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Grandma’s “Secret” for Scratch Cooking

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Hands using a rolling pin to roll out dough on a floured counter.

When you hear the words “scratch cooking” or “cooking from scratch,” do you envision hours spent confined in your kitchen, slaving over a hot stove, making elaborate, time-consuming meals?

“Ain’t nobody got time for that!” is probably what you’re thinking.

More than likely, that’s probably what your grandmother would have been thinking too, especially since she didn’t have all of the modern conveniences that we have today. And yet, many of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers prepared three, healthy and nourishing meals a day without tools like food processors, blenders, dishwashers, etc, and many of them even did it without modern refrigeration and electricity too!

The question is, how did Granny do it all without running herself ragged? How did she prepare meals from scratch without using the processed, packaged ingredients on today’s grocery store shelves and still have time to clean and do laundry and sew and spend quality time with her children?

Well, Granny had a “secret,” something that we’ve largely forgotten in our modern day.

Granny’s secret was simplicity.

The Secret of Simplicity

The fact is that Granny didn’t do it all, even though it might seem like she did. After reading through The Granny Plan: 12 Steps to Everyday Home Cooking by Kathy Block of Granny’s Vital Vittles, I realized that one of the key things that Granny had learned to incorporate into her life was the art of balance.

“Granny made all her family’s food from scratch. Does this mean she made 3 course meals 3 times a day? Hardly! Most of the meals she produced were simple affairs, not company cooking. That was reserved for special occasions. Simple, nutritious square meals were everyday fare, with fancy meals reserved for Sunday or holidays” The Granny Plan – pg 31.

Granny didn’t worry about trying to serve fancy, elaborate meals on a daily basis. Her main focus was on the nutritional value of those meals, not on whether they were the sort of “picture perfect” meals that would impress other people.

Granny was content with serving tasty and healthy meals to her family, and she didn’t stress over trying to make each meal perfect. She always did her best, and she learned many tips to improve her cooking over the years, but she didn’t worry about trying to make every one of her meals five-star restaurant quality. She was satisfied with being a good enough cook and left it at that.

“Good enough cooking is a standard far easier to meet than the lavish dishes seen in magazines and served up on the Food Network. Grandma didn’t always make meals fit for company and you don’t have to either. Granny’s meals were always filling and nutritious as the first priority”

The Granny Plan – pg. 32

Granny’s focus on simplicity also allowed her to be more efficient in the kitchen and to have enough time to get everything done that she needed to do. Because Granny kept everyday meals simple, she was able to put together a nourishing meal without having to spend hours on planning or preparation.

“Many of these meals were repeated over and over again for years, so often that she completely mastered these dishes . . . Real mastery of simple dishes made cooking a breeze for Granny. She could make a delicious dinner without much thought at all.”

The Granny Plan -pg 38

Many of the meals we think of our grandmothers being famous for are the same simple meals that were staples in her home. She could make these meals completely from scratch with ease because she had put her focus on mastering simple dishes rather than striving for an unrealistic level of perfection in her kitchen.

If you want to learn how to cook from scratch like your grandmother did without feeling completely overwhelmed, I would definitely recommend reading through The Granny Plan. This guide gives step-by-step instructions and advice for how to incorporate simple routines to your kitchen so that you can prepare nutritious meals with efficiency just like your grandmother.

This down-to-earth, grandmotherly advice is perfect for beginning cooks and for those who are new to the idea of real food as well as for those who have already developed some kitchen skills but who want to hone those skills and run their kitchens with the same simplicity that Granny had mastered.

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Hands using a rolling pin to roll out dough on a floured counter.
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The information in this post is not to be taken as medical advice and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.

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K Berr

Saturday 4th of April 2020

I'm so glad to see this and I'll probably be looking for that book soon! I remember grandma's simple meals that were so good! My 1st father in law loved cooking but liked more complex recipes, but in the process I learned to recognize a good recipe and found an appreciation for REAL butter (something my family never used). So glad these things weren't totally lost for those of us who weren't able to learn it straight from Grandma.

Lori Elliott

Monday 6th of April 2020

Yes, simple meals are great, and I completely agree about real butter! And, yes, it's definitely very nice that we're still able to learn these kinds of things even if we aren't able to learn them directly from our grandmothers.


Wednesday 2nd of October 2019

I grew up knowing what it was like to have to go down to the creek and carry water back to the house. I knew what a delicious meal tasted like off that old wood stove the best cornbread & cake was made there. I cherish these memories.

Lori Elliott

Thursday 3rd of October 2019

Those sound like such great memories. I've never gotten water from a creek or had food cooked on a wood stove, but I can imagine how good that cornbread and cake must have tasted!

Mirea S Caraway

Monday 26th of August 2019

I know she used potatoes in making them. that is all I remember about them.

Mirea S Caraway

Monday 26th of August 2019

I am trying to find a receipt like the one my mother use to make. She call them Yeast Cake and she would put one in her dough and make roll . She passed away and we can not find her receipt. I an now 86 my self and would love to find the receipt

Lori Elliott

Tuesday 27th of August 2019

That's a great question, and yeast cakes are something that I've been interested in learning more about too. I don't have a specific recipe for making them with potatoes, but I've talked with some of the historians at a living history museum near where I live, and they've told me that yeast cakes were usually made by taking liquid yeast and adding cornmeal to thicken it and shaping them into little cakes and leaving them out to harden and dry. The type of yeast they used was either made with the sludge at the bottom of a beer or hard cider barrel or it was made from hops. I'm not sure how the potato yeast was made, though.

This recipe from The American Frugal Housewife from 1833 explains how to make yeast with potatoes: "Potatoes make very good yeast. Mash three large potatoes fine; pour a pint of boiling water over them; when almost cold, stir in two spoonfuls of flour, two of molasses, and a cup of good yeast. This yeast should be used while new." I also found a modern day recipe for making yeast from potatoes on this website:

You could try using that recipe to make a liquid potato yeast and then you could add cornmeal to that liquid until it is very thick and then form that thickened batter into small cakes and lay them out on a tray someplace until they are completely dry.

I hope that helps!

Darla Goodman

Thursday 18th of July 2019

I still cook this way, crockpot pinto beans with cornbread. Mac n cheese with canned apples, meatloaf, spaghetti. Homemade rolls, put in fridge with ham and cheese, Mac salad, potato salad. But I only cook one meal a day, generally, we eat small breakfasts and a sandwich for lunch. I freeze leftovers and wait a couple days to serve it again. We’d be so miserable if we had to eat fast food every day! This time of year, I do a lot of canning, we have a big garden. So I freeze in vacuum bags, and pickle lots of things because it’s easier. I really hate that people have forgotten how to cook.

Lori Elliott

Saturday 20th of July 2019

It sounds like you have a lot of good meals that you cook! I'd definitely be miserable eating fast food every day too. And having a big garden is awesome! That's so great that you're able to can and freeze so many things from your own garden. I love growing some of my own food, too, and being able to preserve the harvest to enjoy later on :)

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