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One of the dilemmas we all face from time to time is deciding when is it worth it to buy something instead of making it from scratch. As preppers, the dilemma is compounded because there may come a time when the items we desire are no longer available commercially. When that happens, the choice is to go without or to make it ourselves from the crops in our gardens or from our food storage.
With that in mind, about a year ago I picked up the book, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn’t Cook from Scratch-Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods.
I wanted to educate myself regarding the value proposition when cooking certain items from scratch. There were many factors to consider including the time, cost and the hassle factor. I had already assumed that anything I made myself would be healthier but the rest? Sometimes making things from scratch is time-consuming, pricey and makes a big mess.
Until my friend Joe Marshall at Survival Life brought it up, it never occurred to me that this book would be both interesting and valuable to the members of the prepper community. But why not? Baking bread, cooking grains and legumes and cooking with home grown produce are things we do all day long.
Today I share Joe’s thoughts on Make The Bread, Buy The Butter.
Is Cooking From Scratch Worth It?
MAKE THE BREAD BUT BUY THE BUTTER?
I ran across a great book this past weekend and wanted to share it with you. Now granted I haven’t finished reading the entire book yet, but what I have read has been witty, informative, and just plain fun!
The book in question is Make The Bread, Buy The Butter, by Jennifer Reese.
Jennifer has taken what could have been a standard, (read as boring) recipe book and made it fun to read. She does a fantastic job at not only giving you over 120 great recipes, but also at giving you the skill and difficulty level of what it takes make each recipe and her opinion on whether or not it is in your best interest to just buy it from the supermarket.
Even if she suggests you buy it instead of making it yourself she still gives you the full recipe to do so. This is perfect for the fresh faced homesteader, and even for one who has been making their own foodstuffs for years!
Plus, be sure to check out the appendix, she gives some great resources for where to find some of the more expensive items. Just keep in mind that any of the prices she mention may be off as this book was published in 2011.
Also I wanted to pull an excerpt from the book to give you a little peak at the writing style. Nutella is a guilty pleasure of mine and I would love to make my own at home!
Delicious on toasted English muffins and by the spoonful, straight from the jar, homemade Nutella is nubblier than the Ferrero product, but also more hazel-nutty and intense. I thought the recipe from the archives of the Los Angeles Times was so perfect I decided to teach the sixth-grade girls in my cooking class how to make it.
They were very stoked—until they tasted it. They frowned. They were not pleased. So we added sugar and cocoa powder until we got the Nutella closer to the super-sweet, fudgy, slightly waxy spread they know and love. I began to wonder if they would care if hazelnuts were eliminated entirely. Perhaps not. This recipe reflects the happy medium between my ideal Nutella and theirs.
Make it or buy it? Give it a try. Hassle: Skinning hazelnuts is maddening. Cost comparison: Homemade: $0.22 per tablespoon. Store-bought: $0.20 per tablespoon.
2 cups hazelnuts (about 9 ounces) ¾ cup cocoa powder 1¼ cups confectioners’ sugar ½ teaspoon vanilla extract ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt ¼ cup neutral vegetable oil, plus more as needed
The plastic sacks of nuts from the baking section of a big-box supermarket cost more—often a few dollars per pound more—than nuts you scoop from the bins at a health food store, a co-op, or even the very same big-box supermarket.
Moreover, if you buy your nuts chopped, you may pay half again as much for the same variety of nut. Diamond chopped walnuts: $0.71 per ounce. Diamond walnut pieces: $0.50 per ounce. Whole Foods bulk walnuts: $0.37 per ounce. So learn to chop nuts and buy them from the bulk bin—but don’t buy too many.
If you store nuts in a tightly sealed container in the freezer they should keep for many months, but even there they eventually become rancid. You can taste it immediately when nuts have turned. Throw them out, because baking them or turning them into butter isn’t going to bring them back to life. It’s tempting to hoard nuts, like a chipmunk, but it’s also a mistake.
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Spread the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and toast for 10 minutes until they begin to darken. Transfer to a clean, damp dish towel and rub until the skins loosen. Don’t worry about getting all the skins off; you never will.
3.In a blender or food processor, grind the hazelnuts into a butter. This takes about 5 minutes—don’t stop when the hazelnuts are merely ground up; you want them shiny and pourable.
4. When the hazelnuts are liquefied, add the remaining ingredients and grind until you have a mixture with the consistency of peanut butter, pausing once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. If it seems too dry, add a bit more oil.
5. Refrigerate in a covered container until needed. It lasts indefinitely, though you need to bring it to room temperature before you can spread it, which is actually the only drawback to this recipe. When people want Nutella, they want it now.
Makes 2 cups
About ‘Above Average’ Joe: I am just an average guy with a passion for learning. I am excited to share the things I learn with you but I am most interested in learning from you. Thank you, Gaye, for inviting me to share the Survival Life with your readers!
MAKING YOUR OWN HOT SAUCE
Unlike Joe, Nutella is not something I enjoy but of course, I have other food-related guilty pleasures, such as my home-made pizza. But just to give you another hint of what the book is like, here is the recipe for hot sauce that comes in at $.02 per teaspoon – and less than that if your grow your own chilies!
DIY HOT SAUCE
1 pound Fresno chilies
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
4 garlic clove, peeled
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1. Cut the stems off the chilies bet leave the seeds. Combine the chilies with all the other ingredients in a blender or food processor. Puree until liquefied. Pour the contents into a jar with a lid and cap tightly. Store in a dark place for 6 weeks.
2. Refrigerate. The sauce with keep indefinitely.
Makes 3 cups
THE FINAL WORD
I have a love hate with scratch cooking. I love puttering around in the kitchen but the time and the cleanup involved can be a drag. I do try to find a balance, though, and try to make scratch items that are both fun and viable options when cooking from food storage.
One thing is certain, it does help to have dehydrated and freeze dried items available in my pantry to use as everyday ingredients. Also, I am leaning, my own dehydrated items are becoming both a time and money-saver!
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Bargain Bin: In addition to today’s book, here are some of my favorite food storage items. Whether you are just getting started or a seasoned pro, here are the items you will need when purchasing food in bulk for long term, SHTF needs.
Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: A fun book that will make you feel a teeny bit less guilty when you buy instead of making it from scratch.
Nesco 600-Watt Food Dehydrator: This modestly priced dehydrator has over 1000 reviews and comes up as the most highly rated dehydrator on Amazon. I think this would make a good starter unit although I personally own the Excalibur with 9 trays.
Mylar bags & Oxygen Absorbers: What I love about Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers is they protect against every single one of the food storage enemies. Prices do vary but for the most part, they are inexpensive and easy to keep on hand. And while you can seal them up with a FoodSaver, some tubing and a common clothes iron, I find it infinitely easier with a cheap hair straightening iron that you can pick up for very cheap.
60 – 300cc Oxygen Absorbers: This is one area where you want to make sure you are getting a quality product.
Mylar Zip Seal Food Storage Bags: These are the zip seal bags that I used to package up my spices, herbs and butter powder. These are extra heavy, 5 mil bags. I found that the zip feature made packaging extra easy although I still seal the bags with my hair iron.
FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer: As long as the unit has an accessory port (and this one does), and inexpensive FoodSaver will work just as well as the fancier models. That is my two cents, at least.
FoodSaver Wide Mouth Jar Sealer: Already have a FoodSaver? If so, check out this jar sealer which can be used to vacuum seal your Mason jars. This is a great option for short to mid term storage of items such as beans, rice, sugar and salt. Store your jars in a cool, dark place and you are set with the added advantage of removing a small amount for current use without having to disrupt your large Mylar bag or bucket of food. There is also a version for regular sized jars.