If you’re reading this, you’re probably already a little familiar with shelf cooking and want to learn how to make homemade, balanced, nutritious meals for your family all while you lower your food budget, right?
It all hinges on shelf cooking.
Shelf cooking is a style of cooking I coined the name for that describes making meals starting with what you have on hand – in your fridge, freezer, or pantry. You buy only a few ingredients from the store to supplement what you already have, not the other way around. I'm so happy you're here and ready to kick butt in the kitchen!
When you start shelf cooking, what you will be doing is implementing a smarter, faster, cheaper way of cooking delicious, nutritious meals for your family. And you won’t believe how easy it is.
Psssttt… Did you know that Shelftember has made its appearance once again?! Come join us and spend the month of September really focusing on shelf cooking and making the most of your food! There may even be an extra-special giveaway going… You'll have to follow along and see! 😉
HOW DID I COME UP WITH THE TERM SHELF COOKING?
As you may know, I'm a mom of 8 kids! With such a large family, I get an overwhelming amount of people asking me about dinner time and how I manage to shop for, cook for, and feed my family on a budget. Let me tell you, it's a hefty task. But it's one I've been managing to do for years with a pretty low-key style of cooking that helps me stick to a budget!
Which if you know me, you know I'm all about sticking to a budget.
For a long time, I've wondered why my “method” of cooking isn't more common… as it's pretty common sense. It's become increasingly obvious that most people cook backwards based on a recipe they want to make, instead of what they actually have in their kitchen.
It's time to shout from the roof tops what shelf cooking is all about and help change the world one kitchen at a time! You ready to join the party?
HOW IS SHELF COOKING DIFFERENT?
If you’re like most of the rest of the free world, as dinnertime approaches, you start thinking about (panicking about?) what to make. You quickly flip through the pages of a favorite cookbook. Even more likely, you spend some time surfing the internet. And there you find it: a lip-smacking, mouth-watering dish complete with a full-color photo. That’s it! You’ll make that – even if you don’t have any of the ingredients it calls for. You jot down a shopping list and dash to the store. Problem solved.
Uh, no it’s not.
How much smarter is it to build your meal around things you have and need to use up – not around stuff you don’t have. To cook first with what you do have, not with what you don’t have (and need to break a land-speed record, along with your wallet, going to buy).
Maybe you already do that. Maybe you think that’s the way everybody does it.
Nope. Not even close.
From my years of blogging, appearing in TV segments, posting on YouTube, speaking at all kinds of events, teaching classes, consulting one-on-one, and working with families, couples, and groups, I can say with great confidence that it is NOT common to cook this way.
Here’s how it goes down for most American families… When they do cook or meal plan at all, they pick a recipe off of Pinterest or the web. They buy the ingredients they need from the store. They cook the meal (sometimes). Then they let the leftovers go to waste after a few days, or they toss the leftovers out before they even do the dishes because they “aren't leftovers people.”
Believe it or not, if you are a natural shelf-cooker, if you cook FIRST using ingredients from your pantry, fridge, and freezer BEFORE running to the store, you are one of the treasured few. In fact, you’re a rock star!
SHELF COOKING CAN SAVE YOU MONEY
It’s no wonder most American families are in debt and struggle to afford the lifestyle they want. You might have heard it blamed on lots of things; maybe you yourself have joined the blame game on this one. But could it possibly be that we've been cooking wrong all along? Could it be that the way most of us feed our families is costing a whole lot more than it should?
Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what it means.
Let me tie it up for you in a neat little package. Ten times out of ten, the families I work with are spending more than they should on groceries, aren’t using the food they already have on hand to its full potential, and/or are letting an incredible amount of food go to waste.
No more! Time for the revolution!
Fasten your seatbelt, because that’s what you’re about to see. And you’ll be stunned at how much sense it makes. Simply stated, you’re going to think about what you’ve got in your home, and you’re going to make it happen! And it's gonna be fun!
Okay, okay. I get it. If you’re brand-new to this concept, you’re not gonna have a fridge, freezer, or panty stocked to the hilt with all the stuff you need to dish up dinner. But if you commit to joining the revolution, you will have all that and you’ll have it sooner than you think. Because I’m going to show you how.
WHY DOES SHELF COOKING MATTER?
The truth is, there are are a lot of compelling reasons:
- It’s kinder to your wallet. You’ll be amazed at the money you save!
- It reduces waste! Forget about the carbon footprint for a minute and consider all the leftover-sludge footprints. That’s good money you’re just throwing away.
- It teaches you how to cook from scratch as well as some other nifty skills.
- It’s healthier! You decide what goes into your food.
- It helps teach your kids good habits! This is huge in our society. Shelf cooking teaches not only about what they eat but about how to make it happen without breaking the bank.
- And, maybe best of all, it keeps things creative and exciting in the kitchen – and who doesn’t want that?
So let's get to it!!
HOW TO START SHELF COOKING
All it takes are a few steps and you'll be ready to shelf cook your way through your kitchen and save lots of money while doing it! Ready to see how easy it is?
STEP 1: SET A GROCERY BUDGET
Okay okay, pump the brakes before you break out into the nervous sweats! We break it down into a super simple way that's easy to understand and implement. Set a grocery budget and it will help you get started on a path that will save you money… That's gotta be something you're excited about, right!?
STEP 2: INVENTORY YOUR FOOD
This may sound like a daunting task, but it's really not so bad once you get the first time under your belt! You have to know what you have before you can start shelf cooking… I mean, it's in the name, right?
- Do a total kitchen inventory to help you keep track of your food. We have free printables designed for you to write down everything you have in your fridge, freezer, and pantry! The only things you don't have to keep on it are your kitchen staples since those should always be readily available in your kitchen.
- Organize your pantry, fridge, and freezer while you're doing your inventory! It'll make it much easier to see and use everything you have.
- After you do an inventory, check out this pantry staples post to help you know which items are essential to stock up on to be successful in the kitchen.
Pro Tip: Keep up with your inventories each time you come home from the store or pull something out to cook with, and you'll always have an up-to-date list of food in your house.
STEP 3: MEAL PLAN
Now that you know what food you have in your kitchen, it's time to give it a purpose!
- Learn how to meal plan with ingredients you already have! Use our free printables that will help you plan your meals for the week, so you know exactly what ingredients you'll be using from your house and what you'll need to supplement with from the grocery store.
- Use our free dinner ideas printables to help you come up with meal ideas! Add your favorites to the list and you'll have a place to look and easily come up with ideas when you're in a rut.
- Don't forget to institute a weekly leftovers night! We love our leftovers around these parts. Not wasting food is a huge part of shelf cooking, so reusing our leftovers in a super smart way is very important to us! Once you learn how to reheat your leftovers like a pro and how to repurpose them into something brand new, you'll love them too!
Pro Tip: Make your grocery budget work for you and look at what's on sale while you're meal planning, using store apps, or those junk-mail circulars. Need some fresh fruit and veggies for the week? Go for those that are in season and cheaper.
STEP 4: GO GROCERY SHOPPING
Take your grocery list, either on your phone or on a notepad, and head to the store. Use our grocery shopping tips to help you make the most of it. Remember to only buy what's on your list and stick to your budget! If you find meat or kitchen staples that are on sale, then put items back at the store to keep your budget where it needs to be.
Alright, well there you have it! What are you waiting for? Let's start shelf cooking! Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below!
Want even more shelf cooking tips?
- Check out the recipes on our site the next time you're in a meal planning rut!
- Always try to use substitutions when you don't have something a recipe calls for… This will keep you from running to the store as often!
- Put your freezer to good use! You can freeze a crazy amount of things that'll keep them from going bad!