Food for Thought – Start Small

Food for Thought – Start Small

Food is really personal. Be it culture, family favorites, lifestyle, diet, personal tastes, even just plain habits or what’s available. You’d probably be hard pressed to find two people or families that cook exactly the same. Know though that everyone starts somewhere and chances are they start small and grow from there.  Might just be a question of how long ago they started, but they started small.

Even the definition of healthy is constantly changing.  What’s the latest diet craze, what’s the grocery store promoting, what’s being promoted by the manufacturers.  Even something as simple as an egg is one day a villain only to sprouted as the best thing ever the next.  So what’s a personal to do as far eating healthy? Well I really have no idea.


The transition is actually hard. When you’re used to buying everything in a box or bag, or everything for convenience sake, and then you start increasing the fresh fruit and vegetables, it really can get expensive. The good news? Once you can get through the transition the other side is actually a lot cheaper.

Gardening Foodies cherry tomatoes harvest
I’m really good at growing somethings and still really bad at others. Thankfully cherry tomatoes are on the good list.

It’s actually mind boggling to see how much cheaper things are.  Extra bonus if you can score some produce that you’ve grown yourself.  So why is the transition so bad? You’re effectively eating two different styles, unless of course you can jump all in from the get go.   I’m not sure I know too many people that could do that. However, know that it can be done even if you’re cash stepped.  You can make that leap if it’s what you want. Any combination of small changes will start snowballing over time. Small consistent changes are your friend here.

We’ve made a lot of changes

Our style originally was cheap. What food could we get for the least amount of money. Which in turn wasn’t exactly the best for you food, but it did the job.  As college graduates we just didn’t have a lot left over after rent, commuting, and debt payments (if anything). Slowly things got better, and so did our attitude towards the food we were eating.

Our reasons to eat “better” really were a combination of wanting to get more fruit and veggies into our diet and the fact that a lot of what we were buying was starting to creep up in price. So off we went in order to try to figure out how to cook more and see where we could save money.

Start Small – Back to Basics

From the perspective of someone who didn’t have a clue about cooking or where to start I can tell you I was actually shocked what you could make yourself. Now, I will equate it with the idea of not knowing where your food comes from. I’ll save some of those thoughts for another day. I’ll admit it. I didn’t have a clue. And I’ll say it for two reasons 1. So you can enjoy the laugh if you’re farther in your cooking adventures than I am/was and 2. To tell you that it’s possible to start from scratch and learn. You can do it.

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Everything that comes in a box or a can, the freezer bag, everything, it all started with a recipe. Somewhere some how it was a recipe in someone’s kitchen.  Well maybe it was a test kitchen but you get the point. For me that was mind blowing. Again, seriously, enjoy the chuckle. I do, but I think it’s also a testament to how much knowledge we’ve lost over the last couple generations.

Use Tools

When you’re first starting out chances are you won’t really have a whole lot of skills.  Skills take practice.  I was one of those people that didn’t have a clue what a “nice” knife was and how much of a difference it made.  Let me tell you it makes a TON of difference.  However with that comes the constant fear of slicing a finger off.  I’ve gotten my self a few times and it hasn’t been fun.  BUT I’ve gotten better! So yay for practice.

So what do you do, and where do you start? Why you totally cheat of course.  I say cheat because anyone who already knows how to cook probably has a pretty good bag of tricks and lots of practice up their sleeves, which is fine.  I’m sure you’ll get there.  But use tools and gadgets to help you out until you know how to do better.  Need one of those boxes that slice and dice anything from onions to tomatoes? Go for it.  I use my Eco-Chop constantly to chop things up quickly.  Might not be uniform, but it gets the job done.  Plus I don’t have to cry like a baby when I’m cutting onions.  Anything you’ll make at home will probably be cheaper than going out. A personal favorite in the beginning was the chopper from Pampered chef.  Also great for taking out your aggression at the end of the day.  And yes I’m totally serious about that.

So if you don’t have a well stocked kitchen, don’t worry it’s probably pretty common, buy a few things that are versatile to get you started.  Won’t lie my favorite place to start is pampered chef.  They really do have the best tools. So go find a pampered chef consultant and start a conversation.  Don’t have one.  I know a great one here, so go check her out.

Where to Start Cooking

I’d say there’s two pretty good places to start.  Okay, maybe three.  One nice place to start is to just replace the box.  Some of them are actually pretty easy to replace.  Check out the Start Here page for a few.  My personal favorite was the rice pilaf.  Could not believe how easy that one was.

Another great place to start is copy cats.  Now if you’re floating around on pinterest and trying to find some copy cats you will find some good ones and some not so great ones.  But know that there really are some great ones out there.  We love the Chipotle Guac, and found an awesome copy cat on pinterest (hint it’s lemon and lime juice).  Go think about what you’re ordering out and see if you can find a way to make it at home, easier the better.  Even in college we would make some awesome meals in our dorm room (yes we might have technically been breaking a ton of rules) that were so much better than the cafe and way cheaper than going out.  It became our Friday night thing to do.

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Third place that is probably a great starting point (and was our go to) Betty Crocker and Pilsbury.  They both have some great sites, plus they have these cute little magazines that they put out with different themes.  So they’ll have one for crock pot, cooking for one or two, ground beef, chicken, holidays the list goes on and on.  But they’re essentially a semi homemade approach.  To this day we still make a lot of those recipes, and still have them all on the shelf.  Or maybe, just find a good cook book that covers your interest and what you want to cook.  You have to start somewhere. And, I just found out our library has a HUGE cookbook section.  Now I’d probably be nervous about getting them dirty, but it’s a great way to preview before you buy.

What we’re doing now

Right now we still make a lot ahead of time.  We grow a little and have fun playing with different things to grow.  We’ve gone back and forth a bit with the littles coming on board, but thankfully we were already well on our journey before hand.  I’ve also found that because we cook so much from scratch we’ve had some unintentional benefits.

Keeping actual ingredients on hand is a lot easier both from storage and shopping.  We save time shopping because we’re not looking for a ton of individual varieties.  Because the raw ingredients don’t tend to go on sale too too often we’re able to just find the cheapest price and pick it up there without watching sales.  We’ve been able to save enough money that we can buy more quality ingredients.

My biggest accomplishment – we had the same food budget for over 7 years! Now I’m finally adjusting it because that right now seems easier than trying to figure out how to stay within it, BUT we’ve added two extra mouths since we put that budget in place.  I’d say I’m super proud of that with the way prices have increased in the last few years.

Know that you can do this.  You can learn to cook at home for a variety of reasons.  Start small and grow.  Let those little changes snowball into something you can’t even imagine right now.  Stick around for the journey and let’s see what you can create.

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