Baby steps to cooking from scratch

Easy. Homemade.

Why do we as women carry around an all-or-nothing mentality?

It’s the one that says, “If I can’t do this perfectly, there’s no point in trying” or “This is all too overwhelming; I’m just going to stick with the status quo.”

I know this mentality well because it’s one I struggle against myself. It’s often been referred to as perfection paralysis, and it’s this paralyzing fear that makes us think that baby steps aren’t good enough!

Slowly, I’ve started to overcome this fear in my own life, especially when it comes to making “real food” changes in our kitchen.

You see, I’ve never been a great cook – even when I was simply throwing together ingredients from various boxes to make a meal – so the idea of cooking from scratch has been overwhelming to me from the start.

It may seem crazy that someone who starts a post that way is writing to share her new cookbook with you, but what I’ve happily discovered is that cooking from scratch – even kitchen staples that you may never have considered making from scratch before now – is a lot easier than you’d expect.

And I’ve also realized that it’s okay to go about this journey in my own way. Maybe your family really likes conventional ketchup and you have no desire to walk away from your favorite brand to make your own. That’s okay.

Try something else instead – maybe homemade French bread, from-scratch pancakes (our favorite!) instead of a box mix or frozen fruit pops instead of store-bought popsicles. Not only will you be making healthier choices for your family, but you’ll be saving money as well. And you may find that it’s pretty empowering to start making things from scratch that you’re used to buying in a box!

I feel pretty strongly that we shouldn’t judge other people’s food choices, but I think we also need to give ourselves a break too.

It’s overwhelming to try to overhaul your entire lifestyle, and trying to do that is a good way to burn out and give up altogether.

Just like Tsh walks you through 52 projects for simplifying your life in One Bite at a Time, I want you to know that it’s okay to pick one meal or one snack or one ingredient at a time to change in your kitchen as well!

Easy. Homemade.

Easy. Homemade.

Discover more than 60 recipes for homemade kitchen staples in Easy Homemade, which is available for your Kindle, Nook, or a full-color PDF to read on your computer for just $0.99 this week only!

PLUS, the first 100 readers to use coupon code SIMPLE100 will get a FREE PDF copy of the ebook. But even if you miss that code, you can pick up your copy – including several great bonuses – for just $0.99!

Click here to get your copy today.

You’ll also find me sharing more about the what, why and how of homemade pantry staples at these great blogs:


Mandi Ehman is the blogger behind Life Your Way. She and her husband have four beautiful girls plus one baby boy, and together they live, work and homeschool on a little slice of heaven in wild, wonderful West Virginia. Mandi loves coffee, chocolate, easy meals, beautiful things and minimalist spaces.

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  1. I LOVE cooking from scratch. It’s kind of empowering, actually. It’s not often that I get to practice a skill that makes me feel like I could survive a little longer in a zombie apocalypse, and also makes me feel connected to my fore mothers. And it’s nice to just shop the exterior of the supermarket, and avoid all the aisles. Hooray for home cooking!

  2. I love this! We live in China and I had NO idea how to cook from scratch upon moving here. I learned quickly that if I didn’t learn to cook from scratch, it would be rice at every meal. Now, eating processed foods when we visit the States makes us feel lethargic. It’s just so tempting in America to pop in a frozen lasagna, you just have to ignore the millions of chemicals on the back of the box :). I love cooking from scratch now! And it saves tons of money.

  3. It’s the one that says, “If I can’t do this perfectly, there’s no point in trying” or “This is all too overwhelming; I’m just going to stick with the status quo.”

  4. Guilty. I fall into the perfection paralysis category when it comes to cooking from scratch. On the flip side, I want my family to eat more real food. I must start somewhere.

  5. Jill Robson says:

    Hi Mandy
    Try growing up with a professional chef as a father.LOL No i am not up to his standard, but i grew up with good basics and built from there. Like everthing its trial and error, I try to make healthy choices when ever possible and always prefer to cook from scratch, but its ok to have store bought now and again. My rule, recipies that can be made in 30 mins during the week, more adventure on the weekend.

  6. We’ve been taking baby steps toward eating healthier and cooking from scratch. Sometimes I get overwhelmed about how far we have to go and want to quit. But you’re right, that’s a perfectionist mentality and not at all helpful.

  7. Excellent post! I struggle with this quite a bit. It takes pretty frequent self-reminders not to overwhelm myself with all of the changes I want to make, but I find that baby steps truly are the key…afterall…mental health is just as important as physical health and you’re not doing anyone any favors by pushing yourself over the edge. 😉 I think it’s best to start off trying to make a few “staples” from scratch…becoming comfortable with those recipes so that they become sort of second nature and then moving on to the next. I’ve had pretty good luck with whole wheat pancakes, whole wheat pizza crust and caesar salad dressing…now this weekend I’ll be making chicken stock. All of this is very fun as long as we remind ourselves not to try everything at once!

  8. I was just talking with my friend yesterday about ‘family recipes’ and how our children need to really be included and watch as we make them. How sad when they are older and don’t know anything about cooking family traditional dishes.

    It would even be a good idea to sit down with the child and show them how to write out a recipe. At least start with letting them ‘help’ you for a small amount of time when they’re little and interested. These suggestions cover a wide range of ages. Children will grow up to be confident ‘chefs’ after being allowed to help in small ways when we cook, bake, plan meals, etc.

  9. Love this post (and can’t wait to check out the book!) – once I discovered that you could even *make* things like pita bread or yogurt at home, it’s like my entire world expanded. I don’t always make everything from scratch, but when I’m standing there trying to figure out what to make for dinner without having to make a trip to the store, knowing how to make homemade refried beans and tortillas, or noodles to go in soup with the chicken stock I’ve got in the freezer, well, it’s empowering. It’s like kitchen magic!

  10. That is such a good point that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I cook mainly from scratch. That is how I was taught from my mom. But sometimes, when I do buy something packaged, feel guilty like I have ruined all our normally healthy choices. But, like you said, every good meal or snack is one babystep toward the end goal. Looking forward to checking out your book!

  11. Thank you for sharing this! I just downloaded it right to my Kindle for $.99. I was just telling my husband the other day how overwhelmed I am with the idea of cooking, especially now that we are really trying to eat more whole and unprocessed foods. I took a baby step and made my own laundry detergent, so now I’m really excited to try this out!

  12. I just plain can’t stand shopping at the grocery stores anymore. The fewer trips I have to make, the happier I am. We try to make more from scratch recipes each month and I’m loving it!

  13. I downloaded and can’t wait to get into it! Like Carrie, we live overseas and cooking from scratch is sometimes a necessity … although I too was SCARED of it before moving!

    Since reading 52 Bites and now with your book, I have started doing pancakes, hoisin sauce, maple syrup from scratch and am looking forward to learning more!

  14. Years ago when we only had one car, I made almost everything from scratch because I didn’t have the option (or money!) to just run to the store and pick something up. Recently, I haven’t taken the time to make those homemade favorites my family grew to love. Hmm….I think it’s time to make some homemade English muffins! Maybe I’ll check out this book for more ideas!!!

  15. This is a great post. I am so guilty of the perfectionist paralysis – that’s why we end up with cereal for dinner some nights, hahaha. I think I’ll start with homemade ketchup, and I will be downloading your book tonight as well. Tsh’s One Bite at a Time has empowered me to make so many positive changes, I’m excited to jump in with cooking from scratch as well. Thanks!!

  16. Great tips! Thanks!

  17. Love this! I used to only enter the kitchen to microwave. But slowly over time and concern for my family’s healthy eating habits, I have been taking baby steps towards home cooking. I make simple and healthy meals for my family now, and I feel good. I’m no fancy chef, I still don’t bake, but I can make a health, tasty home-cooked meal for my family. Thank you for sharing!

  18. I started cooking from scratch when I got my own apartment. When I had roommates, I don’t know if it was because no one wanted to share pots and pans or what, but we stuck to frozen food, ordered food, or food brought from home. But once I had my own place, I gradually ventured into cooking my own food. I started off with the sauteed frozen food from Trader Joe’s just so I know how to work a skillet, and then I graduated to simple meals like quesadillas.

    Now over the years, I make all my food from scratch and love it. Okay, maybe not on busy nights, but I love how I save a ton of money and the food just feels cleaner and lighter compared to restaurant food.

  19. I will keep you bookmarked.

  20. Is the 0.99 cent deal for the e-book still available?

  21. Any busy mom would want to have this easy to prepare recipe for the kids. Will any fruit be perfect for this treat?

  22. So the idea of cooking from scratch has been overwhelming to me from the start.

  23. Everyone has to start with little steps first, or it is overwhelming. I suggest cutting back on the high carbohydrate and sugary foods, substituting better nutritious foods that are home cooked.. There are so many yummy things to make that are not bad for ones health.

    I started using a cookbook and making food from scratch at a young age, while at home. Although I have never left that, I will use a boxed food occasionally. I also have a couple recipes such as a good chicken soup that is a short cut using home canned chicken and broth and frozen organic vegetables. The family really enjoys it..

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