Monday, September 29, 2008

From Scratch. Hardcore.

I never do things the easy way.

My senior year of college, I made a pledge to stop buying bread. I thought, Why buy when you can make it? Plus, I have a bread maker! Homemade bread is so delicious.

I ended up just never eating bread. (Due to a combination of aversion to lugging huge machines and pure, unadulterated laziness and naps. Lots and lots of naps.)

My little "pledge" didn't stop there- I can count the number of times during our marriage Mike and I have bought bread from the grocery store on one hand.

I confess - I'm, uh, sort of addicted to making things from scratch.

I've made everything from scratch - from ketchup to crackers to hummus.

It started out as avoiding excess packaging and convenience food preservatives. Buying blocks of cheese instead of shredded cheese, avoiding plastic tubs of butter and getting olive oil instead, or never, ever buying brownie mixes.

Then, it became an addiction. I couldn't get enough of it - I wanted to see how much I could make from scratch. I made tons of homemade spaghetti sauce and raspberry jelly last year and froze jars in our freezer. I started buying dried beans instead of canned beans. We ran out of ketchup one day, so I made some. Yep - you can make ketchup (and it's sans high fructose corn syrup. Score!)

I never keep breadcrumbs, eggs, or those frozen veggie bags on hand - I make them all from scratch.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Because I feel the need to justify the 25 pounds of apples currently sitting on my counter.

I'm making applesauce. Jars and jars of applesauce tonight.

I've gotten a lot of questions from people about how affordable it is or isn't to buy local, organic, fair trade, and so on.

The thing is, I've come to realize, is that most people buy frozen dinners, canned beans, canned frosting, canned soup, bagged salad mix, pre-made, pre-mixed, pre-done-for-you convenience food.

And that, my friends, is what racks up the grocery bill.

You might say, "But, Ashleeeey, I have no timmeee! Can't I just buy my Healthy Choice chicken dinner and some Hamburger Helper?"

Sure! But, also - you could save some money and be a little healthier. :) Try cooking in huge batches on the weekend and store the leftovers for later in the week. (For lots of wonderful cooking ideas, check out Eileen. My real-life wonderful friend and also a chef extraordinaire!)

Maybe you're thinking, "Ugh! I'm awful at cooking. And this doesn't seem very 'simple,' Ashley!"

(Apparently, I think you guys are really whiny.)

(No, actually, I'm really whiny and I'm channeling myself here.)

Anyway, man up, Non-cooker! Just follow the recipe. Then, experiment with new recipes and flavors. Give it a shot. You cannot go wrong with - you simply cannot. They have reviews and you can search by ingredients in your pantry.

Maybe it's not so "simple" to cook more. But for me? It's a hobby. It's relaxing and it makes me feel productive. Chopping vegetables, baking bread, and doing it all myself is surprisingly empowered. And utterly enjoyable.

Give it a try. And check out this awesome article on whether it's cheaper to buy sustainably or conventionally.

[My locally-grown apples, by the way? Cost 90 cents a pound. And it was a fun date with my husband, to boot!]


  1. that is sooooo awesome Ash... more power to you!

  2. I definitely need to become your next door neighbor!!!

  3. Do you think you could possibly move in and cook our meals for us? ;) Or, I'll take wickedly scarlett's suggestion and I'll become your next door neighbor! Perfect. I'll be popping in for breakfast,lunch, dinner and prolly snacks and desserts too! Dangit Ashley, you are a superhero with your homemade goodness! I wanna be youuuuu!!! I should make a goal this week to make something, anything, homemade! Your post is totally true -- all of that prepackage crap comes with lots of preseratives and as the name implies, lots of bad packaging. poor earth! I need to not be so dang lazy!

  4. Ahh that's so cool. But I have a question. How do you make home-made eggs...?

  5. ok you're totally diane keaton from 'baby boom' with the applesauce making...and that is so adorable.

    i love applesauce and wish i had the culinary skills to make half of the stuff you do.

  6. New post-election goal (when I actually have time to cook/clean/breathe): Become you. Or just adopt your mad skills.

  7. I think it's really fantastic how you make so many things from scratch! My mother in law JUST made some homemade bread the other night... I'm thinking I need to try this out!

  8. wow you are so awesome. applesauce? ketchup? you are quite the homemaker, I say you go and make those twins! :-D

  9. Of course, now you need to start posting recipes! =)

  10. you made ketchup from scratch?!?!? hahaha. i love it.

    you can feel free to send me a jar of your applesauce. hell bring it to the cleveland blogger meet up!!!!!!

  11. I'm so jealous. I love apple picking and midwest fall weather. It almost sort of feels like fall here because there are leaves everywhere from the hurricane... but it's less fun when they're green leaves and they're just hurricane debris. sign.

    time for dinner!
    Left over stuffed acorn squash and home-made pumpkin pie! YUM. (We're pretending it's fall.)

  12. I'm not a make it from scratch girl but I am a coupon freak!

  13. Mmmmm. . . apples! I cored one and baked it with a little bit of brown sugar and cinnamon for dessert tonight.

    I'm confused about the eggs from scratch, too--got chickens in your backyard???

  14. okay, okay, I'll give it a try ....I have to say, I get pretty lazy in the kitchen and we order out too much. I'll check it out :) Thanks!

  15. I'll pay for you to send me homemade applesauce. Or just cooked apples. E-mail me. I'm serious.

  16. I'm pretty good about cooking from scratch (when I, uh, cook) but I did want to let you know about the best brownies in the world which are out of a BOX. My sister brought these to the hospital when I had Jack (she works for a catering company) and I told her: GET ME THE RECIPE. And she did. It's Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix and they are TO DIE FOR. Not that I ever buy the mix (am devoted to my one-bowl brownie recipe) but oh man, these are divine. (Just letting you know, as I am NOT EATING BROWNIES anymore and someone must make up for it!)

  17. Wow! Good for you! I suck at cooking. But applesauce? I think I can handle. You just mash up apples, right? (You: Uh, no.) Oh.

  18. pretty dang awesome. homemade ketchup? that's hardcore. :)

    I couldn't do it. maybe if I had an awesome kitchen but ours is so small it's more annoying than anything.

  19. I really want to try this. I really really do. Megan is going on a diet (because if she doesn't watch her weight, it's a bit harder to lose when you can't run it off you know?) We're trying to be healthier than we've ever been (which is pretty healthy) but the problem is funds. Health food stores are so much more expensive then the local grocery. We might need some guidance, a push in the right direction. This making bulk meals from scratch idea is genious! And a plus? I have a bread maker!!!

  20. Dana - Your tasty Tuesdays rock -more power to YOU!

    Scarlett - PLEASE. I'd love to replace my crazy neighbors!! :)

    Sarah - Oh, I'd love to live next door to you guys. How fun would that be!? Start small - just make ONE thing homemade. You can DOOOO it!

    LCT - Either whir tofu OR 3 tablespoons of hot water mixed with 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed. Easy!

    Shortchick - Just follow the recipe. Seriously. I'm not that great! Haha.

    Renee - Hold out until after the election. You must be exhausted. You have mad political skillz.

    Mrs. Priss - It saves money and is fun - win-win!

    Steph - I laughed aloud when I read this. :) You're so cute!

    Scifichick - Maybe I will!

    Alexa - You'll know me - I'll be the girl holding jars of applesauce and grinning like an idiot. :)

    Eileen - Fall here is beyond wonderful. It's true.

    Auburn Kat - Frugality rules!

    Kate - Yummy. Apples are great. Yep, I have a pet chicken. :) Haha. Nope, check out my response to LCT for what I do.

    Maegan - You can do it! Go Maegan!

    Bayjb - For real? It IS really delicious - Julia Child's recipe. Yum.

    Maggie - That brownie mix sounds amazing. I am just anti-Duncan Hines and Betty. Double Chocolate and Ghiradelli? Sounds more than awesome.

    Michelle - You just cook the apples - THEN mash them up. You CAN do it. I'll post a recipe today!

    Tiffany - Last year we had a kitchen that was MAYBE 7' by 2'. It was AWFUL. This year we live in a regular little house with a kitchen. It makes a difference. For sure!

    Shannon - Do it! :) Soup and bread - totally delicious and healthy!

  21. We picked a bushel of apples (40lbs-ish?) and they're all in our fridge right now so that I can bake delicious things with them all through the autumn. In November I'll use the leftover ones to make applesauce.

    Long before I was aware of the local/sustainable trend, I was making things from scratch because that's how my mom did it... and everything tastes better made at home!

    Homemade bread is actually incredibly easy, even without a bread-maker. And it impresses people! I also have an awesome recipe for homemade cinnamon sticky buns that is to die for.

    Although I would like to know your secret to making your own eggs. Do you keep a chicken in your yard?


  22. Wow that is impresive! If you want to dedicate a blog just to the recipies on how to make homemade anything I would be an avid reader!

  23. i found this linked from steph's blog, and i love it! i am on a similar quest, but haven't taken it as far as you yet. i have a fear of jarring that i haven't overcome yet. but, when i started using dry beans instead of canned i saved about a million cans from being made/recycled for my sake. it is just so much better for our bodies and our environment to cut out the processed, packaged foods!

  24. I love apple season and making things with apples and the from-scratch-ness of the fall/holiday time!

  25. Thanks for the recipes site. I blame being in college for all of my convenient shopping choices, but I do plan on getting into homemade cooking style HEAVY DUTY once me and Josh move into a house together.

  26. "apparently i think you guys are really whiney"

    you know us so well =)

    hahah. i'm thinking i will incorporate MAKING THINGS FROM SCRATCH into my 30 day PLAN.

    i'm going grocery shopping tonight. i will spend some time this afternoon figuring out what i want to make, and what i need, and then i'll do it. i will. i promise.

    (not exactly promising to you, as much as i am to myself. i need to do these sorts of things to ensure i don't cop out ;))

  27. You are sooo right! I made canned peach preserves for the first time this year to give away as christmas gifts. I think I'm going to have to make some applesauce too!

  28. Like you, I have an addiction to making things from scratch, too.

    And reading this makes me want to make something from scratch like applesauce or something using this region's food as presents in the near future. Hrm.

  29. I just read started reading your blog and found this post linked from your most recent one.

    I LOVE making things from scratch too. Seriously I never buy boxed mixes, curry pastes or sauces, etc. applesauce or very many convenience foods.

    We still buy the occasional thing for a treat or for AB's lunch on days we're not prepared but 8out of 10 times it's homemade. I do still buy bread though because we have no room in our teeny apartment for a bread maker, although I guess I could learn to do it in the oven.

    But curious, how do you MAKE eggs? I get replacing them with a substitue in a recipe but ???


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