Is just a more textbook appropriate word for SCRAPPY- and the best sort of home cook. A resourceful (or scrappy) home cook is a problem solver.
She uses what’s she’s got.
Maybe your grandma was like mine- she could make a meal out of whatever she could scrape from the pantry and fridge. While living in Nigeria (while serving a church mission), where groceries and access to them was extremely limited, she wrote once that she had a quarter of an onion to get through the week with. My jaw dropped at how I knew she was longing for more to season her food, but there was no panic in her tone, only humor. She knew how to use what she had- she was smart as a whip in the kitchen. My grandma Elsie was scrappy since the day she was born the only living daughter in a large family that in the middle of the depression from a coal-mining family in southern Colorado.
Resourcefulness isn’t desperation- it’s appreciation. Even when you don’t have a lot, it’s about appreciating what you’ve got. So this month I’ve put together a few down-to-earth and doable ways to be practice resourcefulness as a home cook.
Give ’em a go in your kitchen and see what sticks.
4 Principles of Resourcefulness in the Kitchen
- Less Can Be More.
- You don’t need tons of equipment or a myriad of exotic or specialty options of food to cook good, even phenomenal food.
- Owning less stuff (less food, less kitchen equipment, etc) makes it easier to manage and use what you have. Unless you know you will totally use 3 kinds of paprika, only buy what you actually use and in the amount you will use before it tastes like red-colored chalk.
- Take Care of What You Have.
- Purchase items carefully, pick what you can afford, but as much as you are able, pick the high-quality (not necessarily high-priced) item that you’ll love to use and will last.
- Same thing with food and kitchen tools- store them properly, take care of them and they’ll last so much longer. That can be as simple as rubber-banding the half-used bag of spaghetti noodles so they don’t end up on the floor next time you pull them from the cupboard or learning to care for your cast iron skillet (which will last from this life to the next- seriously the best $15 you can spend on kitchen equipment.)
- Come from a Place of Gratitude.
- When you really appreciate things, you don’t take them for granted- and you enjoy and use them. You don’t throw things out lightly. I once watched a friend cut up a beautiful watermelon and then throw the bottom and top quarter sections in the trash rather than cut them. I stared wide-eyed wonder at the waste. If you’re grateful for what you have, you remember the most convenient way to have more is to use more of what you have. That doesn’t mean have a panic attack about what you do let go of- but it asks you to be aware and engaged with our choices and usage.
- That also means not settling into a feeling of lack- it’s being down with what you have instead of fixating on what you don’t. (This can be as simple as the liking and using the fork you do have to juice your limes instead of the fancy citrus press you don’t.)
- Be Curious.
- When you’re curious, you don’t throw in the towel and open a package for dinner because you’re out of carrots or the oven isn’t working, and you allow yourself to wonder what would happen if I changed things up? And if the answer looks like a probable possibility, TRY IT!
- I love Nelson Mandela’s mantra, “I never lose. I either win or learn.” It’s a reminder that it’s okay to flop and burn something- let it teach you so you get better over time. Like that time I learned that clam chowder can curdle in the crock pot. I’ve never made that mistake again.
- It’s an approachable way to creativity- be curious about garnishes, substitutions, or new ingredients and suddenly new things don’t feel daunting- they can feel like a delightful detour or a challenge. For me there’s so much in mindset- if I don’t get attached to the outcome, I feel open to possibilities- like serving a jam that didn’t set as a sauce instead.
Scrappy is happy.
Getting into resourcefulness in the kitchen means wasting less, storing smarter, being thankful, and playfully coloring outside of the lines of expectations.
What does resourcefulness look like to you?
(To me, it means it’s time to go through the freezer and enjoy the food what I socked away- hello, shopping trips I don’t have to make.)
Or I just ask myself, What would Grandma do?