In the first article, “Tangibles Investing in an Uncertain Economy: How a 42-Year-Old Book Holds the Key to Beat Inflation,” I wrote about The Alpha Strategy, which is a system made famous by author John A. Pugsley in a book he wrote by the same title published in 1980. He advocated buying ahead and storing several years’ worth of items your household uses all the time, thus defeating the inevitable rising prices due to inflation and freeing up additional disposable income over the number of years’ worth of these items you store.
This article will look at scratch cooking as another way to save significant amounts of money on your grocery bill, allowing you to have more disposable income to purchase and store more household items implementing The Alpha Strategy or for other investments.
Why not learn to scratch cook, which is a valuable skill, using the tools you already have in your kitchen? Preparedness experts agree that having skills is always more desirable than having things. You can purchase all kinds of equipment and tools, but they are essentially worthless if you don’t know how to use them. It also makes sense because of power outages, to learn to cook with ingredients rather than throwing a frozen entree into the microwave. In an emergency, you will be ready to prepare and cook meals over an open flame, if necessary.
What is Scratch Cooking and Why Should You Learn It?
Scratch cooking is how all of humanity prepared food in the days before just-in-time logistics, fast food, and overly-processed foods. It is the skill of making good things to eat from ingredients that are just one or two steps away from the natural state of the food. The steps in processing a foodstuff are to modify the plant or animal to make it edible. For example, flour is ground (or milled) wheat berries, which is one step away from the naturally grown wheat plant. Nutritionists point out that we eat healthier when we eat foods just one or two steps away from their natural state. Overly processed foods contain ingredients to lengthen the shelf life of the food, but include unhealthy amounts of chemicals. In addition to extending shelf life, modern processed foods add extra calories from cheap filler ingredients along with harmful amounts of salt, and food dyes.
The cooking processes used in the factories that produce such “convenience” foods also destroy the foodstuff’s original nutritional value. For example, most modern breakfast cereals are made by stripping out the intrinsic nutrition of corn, wheat, rice, or oats and replacing it with a processed coating. The ingredients are turned into slush, reshaped into forms (stars, O’s, small squares, etc.), and baked. In the final stage, “nutritional coatings” (sugars, flavors, and dyes, which are also processed) are then sprayed back onto the cereal before its packaged. Unhealthy foods like this lead to suppressed immune systems, chronic ailments, and significant disease. By contrast, cooking with simple, nutrient-rich foods improve your overall health and give your body the nutrition it needs to function properly.
Savings Benefits of Scratch Cooking
You can also save lots of money by learning to cook from scratch. If you stop buying overly processed foods and begin to purchase the ingredients to cook healthy meals, you will discover these ingredients are much less expensive, and you can slash your grocery budget. My grocery budget was once $400+ a month, and by learning to cook from scratch using healthy ingredients, I now spend about $175 – $200 a month.
I started my scratch cooking journey by learning to bake bread at home. It’s an ideal way to learn the basics of cooking using ingredients. Bread is THE universal item on everyone’s grocery list, and as food prices rise due to inflation, learning to bake bread can save you significant money.
The Economics of a Loaf of Bread
The average loaf of regular sandwich bread is now $1.50 – $4.00 or more a loaf. I was used to purchasing an organic whole wheat bread that was $3.89 a loaf. Here’s what I discovered when I started to make bread:
Using a standard recipe, I purchased these ingredients:
- One 5 Lb. bag All Purpose flour – $1.56
- One 5 lb. Bag Whole Wheat flour – $2.74
- One 4 lb. Bag granulated sugar – $2.08
- Four 3-count packets Instant yeast – $3.08
- 1 box (4 sticks) butter – $2.98
- Total – $12.44
How Many Loaves Can I Make?
A 5 lb. bag of All-Purpose flour contains between 3 and 4 cups per pound or a little over 17 cups per bag. When I bake bread, I always make two loaves and use 5 cups of flour, (½ All-Purpose flour and ½ Whole Wheat flour, which is a little more expensive that making a loaf of bread from All-Purpose or Bread Flour alone). I can make at least six loaves of bread from every five lb. bag of flour.
If I divide the total cost outlay for ingredients of $12.44 by six loaves, that equals a cost per loaf of $2.07. Since I usually purchased bread that cost about $3.89 per loaf, I am saving $1.82 per loaf by learning to bake.
On average, my household consumes one loaf of bread per week. By saving $1.82 per loaf each week for the 52 weeks in a year, my total savings equal $94.64 a year on bread alone. This evaluation doesn’t include how often I can buy the ingredients on sale, or with coupons, or in bulk, dropping the cost per loaf even lower. I figure I’m actually saving about $100 a year on bread by making it myself. Besides, my homemade bread is tastier, and my house smells fantastic on a baking day!
Once I started making bread, I was soon branching out to make dough for homemade pizza. Homemade pizza is far less expensive and tastes better than frozen, carry-out, or delivery pizza, and there’s no tip! My household would consume pizza about once or twice a month, so I’m saving that cost by getting the fresher ingredients and making pizza myself. My scratch cooking skills have expanded to include soups, stews, and casseroles – all made from the freshest ingredients I can find. It certainly added up because now my grocery budget is just under half of what I used to spend, or $2400 saved in one year. As you can see, this can be a huge savings for most people, since after rent and/or mortgage and car loan payments, the average grocery bill is the next largest cost outlay in most budgets.
But Scratch Cooking Takes Too Much Time!
The biggest rap against scratch cooking is the perception that it takes way too much time to produce a meal. Obviously it takes longer to put a savory vegetable soup together than boiling water for a quick cup of instant soup. It comes down to priorities. If you are willing to do a little prep work, you will reap the rewards of better health and money saved. It is possible to do your weekly meal planning with efficiency in mind. Once you transition to preparing most of your meals from scratch, you can learn to save time by planning your weekly meals and prepping the ingredients ahead of time, and storing them for quick use when needed. Many YouTube videos show you how to do this. All it takes is a bit of organization and time management, and the results will improve your diet, significantly reduce your grocery bill, and not take up too much of your time.
Overall, my scratch cooking experience has allowed me to finance my tangible investing and has helped me purchase all my long-term food storage. Once you have a repertoire of healthy meals you create from ingredients, you can learn food canning to stretch your savings further and have a store of these items on hand at today’s lower prices, instead of the costs that continue to creep higher during extreme inflation.
The Scratch Cooking Challenge
Given that experts believe we are entering a time of potential double-digit inflation, I urge you to learn scratch cooking, if you haven’t already. Start by baking bread! By combining scratch cooking with tangibles investing (The Alpha Strategy), you have a 100% risk-free proven hedge against inflation. I know of no faster way to improve your health and wealth than the savings and skills you will find by learning to cook from scratch.
Take the Scratch Cooking Challenge! For a free copy of my Simple Sandwich Bread recipe, email PJ at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: This is a guest post by PJ Graves. PJ is a retired award-winning radio broadcaster, news reporter and writer, whose reporting has been featured on national radio networks and whose articles have been on Survivalblog, Prepper Website, Rapture Ready and various online news magazines. In addition to writing, PJ runs Golden Page, an email newsletter featuring innovative ways to save money, side-gigs, prepping tips and little-known ways to change careers without going into debt or paying for training. She enjoys home church, living in Amish Country, exploring historic sites, classic films, cooking, volunteering at a local food bank, and small town living.