18 everyday hacks for cooking from scratch

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About Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.


Photo by 16th letter

This post was originally published on July 10, 2008.

As I wrote earlier, cooking from scratch has so many benefits. It’s healthier and cheaper than prepackaged food-in-a-box, and cooking provides a shared skill you can enjoy with your family. Once it becomes a lifestyle choice, your menu planning will become much simpler and pleasant.

But many people, especially those who didn’t grow up in a cooking household, are intimidated at the thought of scratch cooking. Over the years, it’s been mislabeled as a difficult task, one that boxed foods eliminates. Here are a few little tricks I use in my kitchen on a regular basis. They’re not complicated, but they stretch the mileage in my fresh food, making scratch cooking even easier and cheaper.

1. To make buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk.

2. To make self-rising flour, mix together 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, an 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda.

3. To hull a strawberry while still leaving most of the fruit, push a drinking straw through the bottom of the berry and push it through the top.

4. Here is the best recipe ever for roasted chicken. I’m shocked with how easy it is. You can eat it as the main feature of your meal, or as I mentioned earlier, you can dice it, fill ziploc baggies with one cup of chicken, and freeze it for future meals. You can then use the juice for homemade chicken stock.

5. Speaking of which, here is a fabulous recipe for homemade cream of chicken soup, which is used in tons of recipes. It’s very easy.

6. Actually, for most recipes, it doesn’t take that much more work to double it. Then you can freeze a second portion, and when you’re busier than normal, you can reheat it and still eat from scratch.

7. You need boiling water in so many recipes. To save time, fill a pot with water and get it started on the stove first thing, as soon as you get started in the kitchen. You’ll probably need it.

8. To minimize the tears, put onions in the freezer for about 15 minutes before chopping. Don’t forget about them, though! (When you do this all the time, expect your husband to make fun of you.)

9. If you accidentally put too much salt in a recipe, sometimes putting a slice of raw, peeled potato will soak up excess salt.


Photo by Darwin Bell

10. Store onions and potatoes separately. They both make each other go bad faster.

11. Separate your bananas as soon as you return from the store. They’ll stay fresh longer.

12. When reheating bread goods (such as muffins, pancakes, and the like), put a cup of water in the microwave with it. It adds moisture to the air and keeps the bread soft.

13. Before putting sticky ingredients in a measuring cup, give it a quick rinse with hot water. The ingredient will then slide right out.

14. Keep a bowl on your kitchen counter for your food scraps while you’re cooking. It’s amazing how much more efficient this is than going back and forth to the trash can, and it’s such a simple idea. Sometimes I’ll have two next to me, where I can separate scraps that are compost-able. (I know Rachael Ray has marketed this concept with a garbage bowl, but I’d love it if someone could tell me how these bowls are different than regular bowls.)

15. To get the most juice out of a lemon or lime, zap it in the microwave for 20 seconds or so, let it sit for a minute, and then roll it around on the counter a few times.

16. To peel a whole garlic clove, place the flat side of a knife on top of the clove and give it a good whack. The skin should fall right off.

17. Get the icky smell of garlic or onions off your hands by “washing” them with water and baking soda. The odor slides right off when you rinse. I’ve also heard you can rub them on a stainless steel spoon under running water, but I haven’t tried it yet.

18. To double the amount of your butter used for spreading, simply whip it with a small amount of warm water until it’s light and fluffy. This isn’t ideal for baking recipes that need a specific fat amount, but it’s great for spreading on your bread or corn-on-the-cob. Just keep it in the refrigerator, and it should stay light.

Now it’s your turn to add to this list! I know everyone has at least one little cooking hack up their sleeve – care to share it in the comments? I look forward to learning something new from you.

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Comments

  1. Great ideas! I’ll try 8 and 13 very soon! Thanks.

    Kim´s last blog post…On Why One Should Ask If Uncertain.

    • To make fresh cottage cheese, get 1 litter of low fat buttermilk in a carton, place the carton in a pan with water and boil on low heat for about 4o minutes.

      Let stand in a pan over night. In the morning, open the carton and pour buttermilk through a gauze or mesh colander to seperate the curds from the liquid. Enjoy!

      Jena´s last blog post…Top 10 Best Fashion Blogs

  2. I’m not sure what is special about the garbage bowl except that it might act as a reminder if you bought it specifically. I have been thinking of getting a thrifted covered container which hopefully will look better than the icecream box my Mum used to keep. To add to 17 I just rub my hands on the stainless steel sink and the smell magically disappears. Cherrie

    cherrie´s last blog post…No time to talk!!

  3. I live overseas, so I pretty much make everything from scratch. Here’s something else for your list: I’ve never tried putting an onion in the freezer, but another thing that works is lighting a candle near the onion while you slice it. Don’t know how it works, but it does. If you use a pretty candle or two, it also cheers you up – leave it burning throughout prep, and it makes the meal seem fancier!

    Email From The Embassy´s last blog post…Cha-ching

  4. Thanks for this! Here are my 2 hacks:

    1. If someone in your family wears contact lenses, have that person slice your onions – the contacts partially protect their eyes from the tear-making onion fumes! ;-)

    2. When a recipe calls for buttermilk, I usually use yogurt instead. If your yogurt is too firm, mix 2/3 yogurt with 1/3 milk. I’ve never had this not work for me!

    Stephanie´s last blog post…bedhead

  5. What a great list!! As someone who doesn’t cook a lot, I don’t have anything to add, but this will be useful as I try to learn more about cooking.

    Rhea – Experiencing Motherhood´s last blog post…Pregnancy Changes You Emotionally & Physically

  6. after you posted awhile back about the “lost art’s” (that was you, right??) i started thinking about the state our economy is in…& how people-at-large are handling it *so much differently* than they did during the great depression. our line of thought now is “i don’t have money to buy a new shirt”, when in fact there are not only thrift stores but OODLES of fabric in old sheets & blankets sitting in coat closets that could be used as a shirt in a dire situation. 70 years ago the line of thought was more “i don’t have money to buy FABRIC to MAKE a new shirt”.

    obviously the “shirt” could be substituted with any made-from-scratch food, home improvement project, etc.. i guess i’m just trying to say that perhaps the state of our ecomony would be a little LESS intimidating had those “basic homemaking skills” have been retained…perhaps if people got a bit more creative in their cooking, cleaning, & creating the financial crunch so many families are feeling would be less severe.

    you’ve got some great points here…(not to mention the great tips). if there is one thing i could teach my children (& i don’t even have any yet), it WILL BE those basic skills: sewing, creating, baking, cooking, canning, gardening, etc. :) …thanks for your writing–it is a blessing!

    jpritchard´s last blog post…proof.

    • So, so true! It’s amazing how our relationship to “from scratch” or “homemade” has changed, especially with regards to food. Of course, my last blog post was about how exhausting I find cooking from scratch when I make it too difficult for myself (making tortilla chips by first making tortillas from scratch nearly did me in).

      I’m amazed by how often I’ll hear someone say that they’re eating off the dollar menu at Taco Bell or McDonald’s because that’s all they can afford. You probably know that a pound of dried beans is almost always around a dollar, and the number of meals you can make with that & a dollar of rice will certainly last longer than whatever you’ve purchased from a fast food drive-through window!

      Okay, I’ll stop ranting now – just wanted to agree…
      Unintentional Housewife´s latest post: From Scratch Exhausting

  7. Great tips! I just recently learned how to easily shred chicken (and I’ve been cooking now for almost 7 years…maybe I’m just a little slow!)…

    Bring a pot of water to boil.
    Add chicken breasts for 15 minutes.
    Remove pot from heat and allow to cool.
    Remove chicken from pot and shred.
    I put it in freezer bags with either 2 breasts or 1 cup in each bag.

    So stinkin’ easy!

  8. avatar
    Rachel B. says:

    When baking you can substitute yogurt for sour cream. Or if the recipe calls for buttermilk use yogurt thinned with milk.
    If a recipe calls for 1/2 an onion I chop up the rest and pop it in the freezer. Then when I make chili or something soupy that need chopped onion it is already. (the onion is watery after it is thawed so it won’t work where you need firm onion.)

    According to the ‘garbage bowls’ stats it is almost 6 inch deep and 10 inches across. That is a rather large bowl that is deeper then most of my serving bowls. So I imagine that the size and color availability is what makes it marketable. It is also made out of a very light weight material – so it would weigh less then most of my mixing bowls. I have tried using serving or cereal bowls as garbage bowls – and usually run out of room for scraps. I will start using a mixing bowl and keep an eye out for a thrifted bowl that might serve better.

    • avatar
      ann thompson says:

      Hi … I went to the dollar store and purchased a large plastic bowl to use as my garbage bowl … works great !!!

      • I use $1 bowls that I got from Target. They are huge and lightweight. And the plastic is easy to manipulate to make a spout when dumping it.

  9. Great tips! I’ll def use the tip about washing with water and baking soda to get rid of the smell of onions or garlic. Stainless steel does work, I used to rub my hands on the side of my stainless steel sink in my last house. But now I have a porcelin sink. They also sell pieces of stainless steel shaped like soap so you can rub your hands on it. It really works!

    Christina´s last blog post…Money in Your Pocket: Introduction

    • avatar
      Pat F from MA says:

      You can use any piece of stainless steel “silverware”. I always thought it was funny that people would buy a special “soap” shaped piece of stainless steel when anything stainless works great.

  10. I’ve been working harder at cooking from scratch. Thanks for all the tips!

  11. Great post! I find once you get into the groove of cooking and actually make time for it. Cooking can be enjoyable. But, if your constantly rushing it can be a headache.

    SoBella Creations´s last blog post…Cupcake Extravaganza

  12. cut cinnamon rolls with a thread or dental floss. Just slide it under the roll, bring it up and cross the ends over each other and the thread slices the soft dough neatly and cleanly every time! Cutting them can smash them down and this way they stay pretty and round. I hate baking things from scratch, but I like having cooked chicken in the freezer for quick main dishes.

  13. Thanks for the list. I think I will have to try putting the onions in the freezer. I am almost blind from tears by the time I finish cutting them sometimes!

    Taylor at Household Management 101´s last blog post…Feb 5, Typical Laundry Supplies For Your Household And How To Use Them Effectively

  14. great tips…thank you for posting these. i also prefer to make as many things from scratch as possible. and when i can, i double recipes so that i can freeze some in the oven to use for next time (i do this the most w/ my pasta sauce bcs. it can be used for almost any italian dish).

    prasti´s last blog post…choosing happiness

  15. Excellent list! I will use a few of them including separating bananas to keep them fresh.

    John´s last blog post…Review: Picture People

  16. Rubbing some salt on your hands with cold water also gets rid of garlic and onion smell. Great tips – I cook at home all the time but still learned a couple things!

  17. Oh, I love the strawberry hulling trick! I’ll have to try that this year. My mom always cooked with a ‘garbage bowl’ on the counter. I do, too, when I remember.

    My tip: if you have honey and oil in the same recipe (happens a lot in bread), measure the oil first and the honey right after. The honey slides right out of the measuring spoon.

    Also, if your honey has begun to crystalize, just zap it in the microwave for a *short* time (about 10 seconds in mine) and stir. Repeat as necessary until your honey is smooth again.

    Stacy´s last blog post…Tumbling Toads

  18. What a great post! I was going to leave the tip about putting a candle next to you while chopping onions but someone beat me to it. I’m still a cooking novice but blogs are helping me get better al of the time!

    UncommonBlonde´s last blog post…We Got Us A Pageant Girl

  19. Thanks for 8, 10, 11 – The onion and banana tricks will save us some money.

    The Happy Rock´s last blog post…Screw Saving Money…I Want a Snowblower!

  20. I love posts and comment threads like this! Lots of great ideas here.

    Here’s my contribution – if you’re planning on making hard boiled eggs for anything (deviled eggs, potato salad, snacking), use older eggs. Fresh eggs are much more difficult to peel. Also, add ice to the eggs to cool them as quickly as possible after they are done cooking and you won’t get that green ring around the yolk.

  21. Yeah for scratch cooking! Thanks for the cream of chicken soup recipe! I have been searching for a good one for a long time!
    Hope you’re having a great time at Blissdom!

    Shilo´s last blog post…Let the Packing Begin

  22. I will definitely have to remember these great tips. Here is one thing that I would add to the list for when you know you’re going to be in a time crunch for making dinner.

    Get all your pots, pans, cooking utensils and non-perishables laid out on the counter beforehand, so that you don’t have to spend time gathering those items when you are ready to start cooking. Also, if you know you are going to have a lot of chopping or peeling, try to do that earlier in the day or the day before.

    Getting everything ready in advance also works great when you are going to be cooking breakfast; just get everything out the night before. It really makes getting going a lot faster.

  23. Wow–that butter tip is brilliant. I’m going to try that tonight.

    I can’t live without my slow cooker, especially for making my own stock. I’m supposed to be limiting my sodium, and canned stock is full of it. Plus, the homemade stuff tastes SO much better.

  24. It’s all in the cookware. Haunted cookware’s the best because it “knows” how to make the dish sing. Haunted cookware can be bought at charitable thrift stores. My favorite piece is a very old Emile Henry rectangular dish that has a crazing like the face of an Indian Sage. I bought it for $0.99. Whoever owned this dish, was French had generations of wisdom in her hands. This bakeware never does me wrong. I sang it’s praises in a January 31st post.

    Shopping Golightly´s last blog post…Frugalista has a sister. Environista!

  25. For #1, I put 1 Tbls of vinegar into a 1 cup measuring cup and then add milk until it reaches 1 cup.

    The one thing I’ve started to do that has made cooking better for me is to start preheating my pans as soon as I start. (Similar to starting a pot of water to boil in the beginning.) But you have to be sure you don’t make them too hot or forget about them!

    thanks for all the great tips!

  26. I absolutely LOVE cooking on the fly and inventing recipes. These tips are all fantastic! I learned several things today, thanks!!!

    Sarah H.´s last blog post…Mission: Appliances – Wok

  27. 4: try putting a whole lemon in the cavity of the chicken while you’re roasting it
    8: you can also avoid tears by using sweet onions, like vidalias (i grew up in GA)
    12: this applies to meat, too: if you sprinkle it with water before you cover it, it won’t dry out while you’re reheating it
    13: spraying the measuring container with oil works well, too (i use olive oil)
    14: don’t forget to put those scraps in your compost pile/bin! ;)
    17: i make a soap with coffee grounds that is excellent for getting these odors off your hands
    18: you can also whip your butter with an oil such as olive to keep the fat levels the same and make it a bit healthier

    amber´s last blog post…Product Spotlight: Winter Relief Facial

  28. the stainless steel idea for getting rid of onion or garlic odor does work – and in some kitchen stores you can find a small soap-shaped bar of stainless to be used for that express purpose!

    Krista´s last blog post…Montreal-bound

  29. So mnay great tips! I love the separating the bannas idea. I buy them weekly and they go bad so fast!

  30. Awesome tips! One I have is when you’re rolling out cookies or other sticky treats, coat your hands in butter, and the dough won’t stick to you.

    Lori´s last blog post…Jonathan & Mrs. Bobbie

  31. avatar
    Melissa Schneck says:

    We use the butter and margarine wrappers to grease pans, store them in a plastic zip loc bag until you need them

  32. Thank you so much for this re-post. I missed it the first time. I am printing this everyday-use list and putting it on the inside of my kitchen cabinet.

    Thanks again! I LOVE the site.

    Andrea in NC

    Andrea Holloman´s last blog post…18 Everyday Hacks For Cooking From Scratch

  33. Great post! I use my extra stock pot with lid for my garbage bowl. I got it at a yard sale for .50… I live in a small apartment so I can’t compost.

    Another tip. Keep water in a condiment squeeze bottle. Measuring a little bit of water is hard, but if you can squeeze some out of a bottle into the measuring cup its a ton easier.

    I keep a spray bottle filled with water near my stove. When I pop something like left over past or buns in the oven to reheat I just give them a little squirt. They come out moist instead of dried out and chewey.

    Katheryn´s last blog post…persephonee: @smbriones I like that. I want to get some really large lamps, kinda like what’s in PF Changs at Easton.

  34. When cooking with garlic, I just rub my hands on my faucet while washing them, and the stainless gets the garlic smell off. Plus, my faucet’s all shiny. ;-)

    Other hacks? When mashing bananas for banana bread or banana pancakes, put them in a ziploc bag and mash away. I used to do it in a bowl with a potato masher, but this way I get a much more even mash and there’s no mess.

    When browning ground beef, I’ll put a little water in the skillet with the meat, and it helps it cook more quickly (or at least it seems like it does) and keeps it from sticking. Just a little, though, so I don’t get boiled meat.

    Also with ground beef, if I need it all scrambled, and all I’ve got is frozen, I’ll just throw the frozen lump into the pan and scrape off bits as they cook.

    One more ground beef thing – I’ll buy a 5 or 10 pound chunk of it, and cook it up with onions and seasonings, and freeze it in 3/4 pound bags – then, when I’m in a hurry, I can throw some meat in just about anything to make a meal.

    Jaz´s last blog post…Teen Cooking

  35. Storing your onions in the refrigerator works as well, and you don’t have to remember to take them out before they freeze!

  36. This is a fabulous list of tips!!

    Nikki´s last blog post…Note To Self

  37. Great post! I love these ideas!

    To add to #7. I use an electric kettle to get my water boiling. It boils faster and uses less energy. Then I have hot water on hand or I pour it into a pot on the stove and continue boiling it there for things like pasta.

    Jenni at My Web of Life´s last blog post…Friday Faves – Do You have a Green Thumb?

  38. Love all the tips! I’m with Jaz- when you buy bulk ground beef, fry it up and freeze. Makes things like enchiladas, soups, and spaghetti so much easier!

    I keep a small compost bin from the city on my counter, but when I’ll be making a lot of scraps, I keep a brown paper sack next to me (grocery or lunch sack.) It’s compostable, I just throw the whole thing in the yard waste bin :)

    If you’re rolling out sugar cookies, use powdered sugar instead of flour to dust your counter- helps the cookies not get too stiff.

    Make a list of 10 meals your family eats, and then make sure you have enough on hand to make each meal 6 times. Making these 2 months of pantry meals available could make a LOT of difference to your family if there was an illness or you lost your job.

    Myrnie´s last blog post…Sigh

  39. What fun tips to read.
    Here’s my contribution:
    When making cookies or brownies you can substitute 1/2 the called for oil for applesauce. They still taste great and will be a tiny bit more healthy.

    Nikki´s last blog post…The Perfect Workout Program for Expecting Moms

  40. Another buttermilk sub: use half milk and half plain unsweetened yogurt.
    I got this from Sally Schneider’s, “The Improvisational Cook” and it works like magic.

    Rachel´s last blog post…BurdaStyle Corinne Yoga Pants

  41. Terrific Tips!!! :)

    P.S. I didn’t see if anyone commented on this or not, but the potato/salt tip has been tried by America’s Test Kitchen (I believe it was) and found to remove very little salt.

    Debbie´s last blog post…Smack Down Funny!!!

  42. Another tip to try if you’re ALREADY crying because of the onions: stick your head in the freezer for a short while :)

    My Subway manager let me in on this secret, but not before getting a kick out of watching me bawling my first few days with the veggie cutter.

  43. avatar
    Melaniesd says:

    Buy a bag of powedered milk to have on hand for baking. When you are mixing your dry ingredients, add the milk powder to that, then add the water to the wet ingredients. It actually makes your baked goods rise better. It also helps with the grocery bill.
    I was surprised to read this in an old Northern Canadian cookbook from the 1950′s that had household tips in the back. The funny thing was that the day I read it, I had made banana bread that morning and I was so suprised at how well it had risen. I had done just as the cookbook suggested, but hadn’t read that tip yet. Funny coincidence!

    I use to be a professional cook and had to dice 10-20 pounds of onions daily. Putting them in the freezer for 15 minutes not only helps with the tears, but I found they sliced nicer.

    I keep a larger freezer baggie in the freezer for vegetable peels. I keep my carrot, onion & celery leaves for making chicken stock. The peelings have so much nutrition & flavour to add. When you are done making your stock, you can then compost the peels.

    Many recipes call for a tbsp or 2 of tomato paste. What can you do with the rest? I started freezing it by the tbsp on cookie sheets, then putting the frozen clumps in a freezer bag to have on hand – less waste.

    If you like to have deep fried potato skins as an occassional treat, you can keep your potato peels in a cold water in the fridge for a few days. It’s a great way to use up the peelings that would otherwise be composted etc. Why not plan those for the day after you plan on a large family meal when you know you’re going to go through a lot of potatoes.

    Thank you for the great tips!

    • avatar
      Tanja Cilia says:

      get the tomoato paste (and/or harissa) out of the can, and out them in a ceramic mug or glass jar. Then pour a tin layer of oil over them, and they will keep indeifinitely in the fridge.

      If you process tomatoes with the skin on, in enough water to cover them, you will get a thick pink mixture that goes a nice red when heated through, for soups or sauces.

  44. Thanks for this post–I cook from scratch most of the time, but I also tend to do things the hard way!

    rachel´s last blog post…Silver is the new Black (for a limited time)

  45. Great tips! I don`t see much difference between the regular mixing bowl and a garbage bowl. I usually use a metal one so it`s nice and easy to clean.

    I think it`s a lot easier to do some of your prep on grocery day, wash fruits and veggies, chop up whatever you`ll need during the next few days, etc. It makes cooking a super fast job.

    Also, this doesn`t save time when you`re doing it, but if you write down the ingredients and amounts you use in a new recipe that you`re experimenting with, you`ll have a far easier time replicating it when your husband turns out to really love it! Trust me, this is important. I have a picky husband (and one picky toddler, one not-so-much) and if I find something he likes . . . I really,really want to make it again!

    Gourmet Mama´s last blog post…The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

  46. rub olive oil on your fingers before cutting hot chilies to avoid irritation. my skin seems to be more sensitive than most but this kitchen hack does the trick.

    jessica´s last blog post…i don’t want to forget these things…

  47. I love the condensed soup idea-I have a sister allergic to gluten and so now I can make some gluten-free condensed soup! Thank you! My recent discovery in the kitchen is how to can chicken in a pressure cooker. It’s amazingly easy and perfect for many of our favorite recipes. The best part is no defrosting and I usually can it when it comes on sale.

  48. About onions…some time ago I was sent a link to a page where a guy reported his results from trying all suggested methods for tear-free onion chopping (unfortunately I can’t find it now). The only method he found truly effective was to cut them next to a gas stove with the burner on. (A large candle would be the next best option but not as good.) Since we have a gas stove, I was able to try it. It works! I chopped a whole BAG of white onions with barely a blink. You need to be as close as possible to the flame, which somehow catches those irritating chemicals and burns them up. For those who don’t like “wasting” gas (like my mom), unfortunately you can’t do it with a pot on the burner; it has to be an open flame.

    As long as I’m chopping onions (even in the old days of tears running down my face), I chop a lot at once, then put what I don’t need into a Ziploc bag (doubled is even better) in the freezer. This is just the same as buying frozen chopped onions, which my grandma used to do to avoid the whole problem!

  49. for those who use chopped garlic ALL the time in their cooking, you can buy fresh chopped garlic at a local korean market (if you have one nearby, for those states-side), or chop your own in bulk, then place them in a thin layer in ziploc sandwich bags, close them airtight, and freeze them. then you just snap off the appropriate amount to stick into your recipe whenever needed without having to peel garlic at all! i absolutely couldn’t cook efficiently without this korean kitchen lifehack!

  50. Similar to your #6 – when you are chopping an onion or shredding cheese, go ahead and cut up or shred the whole thing even if you are not going to use it all. Place the extras in a resealable container and you have it ready for the next time you are in the kitchen cooking dinner. Not only have you saved a step in preparation later, but it is one less item you will have to wash.

    Deanna´s last blog post…Superbowl Taste Test

  51. avatar
    Tanja Cilia says:

    “Washing” your hands with a raw tomato will get rid of the smell of onion and garlic, brass polish, disinfectant, cat litter, and more. Rinse well.

  52. I can’t live without my hand held blender tool — puree any simmered veggies fresh or frozen for soup ( the kids will never know), the pan fried onions, pepper etc you browned the meat in become a healthy bit of sauce, blend half the can of diced tomatoes you cooked in a bit of olive oil, a bit of jarred prechopped garlic and a leaf of fresh basil for pasta sauce etc. I have five kids and make most things from scratch when possible and if you keep it simple and they are used to eating things more seasonal and fresh … it is easier in the long run, healthier , and less costly.
    Thanks for the great ideas to try!

  53. I use metal measuring spoons that I’ve run under hot water for sticky ingredients as well.

    Mistress B´s last blog post…Did you know…..

  54. Great tips!!! Thanks!

    Monica´s last blog post…I Finally have a Decent “About” Page

  55. So many great tips! Even for us Lazy Moms! I love the tip about freezing the onions, whipping the butter and roasting the chicken. Thanks!
    http://www.lazymoms.com

    Lazy Mom Leslie´s last blog post…Ten Minute Tasks

  56. Lots of good info here, thanks

  57. Who doesn’t love a decent home cooked meal?

    Very useful advice… thanks. Stumbled! ;-)

    Marc and Angel Hack Life´s last blog post…How To Forgive Yourself and Others

  58. I’m so excited to try the butter tip! That’s such a great idea, and I’ve never heard it before.

    Jaimie´s last blog post…[JAIMIE] The Satisfaction of Buying Things I Actually USE

  59. Buy meat in bulk when it’s on sale (ground beef and boneless chicken are usually the 2nd & 3rd weeks of the month in my area). Freeze one meal worth of meat in each freezer zipper bag – either raw or precooked. Saves money and time.

    Stephanie’sMommyBrain´s last blog post…William, The Future Blogger

  60. I am a terrible cook, but you make it sound so simple! I just might give cooking a try one day, these tips make me feel like cooking is not a rocket science :)

  61. Hi Tsh, it was great meeting you at the conference, although we didn’t really get to chat. I always cook from scratch – and I attribute it to having a mom who showed me how! So many girls today don’t have a clue. Which goes along the lines of my blog and finding mentors (which you talked about blog mentors!)

    Happy Monday!

    sandy´s last blog post…Just Like Meredith!

  62. Never let a citrus fruit leave your kitchen without being “zested”! I have ziplock bags in the freezer that I add to. Lemon, lime, orange, even grapefruit! The zest can be used in so many ways – add to icing for a little bit of zip on a plain yellow cake, use in marinades, etc. You’re going to eat the fruit and toss the rind, so you might as well zest it first.

    Brownie´s last blog post…I’ve been MIA…

  63. For #13 – giving your measuring utensil a quick squirt of cooking spray also helps sticky stuff slide out. I do this when measuring mayo, peanut butter, etc. Saves time and way easier clean-up. I love these tips!

    Andrea´s last blog post…Fab Finds Friday – "Farewell to Bush"

  64. DANGIT, all mine were taken. Thanks for the list though. I will definitely use these! I agree, a lot of people freak out if they don’t have a box that says “just add…” We could all use a little more hackability in the kitchen. That’s what our grandmas did, right?

    Heather´s last blog post…Our Retrouvaille Weekend

  65. Not a specific tip, but remember that a sharp knife is safer and is more useful than a dull one. We use one of those electric sharpeners, which gets the job done. Not as good as sending them out, but a lot cheaper.
    Knife skills are always in demand for those doing things from scratch, and the more you know, the easier cooking will be and you’ll save more money by producing less waste.
    Peter Hertzmann’s book, Knife Skills Illustrated looks to be a good guide on picking up those skills (I’ve not read it myself). Jacques Pepin’s books are also another good source for classic techniques.

  66. These are fantastic. I love to cook, so use many of these ideas, but I didn’t know about the self-raising flour or a quality roast chicken recipe. Also, the idea to freeze tablespoons of tomato paste is awesome. I always end up throwing the rest away…

    Here’s two:
    -Store fresh tomatoes on the counter. They get mealy faster in the fridge.
    -If you buy bulk ground beef at costco, it’s the same price for the stuff that has been portioned into 1/2 pound “burger” size. I just drop 1 or 2 in a ziplock to freeze pre-measured portions.

    Alissa´s last blog post…Travel Stories

  67. No more stale cookies…place a slice of bread in with overbaked or stale cookies overnight. Its like magic! The bread will be crouton stiff, and the cookies will be fall apart soft.

  68. Excellent ideas! I especially liked #’s 8,10, and 17.
    Also, for sticky things in measuring cups, if you put a thin coat of cooking oil in it first, the ingredient will come out much easier. I use this method for measuring honey and it slips out so easily.

    Cee´s last blog post…Tweaked Tips Day

  69. Some decent tips here! Here’s some more:

    1. When you finish roasting peppers put them in a bowl while they’re still hot and cover it with plastic wrap, later on the skin will be easier to peel.
    2. Leaf lettuces can be revived from even moderate wilting by soaking them in cool water for twenty minutes, then drain/dry them.
    3. Broken emulsifications can generally be fixed by making a new small amount of base liquid and rewhisking/blending in the broken emulsification.
    4. Almost never grill meat that has not bean lightly coated in fat and seasoned. Make sure your grill is brushed and lightly oiled as well, hot enough to smoke, but not to ignite. This way your food will not stick and you’ll get gorgeous grill marks.
    5. Baking powder is fundamentally baking soda and an acid, to replicate baking powder mix together equal parts of corn starch and baking soda, then mix the cornstarch/baking soda with an equal amount of cream of tartar, or powdered citric acid and you’ll have home made baking powder, though it will only activate once, so once you mix it into a recipe, you better bake it.
    .-= Michael Bennett´s last blog ..Fenugreek (Seed) =-.

  70. I make my own biscuit mix. That way, when we want pancakes, waffles or biscuits, I’m not having to mix from scratch. Once I make it, I store it in an airtight container and it lasts forever.

    6 cups all-purpose flour (or a mixture of white and wheat flour)
    1 tablespoon salt
    2-1/2 tablespoons baking powder
    1/2 cup shortening

    Mix the dry ingredients together, then cut in the shortening until it resembles the texture of cornmeal. Then, use it as you would store-bought biscuit/pancake mix.
    This does not take long to make, but saves a ton of time in the morning.

  71. These are great tips! I have a couple others:

    1. For a fresh tomato sauce, grate the tomato (skin still on). After the tomato is grated, all you will be left with is the skin! This is much easier than blanching. Add the tomato to a skillet and add olive oil and your spices of choice (fresh oregano and/or basil are delicious choices).

    2. Buy a food mill. You can use it to make applesauce or tomato sauce without having to peel or core fruits or vegetables.

  72. Well I actually have a problem with the potato removing salt. If you refer to Harold McGee’s “What Einstein told his cook” you will see that after a whole lot of experimentation and quantitative measurement of salt content before and after additions of potatoes there is no difference. You might as well just add water to dilute then pour off, though you run the risk of losing hte other flavors you have undoubtedly developed

  73. These are fantastic tips! I love to cook from scratch.

    A few more tips:
    1. cheap safety goggles from the hardware store work to protect your eyes from the onion fumes (since I never remember to put my onions in the freezer first).
    2. something my boyfriend taught me: prep everything before you start cooking. Chop all veggies, measure out spices and dry ingredients (little prep bowls are awesome), then when you start cooking you wont burn anything while you’re prepping something.
    3. I have replaced all of the butter or oil in baking recipes with applesauce before. The end result is usually a lot more moist.
    4. Mix a can of pumpkin (not pie filling) with chocolate cake mix and 1/4 cup of water. Delicious, healthy cupcakes!
    Happy cooking.

  74. avatar
    Bakebug says:

    Putting salt in make-your-own self-raising flower is gobbledigook. It makes salted-self-raising flour. You should get the salt from the recipe, not from the flour.
    My pleasure, I just prevented you putting potatoes in your chocolate-chip cookies.

  75. avatar
    TuxGirl says:

    I’m still slowly learning to cook from scratch. I’m not very good, but hey… we all start somewhere, right? :)

    My tips:
    1) I have trouble going through certain foods before they go bad, since it’s just my husband and I. My solution has been to go to some of the emergency preparedness stores and get dehydrated ingredients in #10 cans. For example, I can get a #10 can of dehydrated diced onion for 6$. I just grab however much I need for a recipe and add it in, adjusting the water if needed.
    2) Buy wheat in bulk, and have a wheat grinder. A friend and I have both gotten into making our own bread. She was talking to me one day and complained about the price of whole-wheat flour. I was surprised because she was saying that she was spending 5$ for 5 lbs of whole wheat flour. I checked at the store, and she wasn’t joking. I usually buy a 25 lb bag of whole wheat for about 5$. Extra plus is that the unground wheat can last indefinitely. I read someplace that they found wheat in one of the pyramids in egypt, and tested it, and it was still good. :)
    3) For ideas, look at the boxed prepared items at the store. I love looking at the aisle with the prepared foods. I saw a box one day for red beans and rice, and it looked *so* good. So, I looked at the picture carefully, then at the list of ingredients. It was mostly beans, rice and seasonings. Well, I have beans, rice and seasonings at home… :) So, I went home, did some googling, and ended up being able to make a pretty good red beans and rice myself :)
    4) If you want to learn, look for really old cookbooks :) I get a lot of electronic versions of old cookbooks. Anything published before 1923 is generally available for free online because it’s no longer under copyright in the US. Some of the stuff is kind-of weird, but some is pretty cool! :)

  76. OK, so the best idea for no onion tears that will entertain your family is to wear swimming goggles. It works great and the laughter is wonderful.

  77. Some wonderful tips here. I do a lot of baking for friends, family, neighnors and co-workers, it is my stress relief; and I spend a couple of hours once a month or so bagging the dry ingredients, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar, whatever you mix together for the recipe, label each bag with the name of the recipe it is for and put them in a plastic tub so that the baking goes faster.

  78. Cut the onion into two pieces and put them in the water.
    No onion tears.It really works

  79. I live in France and we have great produce available at our farmers market here. I also learned to love to cook from scratch by watching my grandma and mom. But what made me have to start cooking from scratch here is that many American recipes call for ready-made ingredients in the U.S. Take cornbread casserole for example. You can’t find cream of corn or cornbread mixes here, so I’ve had to learn to make both those from scratch in order to make that recipe. Another example is just about every recipe in Pampered Chef dessert books – they have good recipes but so many of them rely on boxed cake mixes or pudding mixes. So my bit of advice is that those recipes can be great and here in France they are often original and appreciated – so much more because I have to make the ingredients from scratch.
    Another thing you can do to save money is to add a handful of rice or couscous pasta to ground beef or sausage to stretch it. I do that when making meatloaf, stuffed tomatoes, stuffed zucchini, etc.

  80. I buy a box of disposable gloves – without the powder inside – from the local beauty supply store, and put on a pair before setting up hot peppers to pickle. I used to only wear one glove (the non-knife hand), but it’s safer to wear two in my house, as we tend towards the habanero end of the Scoville scale!

  81. Use room temperature eggs when baking as they provide more liquid volume than one straight from the fridge. A great way to bring them up quickly is to use a bowl of blood warm water (you can only just feel the warmth with your fingers) it will warm them up in about 10 minutes. Don’t be tempted to make the water warmer as it will cook them slightly inside the shell.

  82. I know this a couple years late… If you chew gum while cutting an onion it is also a trick for your eyes not to tear up.

  83. I usually peel my onions rinse them and the knife under the cold water tap, cut them in half and rinse again (it only takes two seconds under the running tap) then chop or dice as normal and no tears. You are rinsing away the juice :)
    Love all these tips

  84. avatar
    Katherine says:

    I have a toddler and try to feed him as many fresh fruits/veggies for snack instead of crackers/cookies that are more convenient. To help, on shopping days I focus on chopping/washing the fruits/veggies and putting them in the snack size ZipLock bags. Those will go in a crisper drawer in the fridge to grab quickly as we run out the door or when my toddler is fussing for a snack. It only takes about 15-20 minutes total and I can usually have enough snacks for the whole week. This would also be good for moms who pack lunches each day. I also find myself grabbing a snack bag of sliced cucumbers or apples when I have the munchies too:)

  85. Great information… I will follow your idia’s.. Thanks for sharing.
    Bharati Naik´s latest post: Atta Halwa/Godhi Hittina Halva/Godhi Manni

  86. These are fantastic tips. I need to implement a few more myself.

    I thought I was the only one that separates the bananas as soon as I get home. :)
    Billy´s latest post: Review: Smith’s PP1 Pocket Pal – Your New Friend in the Field

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  3. [...] here are a few tips for around the kitchen that I learned from Simple Mom along with her readers additions.  I read through them all and pulled out any bits of added info. [...]

  4. [...] 3. 18 Everyday Hacks For Cooking From Scratch [...]

  5. [...] foods can be duplicated in the kitchen for much cheaper. Tsh shared cooking from scratch hacks in this post.   Things like frozen waffles, t.v. dinners, baked goods, or prepackaged kids lunches can be [...]

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  7. [...] foods can be duplicated in the kitchen for much cheaper. Tsh shares cooking from scratch hacks in this post.   Things like frozen waffles, t.v. dinners, baked goods, or prepackaged kids lunches can be [...]

  8. [...] Everyone knows that a watched pot never boils, but the minute you step away from that pot it’s going to boil over. An easy way to keep that from happening is by placing a wooden spoon over the pot. Sounds too good to be true? Here’s why it works: anything cooler than the bubbles, which are made of steam, will pop once it comes into contact with the object. Assuming your wooden spoon is “cooler” than the boiling water, this trick will work, but only for a short boil, such as when you’re cooking pasta. This hack will not work effectively for longer boiling periods. [...]

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