Rating Recipes…How Self-Sufficient Can I Be?

I wrote this originally as an article for a self-sufficient living magazine. The editor rejected it saying that no one would actually take the time, this was too much work! I read recipes and cookbooks for fun, and it’s no trouble to read with a pencil in my hand. You’ll find many recipes in my cook books have a series of numbers written in pencil above them. This is my self-sufficiency rating for the recipe. It will look something like this:


The first number, 3,  is the quantity of ingredients I raise or make myself.

The second number is the quantity of ingredients that I CAN raise or can make, but don’t always.

The last number is how many ingredients I have to purchase.

I want to be as self-sufficient as possible and I wanted to see how store-dependent recipes were? I rate my regularly used recipes and rate recipes which interest me. This method also shows me what I can do  to be more self-sufficient.

Ideally, every recipe would be 7/0/0 or such, but that’s not realistic. I don’t have a farm or farm animals. If I’m making fresh corn soup, for example, the ingredients are

fresh corn

I mark the ingredients I raise or regularly produce with a minus sign (-), the ingredients I can raise or make, but don’t always with a tilde (~). I don’t mark store-bought ingredients.

My marked up copy would be:

– onion
fresh corn~
– chives

I add the minus signs (items I produce/raise regularly) and the tildes (items I could produce,but don’t always) and then go down that many in the list and count how many ingredients remain, which is the number of ingredients which have to be purchased.

In this case there are 4 items marked, 7 items total, so 3 have to be purchased. I would pencil over the recipe:


My goal is to make that first number (items produced at home) as large as possible and the middle and last numbers zero.

I had a crop failure for my corn last year but this spring intend to plant corn again, so the numbers for my corn soup should change to 3/1/3. If I ever get to the point where I regularly make stock instead of buying it, then I’ll have succeeded in making this recipe as self-sufficient as possible, at least in my present circumstances.

The only problem with my rating system is that I want to be overly optimistic. For the fresh corn soup, I could make my own butter, but I’ve only done so once in about 30 years. It isn’t likely I’ll do so regularly unless I get a cow, goat or something else changes. If that happens? I’ll change the numbers. The rating isn’t static, it was designed specifically to change (which is why I do this in pencil and not a pen).

[Not to mention that my bookseller soul would REVOLT at the idea that I’d mark up my cookbooks in ink!] :O


3 responses to “Rating Recipes…How Self-Sufficient Can I Be?

  1. do you have a stock bag? At least for veggie stock, it makes making stock pretty much as easy as possible. Whenever you peel an onion or garlic, cut the ends of a zucchini, peel a carrot, have extra parsley stems or celery leaves, you throw it all in a ziploc bag that stays in your freezer. Gradually the bag gets full – when it’s full, you boil everything in water and strain it into bottles which you can either freeze or put in the fridge, or you can can them to make them last much longer. I don’t bother canning it. It’s usually very strong compared to storebought stock, so you need less, and of course there’s no salt or anything except vegetables in it. You could probably do this with chicken too by freezing chicken bits but I don’t bother with that since we don’t really eat chicken.

    I love your system – that’s such a great idea and I think it’s silly that the magazine thinks so condescendingly of its readers. Most people who are trying to be self-sufficient are over the instant gratification lifestyle.

    • Well, yes, I think so too! I found it bizarre that “no one would do this” well I do it; I don’t count?

      If the goal is to be as market-independent as possible, then you have to be able to measure it somehow. My first idea was to reduce the money I spent at the market, which worked for a while, but then one of us went out and bought a LOT of food, not on sale or bulk, and that was that.

      I needed another way to measure, one that didn’t depend on money, which of course is also skewed because prices never stay the same.

      What’s in the article is the method I use.

      If someone else has an easier way to do this, I’d be happy to know about it!

      Thanks for the comment, as always!


  2. Heidi,

    Sorry, I meant to respond to your comment about stock too. I don’t keep a stock bag. I used to start one frequently and then forget. The only way I’ve found that I really will make stock is to make meat stocks in the crock pot right after we have a roast. But I’d pitch about 1/2 of it as I had no room in the freezer and the stock went bad in the fridge before it got used. One reason we bought the fridge/freezer we did was so that I had more freeze capacity, and stock was one of the factors. As I said in an earlier post, I have no intention of making TV dinners, but I love the idea of freezing “components.” Stock certainly qualifies!

    My intention was to start a veggie stock bag from the garden this summer and then use that for stock in the coming winter. I’d much rather do that than buy anything! I do make stock, but vegetable stock hasn’t ever been a success here.

    Do you know about the potato peel broth in Vegetarian Epicure #1 ?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s