I’ve never bought into buying ready made food. Boxed this, frozen that, spaghetti sauce in a jar. ick. I didn’t want to spend the extra $ for prepared food. AND I wanted my food to taste good. To me manufactured food just didn’t taste that great. Plus I wanted control over what I put into my body. I decided to cook scratch to avoid things like excessive salt, sugar or food additives.
I realize when someone shifts from purchasing pre-made foods to cooking scratch the “Oh I have to actually make it” moment is pretty alarming.
What’s the secret to manufacturing your own food?
A well stocked pantry!
A pantry is unique to everyone. I can only example my own and hope it helps you! Often a good cook book will offer tips for a well stocked kitchen – Moosewood was an inspiration for me as well as American Whole Foods Cuisine
Having ingredients on hand makes it easy to throw a meal together. If you want to create a salad dressing from scratch and don’t keep olive oil around you may feel frustrated.
Here is typically what I have on hand in my pantry:
Oils: olive, coconut and sesame.
Vinegars: balsamic, apple cider and sherry
Spices: dried – gosh, this depends on what you make, my spices are eclectic – cayenne and crushed red pepper are a staple for me. I have a mild yellow curry, and italian seasonings – i am a fan of thyme, cardamom, star anise, etc … I use fresh – parsley, cilantro, basil and dill as often as possible. I love a course kosher sea salt, and have a black and white pepper mill for fresh ground. Real garlic is a must!
I keep various seeds, nuts, grains, dried beans and pasta around. Right now I have: dried garbanzo, white and black beans, sunflower and flax seeds, wheat berries, raw almonds and pecans, wheat flour, a local organic corn meal for corn bread (!), wheat and spinach fettuccine etc
I often make and freeze soup stock but I also keep tetra pak’s of veggie, chicken and beef stock at hand. The same goes for tomatoes. In season I will buy tomatoes fresh and simmer them for sauces.
I stopped buying food in cans a year ago to avoid BPA – formerly, I kept quite a bit on my shelves in cans – tomatoes, beans, tuna, hot peppers etc. Now I buy items fresh or look for the item in a glass jar, artichoke hearts are an example of something jarred I keep on hand. I like to add them to an anti-pasto, egg salad, or for my homemade pizza. YUM! Sun-dried tomato and dried mushrooms can add a little oomph to all kinds of dishes.
In my fridge one will almost always find: lemons, limes – seasonal fruits, green onion, celery, carrots, potatoes and seasonal veggies. These items again are crucial to have around for making.
In my fridge: Eggs – these i buy from a known farmer. Cheeses – some purchased local – typically I will carry a parmesan, a fresh mozz, feta and occasionally a sharp cheddar, manchego, or gorgonzola.. Other dairy I have on hand includes: butter, half and half, yogurt (all organic)
I eat a salad – centric meal just about every day — details about the anatomy of a salad can be found here. To me this is as basic as it gets. In my fridge now for salad making: spinach, cooked beets, swiss chard, purple cabbage, cucumber, radish, kale and arugula, carrot, celery, sunflower seeds, plus my homemade salad dressing.
In my freezer one will almost always find meat, bread, sauces and cooked beans. One can do just about anything with a homemade spaghetti, and or curry sauce, cooked garbanzo beans for a quick hummus, cooked black beans to mash for quesadilla!! Right now I also have pick me up juice popsicles,frozen fruit for smoothies, and edamame for snacking.
Breads: ezekial brand sliced bread, tortilla’s and english muffins, local whole grain bread artisan breads cut into smaller loaves to use as needed, foccacia bread for grilled pizza ( all kept in my freezer)
Beverages: water, water and water, wine, and in the summer I make a sun tea, sweetened with juice. ( in the fridge now is a pomagranite green tea with unsweetened cranberry)
Condiments: I keep a dark mustard around, a safflower mayo - i used to make these, i use them so rarely, I opted for shelf life. A black bean paste, thai red curry paste, sardine paste, tamarind paste, home made marinades, tamari, again my home made salad dressings. See my many archived for ideas of what to make and how!!
Planning: Basically you are planning for three meals a day plus snacks, you need to have allthe things you actually eat available and or prepared – so that when life is full or grab and go, you are not scrambling. This is where manufacturing comes into play – if you are not buying ready made food someone has to make it!!
Keep in mind local and seasonal.
Let’s take breakfast and add the seasonal and local element. Right now in the summer I rotate my breakfast choices: yogurt and fruit, granola and fruit, wheat berries and fruit, a fruit smoothie, something eggy or toast w/nut butter or avocado. Notice the pattern ? Peaches and blueberries are awesome right now!! Notice that I also do not eat the same thing day in and day out.
Keeping with the seasonal idea, in autumn I will switch to oatmeal and top with cubed squash and nuts. My smoothies might be heartier with peanut butter and a dash of espresso powder. The combo potential is endless. This is done with each and every meal.
The point is to get to know what is at your farmers market and cook with what is growing now. This was an adjustment for me in the way I planned and shopped. I now start with the Farmers Market – get what I can and need there and fill in the rest of my needs at the grocery store.
Confession: If I was super industrious I’d make my own yogurt and my own granola. For me now? single? In this stage of my life? I buy these items. Choice regarding any of this is super important – make what you can, buy what makes sense otherwise! It should feel good to you.
When to manufacture? I am in such a habit of making my own that I don’t think about the when anymore. If you are a working person an evening a week might be a good time to manufacture stuff. For others a sunday afternoon or perhaps early on saturday morning works well. The point is to decide and then allot this time consistently. Making foods requires a plan and steady grocery shopping. Again more planning. But worth it!! I do a monthly “stock” shop, simply because grocery shopping is not my favorite task. I fill in the fresh needs weekly. From May – October you will find me at the Farmers Market, I go here yes to buy what i want and need, but I also go because it’s super important to fuel this economy. The more we purchase locally the better!
What to make ? It’s completely up to you! This week I made a batch of beets, steamed a bunch of green beans, made two summer salads, a marinade for beef, and a stir fry. It’s been so hot — the cold salads have been perfect to just graze on. refreshing and effortless.
In the winter I will make a new soup a week, stews, casseroles – usually 1/2 to eat, the other 1/2 to freeze. I will sometimes make my butter ( yes - i make my own butter!)