6 Benefits of cooking from scratch and consciously choosing ingredients
Steven Bennett | Jun, 5 2019
Since I was a kid, I had fond memories of going to my grandparents. Each Friday afternoon, after school, I’d wander into their kitchen and be amazed by the number of bottles and jars that were filled with vegetables and liquids proudly displayed on their shelves.
My grandfather was a butcher, and my grandma came from a long line of grocers, so their relationship with food was very close. Nothing went to waste, offcuts, offal and other items that would now be considered waste were used in stocks, soups and stews or even made the star of their own dish. Eating fast food and takeaways would have been the equivalent of knocking back a tin dog food, and I am not even touching on how they would have seen a microwavable doner kebab.
It wasn’t until my late twenties that I first reflected on these times and noticed how far people have separated themselves from the knowledge of food that was once just taken for granted.
In today's world, pretty much any food item can be found in a pre-prepared form. Pop into your local supermarket and you can even find a ready-made two egg omelette. This hunger for convenience that has grown over the years has caused a massive separation between us and the source of our food and is causing problems with health and the environment.
This is why it is essential that we redefine our relationship with food, start exploring produce and begin making as much as our food from scratch as we can. In today's busy world, this can be easier said than done, but by making small steps of just one or two meals a week, you are sure to discover many of the benefits.
Below we list six reasons why we feel cooking from scratch and choosing ingredients carefully is important.
1. It benefits the environment
Many of the places we buy our food from are, by design, there to meet the huge demand from customers.
Meeting these high demands, has in many cases, resulted in huge areas of deforestation, oceans filled with plastic and soil and rivers poisoned through the overuse of chemicals and pesticides.
Being more conscious about the food we purchase and how it has been produced can allow you to make decisions that help lower the impact our diet has on the environment.
2. It can be better for animal welfare
What you eat and where your food comes from can also have huge effects on animal welfare.
Although there are many arguments for and against the environmental impacts a plant-based diet has over other diets, there are some facts that can't be denied.
If you choose to consume animal products, most would agree that it is better to select eggs, meat and dairy that has been produced using animals that have been respected and treated ethically.
Animals that are fed better, not pumped with hormones or antibiotics and are free to roam are healthier, happier and produce better quality meat, eggs and dairy. This results in produce that is healthier for us to consume and tastes better.
Choosing a vegan lifestyle over other diets may seem like the best solution but there are other factors that should be considered where animal welfare is considered.
With thousands of forests being cut down to make way for avocado, palm oil and other types of plantations, many animals suffer through the loss of habitat and abuse. The high demand for many products, especially those in trend, can have huge impacts on animal welfare that may not at first seem obvious.
This is why the diet you choose isn’t always as important as how and where your food is produced. Choosing your food with care can help reduce the adverse effects on animal welfare.
3. Your food can taste better
There is no doubt that fresh, naturally produced, organic ingredients make your food taste better.
Many vegetables and fruits have travelled for days before making it to supermarket shelves. Transportation, storage and farm to store times can result in produce that has been treated (to maintain “freshness”) or has lost much of its taste and nutritional value before it reaches your home.
Finding a good grocer, butcher and fishmonger, and if possible, supplying local produce, is one of the first steps in taking control of your grocery shopping. It can help you eat better, for less cost and give you clarity of where your food comes from.
4. It can benefit your health
Much of the food available today is loaded with additives, colourings, sugars and preservatives to make food look better, last longer and “taste better”. Even fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy, are susceptible to this practice with pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and other treatments being used heavily in production.
Although some of the dangers associated with these additives may be exaggerated, it is without a doubt better if we remove as many of these ”extras” from our diet as possible.
A little time planning, sourcing, preparing and cooking food from scratch can be a big benefit to the quality of your diet, your health and the world around you.
5. It can save you money
There is a common belief that making food and produce from scratch is expensive. Although there are cases where this can be true, careful planning and budgeting can help you eat better for less.
The two main reasons that make home cooking expensive is when you explore fancy recipes with costly ingredients or when you purchase fresh ingredients that go to waste because they’re never used.
For success, plan out your meals for the coming week, before you head to the market, and only buy the ingredients you need. This helps reduce waste and saves you money.
6. It can help local business
There is an excellent chance that a quick search will bring up a surprising number of small businesses in your local area that specialises in producing high-quality ingredients and produce.
From grass-fed beef to organic vegetables, free range eggs and honey. Farms, allotments and even home kitchens are producing food that is organic, fresh, reasonably priced and delicious.
By purchasing your ingredients from these small suppliers, you are directly helping contributing to the future production of food that contributes to the wellbeing of your local area.
It may take a little more effort than popping to the local shop but the benefits can be tremendous.
Cooking from scratch closes the gap between us and the source of our food. It gives us an understanding of how our choices affect our health and the environment. It gives us transparency on what we nourish our bodies with. It is fun, teaches us basic science, allows us to be creative and helps retain the knowledge that can prevent us from potential health and environmental disasters in the future.
The ritual of cooking brings couples, families and communities together while defining our individuality and our cultures. It is crucial that we explore cooking and food preparation techniques from the generations before us and carry that knowledge forward.
By exploring food, learning to cook from scratch in being more conscious about ingredients you are sure to be quickly amazed at how great your food can taste, how much money you can save and how much better you will feel. To top it off, your friends and family will love you for it.