Scratch Cooking with Basic Equipment and Ingredients: Less Is More!


What is scratch cooking?

Scratch cooking is cooking with simple ingredients, rather than using ingredients that are already prepared. It’s generally cheaper and healthier than eating out or preparing something from a box. Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated, in fact, it can be really fun and interesting.

Scratch cooking gives you the freedom to create healthful, delicious meals for very little money. It’s amazing what you can come up with in your kitchen!

Of course, if you want to cook, you’ll need some equipment. There are so many kitchen gadgets out there, it can be hard to know what you need. Over the years I’ve found that really, you don’t need much in the way of equipment to make fabulous meals. In fact, some of those gadgets just clutter up the kitchen and are not terribly useful.

I’ve found rummage sales and second-hand shops to be the best place to get good, affordable kitchen equipment. I’ve purchased the majority of my cooking equipment second-hand. It’s a great way to get the best basic cooking tools for very little money. Often second-hand kitchen equipment is sturdier and better made than newer tools.

As far as I can tell, a cook really only needs a few pieces of kitchen equipment to make just about anything.

All of these can easily be found second-hand for a dollar apiece or less. Here is my collection:


fry pan and flipper

Fry Pan and Flipper

I purchased this cast iron fry pan for $1 dollar and the flipper for $.25 cents. They are indispensable, probably the best $1.25 I ever spent! I use them for sautéing vegetables, frying meat, making pancakes and eggs.



Two Knives

Many cooks have giant collections of knives. I’ve found that I really only use these two. I use the large one for slicing and carving and the smaller one for chopping and mincing. Knives are easy to find second-hand, I bought these two for $1.00.


measuring equipment

Measuring Equipment

Measuring is a part of cooking and it’s good to be accurate. You’ll need three things to do this; a measuring cup for liquids, a set of measuring cups for dry ingredients and a set of spoons for measuring small amounts.


large bowl and large spoon

Large Bowl and Large Spoon

These are easy to find and very affordable. I bought this pair for less than $1,00. A large bowl and a large spoon are the heart of the kitchen. They can be used for both cooking and serving.


pots for cooking

A Big Pot and A Little Pot

Two more essentials for a working kitchen. I use these on the stove top for making pasta and for simmering sauce or soup. I’ve also used them in the oven for roasting meats and vegetables.


cookie sheet and 2-quart hot dish

A Cookie Sheet and a 2-Quart Hot Dish

These are two important things for the oven. In addition to making cookies, I also use the cookie sheet for making pizzas, roasting vegetables and baking bread. A two quart hot dish is very useful for making all sorts of casseroles.



A Colander (Strainer)

Very important for draining and straining. Also useful for washing fresh fruits and vegetables.

A cook armed with these essential kitchen tools could make breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between.

I cook nearly every day and work mostly with fresh, whole ingredients. Here is my easy recipe for gumbo. It makes a big batch so expect leftovers! Gumbo is perfect for dinner or lunch.

Brat Gumbo in Less than an Hour


1 cup uncooked rice
2 cups water
1 pack fresh bratwurst (usually 5 bratwurst)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped celery
6 to 8 fresh tomatoes, or (2) 28 oz cans whole tomatoes or sauce
2 to 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or 2 to 4 chicken bouillon cubes
2 Tablespoons butter or cooking oil
Salt and pepper


2-quart casserole dish, fry pan, knife, measuring cup, flipper and a large pot.

Preparation and Cooking Time:

About 1 hour

How To:

1. Get the rice cooking

Measure out 1 cup of uncooked rice into a 2-quart casserole dish. Next, dump 2 cups of water over the rice. Cover and put the dish in a 350 degree oven until the rice soaks up all the water and is done and tender (about half an hour).

2. Get the brats cooking

Place one pack of fresh bratwurst in a fry pan. Add enough water to cover and set the burner to low. Pierce each brat with a fork and simmer for about 20 minutes.

3. While your brats and rice are cooking…

Use a knife to chop up into ½ inch pieces: 1 cup onion, 1 cup green pepper and 1 cup celery.

4. Sauté!

Put a large pot on a burner and set the heat to medium. Put 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil in the pot. Add your onion, green pepper and celery to the pot. Using a flipper (some folks call them spatulas) toss the vegetables around while they are cooking for about five minutes.

5. Add some tomatoes to the pot

You can use fresh chopped tomatoes or whole canned tomatoes or plain tomato sauce. Generally if I’m working with fresh tomatoes I use six to eight and if I’m using canned I put in (2) 28 ounce cans.

6. Stir in 2 to 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock to the pot

If you like a thicker gumbo use 2 cups, if you’d like thinner gumbo go ahead and put in 4 cups. Bouillon cubes work just fine and are usually cheaper than boxed or canned stocks.

7. Slice the brats

When the brats are done slice them into ¼ inch slices and add them to the tomato mixture.

8. Season

Add salt and pepper to taste

Simmer a bit to let the flavors mingle then serve over the rice.

Enjoy your “from scratch” healthy and delicious meal!

About the Author

Photo of Renee Betterndorft
Renee Bettendorft

Renee is a food enthusiast. She lives in a farm in West-Central Wisconsin where she grows vegetables and creates her own recipes for bread. She shares the farm with her husband, two sons, a small herd of cattle, six sheep, 50 chicken, and two ducks.
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