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Simple Steps to Begin Cooking Homemade: Pantry Staples


By Brandy [2], Contributing Writer

Are you working to ditch processed foods and put more real food on the table? This month we’re running a series called Real Food Made Simple: A Beginner’s Guide to Eating Better [3]. Our goal is to answer the questions [4] you might have and make the transition a whole lot easier!

Across the globe exists two extremes of eating:  the fast food, junk and convenience food diet, and the all home-grown, whole foods diet.  Somewhere in the middle is probably where most Americans fall. However, that doesn’t always mean healthy.

Small steps to homemade cooking can make a big difference. Many unnecessary chemicals can be avoided simply by making a few foods at home instead of buying packaged convenience foods. And while most of us know this, we reason that we do not cook homemade because we don’t know how or because it’s too hard or we just don’t have the time.

I was one who had the time. And I wasn’t afraid. I just didn’t know how.

The story goes that the thin-sliced pork chop that I served my newlywed husband could be used as a hockey puck, and really, it probably could have been used for such purposes.

And why? Well, because my cooking philosophy was pretty much this:

Throw something in a pan, sprinkle it with seasoned salt, and torch the thing at a high temperature until browned.

Okay, so that was 17 years, and 8 kids ago, and I have come a long way. Now the food I serve my family looks and tastes much different, and is almost never useful for sports OR ammunition.

But how did I learn?

Definitely trial and error, reading about food, spending time in the kitchen with my Mama and Grandma, and simply time and experience in the kitchen on my own have brought me a long way.

When my husband and I first started our family together, I had a short list of foods that I routinely prepared, including spaghetti (made from a box), tacos, “baked” pork chops, frozen breaded fish,  vegetable beef stew [5], Hamburger Helper, lemon chicken [6], and chicken and rice.

I was happy that I served hot meals to my husband and myself and felt content with our menu, even if it was small and not always homemade.

I didn’t even think about it not really being homemade, actually. Even though it came from a box, sometimes, I still felt like I “made” it since I assembled the ingredients and heated everything.

Shortly after the birth of our second son, we moved to California, which quickly introduced us to fresher, cleaner eating. California (at least then) had a special way of helping me want to eat fresh, organic, whole food, and I began learning as much as I could very quickly.


Although I probably would have found the path eventually, having been raised by a mom who was health-food conscious, I know that the move to California catapulted me in the right direction much faster. And by the time we moved back to Texas, I had quite a few new recipes in my repertoire.

From that point on, I’ve continued to learn and have gradually built up quite a large recipe box. Not everything in it is organic, or natural food, for that matter, but most of it requires cooking from scratch.

Each month during this series at Keeper of the Home, I will be posting Simple Steps to Begin Cooking Homemade. We’re going to talk about how to get started cooking from-scratch-meals in your own kitchen. During the series, we will cover the following topics:

Plus, in each post, I’ll give you some menu ideas, [8] complete with recipes for nutritious and delicious food that you can make for your family, even if you’re completely new to cooking homemade.

Let’s jump right in today and take a look at a very simple, yet helpful first step at beginning to cook homemade. You’ll see a new pantry staples list in each of the posts in this series, but for this month, it is our primary focus, so this list is considerably longer than what you may see in future posts.

A Step in the Right Direction: Get Your Pantry Ready


Stocking your pantry and refrigerator with some basic healthy food staples will definitely help set you up for success. Having key ingredients on hand when it’s time to cook minimizes stress, eliminates dependency on packaged convenience foods, and maximizes our possibilities.

Pantry and Fridge Staples

1.  Start by slowly eliminating processed, convenience foods and replacing them with healthier options when grocery shopping. Consider replacing the following foods with their healthier alternatives:

2.  Gather, over time, if necessary, the following items to keep in your fridge and pantry that will help you get started cooking homemade:

Simple Recipes to Help you Begin Cooking Homemade

Here is a sample menu of simple, easy dinners for you to experiment with over the next few weeks. Don’t be afraid to embrace the slow cooker, as it is a wonderful way to accomplish serving delicious, hot, homemade meals to your busy family.


Chicken Lettuce Wraps [27]

Baked Tilapia [28], served with brown rice, and salad

Crock Pot Chicken and Vegetables [29]

Crock Pot Roast with Potatoes and Carrots [30]

Garlic Spaghetti [31], served with salad

Beef Tacos [24]

Other posts in the series:

Real Food Made Simple: A Beginner’s Guide to Eating Better [4]

First Steps to Real Food [10]

What Is Real Food? [32]

Cutting Your Kitchen Prep Time in Half — Or More! [33]

Confessions of a Formerly Picky Eater [34]

How to Read Food Labels [35]

The Grain Controversy: Should We Eat Them or Not? [36]

Second Steps Towards Eating Real Foods: Switching Your Food Sources [37]

Sweeteners: How They Affect You, Which Ones are Best, and How to Use Them [38]

5 Strategies to Help Your Husband and Kids Transition to Real Food  [39]

7 Foods to Avoid [40]

Finding Real Food in the Grocery Store [41]

20 Easy Real Food Switches and Substitutions {with Free Printable Chart} [42]

First Steps to Eating for Fertility [43]

Keeping Costs Down in a Real Food Kitchen [44]

Raising Kids on Real Food [45]

5 Ways to Get More Fruits & Veggies into your Diet [46]

Food Is Not Cheap: 4 Steps to Budgeting in Real Food [47]

Simple Steps to Begin Cooking Homemade: Baked Goods [48]

Simple Roast Chicken (And Fabulous Side Dish Recipes!) [49]

17 Homemade Spice Mixes {with Recipes & Why You Should Use Them!} [50]

5 Ways Green Living and Real Food are Connected [51]

Simple Steps to Begin Cooking Homemade: Soups, Sauces, and Simple Dinners [52]

Where are you on your cooking journey?  Are you new to homemade?