Is Cooking From Scratch Always Better? It Might Be…

It might be time to ditch that box of pancake mix and the canned soup—you're ready to start cooking from scratch.

Cooking from scratch all the time can seem intimidating. Who am I, the Pioneer Woman? Thank goodness for the luxury of premade foods. If we so choose, we have a bevy of ready-to-eat foods at our fingertips. We need only unwrap the twisty tie around the plastic bag to have a piece of bread, or open a can and heat in order to enjoy a soothing bowl of soup.

But, let’s be honest, there’s a reason we crave home-cooked meals after traveling—just as there’s a reason kids come home from college and eat parents out of house and home. Homemade food is widely renowned as the best food.

5 Things to Start Cooking From Scratch

The benefit of making things from scratch is that you control the ingredients. You can use fresh-from-your-garden produce, locally sourced protein and whole grains—and nix all the other unpronounceable additives that might come along with premade foods.

Here are the other pros and (not-so) cons of making five convenience foods from scratch.

Soup

Pros: The possibilities for homemade soup are endless—from a Cheeseburger Soup to a Cheesy Broccoli to a Comforting Chicken Noodle. Making soup from scratch is going to be, hands-down, more delicious than canned. Fresh ingredients often have far more flavor.

But the other bonus is you can lessen your sodium intake—some popular canned soups have up to 900 mg of sodium per 1/2-cup serving, and the American Heart Association recommends an ideal limit of 1,500 mg of sodium daily for adults.

Cons: Of course, making soup from scratch takes a bit longer than nuking a bowl in the microwave. You may have to chop some carrots, blend some tomatoes or mince some cilantro. But in the end, you will find the time is worth it.

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Yogurt

Pros: Active cultures in yogurt have been linked to improved digestive health and a reduced risk of heart disease, so, yay! There are yogurt starters you can buy that contain the live cultures you need. The flavor combinations you can think up in your homemade yogurt lab are nearly endless. Want to do a raspberry vanilla coconut banana? No one is stopping you. You control exactly what goes in it, and this includes the sugar—many store-bought brands are loaded with extra sugar or sweeteners.

Cons: You may want to buy a yogurt maker to help you in the process, but you can also use your Instant Pot. It’ll also take anywhere from six to 10 hours to make, and there can be a bit of trial and error before you find your groove.

Pancakes

Pros: First off, pancakes are pretty much the easiest type of cake you can make from scratch. Here is a simple recipe for pancakes that you can add any number of things to: blueberries, chocolate chips, peanut butter, cinnamon, apples—even bacon. Bonus, you get to skip the sodium caseinate, tocopherols and diglycerides that come in the box mix.

Cons: It’ll take you 6 minutes to make pancakes from scratch and 4 to make them from a mix.* (*OK, this is just a guess, but it can’t be too far off.)

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Breakfast Sausage

Pros: What goes better with pancakes than homemade breakfast sausage? And making it is no harder than combining some ground meat with lots of yummy spices—no sausage-making machine or casings required. Just form into patties and brown in a skillet. You can even make a double batch and freeze them for up to three months.

Cons: Your family will probably never want to go back to frozen sausage patties again.

Bagels

Pros: Homemade bagels are surprisingly easy to make, says cook Jennifer Reese, author of Make the Bread, Buy the Butter. Dropping them in boiling water before baking may seem intimidating, but “boiling is what gives bagels their unique, tight, shrink-wrapped crusts.” You can watch her tutorial on bagel-making, and then try out these homemade cinnamon bagels.

Cons: Again, just time. About 1 hour to make from scratch versus 5 seconds to open a package of premade ones. But, you get to skip the preservatives by making your own and take out some aggression when it comes time to punch the dough.

In an ideal world, we’d have time to make all our food from scratch, but that’s not always possible. Luckily, there are a lot more healthy, premade options now than there were 20 years ago. There are organic microwavable meals, low-mercury canned tunas, low-sodium boxed soups and natural peanut and almond butters with no added sugar.

You can use premade foods as a shortcut, but I’d recommend pairing them with a vegetable. That means when you pop a frozen pizza in the oven, have a side of broccoli as well!

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Amanda Kippert
Amanda Kippert has been an award-winning freelance journalist for nearly two decades. She is based in Tucson, Arizona and specializes in food, health, fitness, parenting and humor, as well as social issues. She is the content editor of the domestic violence nonprofit DomesticShelters.org.