Why I Cook From Scratch: The Selfish Reasons

rolling pin bread

Every once in a while, when I’m washing dishes for the fourteenth time that day, I wonder why I put SO MUCH WORK into food prep.

(I do love to cook, but I’m not always jolly about it).

I spend hours in the kitchen every day — wiping counters, washing dishes, toasting granola, kneading bread, whipping up dressing, slow-cooking meats, soaking beans, chopping vegetables, putting leftovers into single-serving containers, freezing broth. . . . It’s unbelievable how much time a person can spend in the kitchen preparing food for three people.

Sometimes, it’s friggin’ tiresome.

I can offer myself all kinds of highfalutin reasons for cooking from scratch. I can remind myself that it saves our family money so that we can afford to buy high-quality ingredients, and that eating whole foods improves health, it’s better for the planet, it’s an act of resistance against evil corporations, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

The trouble is, when my body aches from wearing my baby on my back for hours while I chop and clean and wipe and knead, those abstract, distant-sounding reasons don’t sound very compelling. Sure, eating healthy might prevent cancer and heart disease in some distant future, but I’m tired now. I’m bored with all this tedious work today, and I just want to sit down and watch some New Girl with my husband already. Why don’t I just buy some hot dogs?

In these moments, I have to remind myself that I cook from scratch for selfish reasons, too.

The truth is, when I eat food that I’ve made from scratch, I feel a helluva lot better. The effects are immediate and enduring.

When I eat homemade, healthy foods, I have more energy. My mood is better: my outlook on life is more optimistic. I feel strong and capable. I don’t easily get sick. My skin is clearer. I have less body odour.

Ever since I started cooking from scratch, I suffer from less depression, bloating, and acne.  And when I remember to do my yoga routine, I swear I’m more limber and balanced when I’ve been eating well.

When I’m grumpy about having to do all that monotonous kitchen work, I have to remind myself that if I forgo all the slicing and mixing and fermenting and just order takeout, I will experience an immediate drop in energy, cheerfulness, and bowel efficiency.

I’m pretty sure all this work is good for my baby and husband, too, which also makes my life more pleasant.

When I look at it that way, all the extra time in the kitchen is totally worth it, just for me.

How about you? Have you experienced personal benefits from spending more time in the kitchen?

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  1. Great post Kathleen. Although I have not developed the art of making so many things from scratch that you do, I agree with you wholeheartedly about the health benefits. I have discovered it more recently – probably because I’ve become more aware of my body in the last year or two – that my energy levels, my hormone levels, my reaction time, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera are affected when I do not eat healthy, homemade food. The greatest struggle I have right now is that I can’t wear my babies anymore, therefore, my time to cook is so limited. As a result, I buy hot dogs, I buy loaves of bread, etcetera, etcetera. And I can’t stay up all hours of the night doing this prep cause then my energy would be less because of so little sleep. I’m learning, and trying to figure this whole thing out. Any tips, I sure could use them.

    • Maria, you hit on something that has concerned me for a while: how on earth do mothers of more than one child do it? I wish I could offer tips, but I’m afraid I just don’t have any experience there! The only tip I can offer (because it seems to be working for me) is to make time to plan meals and snacks, and schedule the prep-work into your day. Like, after I plan my meals, I write down “hard-boil eggs, cut up carrots, prepare ranch dip” (etc) into my daily planner. That way I’m not scrambling last-minute and reaching for pre-packaged foods when it comes to meal/snack-time. (But maybe you already do this?)

      The other good point you make is the importance of rest. You don’t want to sacrifice sleep for cooking — that’s just trading one necessity for another. I guess my advice would be to do what you can, and then get some rest, knowing that your body needs rest just as much as it needs good food!

  2. Samantha says:

    While I still lean too heavily on buying things already prepared (bread, pasta, pasta sauce for instance) I really do enjoy cooking from scratch. I don’t know why I haven’t committed to making these things all the time. It might be because we buy high quality versions at the store. When I do make them we really enjoy it, so perhaps I should make an effort to make them at home more often. Part of the reason I love making things from scratch is just because I know I can do it! There’s something so satisfying about kneading some fresh whole wheat dough for pizza. Or whipping up a delicious batch of cinnamon rolls. Or like last week: homemade marshmallows and graham crackers! It’s fun to experiment and try new recipes. Plus there’s a sense of satisfaction that comes from cooking all day and hearing my husband tell me he wishes he wasn’t so full because he just wants to keep eating. Most of the food we eat is made by me, but certain things have become staples. I do intend to grow some tomatoes and try my hand at homemade sauces this summer – I’m really looking forward to that! My husband grew up on TV dinners and boxed meals and my diet wasn’t too different from that. Cooking from scratch has been a gradual process of adjustment for us and it’s one I’m glad we’ve been making!

    Sorry if this comment seems all over the place. I’m having trouble getting my thoughts together right now. So sleepy…

  3. Haha, maybe this is one reason why I love the Paleo diet so well, you don’t have to cook much! Obviously meat needs to be cooked, but I know that fruits and veggies are better for you raw, so I just have to cut them up!
    I have been trying to cook more, so Andrew (who actually loves cooking) doesn’t have to come home from work and cook a full meal. I’m not good at cooking and I don’t enjoy it though, so the crock pot is my new best friend. You can seriously throw in frozen meat and veggies, plus a little seasoning and water, and then set it and forget it. It’s the best thing since sliced bread.
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  4. YES. I’m thirteen weeks pregnant, and the past two months I’ve been so sick and miserable and fainting and exhausted that it’s all I can do to get to work and home again–looking at food pictures or reading recipes makes me gag, standing over the stove makes me faint, and by the time I get something cooked I’m too sick-feeling to eat it anyway.

    But as a result, we’ve been eating a lot of processed and fast food stuff and we both just feel gross (I mean, I feel gross anyway, but the DDH is suffering, too). My husband’s been very supportive and not criticizing me or forcing me to cook, and sometimes he steps up and cooks, too (not often enough, but he grew up convinced that he can’t cook and it’s a slow unlearning process), but he did say he was sad not to be eating homecooked food.

    Since we both work full-time, most of my meals are from-scratch but not completely. I mean, boxed pasta and canned tomatoes and commercial tortillas (though I do make bread machine bread when we want bread, which isn’t often). Most of them are fairly quick and easy to prepare. But I don’t know how juggling a baby plus a job is going to impact that. And then, like Maria said, once there’s more than one baby, especially if there’s still a job…blargh.

    Thanks for the reminder about the difference it really does make in how we feel. That’s motivation (especially now that I’m leaving the first trimester blues behind)!

    • I’m in exactly the same boat! I had my family eating so well before I became pregnant but I’ve been so sick (I’m 13 weeks now) that I can hardly stand to be in the kitchen. My husband works shift work so he isnt around for a lot of dinners to help me with meals. We’ve been eating out, getting take out and digging into cereal like it’s going out of style. I feel pretty bad about it but I just have to remind myself that this is just a season. It’s not who I am and not how I normally run my home.

      This will be my 3rd child and one thing I love about being a mom is teaching my children to cook and bake and garden and eat well.

      • Hi Bria! Yes, early pregnancy is a season in which you need to go easy on yourself! It’s not forever, and you can’t possibly expect to cook as usual if the very sight of food makes you ill. But I’m sure you know that already! And I look forward to teaching my daughter those things, too!

  5. I was all ready to read something ridiculous when you said selfish, and then I read this ;) Not ridiculous (or selfish) at all! I think it’s great that it makes you feel better!

    It’s funny, but I’ve only recently started to notice the difference between when I eat homemade food and when I don’t. Maybe I didn’t want to notice before, or maybe it just took a long time for me to perceive it. But the past several times I’ve had store-bought ice cream, I’ve been dissatisfied and just felt like something wasn’t right. It was like I could taste the fakeness of it. In fact, after the last time I decided I’m just not going to eat store-bought ice cream anymore. (This means we will be pulling out the ice cream maker much more often! :D ) Hopefully I can get to the same point as you, where I notice this with all of our food!
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    • It’s only certain foods that my husband and I notice a big difference. Like you, we often find we can taste the “fakeness” in certain processed foods. And others just make us feel like garbage, almost immediately (like hot dogs, anything fried in yellow oil, etc).

  6. Yes. Yes, yes, yes. I’m with you. Choosing food work over processed food is not just an ideological stance, it’s a selfish choice. I have special reason to feel better when I eat well because I have an allergy that has kicked me out of the processed food aisles at the center of the grocery store… I’m allergic to corn. And it’s in everything. I’ve had to work and work and work to find the ingredients other commenters listed above (bread, pasta, sauce, canned tomatoes, etc.) that were “safe”–i.e. non-migraine inducing. That being said, there seems to be an energy tipping point… “from scratch”=”feel better” until a certain point when “If I want to put it in my mouth it must be from scratch”=”I’d rather go hungry.” That’s been a real struggle for me. Getting the food on the table is hard some days. I don’t say that to get pity, though pity is somehow satisfying ;), just to state my reality and sympathize with the tired women who embraced processed food a couple generations ago.

    I do appreciate your advice to Maria about writing down the steps, I don’t know why I haven’t thought of that yet. I recently read similar advice on Dinner, A Love Story, where Jenny recommended having your 8 o’clock am self do your 5 o’clock pm self a favor. Now, to implement…

    • Goodness, a corn allergy would make things difficult! You must be especially conscious of what you’re putting in your mouth! And I also like Jenny’s advice to do your 5pm self a favour. Good way of looking at it!


  1. […] regarding the benefits of cooking from scratch. Kathleen from Becoming Peculiar has a particularly great post outlining what she calls her “selfish” reasons for cooking from […]

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