Although America spends less on food than any other country in the world, as I’ve elaborated in another article, nobody says there’s no more room for savings when it comes to food. We still buy a lot of products that we don’t really need or that we could easily make ourselves. And there are few things that are more satisfactory than consuming your own homemade peanut butter – can anybody argue with that? Plus, there are always the health and safety factors you have to take into consideration when it comes to making your own food. You will know exactly what goes in it and you can considerably cut down on the amounts of salt, sugar and saturated fats that are omnipresent in store-bought products. Or you can leave them out altogether. Here is my list of foods you can easily make at home (some of them won’t make a huge difference in savings, but you will definitely score in the taste and health departments):
1. Vanilla extract. Divine, but very expensive. The good news is making your own could not be easier and you can save up to half of the cost of the store-bought version. All you have to do is pick an alcohol of your preference (vodka, rum, Bourbon, etc.), put some in a jar and put a few vanilla beans in it so that they’re covered (the more beans, the more intense the essence) and forget about it for a month or two. Just shake it from time to time and that’s it, you’ll have vanilla extract in about a month (you can leave it more if you prefer it stronger).
2. Peanut butter. With peanut butter, cost efficiency for store-bought vs. homemade depends very much on the type of peanut butter you normally buy. If you buy a cheap peanut butter, then a homemade alternative will be more expensive, but keep in mind that a cheap peanut butter is not 100% peanuts and contains unknown amounts of sugar, preservatives and salt. If the type of peanut butter you buy is natural and/or organic, then you have a lot more chances to score it cheaper if you make it at home. You can buy your peanuts in bulk or when they’re on sale, which will definitely get you a cheaper alternative. Plus, homemade peanut butter tastes a-mazing and is so easy to make. You just process your peanuts in a food processor until you get the consistency you like. It will be powdery in the beginning, but then the nut oils will break down and start forming a paste. You can add salt and/or honey if you want, but it’s not absolutely necessary. The beautiful thing about making your own peanut butter is that you have total control over the final taste.
3. Nutella. Why homemade? Well, first of all because you can, and second of all because it can taste SO much better than the store-bought version. And if you’re already sold on the store-bought version, then my friends let me tell you homemade Nutella will rock your world. The hazelnut flavor is so much more intense and you can control the amount of sugar – for many people, store-bought Nutella is too sweet, so making your own can correct that. Like in the case of peanut butter, the homemade version can be less expensive if you buy your hazelnuts on the cheaper side. All you need are hazelnuts, chocolate (whatever you prefer), some oil, sugar or some other type of sweetener, and cocoa powder. There are plenty of delicious recipes out there, so happy testing and tasting! ☺
4. Mustard. Why bother? Have you looked at mustard labels? I bet you’ll have a hard time finding one without sugar in it. Why would anybody put sugar in mustard? Mustard seeds are quite cheap and you can make all kinds of variations. Let your imagination be the limit!
5. Pickles. Again, the same problem as with the mustard. Store-bought pickles usually contain sugar in unknown amounts and, sometimes, other additives as well. It might sound a little overwhelming to make your own pickles, but it’s really not that hard at all and it is definitely less expensive then buying them from a store. Plus, you can make all kinds of combinations and find out which are your favorites.
6. Salad dressing. This is a no brainer. It is really so easy to make a salad dressing and SO much healthier than buying those packets full of sugar, salt, and additives that I don’t know why people bother buying those things. It takes a lot more time washing and chopping the vegetables for a salad than it takes to make salad dressing. You can whip it up in no time and you’ll find store-bought salad dressings cannot compare to a freshly made one. It will also save you some money.
7. Guacamole. It’s really easy to make guacamole and you only need a couple of ingredients and a minute to process it. It is a lot cheaper, tastier and healthier. Avocado oxidizes really fast, so I shiver at the thought of what they have to put in it to keep it green. Do yourself a favor and make your own fresh guacamole that you can personalize to your heart’s content.
8. Hummus. Oh hummus! Ok, I’m going to confess, it takes a little patience to make hummus and a good food processor or a powerful blender. I broke a blender trying to make hummus. There are all kinds of methods and recipes and some even suggest removing the skin off the chickpeas to get a really smooth hummus (which is actually a lot less complicated than it sounds), but if you’re successful no brand of hummus you can buy in a store can ever compare to the homemade thing. It’s delicious!
9. Pesto. Pesto is really expensive, but you can save a lot by making you own. I’ve seen people tweak the recipe and replace expensive pine nuts with almonds, or basil with spinach or parsley. You can do whatever you want, but even if you stick to the classic it will be way cheaper and tastier to make it yourself. And if you grow your own basil, then there’s really no reason why you should buy already made pesto.
10. Spice blends. Maybe it seems more convenient to buy spice blends, but buying individual spices and mixing them however you prefer is way cheaper. Plus, spice blends frequently contain sugar, salt, MSG, and other hidden “condiments”. Pick your favorite spices, do several mixes, put them in cute little jars and label them so you don’t forget what they contain.
How about you, what are some of the foods you’d rather make yourself than buy? I’d love to hear all about it!