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Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD Headshot

My From-Scratch Cooking Confession: I Can't Keep up!

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I believe that a diet based around whole foods is the way to go. I believe we should know what's in our food, that we should strive to eat food that isn't laden with preservatives and artificial flavors. Over the years, my suspicion about ingredients like artificial colors has grown, and I've become increasingly annoyed with food marketing designed to manipulate and deceive.

As a result, I buy fewer packaged foods than I did even a few years ago. I experiment in the kitchen, making homemade versions of store-bought staples. Sometimes I post those recipes on my blog or my Facebook page because I want to share something that's worked for me.

What I DON'T want to do: Give the impression that everything in my house is homemade.

It's not.

I love to cook and bake. I love the satisfaction that comes from making something myself.

But making everything from scratch? While I'm in awe of people who do this, it appears to be statistically impossible for me. Four of us eat nearly every single breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home (or a packed lunch made at home). My fourth grader's appetite is becoming alarmingly robust. And if the mountain of dishes I create every day from prepping all that food gets any higher, I'm afraid it will topple over and bury my husband, the designated dishwasher.

Here's how from-scratch cooking goes down in my house:

What I always make from scratch: vinaigrette dressing, pizza dough, hummus, barbecue and pizza sauce, cookies, pesto, and guacamole.

What I sometimes make from scratch if I have time: bread and rolls, applesauce, French fries, granola bars, nut butter, and macaroni and cheese.

What I very, very occasionally make from scratch (or in some cases, have made only once just to see if I could do it): donuts, tortillas and pita bread, knock-off pop-tarts, pasta, fruit leathers, and sushi rolls.

And here's what that looks like for our family:

  • If we have from-scratch hummus, we're probably eating it with store-bought pita bread.
  • If we have homemade nut butter and granola bars that week, there's also a bag of pretzels in the snack cupboard.
  • If there's a pot of chicken soup on the stove and homemade rolls in the oven, we are likely having boxed pasta and jarred sauce the next night (or fish sticks and French fries from the freezer).

In some circles, all packaged food seems to be demonized -- that to admit you buy packaged foods is to somehow admit failure, laziness, or a lack of concern about health and well-being. And don't get me wrong: I love a good Pinterest challenge. Homemade graham crackers? Maybe I'll attempt that some lazy Sunday afternoon.

But in the meantime, I don't feel guilty about using packaged foods because I choose them carefully by reading labels. We keep junk to a minimum in the house. And for me, relying on some packaged foods does help my health and well-being -- because it preserves my sanity.

Sally Kuzemchak writes the blog Real Mom Nutrition, where this post originally appeared.