35 Grocery Items You Should Make at Home (and 5 to Buy)
I pride myself on my somewhat extensive homemade pantry. Not just because making foods and other products at home is usually a healthier option (which it certainly is), but also because it saves us some money in the process. Unfortunately, not all items are cheaper or easier to make at home. So, after the initial list of 35 recipes below that you should try making at home versus buying, there are a few of my own picks for foods that I'd rather purchase (or skip) than mix together myself.
35 Items to Make Yourself
1. Peanut Butter
When I made my first batch of peanut butter at home, it rocked my world. All it takes is 2 cups of dry-roasted peanuts, a pinch of salt, a little oil, and some sweetener if you like. Combine and pulse in your food processor, and you've got tasty peanut butter.
2. Tomato Sauce
Whether for use on pasta or pizzas, making tomato sauce is smart when tomatoes are bountifully in season. I like this 10-Minute Heirloom Sauce recipe, but there are so many others to try. (See also: 30 Pizza Sauce Alternatives)
I've learned over the years that you can make pesto with most any green. I've used basil, kale, garlic scales, spinach, swiss chard, and others. My handy recipe doesn't even require cooking. Put two heaping handfuls of washed greens in your food processor and blend with 2 large cloves of garlic, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, ¼ cup olive oil, a couple tablespoons lemon juice or water, and salt and pepper.
You can buy apples in bulk or on sale (sometimes the bruised ones can be picked up at quite a bargain — they're ugly, but perfect for sauces) and then make applesauce on your stovetop or in your slow cooker. From there, I like to eat applesauce on its own or use it in my baking. (See also: 5 Great Slow Cookers)
The first couple times I made bagels, I thought the work involved didn't make the savings worth it. But then I got the hang of it, and now I prefer my homemade bagels over store-bought and even bakery varieties. I follow this particular method, and my favorite topping is Kosher salt followed closely by poppy seeds.
6. Other Breads
At our local store, a sourdough round comes in at around $5. Many of the other bakery breads are much the same price. We used to buy one every weekend to make sandwiches until we made our own starter and starting baking these breads at home. (See also: Money-Saving Ways to Organize Your Pantry)
Though I wouldn't recommend making your own cereal, granola is quite another story. Mark Bittman's recipe is to the point, but it's got all the right stuff to make a delicious homemade granola. And as with most recipes, there are suggested substitutions to customize to your specific tastes and preferences — as well as your budget.
If you've been underwhelmed with making your own pizza at home, please try again. It's easier than you think to save your pennies and make even restaurant-quality pizza right in your own oven. And be sure to use your homemade tomato sauce and/or pesto to finish things off.
9. BBQ Sauce
You'll find things can get rather elaborate with homemade BBQ sauce recipes. So, if you're in a rush, you can also try this hacked version made with ketchup. Whatever you do, if you're a sauce lover like me, please try making it at home — it's absolutely incredible!
If you haven't heard of kombucha yet, consider yourself informed. It's a delicious, fermented beverage that comes in a variety of flavors. The best part? It promises big doses of probiotics along with many other health claims. Too bad it's expensive. I will certainly be trying this homemade kombucha recipe, though I read it will take some patience, much like with any home brewing process.
11. Oat Flour
This one is so easy, I make it all the time for use in baking cookies and breads. Simply take rolled oats and pulse them in your food processor until they are smooth (or chunky, if you'd rather have them that way). If you're using oat flour in gluten-free baking, just be sure to buy gluten-free rolled oats. (See also: 11 Ways to Enjoy Oats When You Hate Oatmeal)
12. Almond Meal
It's the same story with almonds (and other nuts, for that matter). I just get a couple cups of raw almonds and place them in my food processor. Then I pulse until they form a flour/meal consistency. It only takes a couple minutes. A note: It's important with nuts to pulse and not let heat build. You don't want to end up with a poor quality nut butter or just a big sticky mess.
I've been wanting to make my own cheese for years, and this detailed tutorial for mozzarella with lots of photos has me more interested than ever. I've also seen quite a few cheese-making classes pop up on calendars at various culinary establishments, and I don't even live in a terribly big area. Ask around for similar events in your area and try to get your milk on sale for extra savings. (See also: Easy Homemade Cheeses)
14. Kale Chips
I'm always puzzled when I see packaged kale chips at the store because they are so simple to make at home using fresh ingredients. If you've tried making them with mediocre results in the past, check out these five simple tips for better success.
15. Pancake Mix
All that's inside that box of pancake mix is flour, baking powder, some salt and sweetener, and — well — probably some other stuff you can't quite pronounce. Simplify your Sunday morning routine by making your own pancake mix and storing in an airtight container for those special breakfasts.
Greek yogurt is a staple at my house — but the price tag can be quite shocking. I've been meaning to try this slow cooker method for a while, as several of my friends swear by it. I've heard the key is with the straining, so for thicker yogurt (my favorite) be sure to strain the longest.
17. Freezer Waffles
If you'd rather have a grab-n-go experience, consider making a batch of homemade waffles and then freezing them to pop in the toaster. My daughter eats a waffle every morning, and those little boxes of store bought sure add up. Plus, homemade tastes better and you can even incorporate more healthful ingredients for nutrition. (See also: 10 Great Make-Ahead Foods)
18. Energy Bars
As an athlete, I eat my fair share of energy bars for fuel, but also for convenient snacking. Here are 20 recipes to get you started. Once you get down the basics, you can customize them with your favorite dried fruits (dates, raisins, craisins, etc.), nut butters (peanut, almond, etc.), and other ingredients.
19. Protein Powder
Making protein powder at home is something I never even considered. Then I stumbled across this simple recipe with several different flavor options. While this recipe won't necessarily pack as much protein as store-bought varieties, the price and few ingredients make it worth a try.
Packaged hummus contains lots of sodium and other added ingredients. All you need for a homemade batch is canned chickpeas, a couple tablespoons of tahini, and lemon juice. From there, season to your own tastes — my favorite spice is smoked paprika.
I don't know about you, but I've never liked the taste of packaged guacamole. Plus, avocados can be pricey enough without the added convenience charge for blending and packaging. This simple guacamole recipe features few ingredients, and if you're looking to cut a few corners, leave the peppers and tomatoes out.
I consider croutons to be one of those "extras" that I would never consider buying. Making them at home? I use this basic recipe, but substitute whatever bread I have in the house for the day-old French bread.
We eat salsa a few times a week, so I'm glad to have found this easy salsa recipe using ingredients we usually have around the house already. The recipe calls for serrano or jalapeño chilis, but I usually dice whatever I have, even if they're boring green peppers.
24. Almond Milk
If you stock almonds, turning them into a nutritious, homemade milk is easy. Depending on sales at your local grocery store, making milk at home might not seem cost effective, so be sure to buy nuts in bulk to make it worth your effort!
25. Soup Stocks
One of the best ways to save on groceries is to eliminate waste. So, at the end of a week, I like to check and see what veggies I have lingering on the shelves of my refrigerator and using them in stock recipes. I don't follow the specific ingredients, but I try to use like-foods in like-amounts.
It can be tempting to stock up on those canned soups, but homemade is best for your wallet and your health. To make it easy, use this handy formula to create simple, inexpensive slow cooker soups on a Sunday afternoon. Or even try replicating some of your store-bought and restaurant favorites.
27. Jams and Jellies
I'm still learning how to can, but I love the idea of making my own jams and jellies at home for less than their packaged counterparts. I found this great recipe, which comes together without all the "fuss, heat, equipment, and time that canned jams require." (See also: Preserving Foods for Off-Season Feasts)
28. Seaweed Snacks
Addicted to those seaweed snacks from Trader Joe's? Yeah. We are, too. Thing is, you can make an even better version easily at home. This Toasted Seaweed Snack recipe requires just four simple ingredients!
29. Cake Mix
Have a birthday party coming up? It can surely seem convenient to grab that box of cake mix off the shelf, but if you have sugar, flour, baking powder, and oil at home, there's no need for the extra packaging. I love this Homemade Cake Mix idea — just mix dry ingredients together ahead of time, pour into a plastic zip bag, and then mark bags with the wet ingredients needed.
Same goes with frosting. If you have a bag of confectioners sugar and some butter, vanilla extract, and milk, you can make Vanilla Frosting in no time at all. Add in some cocoa powder, and it turns into a chocolatey spread in seconds.
It can be tempting to buy a brightly colored box of cookies in the packaged aisles, but making your own treats at home is both healthier and cheaper. Once you master the basic recipe for classic chocolate chippers, making them is easy!
32. Pita Bread
I simply don't like how store-bought pita bread tastes. Thankfully, making pita bread at home isn't much more complicated than baking other breads. And it keeps in an airtight container for several days.
33. Sports Drinks
As a runner, I know the value of a good sports drink for hydration and electrolyte balance, among other things. But over time, those beverages can add up — and they aren't always made with the most natural ingredients. I love this adaptable homemade energy drink recipe because you can customize it to whatever you have in your kitchen.
34. Baby Food
It can be more than tempting to pick up expensive pouches of baby food at the store; companies are making some incredible flavors these days. Thing is, making your own versions is beyond simple, and you don't even need a special machine or any fancy tools. The Wholesome Baby Foods website is an awesome resource for parents looking for some healthy, DIY options. (See also: 24 Tips for Having a Baby on a Budget)
35. Various Cleaning Supplies
Between DIY Laundry Detergent and various other homemade cleaning supplies, saving money while keeping tidy is a no-brainer. I love making my own supplies at home because they are chemical-free and I rarely run out, as they're made from ingredients — like baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice — that I usually have on hand already.
5 Items You Should Buy
I've gone through the labor-intensive method of making my own cereal and — though it tasted great and was healthy — it just wasn't worth it. Boxed cereal is expensive, but I'd rather just find an inexpensive alternative like oatmeal than make my own.
2. Tortilla Chips
I have absolutely no doubt that these homemade tortilla chips are absolutely delicious, but they look like they take some major commitment. Since we mostly eat chips when we're hosting parties, I'd much rather grab a few bags at Aldi and make my own salsa instead. (See also: Easy Make-Ahead Dinner Party Dishes)
Similar to cereal and tortilla chips, I haven't had luck finding a simple and frugal enough cracker recipe to wow my tastebuds. I tried making my own Goldfish crackers, but the texture and taste was all wrong. Perhaps I need to dig deeper, but I'd much rather buy crackers or just keep them off my grocery list entirely.
4. Beer and Wine
My husband has tried his hand at homebrewing — and the results have certainly become fine-tuned over the years. Check out this awesome Guide to Homebrewing for tips on how to ferment your own beer, wine, and ciders at home. Without packaging and distribution fees, homemade brews are certainly a cheaper option eventually, though the initial startup costs (and time involved) might not make it seem that way. (See also: How to Make Moonshine)
5. Candy Bars
From a health perspective, I love the idea of making my own peanut butter cups and Twix bars. I've tried it several times with yummy results. From a time and money standpoint, I think it's better to buy occasionally and — ultimately — save more for special occasions.
What items do you make versus buying? Have you seen significant savings?
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