What Makes it Homemade?

Jennifer FlatenThis post by Jennifer Flaten

Recently I was cruising the internet looking for a recipe to use up the last of my Easter ham. Yes, even though our family is smaller I still made a bone in ham, the smallest I could find, but still pretty big.

I needed to use it up and I had my heart set on scalloped potatoes and ham, but I wanted a crock-pot recipe. While browsing the various cooking website I came across a recipe that was short and simple. So short and simple that the author admitted to being embarrassed to call it a recipe.

She felt that because her recipe relied on boxed potatoes and had six ingredients, it didn’t count as a recipe. She isn’t the only one who feels that way.

I read an anecdote from a cook who told of the time she baked a loaf of bread using frozen bread dough and presented it to a neighbor as homemade.

The neighbor gushed about the bread and said “So many people don’t take the time to make homemade any more they just use a box” or in the author’s case frozen dough. She said she was mortified. She explained that in her family if you cooked it, it was homemade.

Not everyone feels that way, even Jen Lancaster, in her Tao of Martha book, bashed the semi homemade-ala Sandra Lee- as not counting since the semi homemade recipes rely heavily on packaged items.

Is there a difference?

What is interesting in knitting pattern designers often refer to something as a recipe-that is, it is the bare bones of steps you need to take to get the finished product-such as certain pattern stitches or optimum stitch count. Otherwise, you are free to customize it to your liking. Is that more “homemade” than following a written pattern?008

How about when you buy a kit? You can buy a kit to make a quilt, knit a wrap or even chainmaille a bracelet. While many of these kits let you pick out the color for your project, they do contain all the tool “ingredients”. You just assemble it yourself.

Ah, but what about Ikea (or similar furniture) you assemble it, could you say that you made it? Yes and no. You assembled it, but putting together a kit from Ikea doesn’t give you the skill to go out and make a bookshelf from scratch. Whereas, a knitting kit gives you the skills to go out and knit your own scarf, on you designed.

For cooking, I think as long as you did the actual cooking from raw ingredients (even if they are boxed) makes it homemade.

What is your opinion?

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14 thoughts on “What Makes it Homemade?

  1. Good post! Lots of good points in there. For cooking, if I used a boxed product (like a cake mix) I don’t call the cake home made. If I made it from scratch I would call it home made.

    Because, using your example, dumping a boxed product into a bowl and adding a few things doesn’t really give me the know how to make a cake from scratch. Following a recipe, with all the individual ingredients and measurements listed does.


  2. I have often pondered the question as well. Especially when “homemade” uses boxed ingredients full of preservatives. However, making a fruit salad with instant pudding and prepared whip in the mix seems homemade to me, while using a box cake and adding eggs, oil and whatever doesn’t. So I’m not even true to my own self! I bet the meaning of the term changes with the generations. So, you pose an interesting question, the answer of which I think I am confused about! I do consider homemade bread as made by starting with yeast and water at home however. Enjoyed your post. Neva


  3. This reminds me of the time I bought deviled egg potato salad to take to a Christmas party. I was single and working 40 hours a week at times and didn’t have the time or knowledge to make anything myself. Since the market only sold the potato salad in one-pound containers, I bought two of them and instead of carrying two containers to the party, I combined the contents into a larger Tupperware bowl, giving it that homemade appearance. I might have passed it off as my own, but the host remarked that it didn’t look like the potatoes had been peeled. Being visually impaired, I didn’t know the difference so felt compelled to admit that I bought the stuff at a local market. It was pretty good potato salad, and I hope to have some left over, but when I got home, that Tupperware container was empty.


  4. Good question. I have yet to follow directions, make a boxed mix as called for, follow a recipe, or even the direction on sewing/crochet patterns. Does what I make qualify as homemade? I have yet to answer that one. Still most folks really don’t know the difference, and if they don’t, do we have to confess?

    I will be pondering this one for awhile. Doris


  5. If I cook it at home it is home cooked. If I bake it, it is home baked. And it doesn’t matter to me, as long as it taste good, or in the case of a sewing kit- I used to teach stitchery kits-they were made by the person. One time I was in a big rush and I was so glad when they first came out with Grandma’s Cookies-they were soft and resembled homemade, I poured them onto a plate, covered them in foil, and sent them to school. I did not have to answer the “Question.”. LOL Cher’ley


  6. I think if we go with what the words mean you get homemade as made in the home. I use the term “from scratch” when I want to make it clear I probably cut myself making whatever it is someone is eating. LOL


  7. Good blog Jennifer. A lot of good questions and points. Since I do almost everything from scratch I call it homemade. If I took something from the deli or made a box mix (even though I would add my own flair) if someone asked I would tell them I made it from a box and added my own ingredients. Does that make it homemade? How about half and half?
    But with sewing and needlework I’m not even fond of the word homemade. Handmade would be fine or maybe designed by or crafted by. Really makes you think, doesn’t it?


  8. Good question! I once got complimented for making a meal (I can no longer remember what it was now) that almost entirely came out of boxes or cans. Granted I had prepared it for people who’d been eating cold pork & beans and PB & J for days. Still, while they gushed, I kept saying, “It came from a box.” So, does “homemade” equal “from scratch”? I guess I tend to equate the two. That doesn’t keep me from making things that are only “semi-homemade,” but I ‘fess up.


  9. I don’t know if I am really qualified to make an intelligent comment, Jennifer. It’s kind of like politics inside a barbershop. Nobody really has qualifications to intelligently discuss a current crisis in the world, but guess what … they’re going to argue back and forth as if they’re George Washington University political school scholars. So all I can say is that I am quite good punching holes in the wrapping of microwave meals, and I can set them in the micro-oven and set the high/medium/low as well as the time. But I can tell you … it’s sure not homemade from scratch. Lol.


  10. Jennifer, enjoyed this post. My opinion is this: I don’t consider anything out of a box or package to be homemade. However, you got me thinking. Would our ancestors consider commercial flour to be a homemade ingredient when they often grew their own wheat and corn and took it to the local mill to be ground? I’m sure there would be much debate on the subject, considering what time-frame we come from. And what about products we use that have additives? I don’t like to use ingredients with additives, but that is really quite impossible nowadays.

    My mother used to make this yummy cake, Italian Dream Cake. My husband absolutely loves it. I love it, or I did. One day I asked my mom for the recipe, and she told me that she now used a cake mix, instead of following the original recipe. That absolutely ruined it for me. I couldn’t imagine my mom using a cake mix and faking the cake that I thought was original but wasn’t. Whenever she makes the cake for special occasions, I won’t eat it because that’s all I can think about. Call that silly, but it’s stuck in my mind forever.

    Good thought provoking post, Jennifer!


  11. Lovely post, Jennifer. For me homemade is that every single ingredient, be it for human consumption or a craft project, needs to be from scratch original items, put togeher and made into the final product. A needlework kit that has a pre-printed canvas to work on is only partly home-made. A recipe with frozen filo pastry is only partially homemade. You have a very pertinent subject here that lots of people put their own opinions on. 🙂


  12. Interesting question. Years ago I would have said homemade means from scratch. That was when I still enjoyed cooking and took pride in turning out a applesauce or tomato soup cake from a family recipe. Somewhere along the line I broadened my definition. I don’t use a lot of processed or refined products now–but I don’t bake any more either.


  13. I like the differentiation of “homemade” and “made from scratch”. If I make it at home, it’s homemade, period. If I make a cake from ingredients like flour, sugar, etc and not from a box, it’s “made from scratch.” Everyone certainly has their opinion, and I’m sure my grannies REALLY would! Great post, Jennifer! Loved Abbie’s story about the potato salad!!


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