Sunday, August 16, 2009

Our Cooking Philosophy

Cooking at our place is something we're still learning how to do. But, we have found a few things that work for us. Please browse around and feel free to email or leave comments with any questions you might have.

(1) Eating healthy on a budget - how our family does it

(2) Why cooking homemade works for us

I grew up with an incredibly resourceful mom... she made everything. Our lunch boxes (from old jeans), our clothes, clothes for our dolls, crafts for our walls, and as we got bigger, she took her creative juices to make BEAUTIFUL suits for synchronized swimming! We grew up reusing resources, and creating things to meet our particular needs. In addition, my mom is a fantastic baker and cook... she filled us up with healthy, delicious meals.

My dad is a craftsman at heart. I couldn't understand why my friends had to move away when I was younger -- couldn't they just knock out a wall in their house and build a new room? I have so many fond memories of building my bedroom at home with my dad.
Homemade was just part of life for me. It still is. 

Since getting married a year and half ago, my hubby and I have been working to establish our own homemade items. While I haven't yet gotten super brave in my sewing... I have found 
joy in my kitchen.

motivation for going "homemade" with our food comes from a few areas:

  • My family history (both of my parents grew up on farms; I grew up eating homemade),
  • Our food allergies (tree nuts, pumpkin, oral allergy syndrome to fresh fruits/veggies, and possible allergy to sesame),
  • My interest in being a good steward of the bodies God has given us by eating food as God created it, and
  • My convictions about the sustainability of our eating habits as it pertains to our ecological footprint (all part of being a steward of God's world)
Now, we make just about everything we eat from our own ingredients rather than pre-packaged products. We still eat some pre-packaged foods..., but we strive to put things into our bodies that take care of them. I can't wait to try making my own butter and one day grinding my own wheat! 

This has brought joy and peace to our lives
 (two essential components to my view of freedom). Joy because we've been able to explore different foods, combinations and new flavors. Peace because we know what we're putting into our bodies - I know it's healthy and safe. Making my own food has helped decrease the stress around eating with food allergies... I truly don't miss the pre-packaged foods that are often "off-limits" due to some of my favorite words..."may contain tree nuts".

From the perspective of our pocket book, 
we have saved a great deal on our groceries. I don't have specific numbers, but over the past year as we made the transition, our monthly grocery bill has decreased, even with using less coupons (it's hard to find coupons for produce, you know?!). How do we do it? If you're curious, let me know, and I'll write another post about it (otherwise this one would be really long).
On a per-meal basis, I can make a a loaf of bread, batch of bagelswafflesspaghetti sauce (or really anything) for much less than I purchase the same items from the store. Not to mention there's not wasteful packaging to dispose of! We tend to eat more primary producers (yes, I am a biologist), but we still get our protein and lean meats too -- all of which fits in with our food goals.

The only "cost" is our time. Making your own food takes time. It takes time to meal plan, to shop frugally (often I go to a couple of grocery stores to get the best deals on produce), and to prepare our food. But, I don't view it as a time stealer... taking away time that I could be using for other things. I view it as a time of joy. A time to spend with God, enjoying what He has created and being creative with it. It's a devotional time of sorts that I love sharing with God, and often share with Frog Prince too.

And, even though we're grad students... right now we have that time. I'm hoping and praying that by working out the organization of being homemade and becoming faster and more efficient in my kitchen will serve us well when we move on from grad school, and hopefully find jobs, get a home and may be blessed with a family.

(3) Cooking ahead - making meal prep simple

Although I am branching out in my cooking, one thing I haven't ventured too far into is once-a-month-cooking (OAMC) and freezing meals.

My lack of experience in this area is due to my flexible grad student schedule (translation - I often have time to prepare meals), and our small freezer (translation -- it's usually so full of homemade ice cream, I mean vegetables, that we can't get too much more in)! I am very much looking forward to learning a lot of great tips and tricks for cooking ahead.

However, there are a few freezer-friendly things I do to make meal time easier for us (and our budget!):

  • Buy produce (e.g., peppers, asparagus, apples, etc.) when it's on sale and chop/clean all of it soon after purchase. Freeze what you won't use right away. This makes cooking easy, as you can often add the frozen veggies right to your dinner dishes.
  • I have frozen carrots, bell peppers, celery, and onion (at a minimum) in my freezer all the time... makes soup-making easy!
  • I freeze asparagus ... make sure to blanch the asparagus first and store in a bag/container with little airspace.
  • I freeze zucchini... just shred away and freeze -- this makes bread making easy!
  • I often make sauce out of the apples, and freeze other fruit whole for add-ins to oatmealpancakes and muffins (oh, pancakes, waffles and muffins also freeze well, and warm up nicely for a quick breakfast).
  • Save the veggie scraps (from chopping) and make homemade broth (freeze it in ice cubes so you can easily add it to any dish)
  • Brown ground beef or turkey with onions and garlic (these two spices are pretty generic and this way the meat can be used in a variety of dishes). Freeze in meal-sized portions.
  • Dice beef, chicken before freezing, makes cooking it later for different meals easier by cutting down your prep time.
  • Similarly, you can cook up some chicken breasts, and dice or shred them and place them serving-sized containers, all ready for dinner! You can cook up these in the crockpot for extra-moist and tender chicken.
  • Make extra dough for pizza, or dinner rolls/bread sticks, and freeze it. Take out 3 hours before making to de-thaw; cover and allow to rise during that time and you have your own freezer-friendly rolls!
  • Freeze tomato paste mixed with Italian seasoning in ice cube trays -- take out 1-2 at a time and you'll have the perfect amount to spread on your pizzas!
  • Make a big batch of your favorite soup and freeze in lunch-sized portions. Take out before leaving for work/school and by lunch time it should be de-thawed and ready to heat.
Gosh, I could go on and on about the stuff I put in the freezer (baked bread, cheese, butter, spaghetti sauce) and I can't wait until I have a big freezer! Buying in bulk and being able to freeze has helped us take advantage of good deals and stay well within our food budget each month.

To efficiently manage a freezer, my advice is to invest (or inherit due to recycling packaging) in some containers that stack nicely and tightly in your freezer, and closely resemble serving sizes. For the two of us, the 2-3 C plastic containers work wonderfully -- most of which are recycled from store packaging.

I'll leave you with a picture of my freezer...

The majority of my freezer is veggies right now, but behind the ice cream (on the right) is some of my veggie broth and spaghetti sauce! On the left, there's more ice cream, underneath which you can find spinach and diced beef. Right next to that is a little applesauce -- in a 1 C serving so that I can easily add it to any baking recipe. Oh, there is some cheese in there... and our fruit is in the door, so you won't find that in this picture. 

1 comment:

  1. i love your site...i used to make all food from scatch but as my girls moved on with college and now marriage my husband and i had begun to eat our dislike we have gained weight and are not really happy with the quality of the with a grandson i have returned to the cooking from scratch formula...good food...good health...good taste...keep up the good work...really enjoying what i am seeing here...


Thanks for stopping by! I'd love to hear from you; especially how you're finding JOY in your kitchen.

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