Cooking from scratch comes natural to many and I am one of them. Growing up with a stay at home mom, this is what I grew up with. In this post, I will give you my tips to cook any meal from scratch without meal planning.
To eat healthy, home cooked wholesome meals every meal can be daunting for some. Hence, many try to look for meal plan apps to solve this. Nothing wrong with this idea. But for me, it is all too complicated, as I will need to go shopping for extra supplies for some of the recipes probably. I want the meals to be simple. So, I usually rustle up a meal from my pantry without any planning. I leave the complicated menus for special days.
LEARNING BY EXAMPLE
My talented mother was a role model for me in my life. She is an excellent cook among other things and cooked every meal from scratch without any big fanfare or meal planning. Growing up in India a few decades back, we had no ready to eat meals, junk food or big super stores even. We shopped all our groceries from local mom and pop stores and fresh vegetables from the farmers market. I still love to go to the farmers market.
Fresh vegetables were easily available at our door step from street vendors. Therefore, a fridge was unnecessary. Moreover, we had constant long power cuts, so it made no sense to have one. In addition to that, my dad, was an advocate of healthy eating. He didn’t like left overs and foods heated from the fridge, therefore, we ate all of it within 2 hours of cooking. Since we had no fridge, nothing was wasted or kept for the next meal. Food tastes the best and fresh this way. It is also best for digesting easily. Old heated up foods can take a toll on our digestion.
FLEXIBILITY TO COOK WITHOUT MEAL PLANNING
Because, meal planning is stressful for me, I never ever made a menu plan. So this allows me a lot of flexibility to cook at the spur of the moment. My daughter once drew up a plan for me to follow. But I couldn’t stick with the plan due to the one-sided plan that it was. So we scraped it, maybe she should try again with healthier choices.
I like to cook according to the season and availability. Food shopping for me, is to buy what is on offer to reduce grocery bills. Since, we eat organic, I don’t like to be extravagant and buy unnecessary things which I would never use. It is cheaper to buy seasonal and local. Check out my earlier post on Tips to eat Organic food on a budget.
I will now share my top tips to cook healthy meals from scratch healthy and budget friendly meals without meal planning.
7 TIPS TO COOK FROM SCRATCH WITHOUT MEAL PLANNING
1. COOK SEASONAL FOODS
This is my secret. Since, we started gardening, I rely on what nature and my garden provides for us. For the winter months, I have a good stock of pumpkins, potatoes, onions in my cellar. This enables me to make easy recipes like soups, baked vegetables etc. I try to preserve the surplus produce by canning for the winter months too. Since, I don’t like to rely too much on the freezer I keep it to a minimum. I only store nuts, some frozen peas, cut coconuts and a little frozen berries in the freezer compartment.
2. PREPPING A LITTLE AHEAD
I know I said no planning, but that is not what I mean here. If you have been reading my earlier posts, you will notice that I am a big fan of fermented foods. At any given time, you will notice that I have yogurt and idly batter or other fermented batters stocked in my fridge.
With a fermented idly batter, I can make idly for breakfast or even for dinner. Idly is high in protein and is light to digest too. With that same batter, I make South Indian savory pancakes called dosas. A little preparation goes a long way. You can make some other sides like sauerkraut, fermented sauces etc to keep on hand. You can bulk up any meal with sauerkraut, yogurt and fermented sauces add flavor to bland meals. Moreover, fermented foods are good for your gut too.
You can also make extra breads and you can easily rustle up a sandwich for in between.
3. SOAKING BEANS OVERNIGHT
Since we are vegetarians, we add a lot of whole beans and pulses to our diet. For dinners, I serve cooked beans with bread and soup. This strategy doesn’t require any big cooking. I usually soak the beans overnight with a little baking soda and change the water a couple of times during the day. Then I cook them and serve with vinegar and olive oil. It is difficult to get my daughter to eat vegetables, but now she gets some vegetable protein in her diet.
I usually, cook these soaked beans while cooking lunch and dinner is sorted. We can also cook extra and refrigerate for yet another meal. Sometimes, I make a nice spicy soup with the beans and serve it with rice for lunch the next day. Or you can make a salad by adding a few vegetables like onions, tomatoes, carrots and cheese. This will not need cooking. Pre-cut and pre cooked vegetables is a no-go area for me. I like to cut them fresh and use it immediately. But pre-cooked beans is alright to store for a couple of days.
4. KEEP EASY COOKING STAPLES ON HAND
Keeping a well stocked pantry solves most problems for me. There are things which I can cook within 30 minutes. Some of our favorites are pasta, quinoa and even canned beans sometimes.
Some of the easy meals I cook are the Kitchari- a one pot prep, made with rice and mung dhal, carrots and ginger. I use a pressure cooker to cook the rice and pulses and then add the seasoning at the end. All this is done in 15 minutes from start to finish. I serve this with cut lemons or homemade pickles and yogurt. This is one of the best wholesome meals according to Ayurveda. One other plus to such a dish is less washing up too.
Other easy preps are Rosti, which my husband makes even without pre-cooked potatoes. Other options are baked sweet potatoes. Potatoes, onions, ginger etc are a staple in our vegetable storage rack. With a little creativity, we can easily put together a lot of healthy options.
5. KEEP THE FRIDGE STOCKED WITH SIDES
At any point of time, my fridge is stocked with apples, carrots, lemons, yogurt, cheese, butter, milk, homemade jam, sauerkraut, homemade pesto sauce and other seasonal fruits. Its easy to chop up some carrots and eat them raw. Apples make a nice snack too. Seasonal fruits like strawberries, cherries and other berries easily last a couple of days in the fridge.
You can easily make smoothies with fresh or frozen berries and a little yogurt. My daughter makes smoothies by herself nowadays. Therefore, keeping these staples is helpful. Check out my post on my Fridge Organization to see what I store in my fridge.
Muesli with homemade yogurt , fresh fruits or dry fruits and frozen berries are a favorite in our Swiss home. Avocados are another option, that is, if you can get them cheap. Since Avocados are very expensive in Switzerland, I buy them only when on offer. And most often, its a gamble with avocados, half of them are rotten. So I wouldn’t advise it if you are on a budget.
My husband and daughter like to snack on cheese. I always have homemade bread in my bread bin, so a little butter and cheese or jam makes a nice snack. Sometimes, my daughter smears some tomato paste on the bread and bakes it with a little cheese. She has figured it out that its like a quick pizza.
6. STOCK UP ON HEALTHY SNACK STAPLES
My pantry is always stocked with dry fruits, nuts, muesli, oats etc. We are always snacking on dry fruits and nuts. If I want to make a porridge, I can also make a semolina porridge quickly with some dry fruits. This is filling too.
During the holidays, there is a good stock of cookies. Sometimes, I make granola bars, if I have the time. Bananas are a favorite, probably the only fruit which I always have.
7. KEEP MEALS SIMPLE
Stick to some simple wholesome meals to cook from scratch which doesn’t require meal planning. It is easy to make soups with what you have in your fridge. It is also good to use up those odd vegetables which are not used up. Make pastas, stir fried vegetables on a wok, pre-soaked and cooked beans, one pot lentil soup etc. Spice up the food differently each meal so it doesn’t get boring. For this, I have a lot of spice mixes ready in my spice cabinet.
Having oats on hand is handy for a quick porridge in case you have no bread on hand. Muesli with yogurt and fresh fruits or frozen fruits are also great for a wholesome breakfast. I usually keep lengthy special meals for the weekends wh