Since so many people have been inspired this year to grow their own for the first time, I thought I would return to basics once again and write a little about the importance of learning how to cook healthy, fresh ingredients from scratch. In our modern world, where so much convenience food is available, it is tempting to take shortcuts. But cooking from scratch really is one of the best things you can do for you, your family and the planet.
Cooking from scratch (and making it a habit) begins with good organisational skills. That might sound rather boring. But if you don’t have a firm foundation (and a well-stocked kitchen or pantry) then it will be far more difficult to shop your own garden and shelves, and get cooking.
Make sure you know what you have. Consider making meal plans so you have at least a rough idea of what you will eat – at least for the next week or so. If you are shopping, make sure you take a list that tallies with what you want to cook so you don’t succumb to impulse buying and avoid waste by getting only what you need.
We grow most of our own fruits, vegetables and herbs here. But we are not self-sufficient in grains or other staple goods. I store some basics – flours, salt, grains and pulses for example – that can be used alongside our home grown produce (fresh and preserved) and eggs. Ultimately, we are aiming for a stock that will last a year or so, and be used on a rolling basis.
When it comes to cooking, I am not an expert my any means. But I do have a good repertoire of home recipes that I can turn to. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to make some pretty delicious meals. You can soon develop some basic skills and use your imagination to create new and enticing dishes from whatever food is seasonally and locally available.
With a full time job, a barn conversion project and of course the garden to manage, I don’t have a lot of time. But I do try to ring fence time to cook, preserve and bake. For those short on time, batch cooking really can be a great idea. I sometimes make up big batches of soups, stews etc. that we can eat over time. I also sometimes bake extra loaves of bread and freeze them for later.
Whether you love cooking, or just tolerate it, cooking from scratch can definitely be a rewarding experience. Yes, it takes a little more time and effort. But it is well worthwhile – and crucial if you want to reduce waste, boost health, and live a more sustainable way of life.