The Magic of Cooking From Scratch For Beginners

The struggle of cooking from scratch for beginners in a time starved society is real. As a beginner, it can be a daunting task and you might even think it’s not worth the effort.

Families around you think nothing of buying dinner out, multiple times a week. On top of pre-made meals and lunches bought at work.

When you think of it like that, the idea of making all or most of your meals from scratch seems like such a big deal.

One that it’s easier to not do and just keep buying those meals that you know don’t taste like home. No matter what the packet says.

I’m here to encourage you to see that cooking from scratch need not be hard, time consuming or produce boring meals.

Cooking from scratch recipes invariably taste great! There is something about cooking fresh ingredients that makes the taste infinitely better than anything else on earth.

Making your own home made meals is not just for the hardcore chefs out there. It doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated – it’s easier than ever before!

Let me show you how easy it can be for anyone to start cooking from scratch today.

What Is Cooking From Scratch?

Cooking from scratch means preparing a cooked meal by using basic ingredients that are not processed. I.e. they don’t come out of a box. Think vegetables in their natural state, raw meat, fruit.

Of course it’s not quite as simple as just raw food because flour, pasta, seasoning, herbs, rice would all be counted as ingredients for scratch cooking.

When you make mac and cheese out of box that isn’t a scratch cooking recipe. Whereas if you make your own cheese sauce and add dried macaroni, that would be a scratch cooked meal your family will enjoy much more.

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Why are people no longer cooking their own meals?

Cooking meals from scratch is a method that more and more people seem to be ditching. Preferring instead to make do with takeout, Drive Thru and always eating out.

They’re cooking less because they think cooking at home is time-consuming and expensive. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

You might think cooking from scratch is time consuming, but it’s not. Unless you attempt 2+ hour recipes when you get home late from work. No-one’s got time for that!

Many family favorites made from scratch can be on the table ready to eat in less than 30 minutes, from start to finish. Less time than it takes to choose your food option, phone it through and await delivery!

Scratch cooking or convenience foods?

Cooking from scratch can feel like a dying art. The demand for convenience foods like frozen pizza and tubs of ice cream has never been higher.

Of course the convenience of processed foods is appealing, but it comes with hidden costs that you may not realize until later in your life.

Cooking at home allows for more control over the food’s ingredients (not to mention how much salt or sugar goes into each dish). After all, you are what you eat!

You also reap benefits such as saving money on groceries and avoiding preservatives which can be harmful to your health!

If you’re looking to save some money by cooking at home then it might be worth trying your hand in the kitchen!

Father and his daughter learning to cook
Start them young when it comes to cooking from scratch for beginners

What are the benefits of cooking from scratch?

Cooking from scratch means that you have complete control over what goes into your food and how it tastes. Convenience food, restaurant and ready meals often means dishes with too much salt, sugar and fat in them.

Plus, cooking from scratch saves money on groceries because you not spending money for people to cook for you and deliver it to your door!

Other benefits of cooking from scratch are:

  • Healthier – you choose what goes into your recipes
  • Great for food allergies – when it’s homemade foods, you know exactly what has gone into it
  • Saves time – double your recipe and you have a 2nd meal in the freezer for another night
  • Better taste – using fresh ingredients, you can’t help but create a better tasting dish
  • Family experience – Making your meals is not a solitary experience, get the whole family involved!
  • Increase your cooking skills – The better you can cook foods for the family, the easier it becomes to cook from scratch. win:win

1. More Affordable 

The old adage that you get what you pay for is not always true. Buying everything pre-made and eating at a fast food joint or fancy restaurant may seem like great ways to save time, but in the long run they can be very costly to your budget.

Eating out just once a week can add $200 to your budget each month. Mulitply that by more lunches and dinners each week and you’re staring at a big chunk of your income going on just a few meals.

The time you spend cooking a meal is more than worth the amount of money saved. And the taste of home cooked dishes is always better than fast food!

how much money do you save cooking at home?

You can save hundreds every month if you make the majority of your meals at home and cook from scratch.

Going to a restaurant, as a couple, can easily set you back $50. Do that 3 times a week and you’re looking at $600 a month in savings. Every month. That’s $7,200 a year.

And you’ve still got breakfast, lunch and other dinners each week to budget for.

Homestyle cooking from scratch meatball dish and separate spaghetti.
Tasty scratch cooking recipes!

2. Better Taste

Although it may seem like food from restaurants or fast food chains taste pretty good the reality is that after the first few bites it quickly becomes dissatisfying.

Nothing compares to the quality and flavor of food made from scratch. This is because of the quality of ingredients. Restaurants, specifically fast food chains, find ways to cut down expenses and usually that means lower quality ingredients. 

Shopping for produce and meat in stores can be simple enough. The farmers markets have the freshest products, but they’re also often more expensive and you’ll need to buy from multiple stalls at once.

Personally I cannot afford to purchase anything from farmers markets so I don’t, sorry farmers!

Purchasing each ingredient from your local grocery store generally takes less time than going out of town, visiting a farmers market or ordering online.

3. Healthier

Pre-made and packaged foods are often filled with fat, sugar, salt, and chemicals. These help to make the product look appealing and make it last longer. They make the food taste good but come at a cost to your health!

When you cook from scratch the benefit is you have complete control of what goes into your dish which lets you be more mindful about how much fat, sugar or salt is used in cooking it up.

Instead of packing in the salt and fat I often use healthier ingredients such as garlic, chilies and herbs, which are more flavorful and natural than the chemical enhancers in pre-made dishes.

Homestyle cooking from scratch means you know what went in that dish before eating so making healthier choices becomes easier than ever- all without compromising on quality!

Young woman tasting her food having learnt about cooking from scratch for beginners.
Homestyle cooking from scratch is easy when you know how!

How to start cooking from scratch – things to do to make cooking from scratch for beginners a breeze!

Cooking even easy beginner recipes without using any convienence or package foods can seem a challenge at first, but with these five easy tips you’ll get back on track before long.

Plan ahead

Trying to think about what you are going to make for dinner after you get home from work is an unenviable task.

Preparing a meal plan at the beginning of the week will help keep you on track and know in advance what you’re going to be cooking as soon as you step into the kitchen.

Your meal plan can be as varied or specific as you want it to be.

Some people like preparing the same 7 meals every week, whereas others might prefer preparing different dishes each week.

Either way, this simple step of planning your meals will make your life a lot easier.

Related posts:

7 Meal Planning Strategies All Beginners Should Know

9 Meal Planning Mistakes You Need Solutions For

Ensure you have the right equipment

When you are starting out you don’t need a huge variety of kitchen utensils. But over time you’re going to find you want some additional equipment, to make your life easier.

A food processor is probably something you will want to add in pretty quickly because they can do so many different things. They do the heavy lifting when you cook from scratch.

My other indispensable tool is a slow cooker (crock pot). So many times my slow cooker has saved me on a late night that I will never part with it. Throwing everything in, in the morning meant I knew dinner was done whatever time I got home.

Cooking Essentials

We all need a little help in the kitchen and these are my top 4 essentials, without which cooking and meal prep would be so much harder and time consuming.

Have a convenience food back up meal

This might sound counter-intuitive but having a back up dish in your kitchen repertoire could make cooking from scratch seem a lot easier.

If you’re cooking without the pre-packaged ingredients then it’s important to have something handy for when things go wrong or don’t turn out as planned.

Or simply you have run out of energy and cannot face even 30 minutes in the kitchen trying to follow instructions. A back up meal stops you from spending money on takeout. And knowing you have a back up means you are much less likely to ever use it!

My back up meals were either fish fingers and chips (kid inspired) or pasta, canned tomatoes and grated cheese. Both I could make in my sleep.

Don’t forget about freezing dinners in advance! You can save a lot of time by cooking dishes ahead of time and then freezing them for later use. These can then be your back up convenience food.

Chili is a meal I always have in the freezer. In a pinch it can be a complete meal in itself; you don’t have to have rice or nachos, sour cream or garlic bread with it. From freezer to table in less than 10 minutes.

Stock up on supplies

Making sure that you have all the ingredients and cooking utensils needed to prepare dinner can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be!

After creating your meal plan, write out a shopping list of the ingredients you need to make everything.

Stock up on items you use regularly: pasta, canned tomatoes, rice and flour are great for long term stockpiling. Start with these pantry staples (as long as they are things you would usually eat!):

  • canned beans
  • canned tomatoes
  • vegetable oil
  • peanut butter
  • raisins
  • sugar
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • flour
  • oats
  • rice
  • pasta
  • noodles
  • mixed herbs
  • chili flakes
  • salt and pepper

These staples form the bedrock of many basic cook from scratch recipes. There are plenty of other pantry staples you might already have, individual herbs for instance.

But if you really are starting from scratch then start here and add more as your cooking repetoire increases.

Related posts:

40 Essential Foods to Create Your Emergency Stockpile

How To Stockpile Food On A Budget – 10 Easy Tips

How To Prepare For Food Shortage and Build Your Stockpile

Scratch cooked breakfast with coffee to show how to save money cooking from scratch.
How about easy snack recipes for beginners?

Read recipes right through

At the begining when you are learning to cook from scratch, a 30 minute recipe will not take 30 minutes. More like 60 minutes or even longer if you’re anything like me!

You will re-read the instructions about a gazillion times, just to double check again and again that you have remembered correctly what you’ve just read.

Measuring ingredients always takes longer for the same reason, and then you have the delay when you have to wash your kitchen scales in-between measures. So assume every recipe will take at least double the recommended time.

Even if you grab yourself a book of simple recipes for beginners to learn cooking the easy way, it doesn’t always pan out like that. Some cookbooks say they are all about basic recipes for beginners.

Then you find they’ve got 15 different ingredients you cannot buy from your basic grocery store. Not helpful, not basic and not beginner friendly.

If it sounds complicated just reading it, then in my book it probably is.

Batch cook your basic recipes

The benefits of learning to cook at home go way beyond just saving money. Homemade meals can reduce food waste, help you to eat healthier by cutting out processed and fast foods and make your kitchen smell great.

To get even more from these benefits though I would suggest pairing homemade dishes with batch cooking. Batch cooking does not mean spending hours in the kitchen or cooking up huge vats of one recipe.

All it means is, when possible, cook a double batch of the recipe you are trying. Double the ingredients and follow the instructions as normal.

Doubling the quantity will not double the time taken, only how long it takes you to chop what needs chopping.

Once cooked you have one meal for now and a meal for later. Pop it in the freezer and the meal becomes your own ready meal.

Perfect for busy nights or when your plans go horribly wrong! If the meal cannot be frozen then it will keep in the fridge for a few days.

Using your slow cooker to batch cook meals makes life even easier. Check out these slow cooker recipes for inspiration:

15 Slow Cooker Dinner Recipes For Busy Days

20 Super Easy Slow Cooker Soup Recipes

Collage of 4 different healthy cooking from scratch meals.
What should a beginner cook?

The easiest thing to cook for beginners

What should a beginner cook? The easiest thing to make from scratch, in my book, is spaghetti with black pepper and parmesan. That’s it! I know you’re not getting one of your 5 a day.

But better to have a plate of home cooked pasta than grabbing a takeaway. Get more of your 5 a day later.

Or how about a baked potato with optional toppings like grated cheese or tuna?

10 basic cooking from scratch recipes for beginners

To get you started here are 10 recipes that really are easy and simple. Not too many ingredients, short on prep time and not too long to cook (barring the slow cooker recipes because you just set and forget those).

Pasta with peas – About as simple as it get’s but oh so tasty!

Quick and easy vegetarian curry – Just 15 minutes to prep AND cook!

Sesame noodles – Another 15 minute meal, so simple.

Sheet pan chicken and veggies – A one dish meal is the ideal dish for beginners who hate clearing up.

Crockpot honey mustard chicken – A quick prep in the morning and return home to a delicously cooked meal.

5 ingredient crockpot tex mex chicken – A great meal prep recipe and with only 5 ingredients, perfect for beginners.

Quick and easy tuna pasta – Another 15 minute recipe from start to finish – my grandkids love this!

Sloppy joe pasta – Cheap, budget friendly meal made with basic pantry ingredients.

One pot cheesy broccoli chickpea rice casserole – A hearty vegetarian casserole everyone will love.

One pot 15 minute pasta limone – Simply does it. One pot, 15 minutes and pasta – my favorite type of meal!

Collage of 4 easy cooking from scratch recipes.
What to cook as a beginner? Keep it simple

Begin your scratch cooking journey today

Cooking from scratch is a great way to save money and get healthier food. If you are just getting started cooking here’s my top tips for getting started.

Start by planning ahead of time so you don’t find yourself in a pinch with no food on hand when hunger strikes (meal planning will help here).

Stock up on supplies like spices, rice and pasta so they’ll be ready whenever needed. Check out my post on building a pantry stockpile for how to do this cheaply.

Preserve what you cook by freezing leftovers or start batch cooking. This is where you double up on the amount you cook deliverately, so you have a 2nd meal to freeze. These become your very own ‘ready-meals’, for a fraction of the price of store bought items.

And finally, remember that cooking from scratch is more affordable than convenience foods – not only because it’s cheaper per serving but also because fresh ingredients cost less than having someone prepare them for you.

Finally, make sure not to get discouraged with any mistakes along the way; as we all know even professional chefs can mess up their recipes occasionally too 🙂

Come and follow me on Pinterest for more money saving hints and frugal tips!

Pinterest image for cooking from scratch for beginners.
Pinterest image for cooking from scratch for beginners.

Last Updated on 13th September 2021 by Emma

About Emma

I'm here to help you become confident in making the best money decisions for you and your family. Frugal living has changed my life, let me help you change yours.

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