I get asked over and over again via email, Facebook posts and private messages, “How do you find the time to make everything from scratch?” Everyone wants to make more of their food from scratch, to eliminate packaged, processed foods but find the idea a bit daunting. So I thought it might be helpful to write about how things work at my house that allow me to make our food from scratch.
Note: I have updated this since I first wrote it as we have made a few changes to how things work at my place.
I want to make it very clear before I start that this is how things work for me and my family with our particular lifestyle, routine and working hours. I don’t assume for a second that this will work for everyone. I am lucky enough to have a full time husband who works morning shifts and is around every weekend. So while I am on my own in the morning, getting out the door to school/work chaos, he is there in the afternoons. Families with single parents, partners who work different hours or are away from home a lot will have different needs. My kids have no serious issues or allergies either which makes my life simpler. They are now 8, 6 and 4 so are more independent and this makes a difference too. I am hoping that this information gives you a baseline or some ideas that you can pick and choose to find what works in your house, for you and your family.
Having said that, I work 3 full days in a public mental health service, have 3 young kids, write this blog, do private consultations, manage my social media pages (am looking at enrolling on a doctorate next year – I must be nuts) and make almost everything from scratch! This is how I make it work! Sorry it is a bit long!
- I go to the farmers markets twice a week. I but both organic and spray free fruit and veggies depending on prices and availability. Wednesday is my day off and it is an activity I love so it is part of my day every Wednesday. I also go to a market on a Saturday, often with the kids. Before I had Wednesdays off and the local market started on Saturdays we used to have fruit, veggies and eggs delivered twice a week. We could afford the organic options so as soon as we get the delivery we would soak the food in a sink with water and vinegar. We buy very little from the supermarket these days so a quick trip once a fortnight is sufficient with the occasional extra item picked up as needed. I buy as many other goods as I can online and often in bulk. This includes coconut cream, coconut water, natural toiletries and the nutra organics products that we use. See the shop page for a list of online retailers that I use and love. We even buy our toilet paper online from Who Gives a Crap which is a brilliant social enterprise.
- We go to the butcher once a week (sometimes I go on my days off from work, other times one of us goes on the weekend) and buy the whole week’s worth of meat in one go (always grass fed/free range). I also pick up some meat from the farmers markets. We buy our fish from the local fish shop once a week or fortnight. I often buy a second serving to keep in the freezer. I also try to have one or two emergency options in the freezer. Often this is some free range chicken from the supermarket or some additive free sausages.
- I do a big shop at a bulk health food shop once a month where I stock up on nuts, flours, baking and cooking ingredients plus some natural cleaning products. This means that I always have the ingredients for my recipes in the pantry and buying in bulk saves both time and money. It is also environmentally friendly as the paper bags go into our compost and the food is stored in glass jars that we save and reuse.
- We cook enough meat/fish/chicken/pork to feed us all dinner plus leftovers for all of us except my 4 year old for lunches the next day. If you have seen my lunchbox photos on Facebook or Instagram you will see that there is a leftover protein in there almost every time. This means that when I make roast chicken I roast 2 at a time, pork or lamb is always a 2 kg serving. If I make bolognaise I cook 2 kgs of mince in one go and store extra portions in the freezer for dinners another time. Cooking in bulk saves time and money. If we make popcorn we do this in bulk too and store several single serve portions in the pantry for school lunches or to take as a snack on outings.
- Dinners are very simple here and almost always involve some form of protein and a heap of veggies – both raw and cooked. Prep time is about 15 minutes. During the week food is often cooked on the stove or BBQ and weekends I like to do a roast when we have more time for it to cook. On one of the days I don’t work I often do a slow roasted lamb leg or shoulder so that I prep for 10 mins in the morning and forget about it until it is time for dinner.
- When chopping up veggies for dinner we chop up extra for the kids’ lunchboxes and our salads for work the next day. One friend of mine chops her veggies at the beginning of the week and keeps them in a container in the fridge to grab for lunches as she needs them.
- On the weekend I spend around 2 – 3 hours baking for the upcoming week. Almost all of my recipes take between 5 and 15 minutes to prepare and then they go into the oven or freezer so I have plenty of opportunity to do things with the kids or around the house while they are baking. The food processor gets a workout as I usually pump out several things one after the other so that one recipe can go into the oven as soon as the previous one is out. Raw recipes can be made easily while something is baking. This is also a great activity to get kids involved in so you can spend time together while making healthy treats! Freeze a few portions of each item so that you have an emergency stash for those weeks where you don’t manage to bake. I store all of my baked goods (even most cookies) in the fridge in air tight containers or in my 4MyEarth bread bag. This keeps them fresh all week. Sometimes if we are running low on baked goods or I get a sudden desire to make something I mix it up in the food processor while I am making dinner and pop it in the oven so it can bake as we are eating. I also hard boil 6 eggs to have in the fridge for a quick snack, breakfast on the go or to pop into lunches.
- Similarly yoghurt, fermented veggies, bone broth or kombucha take only a short time to prepare and are then left to do their thing! I now have a continuous brew kombucha kit which saves even more time and means that we never run out! I will sometime make these things on the weekend or get them done as soon as the kids go to bed so that I am not in the kitchen for too long in the evening. I keep the carcasses from chickens or bones from roasts in the freezer so I can get a bone broth cooking in the slow cooker in 5 minutes any time I want to.
- I make the kids lunches the night before. While preparing dinner I pop the extra veggies straight into their lunchboxes. As soon as I serve up the protein some gets put into the lunchboxes too. While the kids jump in the bath and I am doing the washing up I add in the fruit and homemade snacks that were made on the weekend. The lunches never take more than 15 minutes to make and are usually much quicker unless I am cutting up a melon or making something like guacamole that takes a few extra minutes. I do mine and hubby’s lunches at the same time (usually a big salad made when chopping the veggies for dinner plus leftover protein and fermented veggies). Having a bit of a formula in mind for what you want to pack makes this easier. I for the kids I always pack 1 – 2 serve of veggies, 1 – 2 serves of fruit, 1 serve of protein, 1 healthy treat and something that has healthy fats in it.
- Very occasionally I make custard or panna cotta as soon as the kids are asleep – these need constant stirring so it is not worth the risk while they are awake! 15 minutes max and they are done. I pack them in small containers for the kids lunches straight away and store them in the fridge. The rest goes into a bowl for the occasional dessert.
- On a sunday evening I might make a batch of chocolate mousse that I take for breakfast on my work days. I make all 3 jars of breakfast (mousse, seeds and or nuts, berries etc) at the same time and store them in the fridge. I save any extra mousse for the kids lunchboxes. Other easy to take to work breakfasts are boiled eggs and a large avocado, half an avocado with some liver pate and chopped veggies or seed crackers or some eggy muffins or frittata.
- Housework is not a high priority in my house! If I have to choose between making food for my family or cleaning the house then food wins every time! I use bicarb soda, white vinegar and eucalyptus oil to clean everything so it is all pretty quick and easy as well as being non toxic.
- Breakfast isn’t a big affair at our place during the week. One of the kids’ favourite breakfasts is a little ‘breakfast platter’ where I pop on some type of protein (often additive free salami, chorizo or biltong), some chopped veggies, a bit of fruit and maybe something I have baked or a bit of goats cheese. This only takes a few minutes to make and gets veggies in right from breakfast time! I also leave breakfast muffins, choc zucchini muffins or banana bread in the fridge where the kids can reach them to help themselves for breakfast. There is a fruit bowl that they can reach on the kitchen bench and my oldest daughter can help herself and the other kids to a few other options. I never make juices, we all drink water only and things like smoothies, cooked breakfasts etc are made when time allows.
So, all up time in the kitchen is probably 2 – 3 hours on the weekend and half an hour on a weekday evening. Shopping time is minimal and the key to success lies in buying and cooking in bulk. It really can be done! Most importantly, don’t stress! Do the best that you can right now. As you get more and more used to it then things will become quicker and easier and you can do more. Keep the pantry stocked with things that allow you to make quick and easy options if you need to rather than buying take aways. I have shared a list of my pantry staples here. We will make gluten free pancakes or eggs for a quick dinner if we need to.
Most importantly – cook with love! If you are hating every minute, rather choose one thing to make yourself and choose the best options that you can to buy (use an app like The Chemical Maze or Additive Alert to eliminate harmful additives). Check the ingredients and choose the most natural ones you can find. Try for 5 ingredients or less and avoid sugars and unsafe additives. Once you are more comfortable and happy with what you are making yourself, choose another thing to add in.
If there is anything I haven’t covered please ask and I would love it if you would share your tips for how you make this work in your house.
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