If you are like me there often seems to not be enough hours in the day. While homeschooling four different ages I still have to keep a household running while running children to art, scouts, and other activities. Some people have the luxury to eat out or pick up take-out so that they don’t have to worry about “What’s for Dinner?”. My family rarely eats food that wasn’t prepared in my kitchen. One reason is the cost, another reason is that we have severe food allergies in my house, and last, but most importantly, we eat at home for nutritional reasons.
I have pretty much cut out 90% of processed food in my household. My family owns a small, family farm where we raise pastured poultry, organic produce, free-range hens for eggs and keep honeybees. Most of the chicken that we consume we raised and butchered ourselves, and I freeze and can a lot of produce in the summer so that we have plenty available in the winter. I make most everything from scratch, including “Cream of _____” soups, breads, and our favorite Ranch salad dressing. Does this take time? You bet it does. I have often been asked how I have the time to cook in this manner and homeschool? I am happy to share with you what I have found works for me.
How to Cook from Scratch for Busy Homeschool Moms
1. Make a Menu
Planning ahead has to be the number one thing that you must do when it comes to cooking. With a little planning you can turn what some people refer to as “Slow Food” into almost as fast as ordering take-out. Even though we raise a lot of our food there are still some things I have to pick up at the store. I pull out the sales flyers from my local grocery stores and see what is on sale for that week. Two of my favorite stores to shop at are Aldi and Trader Joe’s. Both of these stores have excellent prices on staple items, produce, cheese, and fruits. By making out a menu I can keep my trips to the store to a minimum which saves me time and money. Having a plan also helps me to know what I need to pull out of the freezer and place in the refrigerator to thaw.
2. Waste Nothing
I have heard a lot of people say that they don’t like to eat leftovers. I literally cringe when I hear this. First of all, if you have leftovers and don’t eat them then what do you do with them? Do you throw them in the trash? There is so much that can be made from leftovers. I actually plan my menu to have leftovers. For example, if we are having spaghetti one night then I always make extra sauce and noodles. I save the sauce and noodles for spaghetti casserole for one night later in the week. On that night, all I have to do is pop the casserole into the oven and prepare a salad. If I prepare a whole chicken I save the carcass and make overnight chicken broth in my crockpot. The next morning I can remove the bones, add vegetables and some leftover chicken to the broth to make a delicious soup for that evening’s meal. By doing this I have saved money in not having to purchase canned soup or chicken broth, plus my family can avoid eating all of the preservatives that are added to canned soups and broths.
3. Use a Crockpot
I absolutely love my crockpot. When I am planning my menu for the week I look at my calendar to see what activities we have going on each day. On the days that we have something to do in the afternoons that hinder my time to prepare supper, I plan to make a meal using my crockpot. You can fill a crockpot with a roast and vegetables in the morning, go about your errands and activities, and come home to a meal that is ready to be eaten. Not only will you have a delicious meal that evening, if you have any leftover roast beef you can shred it and make roast beef sandwiches for lunch the next day. I love using a crockpot so much that I have three. I have a large, oval one that I use for roasts, whole chickens and for making large amounts of soups and sauces. I have two, small, round ones that I often use to cook vegetables or other side dishes while my large, oval one cooks our main meat dish.
4. Schedule Preparation Time
I know that it can save a lot of time to just open up a can of soup or a packet of seasoning rather than making them from scratch. This is why I often mix, chop and prep items first thing in the morning, during lunch, or the night before. For example, if I look at my menu and see that I am going to be preparing a dish in my crockpot on Thursday that will need cream of chicken soup and I am having baked spaghetti on Wednesday (remember, this baked spaghetti is from leftover sauce and noodles), I will make my cream of chicken soup while the spaghetti is in the oven. I can then put the cream of chicken soup in the refrigerator and it will be ready to go into the crockpot the next day. I also prep lots of foods during our lunch break so that I don’t have as much to do when I am cooking supper.
Cooking from scratch does not have to be as hard as it sounds. With a little planning and practice it will become routine. One of my favorite cookbooks that I always turn to when looking to make something that we have grown accustomed to purchasing pre- made from scratch is, The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. The revised edition is absolutely wonderful!
I know cooking from scratch can seem overwhelming at first, but with a little practice it will become almost as fast as opening a box of frozen chicken nuggets or pulling through the drive through.
Bevin is a wife and mother of four children ages 2, 11, 14 and 16. Along with homeschooling all four of her children, she and her husband own a small farm where they raise pastured-poultry, free-range hens for eggs, grow organic produce, and keep honeybees. She is passionate about eliminating chemicals from her family’s food and home and loves helping others learn how to live a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. You can find her blogging at Life at Third Creek Cottage where she shares recipes, sustainable living tips and all that goes on around her busy, homeschooling home.