8 Pearls of Wisdom You Should Steal from Grandma

Mother may know best — but Grandma? She's got final word, especially if you're in her kitchen.

Related To:

Photo By: Renee Comet

Photo By: Renee Comet

Photo By: Renee Comet

Photo By: Renee Comet

Photo By: Renee Comet

Photo By: Renee Comet

Photo By: Renee Comet

Photo By: Renee Comet

Photo By: Renee Comet

Prepared with Love

There's a lot to be learned from cooking with a grandmother. While most nanas aren't classically trained chefs, they do know a thing or two about making things taste good. It all comes down to shopping smart, cooking often and making use of everything — even the scraps.

Photography by Renee Comet

Save Rinds and Trimmings

"Waste not, want not," is what Grandma says, and she truly lives by those words. She's particularly fond of saving flavorful odds and ends — like Parmesan cheese rinds, corncobs and onion trimmings — for use in soups and stews. Similarly, she'll clean out her cheese drawer and breathe new life into a stale loaf of bread (or bagels or English muffins) by making a wholesome and filling strata.

Get the Recipe: Grandma's Anything Goes Strata

Use Past-Prime Produce

Overripe fruit, too soft to be eaten out of hand, is like gold to Grandma. She simply cuts off any dark or bruised bits and make a quick batch of skillet jam, using up whatever fruit is sitting around. No worries about canning: This quick compote is stored directly in the fridge and gobbled up too quickly to warrant long-term storage.

Get the Recipe: Grandma's Plum and Almond Skillet Jam

Toss Everything In

Grandma rarely follows a recipe closely. Instead, she improvises with whatever ingredients are on hand and need to be used up first. Her soups are a classic example of this. Using a basic template — broth, aromatics, vegetables, a starch or grain, and some quick-cooking greens — she leaves plenty of room for interpretation, while ensuring that every pot tastes delicious and that nothing is wasted.

Get the Recipe: Grandma's Kitchen Sink Soup

Time Is a Secret Ingredient

The most-expensive cuts aren't always the best-tasting cuts in Grandma's kitchen. She knows that long cooking and sometimes just waiting can turn a simple dish into something special. A tough piece of meat becomes flavorful and tender after being cooked low and slow with plenty of aromatics. And some dishes, like chili, are even better when you eat them the next day.

Get the Recipe: Chili Con Carne

Buy What's on Sale

When heading to the grocery store, Grandma rarely makes a shopping list beyond jotting down any basic staples that are running low. Instead of planning her weekly menu in advance, she'll thriftily let the store's weekly specials dictate what she'll be making. If beef chuck and carrots are on sale, she will make a pot roast or a stew. During a special on shrimp, we can find scampi on our Sunday table.

Get the Recipe: Grandma's Stone Soup Stew

Fat = Flavor

Grandma always keeps a little container of rendered fat in the back of her fridge. Every time she cooks bacon, into that container the cooled drippings will go. She uses the fat as sparingly as a precious spice, doling out a spoonful here and there to add an extra boost of flavor to beans, stew and cornbread.

Get the Recipe: Grandma's Bacon Fat Cornbread

The Freezer Is Your Friend

Grandma puts every last bit of food to work, and she uses the freezer to preserve her scraps until she is ready to cook. There she'll stow the bones from roast chicken until she has enough to make a pot of stock. And if she has just one overripe banana, she'll peel, chunk and freeze it until she has enough to make a whole loaf of banana bread.

Get the Recipe: Banana Bread Muffins

Make a Big Batch

Grandma always says it's just as easy to make two pots of red sauce as one. Buying ingredients in bulk helps keep costs down, and having extra helpings stowed in the freezer means there is always room at the table for one more guest. Any leftover cooked pasta, rice, beans or grains became the basic building blocks of quick meals during the week.