These time-saving tips when cooking from scratch are what I use to keep our kitchen free from as much processed food as possible, without being chained to the stove or feeling like all I do is cook. If you need help getting real food on the table without a ton of extra time, then you, my friend, are in the right place.
This is an updated blog post from a previous podcast episode (you can listen to that below) based on a reader question that I get quite often. The question is, “How do you make everything from scratch? I just don't have the time.”
The truth is, for many years I didn't have the time either, or at least I didn't think I did. But I also knew I didn't want to purchase processed convenience foods for my family because of my health issues. So I was left with a dilemma. Spend less time in the kitchen and eat less healthily. Or figure out how to make from-scratch cooking fit into my already busy schedule.
Cooking from scratch and using traditional cooking methods does take more time than purchasing processed boxed meals or fast food. There's no way around it, it's going to take more time.
However, it doesn't take a lot more time. Where there's a will there's a way! And over the years I've learned many time-saving tips that I'm going to share with you in this blog post.
There's a reason my first two books were Hand Made and The Made From Scratch Life. I've also written blog posts on the best kitchen tools for easier from scratch cooking, how to meal plan when cooking from scratch, and must-have pantry items for long-term storage (which also help when cooking from scratch).
Pioneering Today Academy
This topic is coinciding with a challenge that we're currently doing inside the Pioneering Today Academy. We just completed week three of the “Stretch Your Dollar Challenge”. These small challenges break down a specific topic into small tangeable tasks that you can implement each week to make small changes that add up over time.
If you're not a member, we'll be opening the doors to the academy soon, so be sure to sign up to the waitlist so you get a notification when the doors open again.
Let me encourage you to start slow and layer in each skill one at a time. Creating new habits will be much more maintainable if you layer them in smaller increments.
Time-Saving Tips When Cooking From Scratch
Have a Well-Stocked Pantry
You can't make food from scratch if you don't have the ingredients to do so. Knowing how to substitute ingredients helps when you run out of something, but you need basic ingredients to begin with.
Learn how to keep a well-stocked pantry here. Having a properly stocked pantry will save you time and money from running to the grocery store for one item (which always turns into more).
Another important tip is not to wait to restock a food item until you're out. Make a minimum threshold for each item and when you reach it, add that item to your grocery list. I keep two tubs of coconut oil in the pantry and an open one in the kitchen. So I know that when I'm down to one tub in the pantry, it's time to re-stock.
Learn to Substitute
For me, the closest store is 10 miles away (20 miles round-trip) and I'm not going to drop everything to go get one ingredient. If you keep the basics on hand, you can use substitutes for a lot of foods.
For example, most recipes call for some kind of fat. I know I can substitute melted coconut oil, butter, avocado oil, olive oil, or even applesauce or pureed pumpkin in place of a specific fat.
My general rule of thumb is to use coconut oil in cakes and muffins, but for things that are free-form like cookies, the coconut oil makes them spread out too much, so I stick with butter.
If the oil or fat ratio calls for 1 cup, I use 3/4 cup of coconut oil due to its lower melting point. I don't like olive oil in baked goods, but I like it for salad dressings or grilling.
Avocado oil is my new favorite. I started using it a few years ago. It holds up well to high heat without breaking down, and it doesn't have a strong flavor (like olive oil), which is perfect for more delicate or baked goods. I purchase my avocado oil at Costco.
Double or Triple Recipes & Freeze
Most of the time making a double or triple batch of something you're already making doesn't take much extra time.
This is a strategy I've used for quite some time, but I'm now challenging myself to implement this strategy in more areas of my life.
I normally have a large batch and prep time on Sundays to plan and cook for the week. Batch cooking can look different for different foods in the kitchen.
Some examples of this could be making sourdough pancakes or waffles on Sunday. I make a double batch and I toss the waffles on a cookie sheet in the freeze for an hour or so and then transfer them to a freezer container. In the morning I take them in their frozen state and put them in the toaster on the lowest setting.
I don't freeze our pancakes but put them in the fridge and toast them on the lowest setting. Think ahead. Bread products freeze great.
In the same amount of time it takes to mix up one batch of biscuits, you could mix up two or three and freeze the extras. With my flaky homemade biscuits, I roll them and cut them out and then flash freeze the rest in their raw state on the cookie sheet.
When I need biscuits for casseroles, as a side, or for breakfast, I pull them out frozen and bake them at the regular temperature, adding a minute or two to the cooking time.
You can double or triple most dough recipes, one of my favorites is pie crust. Learn how I freeze pie crust so they're ready to pop into the pie plate and bake.
Compile a Basic List of Meals
At the beginning of the week I decide what I'll be making based on what I have in stock. These meals are usually meals that I know my family enjoys already. I don't like trying out a ton of new recipes when starting a meal plan because I want to be sure my family will enjoy what I'm cooking.
I plan to do the majority of our cooking on the days I'm home with less going on. When I worked, this meant I prepared a large meal on Sunday and Tuesday. Then Thursday was generally a slow cooker meal for supper.
This has changed since I started working from home, but I do like to keep in mind our week and plan around any activities, bible studies or sports we may have going on.
I also like to have a couple of meals I know I can pull together pretty quickly with ingredients I always have on hand. These are usually tacos and spaghetti.
I also love this set of 25+ one-dish cast iron skillet or Dutch oven meals when I'm stuck.
Meal planning helps you see the meals that will use the same ingredients and incorporate batch prep where possible.
Whenever I make dinner, it's almost guaranteed that I'll be using some diced onions, minced garlic and diced celery and/or carrots. Because of this, I know at the beginning of the week I can chop up extra of these items and toss them in the refrigerator and they're ready to go when I need them.
Yes, this will take a little bit of extra time upfront, but then you're only washing the cutting board and knife once, you're only getting these ingredients out once, and all those extra minutes add up.
This goes along with making a double or triple batch. One thing I like to do is to make enough at dinner time to have leftovers for lunch the next day.
Depending on how many people take leftovers for lunch, this may not even mean making an entire double-batch.
Another great tip is to have one meal per week that's a “leftover meal” and everyone grabs odds and ends that are in the refrigerator that need to be eaten before they go bad.
Make Your Own Convenience Meals
There are some nights when I know I can't make the entire meal from scratch, but if I have things already made at home, then I don't need to buy them from the store.
Having items like canned bone broth, canned chicken, and frozen, freeze-dried, or canned vegetables means I can throw together a quick, easy and healthy soup in minutes.
Because all this work is done prior to cooking, it means meals come together in a flash, but still contain wholesome and from-scratch goodness.
Cook On Your Days Off
I like to cook a large piece of meat, such as a whole chicken (or turkey), roast, or ham on my days off, then use up the meat throughout the week in various recipes.
Save the bones (if any) from the meat and make your own bone broth. I love using kitchen scraps to make things that are good and useful for my family, instead of throwing it out.
Verse of the Week: John 1:5
More Tips on Cooking and Baking from Scratch:
- How to Meal Plan – 8 Easy Steps for Easy From-Scratch Meals
- Must Have Kitchen Items for Easier From Scratch Cooking
- Cooking With Wild Game (So It Tastes Good!)
- Batch & Freezer Cooking – 12 Time Saving Tips for Homemade Meals
- Baking Hacks and Tips for Busy Nights
- Traditional Cooking Tips to Get Homemade Food on Your Table Every Day
- 12 Baking Substitutions Every Homesteader Needs to Know
- Keeping a Well-Stocked Pantry for Easy Weeknight Meals
- From Scratch Christmas Dinner Menu – From the Garden
Hey Pioneers. Welcome to episode number 376. Today we're going to be talking about ways to save both time and money at home in the kitchen. Last week's episode, if you caught, that we talked about planning without having overwhelm on the homestead, and that was in regards to livestock and your garden and all of the endeavors that us owns homesteaders undertake. I know a big part of that is feeling like there's not enough hours in the day, and so it's very important that we are as strategic as possible and use different strategies that can help us make the most of the time that we do have.
Honestly, with both your budget and your time, cooking from scratch always has saved me money if I am making it at home and usually will save me time, especially with the tips that I'm going to share with you here. Because for those of you who have been doing a lot of from scratch cooking, you know if you are making all of your meals and snacks a day for your family at home, that adds up to a lot of time spent in the kitchen, a lot of cleaning. And that alone can feel overwhelming, especially if you are working outside the home or you're not at home. Or even if you are at home, maybe you work from home or you're also a homemaker. There's more to do than just being in the kitchen 24/7. Can I get an amen?
So I'm going to share with you these are some tips that I have developed and used and some strategies throughout the years of homesteading and cooking from scratch. I've got a lot of past episodes that have talked about that journey, my health journey, so cooking our meals from scratch with those quality ingredients to ensure we're not consuming things that pose health issues for myself especially is really, really important to us. And I stopped using convenience packaged foods. It's been well over a decade now, going on close to 15 years. But for a good portion of that, I was working away from home, which meant I wasn't home during the day and I would oftentimes get home at about seven o'clock at night, which makes it really difficult to cook dinner at seven o'clock at night when you're walking in the door unless you want to eat really late, which we didn't.
So these are some tried and true tips and strategies that have worked very well for me throughout the years and I still use to this day. This is actually part of a challenge that we are doing inside the Pioneering Today Academy, which is my membership if you've never heard of that before, and I know we have quite a few academy members who listen to the podcast as well. But I felt like this was such a good lesson that we were doing. This is at the time I'm recording, this was week three of our Stretch Your Dollar Challenge. Inside the membership we do community challenges that just come with your membership at no extra cost that are designed to break things down so that you don't have the overwhelm and take you through a specific topic week by week with support. So this was actually our make it at home week that was part of our Stretch Your Dollar challenge.
So if you're an academy member and you're listening to this and you did not jump into the challenge or you missed week three, this is your friendly reminder. You don't want to miss this. You've got a lot of goodies waiting there for you. And for those of you who aren't academy members, I felt like this was such a good, good and timely as well as evergreen timely, meaning these tips were going to apply no matter what, but especially where a lot of folks are sitting right now with the economy, inflation, and groceries and different things like that, that this was just too good not to share with everybody. So welcome to this episode.
So when it comes to the overwhelm issue especially in the kitchen, these are some of my best tips to make sure that you've got food on hand with the least amount of time possible, and that is to save time by doubling or tripling a recipe. This is a strategy that I have used for a really long time, but I'm challenging myself to apply it to even more areas that I normally do. So if you've listened to some past episodes of mine or been on some of my trainings, you're very familiar when I talk about doing my batch cooking for the week and my batch baking prep that I normally do on Sundays. But this is taking it even a step further and not just for the baking portion, which is how I normally apply this, but also for my other meal prep and cooking.
So you've probably heard of batch cooking before. I did not invent batch cooking. It's something that's been around for a long time. But I found for myself sometimes those things that seem so obvious that once you get out of the habit of doing them, you don't even realize you've really gotten out of the habit and how much of a difference they make until either you experience something that makes you need to bring it back in or you hear or read something that triggers you and you're like, "Oh my goodness, yeah, I need to get back into doing that." So that's where batch cooking is going to come in. That can look slightly different for different foods within the kitchen.
One of the things that I like to do is when I am making any type of dough is to double the recipe and freeze it. So for example, biscuit dough, this is an excellent one to use. Really it takes no more time to make a double batch of biscuit dough than it does a single batch. So bake the batch that you were making to cook fresh and then the other half of the dough you are going to simply cut out. And then raw, you're going to flash freeze it. Flash freeze, it just means put it on a pans so that they don't stick together until they're frozen and then you can take them off the pan and put them in a container like a gallon Ziploc bag or a freezer container, et cetera, where they're touching that because they were frozen individually, they won't stick together.
Then when you want to bake your biscuits, you simply preheat your oven, pull them out frozen, cook them from frozen. You guys can't get any faster than that. You cook them from frozen and usually just add a couple of extra minutes baking time. So this works really well for both cookie dough and biscuit dough. Now there are some doughs that I prefer to actually bake and then freeze from its baked or cooked form versus the dough, but biscuit and pastry pie crust dough that I prefer to freeze raw and then bake it at the time of preparation or eating. If you have never tried my pastry dough, which is pie crusts, it's actually my great-grandmother's recipe, or the biscuit dough, they are the flakiest of both of those, pie crust and biscuits, that I have ever had.
If you've struggled to make good pie crust before either it was tough, it was hard to work with, you couldn't get it to roll out right or just didn't have great flavor and texture, I'm telling you my great grandma's recipe, it has a couple secret ingredients, makes all the difference. I have had people who are in their 60s text me on Thanksgiving Day and say, "I have always struggled with making pie crust from scratch. I used your recipe and I cannot believe how phenomenal they turned out, how easy they are. I don't know where this recipe has been my whole life." And as I said, I can't take credit. It's my great grandma's recipe and it is really that amazing. So we will have links into today's episode to all of the different recipes like this that I have up on the website so that you can access them.
Now if you are a PTA member, Pioneering Today Academy member, you're going to want to go and grab your download guide that is inside the Homestead Household Management course and it's the Take Action Steps to Keep More of Your Money and download the Make It at Home Guide because I do have a lot available for free on my website. But if you're an academy member you get a lot more, and so you're going to want to grab the links that are inside that download guide and the recipes that are in there rather than grabbing the ones from the website. So just a little bit of distinction there. And to access today's podcast blog that has the links to all of these different recipes for you, you're going to want to do that at melissaknorris.com/376, number 376 because this is episode number 376 melissaknorris.com/376. Okay, back to our plans for keeping overwhelmed down in the kitchen, meals from scratch, and saving us time and money.
So the easiest way to do this is to simply double everything that you're making and freeze the second portion. Now, if you have a freeze dryer, I would highly recommend that you freeze dry some of those second dishes in portions so that your freezer is not stuffed and you've got some shelf stable items that all you have to do is add water to when you want to be eating said things. So depending on the equipment that you have on hand.
Now, the next thing in our repertoire of skillsets here is to do your meal planning. Now, like I said, easiest version is just double everything that you're doing or triple it. However, meal planning is going to allow you to look ahead at what meals need some of the same key ingredients and to then batch prep those items for the week. So for example, when you're looking at your meal planning, I don't know about you guys, but we almost have, at least at dinner, we are pretty much always going to be using chopped onion, minced garlic, and then possibly celery and carrots, maybe peppers, kind of depending on what it is. But onions are really the base of almost all of my cooking and garlic when it comes to savory. So if you're looking at your menu plan for the week and you see, "Okay, this dinner needs chopped onions. This one needs chopped onions. That one just needs some celery. That one needs carrots," you see where I'm going here with kind of these common ingredients?
Well, it's a lot easier to chop all of the onions for the week, all of the celery for the week, all the carrots for the week, all of those types of things. Chop them at one time because you're going to save time by getting out carrots and if you're using a food processor to chop it up, or if you're just using a knife and a cutting board. But you get my point, it's going to be saving time on doing dishes, getting things out, and just your time spent on getting ingredients out over and over again every night instead of just once prepping them all for the week. So chop all of those babies up. They'll store just fine in the fridge in their chopped format for the week. Do this for your multiple recipes. Take a look and see when you've got the meal planning like that on what things can I batch and have ready to go. This also helps for making sure that you've got the appropriate meats or things that are in the freezer that need to be thawed for that day.
I can't tell you how many times I realized, "Oh, I forgot to take out X, Y, Z" and it's still frozen and I need to cook dinner in 30 minutes from now. Now thankfully, I have some tips that can help you on if you forgot to get your meat out on time. But if you've meal planned, then you can look ahead of time and set some of those tasks up, pull all the meat out for the week or at least for the first half of the week from the freezer and put it in the fridge so that day of cooking, that meat is already thaw and ready to go for you. All the vegetables and those types of things have been prepped, so you really just have to throw them together.
The other part of planning ahead is making sure that you have all of your ingredients. So looking at that meal plan... And I feel with meal planning, if I get all of my dinners planned for the week, score, I am winning at life because we use what's leftover for dinners. Sometimes we'll use them actually for leftovers if there's enough for everybody in the family to have it. More often than not, our dinners become the next day's lunch. So I don't meal plan lunch. Sometimes I meal plan breakfast, but I rarely meal plan lunch because I know we're just going to have the leftovers. But looking at what that is and making sure that you have everything that those recipes call for. For example, if you need buttermilk to make your buttermilk biscuits, do you need sour cream? Do you need cream cheese? You know where I'm going. Having that allows you to look ahead and see, "Okay, I need those items. If I don't have them, then I'm going to make sure that I've got my time prepped and set aside to make those items."
So I like to do that because really making your homemade buttermilk and your homemade sour cream, those cultured dairy items really don't take hardly any hands on time. It's just the sitting time for them to actually culture and for ferment. So it really just takes a couple of minutes for me to stir the culture into the milk, et cetera. And then there's sometimes an eight to 12-hour waiting period, but that's completely hands-off. I'm not actually doing anything with it, I just have to make sure that I've got it done far enough in advance so it's ready to go then for the recipe.
This is where I like to kind of like time stacking basically. So I know that in the mornings I'm going to be in the kitchen making my coffee because this girl does not go without coffee. And so I will make sure if I need better milk or sourdough starter needs to be mixed for something for that evening, whatever it is, when I'm already in the kitchen knowing that those things need to be done, I just go ahead and do them right then and there as I'm getting my morning coffee ready and that type of stuff in the kitchen.
The other thing that I will do is at night I'm already in the kitchen cooking dinner on cooking nights, so I will make sure while dinner is cooking and then I'm in the kitchen or even cleaning up the kitchen, doing the dishes, putting dinner away, et cetera, I'm already physically in the kitchen, that is an excellent time to get my milk heated for my yogurt and to get the yogurt get going and so then it just ferments overnight and then in the morning the yogurt's all ready to go, either put it in the fridge or if I'm going to strain it to make yogurt cheese, whatever it is, it's ready to go for me in the morning.
So I like to do... Actually, a lot of some of this prep work stuff like this for the week, I will work it into when I'm already in the kitchen and present. Oftentimes, that actually falls into the evening because like I said, I can have the pot going on the stove or I'm frying or making a sauce or whatever for dinner, I might as well have it another pot going with the milk in the thermometer right then and there for some of, in the example of this, of making yogurt or even cheese or some of my other cultured dairy products. So time stacking, when you're already in there, using that time to create a few more items, doubling up those recipes and then meal prep batching, anything that can be prepped for the entire week doing that all at one go.
Now some other things that you can do is look at when do you have big blocks of time. As I said, if you've taken any of my training and went through, I teach once or twice a year, I will teach the class on, for free, how to bake all of your home baked goods in just a couple of hours one day a week. And so some of you have went through that. If you're an academy member, that lesson's available for you in there. And then I also do a free teaching on that a couple times a year. So some of you are familiar with this premise already, but that is taking the block of time where you have it. And from the days when I worked a day job and was commuting to the pharmacy, that was usually Sunday afternoons. And so I continue that because that time of day and that day of the week has already become a very ingrained habit for me.
But look at where your schedule is and ideally you're going to be picking the day of the week and the time. And it's the same time of day, same day of the week, so on and so forth. I lost my wording there, or my train of thought I should say. I mean it should be consistent and try to make it the same time and day of the week every week so that it becomes a habit that you don't have to think about. That's what I was trying to say.
And so that is to do batch cooking. Some people will do one weekend a month where they will make up a huge amount of freezer meals so that they can pull them out whenever they do have limited time. They'll just stack the freezer with all types of these different freezer meals. Sometimes for some folks if you are pressure canning, that will be where you're going to pressure can up a whole bunch of meals and you're just going to do it over a weekend so you've got shelf stable meals ready to go in jars without having to use the freezer. You got to see where I'm going here with this. This is dependent upon the tools that you've got. But whatever it is, is it's the planning part. I think that I really probably hitting this nail multiple times on the head, but you can see all of this takes some degree of planning ahead of time and then executing, but it's really that planning part. You've got to get that in in order to do any of these things.
Now despite using all of the tools that I have just laid out for you, and we will have in that written blog post in case you want to print these out or go back and reference them, you know what? Sometimes you still have busy crazy schedule nights and times where you forgot to pull out your meat and it is frozen and you're like, "Oh boy, I need to have this done." So there's a couple of different ways that you can go depending upon when you remembered and how large the cut of meat is.
So when it comes to a whole chicken or a ham or a large roast, something like that, your instant pot or a sous vide is going to be your best friend. I love the instant pot because I can get a whole frozen chicken in the instant pot, cook it, and an hour and some minutes later that baby is ready to go fully cooked all the way through. So even if I forgot to thaw it out, it doesn't matter. Using the instant pot, it is very safe to put something in fully frozen. It will cook it all the way through. Whereas I would never put a fully frozen chicken in the oven and try to bake it that way. That would just be a disaster. It would be dried out on the outside and not fully cooked on the inside. I mean, you get where I'm going there.
And with a slow cooker, if it was a little bit still frozen, I'll be honest, if I was cooking it slow all day long and I had like eight hours, if it was almost all the way thawed, I still would put it in the slow cooker. I know technically I've heard you're not supposed to do that, but I'm just being honest, we never had a problem. I will also say though, however, that was always with our own meat that we had raised and processed ourself. I knew exactly how fresh that meat was, when it was frozen, how it was handled, et cetera. But the instant pot can be great for cooking your meat from a completely frozen state especially when it's those full, like I said, a roast, a ham, a whole chicken, et cetera. You can even do chicken breasts. You can do chicken thighs. I've done all of them from a frozen state. You usually just have to increase the cooking time when it's from frozen from the thawed, non-frozen state depending upon the size of it, like anywhere from five to maybe 20 minutes.
So a whole frozen chicken, if the cook time for thawed was an hour, then I would instant pot it for an hour and 20 minutes. See where I'm going there? You can look up depending upon how many pounds the item is and it's normal cook time, et cetera. There's lots of charts and different things that you can look that will give you the estimated time from frozen cook time and pounds... Not pounds of pressure, but setting, if it's high, low, et cetera, if you need to do natural release, instant release. If that sounds Greek to you, it is all instant pot lingo and will make sense once you've been using an instant pot for even just a short amount of time.
Okay, sous vide can also be an excellent way to do things. It does take longer, but if you remember the morning of, you can put it in the sous vide from its frozen state and about six to seven hours before dinnertime, very similar to a slow cooker except you're putting the meat in frozen, it will be done and cooked all the way through.
And then of course there is our old-fashioned slow cooker and/or a crockpot. If you're going to be gone all day or just busy, I still do love the slow cooker function. I just use the instant pot because it has the slow cooker function on it, but I know many of you, my mother included, loves her crockpot and slow cooker. She doesn't really like operating the instant pot to be honest. So she still uses her slow cooker if it's not a pressure cooking item. But that again is a wonderful thing to take advantage of when you know ahead of time that you're going to be busy. And that's just a little bit of planning to make sure that that food is ready to go and throw it into the slow cooker.
Now, these are all ways that will save you both time and money in the long run especially if you would have went and purchased something that was a convenience item or went out to dinner or had delivery or something like that because you weren't planning ahead.
One of the other things that we were doing, and we are going to make sure that we have the resources in today's blog post, is make it at home and not just cooking from home. Obviously that's what we've been talking about this entire episode, but looking at your ingredients for the meals that you're going to be preparing for the week and picking one of those items to make a homemade version of that you're still purchasing from the store. So for example, if you are making homemade chili but you're using a chili seasoning mix, like those packets that have all your different onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, et cetera, mixed together, taco seasoning packets, Italian seasoning blends. You get where I'm going with this, right? Well make those at home from your individual spices and buy your spices in bulk. You will save so much money. You won't have some of the weird added ingredients that they put in oftentimes to a lot of the seasoning mixes. You won't have the anti-kicking agents, you won't have some of the extra preservatives.
They still sometimes will get away with doing that "natural flavoring." I'm using quotation marks even though you can't see me using them with my hands. When they put natural flavoring, you actually have no idea what that means because they don't have to legally disclose it. It's a little loophole where they can throw a lot of things in there. And just because it says natural ingredients doesn't actually mean it's things that you want to be consuming. And then of course there's things like MSG or different weird things they put in there. Sometimes oils, not always, depending on what your mix is. But they can still get some pretty funky ingredients into those seasoning packets that I am not comfortable consuming. And again, I have always saved money by stocking the individual spices and herbs and then making my own mixes. Plus then I can really flavor it, tailor it to what our flavor preferences are.
Today's sponsor of this podcast episode is Azure Standard. I have been getting the bulk of my spices and herbs now, at least the ones that we're not growing ourself, from Azure for the past three years. I've always been very pleased with the quality of their seasonings. They're always very vibrant in color, really potent in taste when we get them. That's one of the things, if you're going through your seasoning or spice cabinet and/or your herb cabinet and you open it up and you're smelling it and you can't tell what it is by smell because the scent has been lost, that's a sign that's old. You're also not going to have much flavor in it, because it's passed.
So for your herbs and your spices, ideally within a year. I've had some that have been two years and if they've been kept in a dark environment away from moisture, away from high heat, sealed up nice and tight, all the things that we would look for when we're doing food storage, they have still been potent and been really good two years out. So it's going to depend on what it is. I feel like spices last longer than a lot of your green leafy herbs. But look at the color. Like I said, they should still be vibrant. If it's a green herb, it should still be that deep, bright green color of whatever it is. The duller the coloring, that's usually a sign that it's a little bit older. And really the smell test as well.
I've always been really pleased by all of the herbs and spices that I have gotten from Azure Standard. I get my cumin from them. I get my chili powder from them, my cinnamon, my nut mig, my ginger. Did I say turmeric? I'm pretty sure I did. Curry. I mean, all of the spices that I can't grow here I get from Azure Standard. The great thing is they have a coupon code for new customers. So if you're a first time customer, if you've never used Azure Standard before, use coupon code PIONEERING10 and you'll get 10% off your first order of $50 or more.
The key to not getting overwhelmed with this is to pick one item first that you are buying a store bought version of and make it at home. And after it becomes a normal part of your routine, you've got that down, then pick another item. Now we will make sure that we link to in today's blog post that accompanies this episode. As I said, I've got some seasoning mixes for you. So how to make some of your different seasoning blends, spice blends, et cetera, we'll link to that. How to make your own homemade yogurt. If you've never made yogurt at home, it's extremely easy. There's multiple different ways that you can be successful at it without buying a yogurt maker.
Sourdough. If you are buying yeast, then learning how to make sourdough will eliminate the store-bought yeast. Sourdough has so many beautiful, delicious health benefits as well. You're going to want to make sure you take advantage of that. If you're buying bread, learn how to make your own bread homemade at home. Or biscuits. If you're buying biscuits in a can or pastry dough, pie dough, pie crust from the refrigerator section or the freezer section of the store, oh my friends, I promise, you can make it at home. It's so much better. I walk you through every single step of doing that on the website. I've got videos on those so you can go and watch them.
Peanut butter, if you've not made your own homemade peanut butter before, if you're buying peanut butter, that can be a really easy item to make at home. Vanilla extract, you can make vanilla extract or mint extracts. In fact, almost any extract that you're buying from the store, you can make it home really, really easy. Refried beans, making homemade refried beans, one, I think they taste so much better. Again, not having some of those weird hydrogenated oils and then that they can sneak into the store bought ones, I mean, dried beans are extremely frugal, and learning how to cook them and make refried beans is a wonderful way to go.
Homemade bisquick mix, homemade cream of soups. Oh my gosh, we have not bought condensed cream of soup from the store in over a decade. I can't even imagine purchasing it because it is so easy to make. And you guys, you can make homemade condensed cream of soup. I'm not kidding you, I've timed it in four minutes. Four minutes. You can go and get in your car and back out of your driveway at hardly four minutes. Making homemade crackers, homemade granola bars, homemade tomato sauce, homemade pickles and event homemade pop-tarts. All of these are really easy to do at home, tastes delicious, and I have got links to all of the recipes and tutorials to help you implement those as well.
Now if you're in the Pioneering Today Academy, your download guide will have even more than what I just listed. But all the things I just listed is an excellent place to start. And if you're interested in joining the academy, we will be opening four new members in March. I'll have more information about that as we get closer.
Now for our verse of the week, I'm going to be sharing from John chapter 1, verse 5. This is the Amplified Translation of the Bible "And the light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it, put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it and is unreceptive to it."
I recently started going to a new Bible study with a brand new bunch of gals actually. Normally, I've attended a lot of Bible studies in the past. Usually all of the Bible studies that I have attended, we have picked a specific Bible study book, like it's on a certain subject and it will use different verses and walk you through that. You read the chapter or the day. There's different formats obviously for Bible study how it's set up, how many times you're meeting, et cetera. And then usually there's a set of questions that you'll go through and you'll answer, and then you'll come back and share your answers or there'll be discussion points that will tell you from that chapter, read through as a group, et cetera.
But this has been the first Bible study that I have done where we are just picking an actual book of the Bible and we are working our way through it as a group, and it happens to be John. And so last week was the first week that we started. I went to the group and it was wonderful. I'm sharing this with you because I had been part of a Bible study, there was four people in the study and we were really consistent for years. I mean, we met together. I can't even tell you how many different studies we did together over the years. And then there's seasons and things happen and change and we weren't getting together anymore as a group, but we kept having plans to pick it back up, the core group that we had, and just different things happened with different members and we didn't do it.
So I was invited to go to this Bible study and like I said, it wasn't with quite a few of the ladies I had never even met before. Sometimes that can be a little... Or maybe it's just me. But sometimes if you don't know people in the group at all and you only know a couple of them, the two ladies who invited me I know a little bit, but sometimes you can almost feel like, "Gosh, I don't know. I don't really know everybody. I don't know what it's going to be like." And you can kind of talk yourself out of those situations. But I will encourage you, it is good for us to step out especially with our... Well, I know what I'm trying to say, but I don't know that it's coming out very well. It can be really easy for those of us who have been in a church for a really long time or with our church members to stay within that group.
There's nothing wrong with being in Bible cities that are in your church and fellowshiping with people that are in your church. I don't mean that. But it's also really good for us to step outside of our church and our specific denomination in some instances with other fellow believers in Christ because Jesus goes across all denominations, right? Jesus isn't Baptist, Jesus wasn't Luther. You get where I'm going.
And so I just enjoyed so much being with and meeting new sisters in Christ. And it's really good. I mean, I read my Bible at home. I go to church on Sunday. I'm on the worship team at church. But there's something about being together with other people and reading and setting the word aloud together as a group, which is different because you're having that back and forth discussion than what you get in a church service. I'm not saying to stop or one is either or, ideally doing both.
But I was really excited and very encouraged from the Bible study. I can't wait for us to meet and to go back again. I wanted to share this though because this was... I mean, I don't know about you obviously, but I have read the Bible through in its entirety twice. That's starting from Genesis and reading my way all the way through. I did it when I was in high school and then I did it again when I was in my 20s. And then I still read the Bible almost every day. There are days that I don't, but almost every day. So I've read it through consecutively twice. But reading all of the different verses over and over again at 43. I just had my birthday, 43 years of age. It's something that I've read through the Bible a lot. I've read the chapter of John a lot. But when we were together as a group, I felt like I had so much more insight and the word became so much more alive even though I had read this chapter before.
What I got that was my kind of revelation to this specific verse, and which is why I wanted to share it with you, and it's really was 1 through 5, but 5 really encapsulated it the most here. And that is, that so often we can be in those dark places or those places of struggle, those places of hardship, especially if it's somewhere that we have been struggling for a long time or we feel like it's a reoccurring struggle or it's a reoccurring problem that never fully goes away. Or something is very, very heavy, you're walking through a very dark hard time. However, God shines in the darkness.
I have to say that when I've been going through those hard times, when I lean on the Lord and when I cry out to Him, that is where I see Him the most. That is where I am drawn close to Him. That is where I see Him at work. And He is actually magnified the most is in the darkness. And so if you are going through a hard time, to know that He is there in the darkness with you and that darkness never overpowers light, you can have the tiniest speck of light on the darkest of dark nights. Especially when the power goes out and it's in the middle of winter and it's a cloudy night, there is no moonlight, there is no starlight, power's out so there's no light from anywhere else, and you light a candle and you can see. Whereas you can have broad daylight, you can have all the daylight, it's a beautiful, beautiful, sunny day, and if there's a little darkness or shadow, the light just overpowers it. You don't ever see it.
But how amazing is that, that you can have total darkness and one little tiny speck of light, the darkness can't overtake it. That light is there no matter what. It cannot be extinguished by just darkness itself, right? So it was just a really powerful revelation for me that in those areas of hardship that God shines there, He is still shining there no matter how hard and how difficult those times may feel. And if you are walking in the midst of them right now, He is there. He is shining. And you'll be able to look back at that and see how much He was shining and how much He was working and how much He was there. And so I just give you that reminder and what I hope is hope and what is a promise for you, because I needed to hear that. I needed that verse to be brought to light and expounded on and to really let that sink in. And so I would encourage you, if you're in that spot, to read John 1, 1 through 5 and the whole chapter, but really on that part of 1 through 5.
Well, I know that this got to be a little bit longer of an episode, but I am so glad that you joined me and I look forward to being here with you next week. Blessings and mason jars for now, my friend.
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You work as a pharmacy tech? I’m listening to your podcast right now at my pharmacy tech job. =)
That is so funny! Yes, I’m a pharmacy tech since 2001 actually. There’s something to pharmacy girls knowing the homesteading way is better, right? Big grin.