that doesn’t mean that you don’t.

What advice do you have for Alice, or anyone who is trying to learn how to cook from scratch? Please share your insights in the comments section below.

Thank you!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Germano Zaini February 6, 2010 at 2:38 am

Dear Katy,

I enjoy your website and am sending this article that my husband wrote. He is a wonderful Italian chef and writes a cooking column for The American Magazine (monthly magazine in the International Herald Tribune in Italy). All of his recipes are from scratch, and he recently wrote this article on how to make good use of leftover food in a No-Impact Frittata: http://www.theamericanmag.com/article.php?feature=food&column=25

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Kristen@TheFrugalGirl February 6, 2010 at 4:50 am

I don’t know if Alice reads my blog, but I have some simple main dish recipes posted there. Here’s a link to the main dish recipes: http://www.thefrugalgirl.com/category/recipes/main-dishes/

And here’s some homemade pizza recipes: http://www.thefrugalgirl.com/category/recipes/pizza/

If you’re a new cook, I might also suggest that you buy a basic cookbook from Better Homes and Gardens, Better Crocker, or Cook’s Illustrated. Those books have tested recipes that are good for beginners.

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Caroline Hauffe February 6, 2010 at 4:57 am

I think the best thing is to practice, practice, practice! Starting with simple things and being successful gives you more confidence to keep trying. Ask for help from a good friend who can cook – make it into a fun afternoon with edible benefits. The Joy of Cooking is a really great basic, no frills cookbook that explains how to do just about everything. Trial and error! I still have lots of errors and I’ve been preparing meals and baking since I was 11. Have fun – making from scratch means healthier meals and saved money – win/win!!

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Jinger February 6, 2010 at 5:02 am

I would start small, trying to eliminate convenience foods from my shopping list. Then begin making 1 or 2 things from scratch…baking, dessert, or a meal each week. The crockpot works wonders for from scratch meals and The Frugal Girl’s Cinnamon Twists are just like ones you would buy in a bakery. Once you have a repetoire of meals, baked goods and desserts from scratch, you won’t go back to convenience foods. Also, just buying more fresh fruit and veggies is a start. Ellie Kreiger has some wonderful easy, healthy meals and snack ideas on the Food Network website. Good luck!

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Caroline Hauffe February 6, 2010 at 5:04 am

P.S Don’t try to make meal plans and grocery lists from others. What does your family eat? Plan around that – find simple recipes online that include ingredients that YOUR family likes and will eat. Put together a list of easy, quick to prepare meals that you know everyone will eat and prepare a grocery list based on this. When a staple on your grocery list goes on sale, buy two or three. A pantry can be your best friend! For example – my family likes this yogourt pineapple dessert that requires canned crushed pineapple, so – I usually have 2-3 cans in the pantry available to make this when the need for a quick dessert comes up.

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oldboyscout2 February 7, 2010 at 9:51 am

I Think Caroline’s “got it.”

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Ada February 7, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Well said! I agree.

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Iris February 6, 2010 at 6:16 am

forget fancy 22-ingredients-recipes and photoshopped cookbook pictures ๐Ÿ™‚ start simple & use your imagination:

take a non-stick pan, melt some butter/heat oil + add chopped up veggies of your choice. hardest stuff goes in first, softest last.
stand + stir or add some liquid.

think zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes with tomato concentrate, basil & thyme. eggplant and potatoes with parsley, dried mint and cumin – served with yoghurt on the side. sweet potatoes and carrots with curry and ginger, also good with coconut milk. onions and bell peppers plus sweet paprika powder. onions, mushrooms, carrots with parsley – good with cream … whatever’s-in-the-fridge with whatever’s in your spice-shelf, sprinkle on fresh herbs, roasted nuts, grated cheese, whatever fits ๐Ÿ™‚

serve with cooked rice or grains, put in a big split oven potatoe, wrap it in a soft tortilla/crepes, add more liquid to turn it into pasta sauce. leave it in the pan + pour an egg scrambled with some milk on top and let it set into a veggie omelett.

for a fancier meal, combine with rice/mashed potatoes to stuff into bell peppers/cannelloni, put them in a pan and gratinate with cheese. or put it in a pie crust and bake it with some cream&cheese for quiche, optionally mini-quiches in a muffin pan.

when you run out of combinations, do the same in a pot with water, adding all kinds of grains & legumes for veggie soup ๐Ÿ™‚

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WilliamB February 6, 2010 at 6:47 am

I taught myself to cook so I understand where you’re coming from.

I learned from books. Mostly I found a couple of simple books and did exactly what they said. After a few months I started to see patterns and could improvise a bit. The books I liked best were “A Feast of Soups” by Jacqueline Heritiou and “365 Ways to Cook Chicken.” Both are pretty simple and – bonus – both are quite frugal.

In addition to following directions, I learned about food and cooking. “Soups” has some information about how soup works. Even better is “Joy of Cooking.” It has many, many sections about all the basics: stocking a kitchen with food and gadgets (goes way overboard but you can pick and choose), goes over the meats in detail, cooking methods and which suits what foods best, etc. I prefer the 1975 edition, btw. The 199? edition is generally considered a flop, the one after that is considered good but I haven’t used it myself.

You have an advantage I didn’t – video! Jacques Pepin’s series “Cooking Techniques” is a really good primer (he does get rather fancy in the last few eps). Alton Brown covers technique and some of the science behind it, a combination I really like. When looking at shows on cable, think about whether you’re watching an instructional show (such as “Baking with Julia”) or a showy-show (such as anything with Bobby Flay.) The first are useful, the second intimidating.

Good luck and have fun!

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Jennifer February 6, 2010 at 6:52 am

For me, making a weekly menu is so important. I shop on Sunday afternoons and before I go, I decide what we’ll have for dinner each night of the coming week (with one night left open as a free-for-all).

I make sure a few recipes are quick and easy and a few are new things we haven’t tried before. Then I make a careful shopping list and go get whatever we need. Each night when I get home from work I know exactly what I’m going to be cooking. It saves time and reduces stress.

Also, a kitchen well-stocked with non-perishables (rice, dried beans, lentils, barley, nuts, flour etc) makes for an easier time when cooking from scratch. All these things can be bought in bulk and kept on hand for months of recipes.

Good luck!

-Jennifer

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Lisa February 6, 2010 at 6:52 am

A good place to start might be skipping a generation…. my Mom cooks with about 1/2 fresh & 1/2 convenience foods. So, that’s the ratio that I was comfortable with when I started cooking for my family. By the time I was really interested in closing that gap, my Grandma had passed on. Over the summer, I read an article about a church program locally that was teaching a money saving meal class. I signed up and the sweet little “old ladies” were thrilled to cook the old fashioned way and teach us younger (40 year olds) how to do it right. So, my advice is find someone “old”, they remember how to make a casserole without using a can of soup as the base, or biscuits without using Bisquick!

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Shannon February 7, 2010 at 6:05 am

That totally rocks! I (heart) little old ladies!!! And I do think there are many special things to be learned from that generation. I would love that!

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Cathy February 6, 2010 at 7:07 am

Start simply. Start with a simple main dish, baked goods, salad, or anything else that you know you and your loved ones like. Then look for a recipe: from a cookbook (perhaps from the library until you know if you like the cookbook), or ask for a similar recipe from a friend or relative. The Frugal Girl’s recipes are great because she shows photos, so you will know what it’s supposed to look like at each step. Then try one recipe & allow yourself some time to get used to following a recipe. As you progress, it will take less time. Once you have one success under your belt, try another, but don’t try everything at once. When you have a few favourites, you will find you can rotate the recipes & then continue to add to them at your own speed. This is a gradual learning curve, but you will reach a point where you realize that all or most of your meals have been cooked by you.

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Flourish February 6, 2010 at 7:27 am

The most important thing is learning the principles of cooking, not just some recipes. Recipes are great, but you can never make up your own recipe (based on what’s on sale, for instance) if you don’t learn the principles! You end up spending a lot of money on things that you don’t need, because you’re so attached to the recipe.

Learning a few things that you can really mix up – the base of simple stew, the principles of casseroles, etc – really helps.

I have a fantastic book called ‘The impoverished student’s guide to cookery, drinkery and housekeepery,’ which you can sometimes get at the Reed College bookstore (it’s a small press run) that has a great section on how to roll your own casseroles. (The rest of it is pretty 1950s, but the casserole section is fantastic.)

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Cara February 6, 2010 at 8:05 am

I’d definitely recommend a slow cooker and a good, simple slow-cooker recipe book. You can prepare the ingredients the night before and cook dinner while you’re at work so it’s ready when you get home. Make big batches and you can have leftovers for the next day or to freeze for later. If you’re interested in vegetarian cooking, I recommend Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson. Vegetarian proteins, like dried beans, are MUCH less expensive than meat, are easy to prepare, and are very healthy.

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Judy February 6, 2010 at 8:11 am

I agree with “keep it simple” method. Find some herbs and seasonings that you really like and use them If you eat meat, master a few recipes for chicken, beef, or pork that you claim as yours. Soups, and stews allow for creativity and are simple to do with a crockpot or pressure cooker. Spaghetti sauce & chili are pretty easy to master. Most beans are easy and fast with a pressure cooker. My family likes tilapia which I coat with olive oil, lemon juice, and Trader Joe’s lemon pepper mix grated over it, then grill or fry it . Rice or baked potato, salad, and/or veg and you have an easy meal.
Check your library magazines & cookbook sections, stay away from recipes that call for a lot of exotic ingredients or a huge long list. Also check out garage sales, estate sales, and used book stores. A book I recently found and like is Quick Fix Meals by Robin Miller. She gives step by step instructions and plan ahead tips.
It gets easier the more you do it, and when you have successes and find favorites you will soon come up with your own repertoire.

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Kris-ND February 6, 2010 at 8:22 am

Pre-prep! If you spend some time on a weekend or whenever you are off, you can pre-pre fresh veggies, meats, etc to make it easier.

The day we come back from grocery shopping, I cut up all of my cauliflower, broccoli, etc. I get salad ready for the week(tearing lettuce, mixing with spinach, etc), I try and cook any and all beef or chicken that I can, package it and freeze it.

I also make a menu, so I know what I am doing for dinner, and I can just grab the cut up broccoli, peppers, etc and the bag of pre-cooked chicken and in the time it takes my rice cooker to finish, I can have a home-cooked, non packaged meal from scratch on the table(about 20-25 mins). If I know I am going to have a very busy few days, then I can pre cook all my rice I need for the meals requiring it, and just heat it up.

I make meatballs, and freeze them. I brown ground beef if I know I will need it that week and freeze it. I pre-cook as much chicken as I can if I know I will need them.

I also use zucchini(when I can get it. It can be difficult up here to get fresh zucchini in the winter vs icky zucchini) because it is easy to prepare. If I want to make a zucchini side dish it just requires cutting it up, n o peeling.

As others have mentioned SLOW COOKER! Huge time saver. See if your library has any Fix It and Forget It cookbooks. Great ideas for slow cooker choices, and you can fine tune the recipes to fit your criteria.

Good Luck!

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Hiptobeme February 6, 2010 at 9:04 am

My biggest thing I do from scratch is to make my own bread products. I don’t bake all my own bread, but I do save the ends of loaves and buns and crackers etc. before they get stale, in the freezer. When I have enough saved, I make croutons in a slow oven, which, if needed, can be made into breadcrumbs. I use the crumbs and croutons in casseroles, soups, meatballs, and wherever else I can squeeze them in. This saves a bit of money, because store bought croutons and crumbs are outrageously priced, especially after you see how easy it is to make your own. I also save chicken and beef drippings in an ice cube tray for soup stock. Soup and bread. Can’t go wrong with that!

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Elizabeth February 6, 2010 at 10:02 am

Starting to cook more from scratch can be intimidating. I prefer to cook from scratch, but it didn’t just happen naturally. I started by reading magazines (Southern Living, Cooking Light, Cooks Illustrated, etc), checking out easy cookbooks at the library, and reading food blogs. Kristen at The Frugal Girl has some great easy, cheap, from-scratch recipes and I like The Pioneer Woman as well. Warning: Her website is huge, so don’t get intimidated! I also like to watch the Food Network; Rachel Ray, Paula Deen, Claire Robinson, and Sandra Lee have some great, simple recipes.

My best advice is just to start slow, look for recipes that you think you can make and try out a few a week. Cooking from scratch does not need to be complicated. Some in the food/frugal blogging world make everything from scratch from yogurt to all bread products to desserts, but it doesn’t have to be that way right now. If you want to you’ll get there eventually, but pick a few not-too-complicated things that don’t involve buying a lot of new ingredients, and try cooking them up! I love cooking and don’t mind spending a lot of time in the kitchen, but not everyone is like that. So pick recipes that suit you and your family and have fun cooking!

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Katy February 6, 2010 at 10:09 am

Wow, these are great ideas! My slow cooker broke last year and I haven’t found a replacement yet. However, my mother is going from three guest cottages to two, and there’s a slow cooker with my name on it. My guess is if it’s been used, it was only a time or two.

Keep the great ideas coming!

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate

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Glenn English February 6, 2010 at 10:47 am

It was cool to see Colin Beaven coming up with the same recommendation that I have had (here I think) in the past… the frittata! Frittatas are a fantastic way to incorporate leftovers. The possibilities are endless. Most veggies are great for it. Leftover pasta is even a wonderful addition.

I’m actually a big fan of eggs in general for that reason. They are a great basis for simple meals from scratch, and there are infinite possibilities. We are fortunate to have our own spoiled chickens, but even the fancy organic free range eggs from the farmer’s market or grocery store are still very affordable compared to most proteins.

My latest favorite egg dish from scratch is shakshuka. It is easy to make, and very affordable. Essentially, you saute some onions and garlic, add some cumin and paprika or chipotle, add tomato sauce or canned diced tomatoes, simmer for a few minutes, stir in a pinch of salt, crack five eggs into the pan leaving the yolks intact, cover and cook for five minutes, then top with feta, and cilantro or parsley if desired. Traditionally you serve it out of the pan on the table, with pita bread.

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CC February 6, 2010 at 1:05 pm

I have to agree about keeping it simple. Easy good basic meals work well. I like to cook, always reading cookbooks and trying new recipes. My mother on the other hand always hated cooking and would cook simple meals. She cooks very little now(soup and dry beans mostly) and is happy about it. So I would say make sure you want to cook more because you like it. Not because it seems like a good frugal idea.

Steamed veggies, baked meats, stir frys, soups. Those are all basic foods that don’t take mixes. What I do if I want to try a new recipe is to make sure it uses foods I like. If it has something I don’t like then I more than likely won’t care for the recipe. I read somewhere once that why put wine you wouldn’t drink in a dish. Same for me with foods I won’t eat, why use them.

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magdalena February 6, 2010 at 3:39 pm

If it cooks in liquid, it’s hard to ruin. So soups, stews and spaghetti sauce are easy. Just avoid scorching if the liquid runs low or the heat is too high; keep things at a nice easy simmering boil – just a few bubbles coming to the top. Paying attention is so important! Always season lightly, let cook a bit, then taste. You can add a bit more seasoning (herbs, spices, salt, pepper) if it doesn’t taste the way you want. Get an herb and spice chart so you know what goes with what – it will make your simplest meals seem much more elegant.

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Marie-Josรƒยฉe February 6, 2010 at 4:58 pm

My advice is also to keep it simple. Having homemade soup stock with bones is a great basic, because you can use it as a base for soup (obviously), but also as a base for making sauces and for flavoring rice or other grains. I make a huge pot of it every week and use it all up for a large soup made with dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, broccoli), sauteed leeks, squash or yams and sprouted beans (if I don’t sprout them, well, we become a liability to the planet via bowel gas production!). I puree the soup and spice it up with different spices, but even without, we never get bored of it. If the soup is eaten with bread or another whole grain, you have a compete protein, and a cheap meal. I also agree with other posters that prepping ahead of time makes everything so much easier. Washing and chopping produce is a big chore, unless cooking is something that relaxes you, so having everything cook-ready when you need to cook is great. If you find cooking is a chore in general, I think preparing simple meals that incorporate meat and veggies, or beans and veggies in a sauce, served with a whole grain, is a great way to go (other posters have suggested wonderful mixes). Once a week, you could prepare a big batch of one dish, say for six meals and freeze five portions. If you do that each week, you could have a different home-cooked meal six days per week.

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Jo February 6, 2010 at 6:00 pm

We shop once a week, with a list and a menu plan. Usually one night is pizza, one fish, one bun (vietnamese noodle dish) — then we fill in. I like the good old Mennonite-from-the 70s cookbook, The Less is More cookbook, because of its simple recipes and suggestions for using up leftovers. It’s easy to read and understand, too.

Another good one is James Beard’s American Cooking — though it’s big, it’s fun to read because he goes into the history behind dishes. ALso MFK Fisher’s How to Cook A Wolf — not so much as a cookbook, but a great bok about the attitude towards cooking and food, written in the middle of WWII.

I guess for me reading about food is almost as good as cooking and eating it.

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Tara Morrison February 6, 2010 at 6:28 pm

I am a huge fan of cooking once and eating a number of times off that dish. If you are not a vegetarian I highly reccomend learning to roast a whole chicken. Night one you can make some traditional side dishes, mashed potatoes and green vegetable. Night two shred the remaining for anything from bbq chicken sandwiches, greek style pita pockets, burritos,, etc. Night three I boil the carcass that morning and make a stock and use in soup, risotto, freeze or use a couple days later in a crock pot full of beans. We rarely buy anything other than whole birds because you get such bang for your buck!

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Marianne February 6, 2010 at 6:37 pm

I started with a basic plan for each day.
Monday-Chicken
Tuesday-Pasta
Wednesday-Meat
Thursday-Seafood
Friday-Pizza

I have a few basic recipes for each main ingredient so they are easy to throw together. The pizza is really easy because i make the dough in the bread machine, then throw on some pureed tomatoes, seasonings, spices and whatever else is left in the fridge. A really good website to find easy, cheap, and meals from scratch is http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/

my favorite recipe is the burritos with taco rice. also look for the $40 emergency meal plan. The prices are from a few years ago but still a great menu!

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ksmedgirl February 6, 2010 at 6:53 pm

try the frugal girl’s blog. she has great recipes with step by step pictures, and everything I’ve tried is easy and turns out wonderful.
http://www.thefrugalgirl.com

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kathy February 6, 2010 at 7:04 pm

I would get a couple of Amish cookbooks. The Amish usually cook with basic ingredients and their cookbooks have great ideas for meals and side dishes.

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Alice February 6, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Thanks for all the info! I will check out these books from the library, checking out Frugal Girl’s website, was planning on buying a slow cooker this week anyway, and because I am embarrased to say I don’t own any spices (does salt count?) I am investing in some small spice rack. Since I cook for myself only, I really liked the suggestions to freeze meals. So far I can make an omelette, sandwich and chicken noodle soup but with your tips I can imagine myself having many more meals under my belt soon! Thank you for all the tips and thank you Katy for posting my question!
First on the menu is slow cooker beef stew.

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chppie February 6, 2010 at 8:12 pm

beth hensberger (sp?) has a series of crock pot cookbooks and one of them is for small meals/cookers. If you’re single you might like that. Beth has a good flavor sense so all of her dishes are tasty.

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Stacie February 6, 2010 at 7:32 pm

We just started taking on one item which we usually bought premade, and tried making it from scratch. One recipe a week. This week it was pancake mix, last week it was spaghetti sauce. It turns out to be so much cheaper, yet it is a big deal to preplan! There is a website called Kitchen Stewardship which is based on the idea of Real Food recipes. She had a post about homemade Wheat Thins this week….check it out
๐Ÿ™‚
Also, frugal girl, frugal girl, frugal girl…..www.thefrugalgirl.com. She is the best.

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Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green February 6, 2010 at 7:38 pm

I post recipes on my blog about cooking from scratch and making it easier-
http://www.retrohousewifegoesgreen.com

My biggest advice is to become best friends with your freezer! We all want easy meals that just need to be stuck in the oven sometimes, being an organic real food eating girl doesn’t change that for me. I try and always have homemade pizzas in the freezer, you just slightly pre-cook the crust then you just have to top it and freeze it until ready for it. I also often double meals that freeze well and freeze half before cooking it.

It’s best to do it slowly, start with just a few new from scratch items at a time and again use your freezer! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Glenn English February 6, 2010 at 11:28 pm

I second the notion that soups are a great way to get into cooking simple, affordable meals from scratch, because there are limitless possibilities, you can use up whatever you have on hand, they are very forgiving, and you can get several meals out of it because it is often even better the next day. It is no coincidence that in the Great Depression there were soup lines. Nor is it a coincidence that we call facilities to feed the homeless soup kitchens.

This evening I made a seafood soup out of pollock (a member of the cod family) that I got on sale, canned clams and oysters that were on sale as well, seafood stock, local potatoes, corn that my wife canned last summer (frozen is fine), a can of diced tomatoes (on sale too), some onion, carrot, and garlic sauteed in butter, salt, pepper, hot sauce, spices, and a splash of the wine we drank with dinner. It may sound fancy, and it certainly tasted that way, but it was easy to make, and very reasonable considering that we will get numerous servings out of the big batch that I made.

It can be very nice to be in the habit of making a big batch of soup every Sunday, which you can enjoy again and again whenever you don’t feel like cooking throughout the week.

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Molly Leckie February 7, 2010 at 5:59 am

Lot’s of great ideas here. I would add one more book recommendation: Pam Anderson’s “How to Cook Without a Book”. Funny title, but the principle is that you learn how to do a few basic things – sautee, build a salad, etc – and you just riff on it using a basic formula. Fabulous book.

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Brenda February 7, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Wow, a lot of good ideas. When I go to the grocery store I try to think ahead to what we want to eat in the upcoming week and what we have already on hand that should be used up. I like to make a couple of meals a week that will provide leftovers for another day. Sometimes I freeze a portion for a future meal. For a quick meal on a night that I don’t have something planned, I make eggs in whatever form I am in the mood for. We only eat out on the weekend, if then, so I do need to have a plan in mind, otherwise I feel frustrated at having to come up with something after a long day at work. I have posted some of my recipes on my “sense of home” blog.

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Amy H. February 7, 2010 at 11:19 pm

Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” is another great basic cook book, that really teaches you each type of food (eggs, chicken, veggies, quick breads) from the very beginning. He has a lot of good, very easy variations on most recipes too. If you are vegetarian (or even if you’re not), I recommend “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” by Deborah Madison as a great basics cook book.

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365girl February 8, 2010 at 2:51 am

My top tip is get a Slow Cooker (US version Crockpot?) – perfect vessel for cooking all sorts of basic ingredients to produce bolognaise, chilli,casserole etc… just chuck in the meat, veg, spices,herbs and leave for 6-8 hours. Perfect for using up stuff in the fridge – got a parsnip, few carrots, garlic etc? just chuck in and make stock to which you can add noodles or pasta or make a soup. The method in which it cooks preserves nutrients in the food whilst also being energy efficient so it’s frugal and environmentally friendly. Loads of slow cooker recipes on the net – or just make it up – so easy!

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Kristin February 8, 2010 at 5:39 am

My tips: 1. it’s easier than you fear and 2. adding bacon to just about everything makes it better!

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Beth February 8, 2010 at 8:41 am

Once you get started cooking from scratch, try comparing recipes to find out what the essential cooking techniques and ingredients are. If you look at three or four recipes for the same dish, you can figure out which ingredients tend to work well together. Doing this has helped me improvise more confidently and find creative ways to use what I have if I’m missing an ingredient from one of the recipes.

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Laura February 8, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Many of my household’s recipes are on the same model: Boil grain; fry uncooked veggies; add meat to veggies; add spices to meat and veggies; add canned veggies and sauce-like substance to meat, veggies, and spices; combine.

1. Boil noodles in one pot; chop meat and fry in another pan; when the meat is close to cooked, add sauce or sauce ingredients; when sauce is heated and meat is cooked, put into serving bowl; when noodles are done, drain and add to same serving bowl. Mix and serve. Notice that I just described spaghetti, among other things.

2. Stir-fry: Start cooking rice (I use a steamer); put oil into bottom of frying pan; chop fresh veggies and add to frying pan, hardest first, softest last; when veggies are nearly cooked, chop meat if it isn’t already ground and add to frying pan; add soy sauce, a little brown sugar, and your choice of spices (I recommend ground ginger as one of them!); when meat is cooked, put in serving bowl. Put rice in another when it’s ready. Serve with chopsticks!

3. My family’s sloppy joes recipe: no veggies, though you could add onions to good effect; ground beef; ketchup, brown sugar, and Worchestershire sauce for the sauce; serve on bread.

4. Taco stir-fry: ground beef, cooked with plenty of chili powder; canned corn, sliced canned tomatoes (at least some of the liquid goes in too), grated cheddar cheese; add corn chips to the pan shortly before it’s done, or just warm the chips and serve them in separate bowls. Serve with more grated cheese sprinkled on top, because you can’t have too much cheese! ๐Ÿ™‚

My standard casserole recipe is another pattern:
Preheat oven. Boil noodles. Drain, and put them in a casserole dish. Add a can of Cream of Mushroom Soup, some canned or chopped soft or chopped and cooked hard veggies, and your meat: canned tuna is one favorite, chopped chicken is another. Stir it together. Put cheese on top, because you can’t have too much cheese. Bake until meat is cooked, or until the cheese is melted if you used pre-cooked meat or no meat.

Tofu can substitute for meat. Beans or rice can substitute for noodles. Pre-boiled beans can also be subbed for meat, but you have to start boiling those first (and it helps if you soak them a few hours first).

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Jane@ Jasmine green tea January 19, 2011 at 1:24 am

I think try having a cookbook for simple recipes. That’s where I started cooking and you won’t get wrong.

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