Cooking Plant-Based From Scratch for Beginners and On a Budget [+ Our Tested 6 Hacks To Save You Time + Money]

cooking from scratch natural lifestyle

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You may have heard it before, but cooking from scratch can SERIOUSLY help you save money. Buying ready made meals and processed foods is not only unhealthy for you, but it’s also quite expensive! 

It doesn’t matter whether you eat meat or lead a plant-based diet, it’s important for your health and wellbeing to ditch those processed foods, tins, jars of shop-bought sauces and making your own.

This will be particularly beneficial for you if: 

  • You’re trying to lose weight 
  • You need to save money 
  • Want to live healthier  
  • You want to cut out or reduce salt intake

I think it’s really important to make cooking from scratch a daily ritual, because then it becomes a part of your day, your routine. It can even help you relax and switch off after a day of work. 

Why Should You Cook From Scratch?

First of all, because it’s more FUN! Oh the joy of cooking something from scratch and devouring the dish afterwards, nothing quite like it!

Especially if you’re cooking for others (by others I mean your partner, children etc) it doesn’t have to be a special occasion or when people come round for dinner that you cook something homemade. 

Other household members will definitely appreciate a home cooked meal and will be able to tell the difference.

Once you get into the habit of cooking from scratch daily, you’ll learn a lot more about cooking and you’ll be willing to experiment a bit more with new flavours, new dishes and techniques. 

There are of course plenty more reasons why you should cook from scratch: 

  • It’s healthier 
  • Saves money 
  • It tastes better/different 
  • You get to enjoy the cooking process more 
  • It’s more rewarding 
  • You have more control over the dish and flavourings 
  • Cooking can be therapeutic 
  • You can make a bigger portion to save leftovers for next day/lunch 
  • Brings the family together each day/night 
  • Reduces your salt intake

Supports Work/Life Balance 

Cooking from scratch can be a great way to switch off after work. The first thing I do after work is meditate or cook, it’s a great way to refocus your attention on the present and be a little more mindful of your time. 

Hours fly by at work without realising what time it is, just letting the time slip away, waiting for 5 o’clock to hit. 

cooking from scratch

When you cook, you’re forgetting about your previous hours and switch your attention to a wholesome task, that you’ll be able to appreciate and devour afterwards. 

Cooking from scratch doesn’t have to involve complex ingredients or special equipment or hours of prep. A quick stir fry can take 20 minutes to cook (if using white or basmati rice, brown rice takes a little longer to cook). 

Most of us are limited on time, I know that better than anyone. It’s hard to juggle everything and on top of that having to cook a meal from scratch. Having to think about dinner like, do you even have the with ingredients? 

Do you know what you fancy eating tonight? 

Will your partner/children like it? 

Scrap those questions and chill. We have a few tips that will put any anxieties around cooking from scratch at ease. 

How to Learn Cooking From Scratch

Cooking from scratch is a habit – and just like any other habit or a new routine, it takes time to get used to and for it to actually feel like a habit. It depends on your level of commitment – are you committed to making this habit stick? Is your mind set on this? 

Are you actually prepared to make this change and put the effort it? 

No right or wrong answer, but like with anything, having the right mindset makes a massive difference to the outcome. Before you decide to make this change and make cooking from scratch your new routine – ask yourself: how badly you want this or how important it is to you? 

Maybe use a scale of 1 to 10, and if your answer is somewhere above 7, you’re definitely doing it for the right reasons so just work on that mindset and persevere with the new habit of cooking from scratch.

Ok but your mindset surely isn’t everything, right? Correct. 

We need some actual methods, tips and hacks to help you with introduce this new habit. 

I would suggest with a few simple measures: 

Recipe Books

You must have some recipe books lying around in your home. Go and check them out. Circle or bookmark the recipes you like the sound of and try them out. 

If you don’t like the sound of some of the ingredients, or if it’s a meat version and you’d like a plant-based/vegan version of that same dish, simply google the dish name and see what google comes up with! 

There are literally millions of recipes online, so you’re bound to find a variation of that same dish with different ingredients or a vegan option. 

I like to do this to gather ideas, by comparing the 2 recipes of the same dish and eventually creating my own recipe based on what I know both Ben and I like. We have a few of our favourite recipes listed in our Recipe section

If however, you don’t have any recipe books, visit any second-hand or charity shop and pick a few for a few dollars/quid and you’re all set!

Some great recipes books to start with: 

Fearne Cotton: Happy Vegan – Easy Plant Based Recipes to Make the Whole Family Happy

Alaska From Scratch Cookbook: The Seasonal. Scenic, Homemade

The Easy 30-Minute Cookbook: 100 Fast and Healthy Recipes For Busy People


This is an absolute goldmine for recipes – SOOO many inspirational recipes and variations and ideas, it can be overwhelming! So before you venture out onto Pinterest, I would recommend that you decide on exactly what type of dish or recipe you’re looking for. 

cooking from scratch natural living

This could be vegan dinners, or 15-minute meals, or salads, casserole dishes, pies, pasta bakes, pizzas, sauces – decide what you’d like to cook first, what keyword you need or what you actually feel like eating/cooking. 

You can of course just type in “dinner recipes” and see what comes up on Pinterest, but I can guarantee you, you will be overwhelmed with what’s actually out there! However, if this is how you roll and how you research, then by all means carry on. 

There are pins with recipes on the actual image, or ones that take you directly to someone’s website/blog to check out the recipe. 


If you’re used to buying ready-made meals and processed foods, this could be the biggest challenge for you. To overcome that challenge, write a list at home of what you need to get. This could be based on any few recipes you found and you’d like to try. 

I’d recommend that before you go shopping, you write down the ingredients you need to make that dish – cross out anything you already have at home, making sure the ingredients left are on your shopping list.

Or another option is to simply put more veg and fruit into your shopping trolley.

Make sure you put some tinned beans, rice, pasta, cous cous, lentils, that type of thing in there too. Coconut milk is always a great option too for sauces and curries from scratch! 

That way when you come home, you have your fridge full of fresh veg, you’re forced to use them and find recipes to use up those veggies.

I like to google the 2 veg I need to use and then the word “recipe” and see what comes up. For example, “aubergine, mushroom recipe”.

I always find a new dish and something I never tried before so it’s kind of like a dinner-lottery and adds that bit of excitement to your cooking after work. 


This is quite an important area – you need to have a good variety of spices readily available to make yummy dishes. Whether you cook with meat or not, cooking with spices adds all the flavour and change each dish drastically. 

The good news is that spices are cheap to buy. If you don’t already have these, I would recommend you keep a regular stock of: 

  • Parsley
  • Curry powder
  • Chilli flakes or cayenne pepper 
  • Salt/pepper
  • Soy sauce 
  • Garam masala
  • Coriander (dried) 
  • Bay leaves 
  • Oregano 
  • Basil 
  • Ginger (dried powder or fresh)
  • Garlic (powdered or fresh)
  • Tomato puree
  • Stock cubes 

Although the last 2 aren’t necessarily spices, they’re great at adding flavour to the dish and I always keep them topped up at home, because most recipes ask for them. 

Is Cooking At Home Healthier?

YESSSS it’s so much healthier! You don’t have the nasty additives, saturated fats or unnecessary sugars added into your food. Plus you know exactly what is going into your food and you can change the amounts depending on your own preference. 

Processed foods also have a high amounts of salt, which isn’t that good for you. 

When you’re cooking from scratch, if you don’t like salty/spicy food, you can skip those ingredients or add less. Not a fan of peas?

Don’t add them to your stew even if your recipe tells you too. It won’t change the texture oR flavouring of the dish that much.

If you were to buy these from the shop, you’d be forced to either eat it or pick them out of your plate. 

cooking from scratch on a budget

You choose the ingredients, and you know exactly what goes into your body. You don’t get that from take-aways or jars of sauces.

You might have the ingredients listed at the back, but have you ever actually looked at what they are? Or the % of fresh ingredients? 

They will have some preservatives and additives in there to keep the freshness of the food. This is another difference in cooking from scratch – it’ll taste fresh and delicious. 

The Spiritual and Mindful Connection to Food 

When you buy ready-made food, you lose the preparation and cooking process. The whole excitement is gone, the same goes for take-aways. Do you know how they prepared your food? 

Were their hands clean? Of course we want to hope they were, but can we truly ever know? 

cooking from scratch natural living

When you cook your own food, the process can be fun and really grounding for you. Especially if you cook with a friend or partner or even your children.

Ben and I always cook together on weekends whilst blasting music, it’s my favourite time of the week. 

By picking your ingredients by hand, selecting the spices and your recipe, you’re actually engaging with the food and developing a “relationship” with the food you’re preparing. 

You are in direct contact with your food and each ingredients as you wash it, chop it and watch it change colour and texture as it cooks. 

Tips on Cooking From Scratch 

Ben and I always cook from scratch unless we are in a rush on the odd day and decide to do a quick oven dinner like pizza or burgers. 

Over the years of cooking from scratch, we learnt a few hacks that really help us stay on track of always cooking from scratch. It’s a ritual and daily thing that happens in our kitchen. 

Our tips and hacks for cooking from scratch are pretty simple: 

1. Keep a Good Stock 

Your kitchen isn’t a shop, and yet, it’s good to keep a good level of stock of certain ingredients. The items we always keep in stock are: 

  • Stock cubes
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Onions 
  • Mushrooms
  • Peppers 
  • Garlic
  • Chopped tomatoes 
  • Passata 
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Rice 
  • Pasta/cous cous
  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli 
  • Spinach 
  • Baked beans 
  • Soy sauce
  • Yeast flakes
  • Frozen sausages (the only processed food we actually eat because it would be hard to make our own vegan sausages!) 
  • Yoghurt 
  • Tomato puree 

These are our essentials. I know for a fact that if I have the above in my cupboard, I have plenty of dishes to make up on the spot or cook. We also keep a good stock of spices as mentioned above. They’re pretty essential. 

2. Time

Cooking from scratch can take as little as 15 minutes. Think about it – 5 minutes to wash and chop your veg. Drain some beans/chickpeas. Heat up some oil/water, throw in veg, throw in some spices, cook for 10 minutes. 

While the veg cooks you don’t need to keep standing by it, you can go ahead and do some other chores while it cooks. I like to sweep and wash up during that time. 

Curries are amazing to cook too – require very little preparation, and you can leave it cooking for 30-40 minutes with an occasional stir.

If you need to relax, that’s a good time to do some yoga, or stick an episode of your favourite show on while it cooks. 

3. Routine

Make it a definite part of your routine. Before you finish work, start thinking about your dinner. What you need to do, what you’re preparing and which ingredients you need. 

As soon as I close my laptop, I go straight into the fridge and make myself a snack… Just kidding, I get the veg I need and proceed with dinner. 

Sometimes while it cooks, I’ll do some yoga, that’s become my routine. 

The point is that it’s something you do every day, just like getting dressed or having a shower. Your cooking and prep time is your time to relax, stick some background music on, and crack on. 

4. Mindset

Set your mind to it. Be strong about it and don’t give into take-aways (unless you’re having a treat day of course). 

Make sure you feel positive and dedicated to this change – your mental attitude towards this will help you stick with cooking from scratch every day/night. 

5. Resist the Urge

Whatever you do, you must resist the urge for the quick meals. The convenience is great, but how does the food make you feel afterward? Are you full of energy?

Do you feel light on your feet or do you feel like just vegging out on the sofa? 

That’s another thing with processed food, it just makes you feel like… well, crap. 

So you must resist the urge to put those processed foods and ready meals not your trolley. Don’t go into any shops on way home from work because you can’t be bothered to cook. 

Persevere with it and make sure your mind is set on cooking from scratch and making this your daily habit and part of your routine. Get excited and happy about the food you’re going to cook. 

6. Leftovers

When you cook from scratch you can make bigger portions, add more stock or another tin of chopped tomatoes to make a bigger batch. That way you can freeze the leftovers or have it for lunch the next day. 

Essentially, by cooking from scratch you can actually save time because you won’t have to worry about making your sandwiches for lunch. 

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