The Great Recession and for the health of our planet, it may be time to reconsider the value of home cooking from scratch, using whole foods and unprocessed ingredients and locally grown fresh produce. Wise cooks have always known that when we have someone else do part or all of the cooking or food preparation, the sacrifice will be either in extra cost or diminished nutritional value; what is gained in time savings may not always outweigh these costs and might not turn out to be a good bargain when all things are considered.
The ideas for economy which we will offer here in the coming months are not to be considered hard and fast rules suitable for everyone’s schedule, but feel free to pick and choose those which fit your lifestyle; adapting as your days and free time permits. Some of us can devote part of our weekends to cooking meals for the freezer or to refrigerate for the upcoming week; others, without a work schedule, may be able to save the most on our food budgets by taking the time to cook from scratch daily, and by shopping often to take advantage of “Manager’s Specials” and sales at the supermarket.
Those of us who are dedicated to a lifetime of eating foods devoid of chemicals and harmful additives meant to preserve shelf life at the expense of nutrition will adopt the methods of, and relearn the skills and kitchen arts of our grandmothers and great grandmothers. We will learn, as they did, how to choose fresh foods and prepare these foods at home to make tasty, wholesome meals for the family in the most economical ways possible. In this capacity, we have an advantage over cooks of the past; the cook of today has, at her disposal, tools of convenience which can help make cooking from scratch rival the simplicity of preparation offered by many convenience foods. So, even when we are on a tight budget, the biggest savings in the kitchen may be the purchase of some of these tools. And remember, when purchasing kitchen tools, quality is not an option and cheap tools are not a bargain, since they will not stand the test of time and might not even do their job at all.
There are tools which are basic, such as a good quality chef’s knife and paring knife, and others which will help save money on food purchases directly.
A stand mixer will aid in the preparation of home baked breads, fruit cakes, soufflés, muffins, pastas, pancakes, biscuits, scones, waffles, crackers, pastries and so many other bakery staples – all of these (and many more) prepared using a small amount of skill and a bag of flour!
Extra accessories may be purchased for the stand mixer to help prepare purees (such as tomato sauce, pie fillings, jams and jellies, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pies and vegetable soups) and don’t forget a meat grinder attachment so that tough roasts and economical meat cuts may be ground into the freshest hamburger possible. Meatloaf, meatballs, home-made sausages, pork patties, ground veal, turkey, fillings for stuffings (raviolis, cabbage leaves, peppers, empanadas, to name a few) can then be made at home with an hour of well-spent time. A meat grinder (or even a food processor) is also wonderful tool for transforming leftovers.
A grain mill is available for the stand mixer which can be an advantage if you enjoy baking from scratch and using whole, fresh grains. It may also be used to grind your own cereals (such as cream of rice or cream of wheat) or grind your own corn meal, corn flour or fresh whole wheat or rye flours. This is the one way you’ll know for sure what the ingredients are in that loaf of bread.
A pasta attachment can be obtained for some stand mixers to enable the making of pasta, lasagna and ravioli from scratch. There are rollers for cutting lasagna, angel hair, and fettuccine; or just leave the pasta in wide strips to make ravioli or manicotti for stuffing.
Not all stand mixers are equal I was given a KitchenAide for christmas 5 years ago and use it constantly. At the time $200 seamed like extravagance but I know it is frugality. 5-10 years for a kitchenAide equates to $20 a year a real bargain. Thankyou Michael!