The Joys and Challenges of Cooking from Scratch

Ed. Note: Cooking from scratch is healthier for us and
produces less waste. Robyn shares a peek at her journey
preparing from-scratch food for herself and her family.

Cooking from scratch is healthier for us and produces less waste. Robyn shares a peek at her journey preparing from-scratch food for herself and her family.

Attempting to create a zero waste home is certainly met with
challenges. Every time I give something away or clear out an
area, more things my family doesn’t need or regularly use show
up in the house. Every day I become more and more aware of how
ubiquitous plastics, non-recyclable goods, and single-use items
are, even in my progressive, environmental-home of San
Francisco. Freedom from this throw-away, wasteful culture
doesn’t come easy.

But with a little hard work and a lot of dedication, it’s
possible to start breaking away. Last month, I talked about
reducing waste while grocery
shopping
. This month, let’s talk about cooking from
scratch to turn those groceries into waste-free
meals.

The Reason for Cooking from Scratch

Our food comes covered in stickers and wrapped in
petroleum-based plastic. It’s served on Styrofoam and aluminum
trays, preserved in cans and held together with rubber bands.
Some of this can be recycled, but a lot of it can’t.

Breaking free from this waste isn’t only good for the
environment; it’s also good for health. Last year, a study
published in the journal Environmental
Research
revealed that consuming canned foods can
expose our bodies to Bisphenol A or BPA. This harmful
industrial chemical has been linked to premature puberty in
females; decreased sperm quality; and increases in breast and
prostate cancers, infertility, miscarriages, obesity, type 2
diabetes, allergies and neurological problems like attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder.

BPA isn’t only found in cans. It’s added to plastic to make it
durable, and could be in the packaging “protecting” our food.
Cooking from scratch means you avoid all of that excess
packaging and the chemicals it leaches into our food.

A Little Bit at a Time

To free myself of packaging, I’ve started cooking from
scratch, adding to my stockpile over time. I decided to start
with tortillas, pita bread, hummus, homemade yogurt, stocks, broths, and beans because they all come
wrapped in plastic or sealed in cans, and they’re
relatively easy. (I am not culinary genius, trust me.)

My grocery store sells hummus powder in bulk, so I only need to
add water, oil and lemon juice. I found a yogurt maker on
Craigslist. Breads are a bit more complicated, but not much and
totally worth the yummy result.

I find I only need to make bread once a week, yogurt twice a
week, and one meal completely from scratch that I can freeze
and eat over time. Thankfully, these meals accumulate, so I
don’t have to spend too much time cooking from scratch every
week.

Time Is An Issue

But finding time to cook is still the hardest part. I
only work part time as a freelance writer, so I have the
flexibility to devote an hour or more to meal prep
everyday. But it has impacted the amount of time I have to
write and research story ideas, as well as spend time with my
son. I can only imagine how much harder cooking from
scratch would be if I worked full time.

Sharing responsibility with other people in the house could
alleviate the burden. Friends have also told me it’s
easier if you cook the week’s meals on Sunday. Of
course, with time, I may learn how to cook faster.

It would be wonderful if more businesses made eating waste-free
more convenient. When I’m sick or really busy, it would be
great to order take-out and not feel guilty about the mountains
of plastic waste that always come with the meal.

Self Esteem Gets a Boost

Staying dedicated to the cause does provide a huge sense of
empowerment and pride. A few months ago, I would have shied
away from many of the recipes I now embrace and conquer.
Starting to learn the little tricks (proofing yeast, keeping
baking bread moist) is such a huge confidence booster, and
seeing the amount of trash disappear has given my self esteem a
huge boost. I CAN break free of plastic waste and eat more than
just salads.

Of course, it’s also pretty cool watching my family and friends
devour my creations.

A version of this article originally appeared at Sustainablog; republished
here with permission. Cooking from Scratch image via Shutterstock.


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