Cooking From Scratch Vs. Buying PremadeThe debate about cooking from scratch compared to buying pre-made items is complicated and in some ways unique to every situation. Cooking from scratch is often touted as healthier, cheaper and more "authentic" than buying premade foods. On the other hand, there are only so many hours in the day and the thought of making every single item of food from scratch can be overwhelming. It's often difficult to figure out which option is best.
Ultimately, there isn't really a unilateral "best" answer that applies to everyone. There are too many factors and extenuating circumstances so it's better to focus on figuring out which option is best for your life and your family. If you take the time to consider a few specific topics, you should be able to determine which foods are best for you to cook yourself and which are better to buy from the store.
CostOne of the most common themes in the conversation about cooking from scratch vs. buying pre-made is the cost. Nearly every article out there suggests that cooking from scratch is always less expensive. However, this is not universally true. It largely depends on what you are comparing. For example, boxed macaroni and cheese is usually going to be cheaper than making a fancy version with organic cream and several types of gourmet cheese. On the other hand, store-bought granola is usually far more expensive than if you make it from scratch, especially if you can buy the ingredients in bulk.
In order to figure out if you should buy or make, it's best to consider your normal shopping list. Look at the things you buy most often and do a quick calculation on the cost of the individual ingredients if you were to make it from scratch. If you don't want to go that in-depth, just look up lists of foods that are generally cheaper when made from scratch. It can also be helpful to divide your list into things you will always make at home, versus things you will only cook from scratch when you have the time.
TasteAnother aspect to consider is the taste. Some foods are vastly better when made from scratch, whereas with others, there isn't much of a difference between homemade and store bought. A good rule to use is how much of the recipe is fresh ingredients. Recipes that call for lots of fresh produce, herbs and seasoning are usually better when made from scratch. Another indicator is the ingredient list of the pre-made version. If it's a high-quality brand with a few real, pronounceable ingredients, you may not gain much from cooking it yourself.
Time CommitmentSome advocates of always cooking from scratch don't address the time commitment required for all that homemade food. But it isn't something that should be ignored. Depending on your schedule and your family's commitments, it may not be possible to commit the time necessary to make everything from scratch. For example, nearly everyone agrees that homemade bread tastes better and is healthier than store bought. However, making bread from scratch is a large time commitment, and depending on how many people are in your family, you may need to make bread several times a week.
HealthHealth is another important consideration when deciding what you buy and what to make from scratch. Again, the health difference between homemade and store-bought depends heavily on what the food actually is. Especially nowadays, there are more healthy and fresh options available at the store than ever before.
If anyone in your family has food allergies or specific restrictions requiring a modified diet, it's important to consider that as well. There may not be as many healthy store-bought options for foods that fit a restricted diet, so you may need to find the time to make those things from scratch.
The homemade vs. store bought debate isn't likely to be settled anytime soon. The good news is that you only have to figure out the solutions for your own life and family. Once you take into consideration cost, taste, time commitment and health, you can determine which foods you want to buy, and which you want to make yourself. You can feel good about making the best choices for your family everyday.
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