REVIEW: The Made-From-Scratch Life by Melissa K. Norris
A blessing at the right time, THE MADE-FROM-SCRATCH LIFE by Melissa K. Norris opens your eyes to a simpler way of life, possibly lessening your emotional burden with the light you’ve been seeking. It’s a good combination of gardening advice, preserving what you grow, cooking, homesteading and how all of that mixes with faith and scripture. THE MADE-FROM-SCRATCH LIFE is comforting in an easy, conversational style, as if you’re sitting on the back porch with a friend.
I’m extremely fond of memoirs, especially by homesteaders, and this one tugged at my heart and soul. I think there’s often a sense of a window opening when you’re ready, or in this case reaffirmation. I acquired some great tips for putting my budget into rehab at the exact moment I needed them, but it was the combined faith message that made me smile in agreement. Since there are so many categories in this book that may or may not hit your hot buttons, I’m sure you’ll find some hidden gems among what you already know. I reread sections several times because I did miss a lot the first time through.
THE MADE-FROM-SCRATCH LIFE is divided into four food categories that include growing your own food, harvesting, preserving and cooking. There are quite a few recipes for canning as well as other methods of preserving. It contains a section on cleaning and personal care products, such as making your own laundry soap and oven cleaner, plus a lotion bar or soothing salve for the body. The section titled Prepare covers budgeting and how to think about what you’re buying and why. I found the Prepare section especially wise, while the list of 7 Ways to Live like Laura Ingalls made me giggle with recognition. It’s simple advice but so true and it can open your eyes to living with what you need versus what you want. The final two sections cover livestock and traditions. Traditions includes a few recipes that are special to the author, but it seemed like the shortest chapter in the book. I would have preferred to have that section elaborated on a bit more because the book seemed to end too abruptly. Wanting more is a good thing, right?
There were moments when I felt the book could benefit from tighter editing to lessen repeated words or ideas, but that was a minor bump for me. I really enjoyed this author’s style of inserting her life experience into each chapter with a faith message that relates to the task. There are cute stories from her homesteading that gave this book a personal touch. Although there are several recipes that interested me, one I’ll try is the Ham and Bean Soup because it included parsnips or rutabaga. We get those in our farm share and I’m always looking for more ways to use them up. I’ll also use the Condensed Cream of Soup Replacement to get rid of one of my favorite processed foods. The idea of getting rid of processed that’s heavy in salt from our pantries is a good one, but it has to be a gradual process over time so it doesn’t overwhelm. I’m now at that point where I can add in a few more tasks to benefit my family’s health. Another recipe that caught my eye is the Chocolate Cake with Caramel Frosting. Who can resist that? It looks really simple and I’d like to break away from buying cake mixes that expire before I get to use them.
Author Melissa K. Norris has a similar philosophy to my own, so some of the cleaning and beauty recipes are familiar. I did learn one idea for oven cleaning that I’ll try. The gardening information is very basic, so if you’re a beginner you might want a more detailed book for your planting zone. As an experienced gardener, it was a synopsis, but it did remind me to concentrate on the basics such as planting more heirlooms, something I’ve nurtured but overlook in my haste to plant. I also appreciated some of the charts, such as a simplified method to keep track of planting dates, while another illustrates the best time to buy fruit and vegetables for preserving. Buying what’s currently in season is one important element that I’ve found lowers the overall food budget. I also enjoyed the shaded text boxes by subject such as 9 Ways to Preserve Apples at Home.
Even if you don’t plan on homesteading, many of the ideas within THE MADE-FROM-SCRATCH LIFE can be incorporated into your lifestyle. It is a how-to book heavily intermingled with spiritual ideas and Bible quotes so it will appeal most to believers who enjoy those reminders. If you’re at a crossroad with your faith and want a better balance to your life, then this book will speak to you. We won’t all become homesteaders or have time to do everything from scratch, but you’ll pull out pieces of value that you can accomplish even when living in the city. I thought the 8 Foods to Store at Home was a good list, the idea that you can make a lot from scratch if you have simple ingredients available. I was pleased that wheatberries were included instead of flour because that’s another item we get from our farm share.
More than anything, I think that THE MADE-FROM-SCRATCH LIFE will improve your spiritual balance, budget and health just from its back-to-basics approach. It reiterated many of the practices I adopted after a health scare, plus stimulated ideas for improvement. I found the comparison of want versus need extremely valuable and thought provoking. Sometimes we should remember to be satisfied with what we have and appreciate those riches. How many of us buy because we enjoy the euphoria of ownership? Whoever dies with the most toys isn’t really the winner, are they, so maybe looking at faith and family to motivate your joyful noise is more fulfilling. I’ll definitely use the idea of keeping a purchased item in the bag with the receipt, and if I don’t use it within a week or two, take it back to the store. So simple yet brilliant!
THE MADE-FROM-SCRATCH LIFE will help you establish a plan for a more fulfilling life by combining back-to-basics ideas with faith guiding your choices. The simple beauty of the book’s formatting with the shaded text boxes and use of white space encourages me to order a print copy for my keeper shelf.
Review by Dorine, courtesy of The Zest Quest. Digital ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.
The Made-from-Scratch Life by Melissa K. Norris
Category: Christian Memoir, Food, Gardening
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2016)
Rated 4 out of 5
Do you enjoy Christian or homesteading memoirs?