Basing my assumptions on a trip through the grocery store, it looks like much of America begins the process of “cooking” with something that comes in a box or a can. Mother Nature does not produce food that comes contained in a box; this is purely a human invention to a) speed up the process of getting dinner on the table and b) make tons of money for the company that produces the product.
Cooking from scratch is really very easy, and I’ve found that once I learn a new recipe, it doesn’t take that much longer than using the store bought shortcuts. The deal is, you have to make a recipe several times before it becomes as second nature as opening a box or can. Wondering what recipe you can switch to homemade without losing hours of time to prep work? I’ve eliminated these convenience items from my cupboard with very little trouble.
Pancake mix: I grew up on Bisquick and Krusteaz pancakes, but started making my own from scratch twenty years ago and never looked back. Following the recipe in my Betty Crocker cookbook, it might take me a full minute longer to follow the recipe than to start with a mix. I’d link to Betty’s recipe here, but her online version now calls for…Bisquick. Betty, Betty, Betty!
Pudding: I was well into my thirties before it even occurred to me that there must have, once upon a time, been someone who made pudding without the aid of a box. This chocolate pudding recipe is excellent and a great way to use up milk that’s starting to turn. It’s easy, but it does take some stove top stirring time – it’s not instant.
Cereal: I won’t lie to you and tell you we’re 100% cereal free. I do splurge and buy an industrial size box of cereal for my kids a couple of times a year. And when I go out of town? My husband’s dirty little secret is that he heads to the grocery store to buy a box of raisin bran. But other than those few times when we deviate from our usual routine, homemade granola is our go-to breakfast cereal.
Pre-cut vegetables: Come on, people. Cutting vegetables is not hard. If you must, get an appliance the will do the slicing and dicing for you. But buying your vegetables wrapped in plastic (I’m looking at you, Trader Joe’s!) is an affront to sensibility. (Note that I didn’t actually eliminate this habit, because I never started buying my vegetables pre-cut.)
Fancy pants rice: Early in my marriage I did use these boxes of rice, because my new husband loved them. No more. If we want a rice dish, I’ll usually make a risotto, but Maria Rodale recently posted a recipe for homemade rice pilaf that looks like it’s worth a try.
Salad dressing: I’ve mentioned this one before, but homemade salad dressing is not hard to make. It’s just a matter of breaking the habit of buying bottled dressing.
Pizza: If you keep frozen pizza in the freezer for “emergencies” or buy those plastic-wrapped Boboli breads (something I was guilty of long ago), consider learning to make your own pizza dough. Truly, it’s easy and just think of the waste you’ll eliminate, not to mention the higher quality of food your family will be ingesting.
Off the top of my head, those are the packaged foods that we’ve eliminated over the years. What about you? What boxed or canned product have you eliminated in favor of homemade? What product do you think you can work on eliminating to create a more sustainable diet?