Many traditionalists greatly value real food and proper nutrition. We understand how our bodies do not prosper on fast food, modern additives, and trendy diets. Many of us are working to get back to a more ancestral kitchen to offer real nourishment and sustenance.
Unfortunately, few of us have the resources to actually live like our ancestors did. As much as I would love to install a wood-burning stove and plant a one-acre garden, I do not have anywhere close to enough time, money, or space to do it. The good news is there’s no need to start entirely from scratch; we can reap most of the benefits we’re looking for by working with the kitchens and pantries we already have. So, let’s explore some easy alternatives for common kitchen needs.
Modern Meets Ancestral
Let’s talk about kitchen alternatives that offer the benefits of tradition without the huge time investments of the past. As long as we have a functioning electrical outlet in the kitchen, we can try these:
1. Bread makers. Very few of us have time to make our bread from scratch, with the long process of rising, kneading, rising again, dough resting, and finally baking. (More power to whoever can, of course!) This is where investing in a bread maker makes good sense. I use my hand-me-down bread maker almost daily, and a basic five-ingredient recipe takes me four and a half minutes to make. (Yes, this proud homeschool nerd timed herself.) We have homemade bread, sans any additives or preservatives, at less than 75 cents a loaf! We can also use a bread maker to make cakes, gluten-free breads, jams, and preserves.
2. Dehydrators. Many nutritious diets include dried foods like fruits, vegetables, and meats, since dehydrating foods at low temperature retains their original nutritional value. Investing in an electric dehydrator lets us do this process ourselves in a fraction of the time natural air drying takes. In my experience, fruits and vegetables are the most foolproof foods to dehydrate. A full load of banana or apple slices takes between eight and 12 hours to fully dehydrate. Historically, dried foods have been one of the safest options for long-term storage—not to mention they make tasty snacks!
3. Freezers. Freezing is a great alternative to canning foods. Where our ancestors didn’t have the option to freeze things in warm weather, we do, and it is so much easier than canning. Almost any ingredient can be frozen fresh, and many fully cooked meals can be stored safely for months. Most of my garden produce ends up in our chest freezer, ready to be pulled out and thawed during the long Midwestern winter.
4. Instant Pot. The Instant Pot has a love-hate following. It’s not a historical kitchen tool, but it offers results on par with traditional cooking methods. I use mine for soups, stock, broth, quinoa, and beans, but it can also be used for meats, cakes, yogurt, pasta, and more. An hour is about the longest you’ll need to cook anything, even soup bones. The Instant Pot is perhaps the most time-efficient hack to getting old fashioned meals in a modern kitchen.
Oldies but Goodies
Sometimes, our great-grandmothers did know best! These are the truly traditional tools we also can easily use.
1. Cast iron, stainless steel, or ceramic/glass cookware. Popular modern cookware materials like plastic, Teflon, and aluminum have possible health risks. Traditional kitchens rely on proven safer materials for cooking. Cast iron is considered unrivaled in delivering perfect flavor, although it takes some maintenance and care. Stainless steel requires very little maintenance and offers results just as good as nonstick options. Ceramic or glass baking pans are breakable but cleaner and safer than most modern options.
2. Herb pots and backyard gardens. We can grow fresh herbs right on our kitchen windowsills. Many vegetables can be grown in pots, too—in my experience, leafy greens tend to do better than root vegetables or larger plants. Better yet, we could turn a few square feet of lawn into a vegetable garden. Even apartment buildings in cities sometimes do rooftop garden projects for tenants. Homegrown vegetables are healthy and hardy and usually cheaper than buying fresh produce all the time.
3. Glass jars. Glass jars are a fantastic alternative to plastic bags. Most glass jars are also freezer friendly, and many can be reused for years in canning projects. A frugal hack is to wash and save the glass jars we’re already buying. I imitate my grandmother, who washed, saved, and reused jars from jams, pasta sauces, and pickles. Why send it to the recycling center when we can recycle them right in our own kitchens?
4. Buy ingredients instead of meals. This is a mindset switch we can adopt in order to stock our pantries well and nourish ourselves. When we’re grocery shopping, we can ask ourselves whether the items in our carts are meals or ingredients to make a meal. Buying meals might involve a lot of prepackaged foods, microwaveable lunches, and added salt, preservatives, and fillers. There are times, of course, when we rely on these. But if possible, we should aim to buy ingredients instead. This means looking for the most basic ingredients possible and doing the work of putting the meal together in our own kitchen. We might buy more in bulk, stock up on single dry ingredients (like flour and sugar and salt), get more produce, and so forth.
Getting back to our roots doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Our kitchens already have the most important tool necessary: ourselves. Our creativity, resourcefulness, and effort will go much further toward benefiting our families than any wood-burning stove or backyard milk cow ever could.
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