Another Thing For the Book Of Conflicts February 7, 2023 1:06 PM   Subscribe

We have had several lower-stakes conduct debates over the years - about things like whether cereal is soup, or the proper order for putting on socks and shoes, or whether you sit or stand to wipe after using the toilet, among many others. A new one has emerged in AskMe - are you an ingredients person or nah?

The AskMe is actually about "what IS an 'ingredients person'", and that got answered right away - this is a TikTok thing, stemming from videos posted by kids who had to make do with weird DIY snacks because their parents didn't keep pre-made food of any kind in the house. But conversation about the concept kept since people seem to want to discuss, I'm hoping we can start a thread to let the AskMe be about the question itself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos to MetaFilter-Related at 1:06 PM (72 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

huh. I had missed that AskMe, and no need/point in commenting in there now. hmm....

I haven't watched any of the TikToks but I think I get where they are coming from. kids are always going to be a little disdainful of their parent's chosen methods, right?

I grew up in a NOT ingredients household, lotsa processed/pre-packaged foods, and lotsa snacks.
but now I live an Ingredients lifestyle. I like to believe this is due to the mature choices of adulthood, but it may be largely driven by Mr Supermedusa (the food preparer) being a sort of natural-born ingredient type. I do like eating this way, but I'm also lazy, and sometimes a bag of crunchy garbage really hits the spot.
posted by supermedusa at 1:47 PM on February 7, 2023

I've popped corn already and have some buttered, some salted, some paprika, and some with this mix that's raging round my way, five-spice/chilli/garlic/onion, traded as "salt and pepper."

I'm interested in the food desert experience, that means delivery is cheaper in time and materials than making from raw, as with the class aspect of making from fresh because premade is expensive, plus also knowing/not knowing the culinary traditions of families kor youtube) who share the know-how -- which is probably how some of the more-surprising viral items come about. (And then iterations of meta: disdain, unironic sincerity, ironic insincerity for viral algorithmic boost, exhaustion, reinvention, disdain, etc.)
posted by k3ninho at 2:08 PM on February 7, 2023

I grew up in an Ingredients Household, mostly because of both necessary thrift and hippie parents. Very much "If you don't want a slice or bread or an apple, you're not really hungry" people. Prefab snack items were High Value Treats or holiday food, for the most part. Also we were vegetarian before it was more normalized. The pro of this is that I learned to cook early in life and have a pretty good relationship with vegetables and fruits in that I eat and enjoy most of them.

Friends didn't come over to my house as a kid for Reasons, but those who did couldn't handle what we ate in my family (for example, succotash: red beans, onions, and corn. Maybe cornbread because we have company! Or Rice, Peas, and Cheese which is what it sounds like. Also all of this is low or no salt) with the exception of one True Friend who also came from an Ingredients Household. Like, the snacks on offer are air-popped popcorn, apples, or MAYBE saltines with unsweetened peanut butter (you know, the correct kind.) When I was older and learned to bake this got better.

The con of this approach is that this scarcity, combined with other factors (so many other factors, it was the early 90's) means I have the specific variant of disordered eating that includes hoarding and hiding High Value treats, eating them where people can't see me, and overdoing it when I do eat them. I am gradually working on that particular trigger and that's getting better but yikes.

I can do a lot of stuff like make a soup out of random fridge leftovers and bake without measuring. Making grazing snack boards, as is the fashion, is also a strength! I'm coming along with the rest, so I don't regret how I grew up in regards to food.
posted by blnkfrnk at 2:30 PM on February 7, 2023 [13 favorites]

I was for the most part in an ingredients household growing up but my dad knew I liked certain cookies so he would get them a lot and sometimes in the freezer I'd be able to find frozen Sara Lee cakes. But otherwise we did a lot of baking of snacks so it wasn't that we didn't have them, more that they were usually home made.

Now in my own house we've got all the ingredients but will also usually buy snacks because I've got to pack 2 snacks every day for my kids and my strong preference is for dry stuff that can deal with not being eaten for a day or two that way if they aren't hungry one day the thing isn't wasted. We'll bake stuff over the weekend but that only lasts so long. For example my son was annoying his older sister Saturday night so I distracted him by making oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with him. We made a huge pile but somehow they got finished with the ones I gave everyone for one of their school snacks today.

Also, cheese and tomato sauce on a tortilla makes a much better pizza than the pre-made frozen ones you'll get at the supermarket. I wouldn't call that an ingredients household hack, just the quickest and cheapest way to get something pizza-like into your mouth.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:40 PM on February 7, 2023 [2 favorites]

I'm almost exactly the same blnkfrnk, but I still really suffer from what it did to my eating to this day. I don't know the difference between love and food, and I binge eat a lot. I don't think a chocolate bar or prepackaged food would have hurt me as a child, not compared to eating like this.

It's been a rough day here for me, food wise. Ironically, there's nothing left in my house right now apart from ingredients, but I'm so good at cooking that it doesn't slow down my ability to over eat at at all.
posted by Braeburn at 2:42 PM on February 7, 2023 [8 favorites]

We grew up in a non-ingredients household but where all the good snacks got eaten way sooner than the next grocery run, so there was a lot of chocolate chips and dry cereal raiding a few times a month.

I still do that from time to time. Special K is really underrated as a snack.
posted by Mchelly at 3:51 PM on February 7, 2023 [1 favorite]

We are an ingredient household. I will buy stuff like Kraft mac and cheese or a frozen chicken pot pie for an occasional lunch but I mostly make my own food. I don't think I've ever bought a package of ready-made cookies, aside from Girl Scout cookies or the occasional "single chocolate chip in a bag" impulse buy at the local mom and pop store.

Aside from take-out every couple of weeks, just about all our meals are prepared from scratch. My wife cooks most weekdays, I cook on the weekends.

I did buy a can of Chef Boyardee beef ravioli last week and put it in the pantry for some day when I decide I hate myself enough to have it for lunch. I think I've had maybe one can of it since I was a kid.
posted by bondcliff at 3:57 PM on February 7, 2023 [1 favorite]

I grew up in an ingredients household (Mom trained to cook classical French, etc., etc.), and as soon as I was old enough, I kept a can of Pringles by my bed to snack on while I read scifi novels.

I think my mom turned a blind eye to it because I wasn't using it to get out of healthy eating. And I just have a really, really dominant preference for savory things.

But we were all a little like that: my oldest brother drank several liters of Coke a day for years, and they let that slide because he was doing well in school and obedient and a good kid. (Also highly, highly caffeinated, but mmmmmaybe there was a hint of undiagnosed ADHD that was self-medicated? Just blue-skying here...)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:09 PM on February 7, 2023

Also, I don't know what the situation is like elsewhere but where I am there aren't any sales taxes on ingredients while there are on prepared foods so it's another incentive to be an ingredients household. Not sure where things like chocolate chips fall on that though.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:13 PM on February 7, 2023 [2 favorites]

Geez binary much? I cook for most of my breakfasts and dinners, but I love a bag of salty snacks and other tasty stuff in a bag.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:25 PM on February 7, 2023 [9 favorites]

My mom grew up in an ingredients household and really hated it. I thought it was interesting because I got a "kids these days" vibe from some comments on the original thread, but my mom is a boomer and if she'd had social media as a kid I could totally see her doing the same thing 😀

I very much grew up in a processed foods household. I don't have the dislike for my mom's style of food that she had for her parents, but I suspect that's because she wasn't overly judgmental about the morality of the "opposing style" and her parents absolutely were. I wonder if this is the case for others and their feelings about their parents food style.

I'm somewhat in between the styles at this point. I buy a lot of simple things like fruits and veggies that can be eaten as is because I'm overwhelmed by the idea of cooking. To me, going to my grandparents and eating their food was a treat, but I can also see my mom's point of view.
posted by Eyelash at 6:26 PM on February 7, 2023

I'm in here to talk about a household that is the opposite of either of these - the house with Wonderland food. I lived with a certain close relative about 20 years or so ago. I had just graduated from college, needed a place to stay. Why not? They were out of town for a few weeks at the start so I was on my own, nothing new to me, been there before. I go looking for something to make for dinner, open the fridge. Seems normal enough: butter, cheese, milk, some veggies. Cool, I'll make something quick for dinner.

Start checking everything out and it's like a Williams-Sonoma catalog was purchased on masse to populate the kitchen. It's not regular butter, it's truffle butter. The cheese is some swanky goat-sheep thing and the milk is empty. Flour? Pastry flour. Jam? Quince. Bread? That brick like thing you get at Scandinavian stores. The entire kitchen was filled with food, just all of it was 2 steps to the side of expected. And none of suitable for making a grilled cheese sandwich.
posted by fiercekitten at 6:30 PM on February 7, 2023 [9 favorites]

I grew up in an ingredients household and it sure did contribute to my trauma as a disabled kid with motor issues who was chronically underweight.
posted by brook horse at 6:50 PM on February 7, 2023 [4 favorites]

Oh and the chocolate chips thing is SO FUCKING REAL.
posted by brook horse at 6:51 PM on February 7, 2023 [5 favorites]

It's both, no? I love cooking complicated recipes from scratch, but on the other hand, I'll also devour salty snack foods by the bag full. I like processed stuff like frozen vegan chicken patties and veggie burgers, too. Sometimes you just have to dump something out of a bag and into a pan or the microwave for dinner. You can also do both, make a main dish from ingredients and supplement with something from Trader Joe's or wherever.
posted by mollweide at 7:41 PM on February 7, 2023 [5 favorites]

I think I've become a sort of hybrid - I'm an ingredients household, but I actually do something WITH the ingredients. I do the thing where you cook on the weekend and the leftovers live in the fridge so on weeknights you just have to serve up something out of a bowl and heat it up. (Like tonight - the from-scratch baked beans took 8 hours in a crock pot last weekend, but eating one serving of them tonight took 5 minutes.)

I'm also trying to cultivate a habit of having some kind of simple cake made and on hand to be gradually eaten through the week. Nothing elaborate and frosted, just a pound cake kind of thing.

It's kind of a best-of-both-worlds situation, maybe?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:58 PM on February 7, 2023 [4 favorites]

Hmm wish I'd seen this a bit earlier in the evening, have been thinking about frying up a batch of chocolate chip cookies (frying as a euphemism for baking makes no sense tho, eh) but, bit late, had not gotten around but if this thread is still going I'll relate that glorious moment of burning the tongue slightly with dripping hot cookies right out of the oven. Nuked double stuffed does not compare.
posted by sammyo at 8:23 PM on February 7, 2023 [1 favorite]

I guess I'm an ingredients household, but I thought I was just avoiding buying snack food because I will then eat the snack food immediately and then have no more snack food (or if I buy enough snack food to eat through the week, OMG that's a lot of snack food!) and a piece of fruit is much better. Those ultra-processed snack foods are purposefully engineered to be addictive, and they certainly are for me. I do better to avoid them entirely, or buy one small bag of chips a week.
posted by rikschell at 5:48 AM on February 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

frying as a euphemism for baking

Fascinating! Do you know if this is a regional expression?
posted by zamboni at 6:04 AM on February 8, 2023

We are a processed food house, I guess? My kids have yogurt cups and fruit cups and applesauce pouches and cereal and goldfish available to them. But they also have multiple fruits and veggies and a popular snack is a "big block of cheese" whereby they fork off a chunk from the 2lb block we buy at costco. Only some of the processed snacks we have are at their disposal to an unlimited degree. And we have frozen premade foods, but also flour and rice and sugar. Store-bought pasta and bread (and tortillas, like mentioned in the original Ask) are, to my mind, a middle ground where both an ingredients house and a processed house might have them.

I grew up in ingredients houses, although a lot of that had to do with the higher cost of prepared items and our relatively low income. My midnight snack as a teen, when I could sneak down to get one, was a microwave baked potato with soy sauce and a melted generic brand kraft single. My after-school snack was a drained can of spinach, eaten out of the can (by my choice, I was a weird kid). Usually all this was washed down with a cup of crystal light or excessively sweet iced tea, only two ice cubes allowed.
posted by Night_owl at 6:13 AM on February 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

Something I realized after my comment above:

I'm not cooking for a family, I'm cooking for just me. So that's probably WHY my one lone pound cake and my big bowls of leftovers actually last me all week; they disappear slowly (sometimes too slowly), and since I don't have to cook from scratch every night, I have time to make a cake now and then and to pop up some popcorn for a snack on a weeknight. I do invite my roommate to have some cake or chili when I make it, and sometimes he does, but usually he sticks to his own stash of stuff (about a year ago he announced that "I realized I don't actually want to learn how to cook, and I'm going to live off canned soup and Korean takeout and I'm okay with that").

If I was feeding a family of four or something, the sweets and snacks and food would go WAY faster, and I'd have to be doing a lot more work to keep things up, and....I'm not sure I'd be able to do that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:25 AM on February 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

I'm a recovering ingredients person, and yes, this came to my attention via my kids stealing my chocolate chips. :)
posted by warriorqueen at 6:26 AM on February 8, 2023 [3 favorites]

I guess I'll add that I think it's amusing because I grew up in a very weird household but definitely punctuated by the "pop fridge," Tuna/Hamburger Helper, Campbells' Soup EVERYTHING and as the base of most casseroles, etc. These foods were seen as progress for women, who were entering the workforce in larger numbers.

So as a dutiful Gen-X person I became skeptical of the pre-made and pre-cooked, and weaned myself off processed food - as much as one can. I still love certain things but I deliberately worked to increase my cooking skills, use things like dried beans and various grains and get comfortable with leafy greens and all those good things. I make my own soup and bread and stuff.

So it makes sense that my son's generation is making fun of ingredients people -- and our cousins the "almond moms" - as a TikTok genre. It's the way of the world.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:30 AM on February 8, 2023 [2 favorites]

I was born in England the same year that WWII rationing finally stopped - 1954. My folks were "thank god that's over" and used a lot of butter. In the 1960s my mother, who was a good plain cook, also entertained us with >!NEW!< TV dinners, frozen chicken pies, fish-fingers [when they were actual fillets of cod; rather than a compressed slurry of fins, skin and offcuts], and a variety of breakfast cereal.

22 years later, I started my own family [ooops] and we defo couldn't afford 'convenience' food; so we became ingredientistas. A while back I found the notes for
One week groceries 2.5 people; Dublin, September 1976:
white pepper; milk 1pt; bread; 1lb onions; 1lb carrots; matches; ½lb cheese; peas; tomatoes; milk; milk; margarine; baked beans; bread; sausages; 2lb sugar; 6 eggs; biscuits; bread; baked beans; oranges; 1lb carrots; 2lb onions; 1lb tomatoes; 1lb dabs [flatfish]; 1lb spinach; 1lb beans; 1lb mince; margarine; ½lb sausages
The next year we rented a cottage with a rubbly back-garden and made dandelion coffee, yoghurt, koumiss, plum wine and foraged for fruit and herbs but the groceries stayed more-or-less the same . . . partly because the available range in not-USA was thin.
posted by BobTheScientist at 6:48 AM on February 8, 2023 [5 favorites]

For me, I'm more of an ingredients person. I try not to buy a lot of pre-made or processed food but I do buy some - Knorr's noodle packs, stuff like that. And I bet the definition of "processed food" varies on the person answering. I would not have considered a loaf of bread from the store "processed" although technically I know it is.

But my teenage son is definitely, one-hundred percent NOT an ingredients person so I make sure he has stuff he likes to eat. Pop Tarts, goldfish, Lunchables, cookies, the whole nine.

I have plenty of food hang-ups left over from my childhood and I am trying my best to not let that happen to my kid. I try to get him to eat whole foods, and he will eat fruits & veggies if presented with them, but if a Pop Tart in the morning will send him out into the world feeling full and more importantly loved then Pop Tarts it shall be.
posted by lyssabee at 6:57 AM on February 8, 2023 [4 favorites]

I grew up in a pretty extreme ingredients-only household (I blame the hippies, plus they didn't have a lot of money and this was cheaper). We probably had store-bought bread in the house no more than three times during my entire childhood, for example. Vegetables were preferentially from our garden and the rest of the year when the garden wasn't producing my parents would be grumbling about the low quality compared to what they grew. Cookies and desserts were 100% homemade. Pasta was a margin case: sometimes the pasta was bought dried but other times it was handmade. Ice cream would be bought occasionally, but while eating it there were grumblings about how much better the kind where you hand crank the bucket for an hour and half is. Fish was mostly from what we would catch.

I can remember coming home from school and complaining that there was nothing to eat in the kitchen, and being informed about all the things I could choose to make with what was in the kitchen. (If you wanted cookies, you could get out the measuring cups and start mixing...)

The plus side is that I learned to cook very early, starting with basic stuff like scrambled eggs and incrementally adding different things. The down side is that I was made fun of mercilessly for my homemade lunch ingredients -- everyone else would have nice tidy Wonderbread sandwiches, and I'd have these thick slabs of rustic whole wheat bread, say. And inviting a friend over for dinner was always a really fraught occasion, since you never knew if the dinner was going to be fairly "normal" (like a beef stew, or baked salmon), or something that for the era and cultural location was really "weird" like big chunks of tofu or stuffed zucchini.

At the time I hated it and wanted to have a "normal" family where food came in packages and clothes came from a store. But in hindsight I think it was pretty great and it was 100% my parents trying hard to be loving and nurturing by their values.

These days I am kind of a hybrid, I cook mostly from ingredients but I do keep some pre-packaged stuff in the house and eat that as well. I don't eat enough bread to make it worth to bake it, but I far prefer homemade bread to the stuff from the store.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:06 AM on February 8, 2023 [2 favorites]

Definitely did not grow up in an ingredients house - my mom worked essentially second shift for my whole childhood, and dad often didn't get home until after 7, so we made do with ready-to-eat stuff made by teenage babysitters until we got a microwave, and then it was microwave food. My mom's not a terrible cook, although she's hampered by a palate that finds potato chips too salty and a stomach that can't handle tomatoes because of the acid, but she never had time to cook and so... didn't. And dad makes good oatmeal but that's about it. I didn't learn to cook at all until I was living alone and too broke to buy prepared food.

It's very much a time vs. money thing, in my personal experience - in my current life, if either my wife or I has the time and physical capability, we cook a lot and don't keep much prepared stuff around, but if we're super busy, it's frozen dinners and canned soup. In the brief periods where we've been pretty flush, though, it's gone to high-end prepared food and takeout from nice restaurants.

And I was lucky in that we did not have a ton of moralizing or stress around food - mom definitely had (and has) some weight anxiety, and tried to cook in proper '50s health food style like her mother (no salt, no butter, no flavor) but we didn't get diet talk or calorie fretting or any of that. My best friend got sent to lunch regularly with a slice of brown bread, a babybel cheese, and an apple, and I'd regularly trade her half my much more reasonable lunch for her bread, because she was fucking starving otherwise. One of us ended up with an eating disorder, and I bet you can guess who.
posted by restless_nomad (retired) at 7:24 AM on February 8, 2023 [5 favorites]

I grew up in a strictly ingredients house (no snacks of any kind between meals, let alone junk food) and started out that way when I moved out on my own, but have drifted further and further from that with time (and encouraged more by the pandemic supply chain issues). I'm a little too far in that direction now - I always have a wide variety of delicious snacks around now and it's very comforting, but I have zero willpower so it's not great for my health.
posted by randomnity at 7:35 AM on February 8, 2023

The con of this approach is that this scarcity, combined with other factors (so many other factors, it was the early 90's) means I have the specific variant of disordered eating that includes hoarding and hiding High Value treats, eating them where people can't see me, and overdoing it when I do eat them. I am gradually working on that particular trigger and that's getting better but yikes.

This. Exactly.

I grew up in a fairly extreme ingredients household (Mom was kind of a foodie before we called them foodies and had herself always and me on a diet from roughly seven years old ), where the idea of any sort of snack at all was seen as a gateway to fat.

We never had any snacks at all except on beach trips and the days after my parents had parties, at which there would be leftover cheese, crackers, olives and nuts around (to date, hors d'oeuvres for dinner is one of my favorite meals).

On the plus, I learned how to make pesto at age nine. On the minus, I occasionally had to resort to things like canned tomatoes for snacks in high school. I also hid food and if it was any kind of snack food (candy, chips, etc) I hid to eat it because I'd been raised to believe it was so shameful to even want it.

Ironically, I am still kind of an ingredients household, but I always have cheese and crackers and olives around.
posted by thivaia at 7:36 AM on February 8, 2023 [3 favorites]

So it makes sense that my son's generation is making fun of ingredients people -- and our cousins the "almond moms" - as a TikTok genre. It's the way of the world.

I was wondering when we'd get to almond moms. I was going to mention them in the Ask thread as the flip side / reason that ingredients houses were being seen pejoratively on TikTok since it seemed relevant to the question, but I was afraid it was a derail.

Because (aside from the misogyny built into the term), that's where I think the ingredients households go off the rails. Most ingredients households are places where people make food from the ingredients. They're not buying processed stuff because they're baking / cooking / serving other stuff. The 'we're not buying processed foods because people should be eating less; have some nuts and sprouts' ingredients households - I suspect those can be really toxic.
posted by Mchelly at 7:58 AM on February 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

I hadn't heard "ingredients household" until my wife mentioned the AskMe and related context the other day, and I've been trying to sort out where to place my childhood relative to that, which I think is: a slow slide from poverty-motivated, hippie-justified extreme ingredients household when I was very young up through eventually a very prepared-food-friendly status quo by the time I graduated high school.

And there was a long middle point in there where I was self-aware, from like later single digits through tweens or early teens, where what we were was more of a "user-servicable components" household: there were four kids spread over about 12 years, we were our own collective/mutual babysitters a lot of the time with two working parents, and nobody expected us to be baking bread from scratch but if we wanted to make burritos we could put those together from spare parts without burning the house down so that was what we were supplied for. Or PBJ. Or a can of soup or a packet of ramen.

I feel like the landscape changed over time partly because Costco came along and suddenly having e.g. a platter of a dozen premade huge poppyseed muffins in the kitchen for us to descend on was simple and fairly cheap. Also I think as we got collectively older we also got a little bit louder about wants and needs as far as easy food or stuff other kids got; at some point Hot Pockets crossed the threshold and it was one of the greatest developments of my teenage years.

Now in adulthood, two of us with no kids, my wife coming from an even more strict and hippie culinary upbringing (I didn't have sugared cereal; she didn't have sugared...anything? etc.), we are an indistinct mess of food preferences where we try to cook regularly, and like it when we do, but also that's fuckin' work and sometimes we're tired and the thing to do is absolutely one hundred percent get takeout/delivery or pop over to the store and grab a frozen pizza, and then wrestle with whether that's really doable if money's tight, and then every once in a while have to just say fuck it and get something brought anyway because goddammit we're tired, etc. I got out of childhood without any notable disordered eating, a pretty omnivorous palate, a genuine love of junk food, an appreciation of but no fetish for from-scratch cooking, but under it all an ever-lurking scarcity mindset that makes it hard to really consistently meta-analyze my own feelings about this stuff.
posted by cortex (retired) at 8:08 AM on February 8, 2023 [2 favorites]

Welp, I think the fact that I started this MeTa and have already posted twice is an indicator that the original question kind of got to me, clearly....have been thinking a lot about this, and whether "wait, am I an ingredients person, and why".

Mom was kind of middle-of-the-road herself in terms of food. She wasn't an all-processed-food person, but she wasn't an ingredients person either. She had some limits - no super-sugary cereal in the house, stuff like that - but she also was a stay-at-home mom until I was in Jr. High, so she was able to make dinner and occasionally bake cookies and stuff. We had the occasional bag of chips as well. And - I got interested in baking myself when I was about eight (for me and the neighbor kid, throwing a cookbook at us was often our mothers' solution to us complaining that we were bored), so I started to be the source of Ingredients Processing.

When mom started working outside the home, occasionally "dinner" turned into these weird sort of DIY casseroles where she took Rice-a-Roni and some frozen vegetables and precooked meat and threw it all together; most often this happened during high school on nights when my brother was off at basketball practice and Dad was on chauffeur duty, and I was off at play practice or was going to be at a sleepover. It wasn't the "meal-in-a-box" thing that Hamburger Helper was or anything, but it was a similar more DIY approach. (Luckily for Mom, after he retired my Dad got SUPER into cooking, so after my brother and I grew up and moved out Mom declared herself retired from cooking and Dad took over, and they're both delighted by this arrangement.)

So I was a little puzzled how my current food habits actually developed. And I don't think it's a food-quality thing so much as an economic thing, and in a way that affected my life in non-culinary ways as well. I went through a decade and change of underemployment in one of the most diverse cities in the world - so I was being exposed to all of these wonderful cool ingredients, different grains and breads and beans and sauces and vegetables and this and that; I would tell myself that "oh, perfect, buying a pound of rice noodles is going to be cheaper in the long run than pad thai at a restaurant" and so I would buy a pound of rice noodles. But then I'd bring it home and be too tired to actually cook, or too uneasy to want to "ruin it." So I'd end up with this huge stash of untouched foodstuffs. But I did the same thing with other things - craft paints, pretty paper, art supplies, DIY and craft books, Things To Paint On, things like that. I didn't have to buy the pretty things and fancy food I wanted in my life, I could MAKE it!....just as soon as I got the energy to do that after working 10-hour days for too little money.

And sometimes one of these little aspirations would actually take off - I've knit several things, and I still often can my own jam and tomatoes after teaching myself one summer. I also still occasionally make a batch of some kind of homemade liqueur (I will never lose the fantasy of sitting outside on a sunny spring day quietly sipping some homemade strawberry liqueur from a cut crystal glass) and I have my own DIY spice blend for making my own chai (a spoon of the crushed spice blend and a spoon of brown sugar in a warmed-up cup of milk, steep for ten minutes, then pour into a big mug with a cup's worth of strong black tea - perfect). But most of the stuff I bought just sat there.

Another thing may have simply been the fear of scarcity. Like...if I used the spaghetti, I'd have to go buy more. If I used the chocolate chips....I'd have to buy more. If I made a whole cake, and I was the only one eating it and I had to throw some away....that was waste. I WANTED to make cake, but finding a way to make a cake that wouldn't go bad before I ate it all stopped me.

Fortunately the finances got on track, and I'm doing way better now. And after a couple years of adjusting to The New Normal (i.e. "not having to worry about money and resources so much"), I've been making a concerted effort to use the ingredients. The weekly pound cake and batch cooking is part of that; the week between Christmas and New Year I took a major in-depth inventory of all the food I have, and I've been tracking it all on a spreadsheet and carefully noting how much of what thing I have and what should be used first. That guides a lot of my menu planning - but simply having the time and energy to do this, coupled with being free of that fear of scarcity, is what really did the trick in getting me to actually using the ingredients I've got.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:13 AM on February 8, 2023 [4 favorites]

this is a really interesting conversation. there are 2 main horns: the "what kind of household" which is, in theory, pretty cut n dry, and the culture behind that type of household, which is all over the place and fascinatingly messy.

like, I grew up on processed foods, it was the 70s/80s, most people ate like that. I had never heard of tofu. my mom fed us hot dogs and mac n cheese on weeknights and my dad made something fancier and more 'from scratch' on the weekends. there was no shaming or moral element, we always had snacks in the house, always ate dessert etc. it was just part of the day.

by the same token my current ingredients household is in part due to access, financial capacity, and choice. we like the mostly whole, from scratch food we eat. but we mostly eat store bought pasta, bread, tortillas etc., making those things from scratch is a fun occasional project, but no way are we doing that every week. we are not militant and we don't have a strong sense of morality or judgmentalness about how we or other people eat.

but there are definitely strong elements of this judgmental and moral thinking around food, on both sides maybe, that can really do a number on a persons head and their relationship with food. we need to eat, and sometimes just feeding ourselves can take all the spoons (lol). I have no grand theory or wisdom to wrap this up with...
posted by supermedusa at 9:38 AM on February 8, 2023 [2 favorites]

Grew up on a cattle ranch, 40 miles from town. Ate whatever my dad hunted, traded for commodity cheese, had a big garden (for the short growing season) and had many ingredients. My husband is from a small New England college town, and his food experiences were pretty much the same—swap fishing for hunting and no commodities.
Live outside a major city, and while we don’t hunt or fish, we swap his condiments for other small business products. We have more ingredients than most corner stores.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:50 AM on February 8, 2023 [2 favorites]

Another thing may have simply been the fear of scarcity.

under it all an ever-lurking scarcity mindset

Yeah this underlies all my thinking about food. I have been meaning to post an Ask on pantries and may do that, because the pandemic + supply chain issues (which I deal with at work as well as at home) have done a number on the progress I had made prior to 2020.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:58 AM on February 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

Warriorqueen - I can shoot you some tips if you like (depending on if they're applicable), feel free to memail me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:19 AM on February 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

whether cereal is soup, or the proper order for putting on socks and shoes, or whether you sit or stand to wipe after using the toilet, among many others. A new one has emerged in AskMe - are you an ingredients person or nah?

A shiny nickel for whoever works out the Venn diagrams for these
posted by Going To Maine at 10:37 AM on February 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

We were a processed food family, my mother cooked but used premade stuff without shame. She would add spices and change things up, though.

But I had three older siblings so leftovers were rare and bags of potato chips last 5 seconds. So I didn't actually get to eat much junk food till they'd moved out...
posted by emjaybee at 10:43 AM on February 8, 2023

Tangential, but this brings to mind a comment on MeFi about how people rate recipe difficulty differently. Something like people who enjoy cooking say a recipe is hard if it requires lots of complex techniques, while people who don't enjoy cooking say a recipe is hard based on total effort even if all of the required steps are simple. Does anyone remember this/have a link?
posted by star gentle uterus at 11:25 AM on February 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

That... explains so much about my difficulty finding "easy" recipes.
posted by brook horse at 11:33 AM on February 8, 2023 [2 favorites]

My current household is an ingredients household - in that we have multiple different kids of flour, several different kinds of chocolate chips, multiple different kinds of pasta, beans, rice, for example. But we really don't cook that much due to schedules either, and my wife and kids pop out for prepared snacks quite regularly - I don't as much because they do that while I'm working. And we eat out pretty regularly too.

So I guess we are currently a 'poser' ingredients household.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:45 AM on February 8, 2023 [4 favorites]

For the past 8 days I've had a chest infection, 3 of those days without heat. Painful coughing, sleeplessness and misery. (Not COVID; I tested repeatedly.) So on about day 4, I hauled myself (masked up) to the local deli that has a butcher's counter, and in pathetically ragged tones, asked the butcher if he had any chicken carcasses.

He did! He had four which he bagged up and gave me; on the label he wrote "No Charge, Get Well Soon." That was generous of him.

So when I got home I made probably the best chicken stock of my life. Golden and warm and comforting and delicious. (I'm skipping how gross it was to prep the carcasses to go in the stockpot, but... let's just say there was my life before I manually extracted the surprisingly-still-attached chicken trachea, and then there is my post-chicken-trachea life.)

I did the stock absolutely by the book: first browning the bits of chicken; then taking them out and softening the onions, carrot, garlic for ages over extremely low heat; then the chicken goes back in the pot with some white wine; simmer till you can no longer smell booze in the steam... then cover with water and simmer away. I should have added thyme and bay leaves, but those were growing on the balcony and by that point I didn't have the energy to go out and cut them.

But the simmering stock warmed the kitchen (simmer till the bones fall apart. The chicken's, not mine. probably.) I strained the now deeply flavoured stock and put it in the fridge, and for the next four days I had the absolute BEST soup.

That's how much of an Ingredients Person I've become: the sort of hermit goblin who makes stock and soup from scratch while alone in the house in mid-chest infection. During the heatless weekend I even baked pound cake and pumpkin bread to keep the kitchen warm. (This meant being subsequently alone in the house with a whole lot of baked goods, but let's just skip that part too.)

The trouble with thinking "I'll healthify my life by not keeping snack foods in the house and just eating what I make" is that then you start making things that are really good and what then?? WHAT THEN, I ask you.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:14 PM on February 8, 2023 [11 favorites]

Going to Maine

I prefer wooden, over shiny...
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 1:15 PM on February 8, 2023

That's how much of an Ingredients Person I've become: the sort of hermit goblin who makes stock and soup from scratch while alone in the house in mid-chest infection.

I'll go you one better - I once made a roast chicken, but not because I wanted roast chicken - instead, I did it because I wanted the carcass to make myself broth for homemade ramen. (I mean, I ate some chicken for dinner too, don't get me wrong.)

The fact that I could have picked up a pre-made rotisserie chicken completely failed to occur to me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:18 PM on February 8, 2023 [3 favorites]

my husband & I both had chest colds through January (not Covid) and he bought and roasted a chicken just to make stock (which came out sooooooo good and the house smelled sooooooo good) we cooked some fancy tortellini to have in the resulting broth. and the chicken and veg the next night, and chicken noodle "casserole" the night after.
posted by supermedusa at 1:32 PM on February 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

We are an "ingredient" household, but I'll get back to that.

I had no idea that being an ingredient household was linked to food disorders. I hope I am not foisting that on my kid. I don't think I am. (They are making eggs for themself as we speak, even though dinner is just a couple hours away.)

That's part of why I have "ingredient" in quotes. If kiddo wants food? Just add it to the grocery list. Cheezits and soda are a thing on there almost weekly. (Kiddo has also been baking since about 9 yo, and in the last seven days has made some kind of cookie thing three times after school, so...)

The other reason I put "ingredient" in quotes is almost pedantic, and could read as almost... snotty. I do not intend it that way. In the Ask, it talked about tortillas. I've made tortillas! Not really that hard at all. I've made bread. Peanut Butter is easy peasy. I've done kits to make wine and beer and "gin" (depending on how you define the process of making gin).

But, really. I do those very rarely because the effort is just usually not worth it vs. the convenience of just buying it.

So, yeah. There's plenty of processed stuff in our house. And, I think we are all that way, just depending on where you draw the line.

I can't pinpoint when or why we have become so much of an ingredient household. If I had to guess, it would be when we had a quiet supermarket less than half a mile from our house. I could buy whatever was needed for dinner for a family of four for about 12 bucks and be in and out in 10 minutes. From there, it just became habit.

Still don't understand the wiping thing, though...
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 1:47 PM on February 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

The 'we're not buying processed foods because people should be eating less; have some nuts and sprouts' ingredients households - I suspect those can be really toxic.

Ah, yes, the direction my parents went for (albeit slowly and with maximal emphasis after I had left). When I was a young adult, my mother once served a salad with craisins on the side "so you can determine how naughty you want to be". Ah, yes, that very personification of gluttonous vice: the craisin.

My family were somewhere in the middle, moving from really-not-ingredients-household to very-ingredients-household over the course of my childhood. That change was deeply and intimately tied into my mother's (internalized and external) classism and class consciousness; enjoying food as a function of making it was more of a special occasion thing. When I was a kid, we ate frozen pierogi and frozen vegetables and hot dogs a lot, but I still remember my mother shaking her head at the pre-chopped vegetables display and telling me that those were a waste of money and I should never buy those. As I aged and my family got wealthier, there was more and more emphasis on being "ingredients"-y and limiting consumption of pre-made foods, especially anything classified as junk food. (I, too, have carefully stolen just enough chocolate chips to hoard in my room to keep anyone noticing I was filching them.)

As an adult, my spouse enjoys cooking and we have pretty much always been some shade of broke, so most of our meals come from ingredients; most of the snacks are stuff scavenged that requires absolutely minimal prep because of the whole adhd thing.
posted by sciatrix at 2:26 PM on February 8, 2023 [3 favorites]

I still remember my mother shaking her head at the pre-chopped vegetables display and telling me that those were a waste of money and I should never buy those. As I aged and my family got wealthier, there was more and more emphasis on being "ingredients"-y and limiting consumption of pre-made foods

Oh that is so interesting because I think in my family it was the opposite. Like my mother was a bit of a miser and both my parents were low-level hippie types so it was an ingredients house (in the 1970s) and my folks planted vegetables and we ate what I call "low on the food chain." But then my folks split up, my mom got a job, we got a microwave and convenience became a much bigger deal. I can still remember how magic microwaved nachos seemed at the time because otherwise nachos was either a restaurant thing or a thing you had to use the oven for. And then later still as my folks had more disposable income we had more processed foods around. I consider myself lucky that, other than my mom's miserly tendencies, I didn't have a lot of food shame growing up except maybe feeling like I never had enough sugary things because my mom was always trying to restrict those because she had some body image issues that didn't trickle down to me. Stolen chocolate chips were a thing in my household too.

And then I went through the same cycle as an adult! Was a very ingredients-y make my own bread type person for a long time (never had the patience for veggie growing) and then as I've gotten older, and with more disposable income, I have more processed foods around. And especially during COVID, I can both appreciate a "staying home and baking the keep the house warm" hermit goblin approach (get well soon Pallas Athena) but also I put off getting a microwave for SO LONG for... no real reason and now it's been a game changer in terms of getting food from fridge to mouth quickly and without making a ton of dishes. My house is a weird mix of "I make my own applesauce" and "I sometimes have hot dogs for dinner five days in a row and it's fine"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:21 PM on February 8, 2023 [8 favorites]

oh and should we talk about carob
posted by cortex (retired) at 3:45 PM on February 8, 2023 [11 favorites]

In the Ask, it talked about tortillas. I've made tortillas! Not really that hard at all.

I've gotten pretty OK at making flour tortillas that are great fresh but absolutely useless after any period of time. Doesn't take too much work or time so if we're doing tacos I can start with that and by the time I've done everything else they'll be ready to go on the press (my mom bought the tortilla press 20+ years ago to make roti and I feel that it's come full circle now that I use it to actually make tortillas).
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:56 PM on February 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

If anyone wants to share their easy tortilla recipe so I can buy one less processed thing, I would be happy to hear it…
posted by Mchelly at 4:43 PM on February 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

I just use the King Arthur simple tortillas recipe. I'm sure there are better recipes out there but this worked well enough the first time that I haven't tried looking elsewhere.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:49 PM on February 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

oh and should we talk about carob

No, we should not; that word brings up visceral memories. The title of the classic New Yorker article "How Carob Traumatized a Generation" pretty much says it all:

A wry disgruntlement will forever unite those of us who were children during the height of the nineteen-seventies natural-foods movement. It was a time that we recall not for its principles—yes to organics, no to preservatives—but for its endless assaults on our tender young palates. There was brown rice that scoured our molars as we chewed, shedding gritty flecks of bran. There was watery homemade yogurt that resisted all attempts to mitigate its tartness. And, at the pinnacle of our dietary suffering, worse even than sprout sandwiches or fruit leather or whole-wheat scones, there was carob, the chocolate substitute that never could.

(This was of course the subject of an FPP here.)
posted by Dip Flash at 5:57 PM on February 8, 2023 [9 favorites]

If anyone wants to share their easy tortilla recipe so I can buy one less processed thing, I would be happy to hear it…

Flour tortillas? Pretty much anything you find online should be fine. It should only be flour, water and fat (lard or oil).

Corn tortillas? Masa Harina and water only.

I rarely eat tortillas (yes, despite making them), but that should be enough to get you on the right path.

P.S. You can ignore the the tortilla press, unless you are going all in. Just grab a couple of heavy books, wrap one side of each in aluminum foil and flatten them.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 7:02 PM on February 8, 2023

> oh and should we talk about carob

No, we should not; that word brings up visceral memories.

I'm reminded of a Sarah Boynton cartoon on the subject (can't find the cartoon, here's the caption):

“Carob works on the principle that, when mixed with the right combination of fats and sugar, it can duplicate chocolate in color and texture. Of course, the same can be said of dirt.”
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:04 AM on February 9, 2023 [3 favorites]

This question hits different when you're Asian and food is the cultural love language.

I don't think my family leaned in any specific direction. Mum would cook for an army, even when there were only 3 of us in the house (with Mum eating the barest of minimums). But we also have processed snacks and sometimes buy fritters or currypuffs or small Malaysian dessert cakes (mmm kuihhhhhhh) to have with our afternoon tea fruit and nut platter. Mum is big on "cut down on processed food!" and I ate so many carrot sticks as a kid (dipped in chili and salt) that my skin turned orange one day and I was terrified I'd gotten jaundice. But I also enjoyed Cheezels and Twisties and Mamee mee packets where you pour the seasoning packets into dry ramen noodles and crush them up into a snack. Dad also worked for a company whose parent company also owned the national KFC franchise, so we got a lot of free KFC from time to time, and so many birthdays were spent at McDonalds. So yeah, a mix, with all options being good.

Nowadays I'm also in a weird in-between, but with less energy behind my position than my childhood family self. I live alone and my health & energy levels are VERY variable, so some days I'll be raring to cook a zillion dishes and other days I live on premade dinners from Coles or Woolies. A doctor suggested small, frequent meals for my digestion issues and I found that lo-fi charcuterie plates make a great lunch - set out a tray with various cheeses, meats, fruits, nuts, dips, crackers. I do have a ton of ingredients left over from past cooking experiements though not necessarily any use for them right now.

(Whether you're an Ingredients Person or not feels like it would inform your taste in fridge & pantry restock videos)
posted by creatrixtiara at 4:38 AM on February 9, 2023 [4 favorites]

We weren't an ingredients household, but we were a "from scratch" household in that my mother valued making meals and baked goods from scratch. So, lots of home cooking and home baking but not packet mix or jarred sauce. Or if she used them, they would be seen as inferior (which they often were). We had shop-bought packets of biscuits [cookies] in the house all the time and less often shop-bought cakes if no one had time to bake. Snacks were very rationed, we could mostly only help ourselves to fruit, and fizzy drinks were for the weekend. But those last things were as much about costs as anything else.

As an adult, we are a feast and famine household, in that we will buy a reasonable amount of snack food and it will get eaten in the first half of the week and then there's nothing and we scrape at the barrel for snacks. I can't decide whether or not this is terrible or kinda pragmatic. I still value cooking from scratch but my partner doesn't and he is the primary cook. We have nice dinners, and that's important to me.
posted by plonkee at 5:49 AM on February 9, 2023 [1 favorite]

I think something that may be helping the "ingredients households" out is that there are more and better cookbooks for a wider range of lifestyles.

Even just in the past couple years I've been able to find more cookbooks that seem to work for me without my changing the recipe size a bunch or buying ingredients I don't usually stock anyway. I'm also seeing a lot more cookbooks include "stocking up your pantry" or "storage for leftovers" advice. Especially baking books - two recent finds were Edd Kimber's Small Batch Bakes, a cookbook designed for people commonly baking just for one or two people, and Gateau, a book focusing on French home baking instead of being yet another "fancy French patisserie-style baking" book.

Both of them have a section in the front with recommendations for "what ingredients and tools do you really need", and Small Batch Bakes also includes a cheat-sheet for "if you only needed egg whites for one of these recipes, here's a list of recipes that only use yolks" or vice versa. Or if you only needed half a lemon, here's a recipe that would use up the other half. And so on. And the Gateau offers a lot of "variations" on many of its recipes - you'll get a basic recipe, and then you'll see at least five or six ways to switch it up a bit by changing a spice, adding a flavoring, or what-not. The recipe for their basic pound cake has fifty-two variations.

These books have been a damn boon in my baking life. The 52 pound cakes inspired me to make some kind of basic snacky cake each week, and all I need to do each week is check whether I've got enough butter and eggs, and then I open my cupboard or look around the pantry and see what's in there and use that to decide, "oh, okay, I have that lemon that needs using up, I'll do a lemon cake this week". And - Small Batch Bakes has a recipe to make one single chocolate chip cookie, and I have made that so much that the cookbook is starting to naturally fall open at that page.

And both are going a long way towards encouraging me to take the ingredients and actually turn them into food.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:56 AM on February 9, 2023 [4 favorites]

Firmly ingredients. Minimize waste, maximize nutrition. Mild prepping - I always have extra rice, beans, sugar, oil, pasta, canned goods, peanut butter, tuna. Covid made it more so, and I'm trying to shop the pantry and use it up. I like leisurely grocery shopping, but pre-vax, I shopped at night when the store was not crowded, and I was fast.

I liked the way my Mom cooked and I'm glad I learned to cook using ingredients. Processed food is too salty, sugary, and so much packaging. If you learn to cook basic stuff, you can cook creative and new things.

The plethora of extreme and rigid diets promoted in magazines, tv, and books, and even more so on social media really feeds food issues. Unfollow that shit. The term clean eating is harmful. Eat food, mostly plants, not too much. Enjoy it. Be grateful for the plentiful, affordable food most of us have easy access to.
posted by theora55 at 8:09 AM on February 9, 2023 [1 favorite]

Food and its household production always seems to be a very charged issue on Metafilter, which I won't lie I find weird everytime it comes up. I'm reminded of that FPP about the American writer living in France who had a conflict with his French cheesemonger because he wanted to use an inappropriate cheese for fondue....

It is interesting though to see how many people lived in such polarised households. Like creatrixtiara our cultural love language is most definitely food so we were always well cared for regardless of the level of income of my parents at various times. My mum made all the food, including baked goods, from scratch (making us an ingredient household) but she would readily have mixes for cakes or pouding chomeur or pie crusts if she was pressed for time or if the food was seasonal by nature. My sister learned to make weird baked goods via Girl Guides in the microwave or toaster oven and I learned how to make the things I enjoyed initially via mixes then from scratch. While we ate no shortage of homemade popcorn or home made fries or whatever we also ate store bought potato chips and éclairs from the bakery as we could afford them. So I guess we were nowhere near as polarised as some.

This ambivalence towards that ingredient household binary has mostly carried over into my adulthood. I was diagnosed as a coeliac late in life so while I make most things out of necessity, as one would in an "ingredient" household, I will splurge on store bought gluten free products from time to time because by their industralised nature they are just better at creating a gluten free baked good that can come close to the craving.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:46 AM on February 9, 2023

We were a mix of ingredients and premade stuff house but this is giving me a flashback to my aunt and uncles place where they really latched onto that 70s style of health food that was very heavy on steamed vegetables, brown rice, whole grains etc but also extremely lightly seasoned both in terms of salt and spices (Unsalted whole wheat bread, good lord why would you do that to innocent bread). Between that and every single product being unscented the place always smelled like cabbage farts.

I think by the late 90s they got better about cooking foods with spices and were less convinced that salt was the devil incarnate and that made a world of difference. You can make delicious food with those ingredients but not without actually seasoning them.
posted by Ferreous at 11:19 AM on February 9, 2023 [1 favorite]

I grew up in a household that leaned "ingredients," as I understand the term, and my mom, who came of age in the late 50s/early 60s and was anything but a hippie, was influenced a lot by the health food trends of the 1970s. Not a lot of packaged snacks. Brown bag lunch was a sandwich, a piece of fruit, and carrot sticks, maybe the occasional bag of raisins or a slice of cheese, and never chips or twinkies or anything of that nature. Never had boxed mac-n-cheese at home, or Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee or a TV dinner. To make things worse, she was a so-so cook, and never that enthusiastic about it, and in the 2nd half of our childhoods she worked part time. And yeah, I do think it may have contributed to a slightly not-entirely-healthy relationship with food.

As for myself, I started out also pretty ingredients-leaning in college, although I did add boxed m&c, ramen, tater tots, and frozen pizzas to my life. But I also did bake bread and experimented with homemade tortillas and just in general cooked for myself far more often and more elaborately than I think most college students do. Probably the least "ingredients" phase of my life was when my kids were preschool/grade school age and I was a single parent with a full-time job. I think now I've settled at around a "Kinsey 6" or so on the ingredients/ready-made scale. I do use some convenience products and definitely buy snacks and don't bake a lot but I also cook main meals mostly from scratch. But there's only so much one person can do, and especially when you have to shoulder the clean-up burden on top of all your other responsibilities, it just feels infeasible to have to dirty up cookware for every single thing you want to pop into your mouth.
posted by drlith at 6:08 PM on February 9, 2023

My parents both disliked cooking, and thus I grew up in a food rather than an ingredients household. Most of their meals featured a significantly processed component - if we were having a roast dinner, they'd buy a pre-prepared stuffed boneless poultry joint, a tray of pre-prepared roast potatoes, microwaveable root veg mash and/or some kind of peas & green beans type of prepared vegetable, pre-made gravy from a jar or a pouch, etc.

My mother preferred daily just-in-time shopping rather than a big shop once every week or so, and this meant that if you didn't get what you needed in the daily shop, you might not have something decent to eat. After I stopped eating meat, during my brief pescetarian phase before going full vegetarian, I once dined on surimi sticks, mandarin segments and jam, because my parents had forgotten to buy me anything else to eat and that was all we had.

As an adult I lean more towards ingredients, because I like to cook, but we also have plenty of ready to eat stuff around (partly because we're vegetarian and sometimes eating pre-prepared meat substitutes is a way to get food inside us fast, and partly because we're both differently neurodivergent and sometimes getting food inside us fast is the best way to prevent brain problems related to not having eaten enough).

I'm also kind of a moderate food hoarder (there might be an ask post in me about this at some point - no access or pest issues, but we habitually have quite a lot of food in the house for two people), so we have a huge amount of ingredients and a huge amount of pre-prepared foods in our cupboards, additional shelving unit, fridge, indoor freezer, outdoor chest freezer and kinda generally on the worktops too.

Some of it is because I love cooking foods from lots of different cultures and always want a well-stocked pantry for every type of cuisine that I like. Some of it is because you have to buy a whole bag of gram flour if you want half a cup to make bhajis, or you have to buy a whole jar of salsa if you want a few tablespoons over nachos. Some of it is because my eyes are bigger than my total amount of cooking energy, so I spend a lot of time reading recipes and thinking about foods I want to make in the future (always at night, and then I never have the energy in the daytime to actually cook the damn things) and buying niche ingredients that I then never get around to using. Some is from growing up with a parent with disordered eating who grew up with a parent with disordered eating; there was at least some artificial food scarcity during my childhood based on my dad's opinions about how he thought my body ought to look, rather than prioritising my actual food wants and needs. Some of it is preferring to shop once in bulk less often, rather than getting a few things at the store 2-3 times a week, and living outside of walking distance from a decent supermarket. Some of it is just that having a bunch of food in the house makes me feel safe and comforted in ways I don't fully understand, that likely relate to my upbringing and the occasional artifical food scarcity involved.

I don't love the amount of food waste it sometimes causes, but whatever small neglected part of me gets helped by having a ton of food in the house really, really doesn't want me to stop doing that, and I don't have the time or energy to unfuck that particular trauma right now, so the moderate food hoarding continues.
posted by terretu at 6:27 AM on February 10, 2023 [2 favorites]

Some of it is because I love cooking foods from lots of different cultures and always want a well-stocked pantry for every type of cuisine that I like. Some of it is because you have to buy a whole bag of gram flour if you want half a cup to make bhajis, or you have to buy a whole jar of salsa if you want a few tablespoons over nachos. Some of it is because my eyes are bigger than my total amount of cooking energy, so I spend a lot of time reading recipes and thinking about foods I want to make in the future (always at night, and then I never have the energy in the daytime to actually cook the damn things) and buying niche ingredients that I then never get around to using. [...] Some of it is just that having a bunch of food in the house makes me feel safe and comforted in ways I don't fully understand, that likely relate to my upbringing and the occasional artifical food scarcity involved.

I FEEL THIS SO HARD, this is me, seriously.

Something that's been helping me with this is: I took a SERIOUS deep dive into my pantry between Christmas and New Year's, and made up a spreadsheet of every food item in the house; and I've been tracking things on it since then, highlighting the stuff that needs to get used up. It short-circuits the fears of scarcity because that thing is freakin' huge, and with everything in one place like that it lets me more easily make connections like "oh, hey, I have those random trace amount of beans that need to be used up, and I also think I have a recipe for a chili that would use them up" or "oh, right, I got too much pancetta for that thing and the leftovers are hanging around, I could make carbonara". I even log the leftovers because they often are my bag lunches for work, but can also be "I'm too tired, lemme just reheat something". Or, even, "yeah, those carrots and celery have been hanging around a little too long, lemme grab a couple of the other veg in the house and make a vegetable stock and just have that on standby.....Oh, and then when that's done I can use that for a soup that would use up that last cup of leftover cooked beans." (That last sentence was me LITERALLY doing some IRL meal planning for this weekend because just talking about this in this comment made that occur to me.)

I've got a ways to go, but it's starting to nudge things over into "an organized pantry that I actually use like a real life grown-up".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:13 AM on February 10, 2023 [2 favorites]

EC, I'd be really interested to know more about how this spreadsheet works. Is it based on food item type, location, age, all of the above? How granular do you get (just "white sugar" or 3lb bag of granulated white sugar")? Do you update it every single time anything gets eaten?
posted by Night_owl at 7:50 AM on February 10, 2023

It's just an excel spreadsheet I made up: I have some general categories ("produce", "meats/poultry", "dairy", "baking", etc.) and in each category, I list the food item, where it is (i.e., in the cupboard, in the fridge, or in the freezer), and how much I have. I don't get SUPER granular - for instance, with the white sugar, I'd just call it "sugar" and state that it was in the pantry and say about how much I had; for other kinds of sugar I specify what I have ("light brown sugar", "dark brown sugar", "powdered sugar", etc.).

The REALLY helpful bit is listing the leftovers, and how much of them I have:

"bean/kale stew, fridge, 2 servings
"black-eyed peas, fridge, 2 servings
"corn/chard stew, fridge, 1 serving
"Baked beans, fridge, 1 serving"

I highlight those, and anything else that probably should get used up sooner rather than later. I TRY to update stuff as I use it, but I'm probably inaccurate with the flour and sugar and other dry goods; the leftovers I am much more on top of. Since I usually cook just for myself, I end up with a lot of leftover things that get doled out into smaller containers for me to use as my work lunches or for "I am too tired, lemme just reheat something" dinners. Those baked beans will probably get put to that use with a chopped-up hot dog sometime next week, in fact.

I don't really put down the age of any ingredient, since I tend to work more on the smell test than I do "this has been in my fridge for 3.5 days" or whatever. And for me, the bigger problem is dry goods that don't go bad - I have about 15 different little jars that each contain like 2/3 cups' worth of a random whole grain thing that's left over from a package I got at some point and haven't finished yet, and the spreadsheet has been reminding me that "yo, remember you still have the farro from the time you picked that up at Fairway because you saw the package and it sounded interesting? don't you think you should use it?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:30 AM on February 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

Some of it is because I love cooking foods from lots of different cultures and always want a well-stocked pantry for every type of cuisine that I like. Some of it is because you have to buy a whole bag of gram flour if you want half a cup to make bhajis, or you have to buy a whole jar of salsa if you want a few tablespoons over nachos. Some of it is because my eyes are bigger than my total amount of cooking energy, so I spend a lot of time reading recipes and thinking about foods I want to make in the future (always at night, and then I never have the energy in the daytime to actually cook the damn things) and buying niche ingredients that I then never get around to using. [...] Some of it is just that having a bunch of food in the house makes me feel safe and comforted in ways I don't fully understand, that likely relate to my upbringing and the occasional artifical food scarcity involved.

OMG that's me. Someone ought to start a neighborhood ingredients lending library.
posted by Mchelly at 12:05 PM on February 10, 2023 [2 favorites]

If you're looking for an on-the-fly example of "how I use the spreadsheet" -

Tonight I sat down to sketch out a meal plan for the week. I'd already planned on making some bung-in-whatever-beans-you've-got chili (I got the latest Rancho Gordo shipment in yesterday and I'm trying to make room) on Sunday, and just needed one or two other things to round the week out.

So: on the sheet I noticed I have some frozen hash browns that could get used, as well as some pancetta and a tomato. There's also a trace amount of wild rice in the cupboard I need to polish off; and, I'd already had some cassoulet beans from the Rancho Gordo box 6 months ago and got another pound yesterday. And there's some cream that should probably be used up too.

The frozen hash browns caught my eye first - I have a recipe for a slow-cooker potato soup that needs hash browns, and I'd just need to get some cream cheese and a small ham slice to get everything I need for that. I don't have enough hash browns for the full recipe, but I'm only feeding myself so that's'll leave me with leftover cream cheese, but I'll put that to use later. And the ham can go in an omelet or something.

As for the pancetta - I have another recipe for a pancetta, bean, and corn soup, that also could use a spot of cream. I'd have to pre-cook some beans in advance, but I can do that while I'm cooking the chili - and I could also make sure I had enough on hand to later make a wild rice, bean, and tomato casserole-y thing, which would also use up both the wild rice and the tomato.

That sets me up for four dinners over the coming week. I have enough leftovers to cover three lunches and one of my dinners next week. And there are already some different precooked beans in the fridge I can throw in with some soup stock and chopped random veg and some elbow pasta (all of these being things I need to use up) for a quick on-the-fly minestrone.

And I realize - I am at a HUGE advantage in that I'm cooking only for myself, and I am comfortable in a kitchen. But that basic "take a few minutes to look at the big list o'stuff and then pick recipes that use it" could be applied to any set of ingredients and any collection of recipes you feel comfortable with. Hell, one of my "I don't know what else to make" fallbacks is something where you just chop up an onion, a carrot, a potato, and a hot dog and boil them together until everything's cooked. I adapted it from an Acadian cookbook, for something called chiard; the original recipe uses beef instead and you have to simmer everything an hour, but the cookbook also said you could just use hot dogs and it would only need a few minutes in that case, and I thought "screw it, I'mma go with hot dogs instead". (in fact, I also have some hot dogs that need using up, so I can pick up a lone potato as a fallback option.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:12 PM on February 10, 2023 [1 favorite]

I grew up in an Ephemeral Ingredients household. My mom could occasionally afford the ingredients for cookies, but excess food of any kind was a luxury until I was well into my teen years. My true measure of wealth that I developed in those years, accompanied by an intense jealousy, was going to a friend's house and seeing a pantry stuffed full of all the ingredients.

As an adult, I developed a pathological obsession with ingredients, and we are now an All Of The Ingredients In Excess Household. Also, all the snax. I have eclectic tastes, so I keep the Hoisin sauce next to the curry paste, next to the mayonnaise, next to the bread flour. You want to make cookies? go for it. you want Thom Ka Gai? I'm on it. You want a quick bowl of sweet cereal to fill the vague creeping void in your soul, go for it too.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:12 AM on February 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

I...don't think I've ever had a household on either side of this binary? Growing up the primary thing I remember about food was there wasn't a lot of it and there were a lot of rules about when you could eat it.

I know I was the "weird lunch" kid with wheat bread and lettuce on sandwiches, and also that my parents really restricted our access to sweets. We weren't an "ingredients house" though, because there were absolutely popsicles in the freezer and cookies in the pantry--we just couldn't eat them until various designated times. Snacks were things like an apple and cheese, or celery sticks with peanut butter. But I also know for a fact that for a little while we ate microwave TV dinners -- you know, the ones with a little brownie. Sodas were kept in their own fridge which my siblings and I eventually learned to stealth-raid by strategically replacing the full cans with empties (our parents never drank a drop of the stuff, they just checked the inventory every couple weeks).

Nowadays, similarly, I'm not really one or the other but also my house does not have like, a normal contingent of food in it. I don't cook, and my main grocery store is a bit small, not a ton of selection in packaged stuff. I do a lot of baking, but when I haven't baked I always pick up a package of oreos or a thing of ice cream for my partner's sake--he's much more of a snacker than I am. There's usually a bag of chips somewhere here and I used to keep microwave popcorn on hand, but recently switched to stovetop because I really need to cut back and the slight difficulty level helps. (Also I don't enjoy it as much.) But dinner might be a sandwich or a salad, definitely nothing fancy, and snacks are still probably an apple with cheese (although it's better cheese now).
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:39 AM on February 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

Heya, other scarcity disordered-eating inheritors, thank you for making me feel seen!

Violently judgy 70s ingredients household (I LIKE carob for example - I like it as it's own thing because I didn't have choc chips/any chocolate to compare it to).

This transitioned to a bizarre frozen meals phase (I thought of it as "fuck you, I made dinner" food) that went on until my parents finally got divorced and my dad retired. Turns out, my mom decided she hated cooking and the frozen swansons and hamburger helper meals were her "concession" to the need to make a family dinner because both parents strive for the "family ideal".

After my mom retired but pre-divorce, meals were 100% takeout. They were still awful and gross because my mom would only go to the 3 places who would make her well-done salmon "dry" with a baked sweet potato (she wasn't kidding about the well-done, it's vile). She'd order a salad and desert, eat half the salmon and the gross dry plate of greens without toppings, murder dessert immediately, box the salmon and sweet potato and eat that an hour later or in the middle of the night at home.

Now that I write that out, I understand my deeply and frustratingly scarcity/hoarding food mindset a little more.

My mom hated food, loved the concept of ingredients but nothing about eating them, ate prepared foods in hiding (this is where the scarcity comes from - anything -tasty- wasn't available outside of my parents bedroom, which is where the chocolate chips, marshmallow fluff, chips, sugar, ho-hos (moms not so secret love), etc lived for the few hours they were unconsumed).

I hoard food but like cooking and ingredients (and am very gluten intolerant) AND prepared food - having a ton of 'candy' (anything prepared and sweet) lets me eat it more slowly. I live alone and make meals for the week on the weekend, eat them for what feels like 100 years until they're gone (hatehatehate wasting food) and supplement with snacks and candy as the mood takes me.

Thank you for this fascinating thread!
posted by esoteric things at 8:19 AM on February 15, 2023 [2 favorites]

Oh! Now that they're divorced, my dad is very happily the cook! The food isn't exciting and it's ridiculously animal-heavy (midwestern rural US), but he's his mother's child and is an anything-goes household, and always has a cake or pie, usually homemade, sometimes grocery store or box mix, on the counter along with everything anyone could want or need to for a quick salty snack, a sweet snack, or a sandwich at the drop of a hat.
posted by esoteric things at 9:21 AM on February 15, 2023

« Older Metatalktail Hour: Unsolicited advice, please   |   What have you done this decade that you're proud... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments