Sometimes I look at my pantry and think, I would probably save so much money if I made half of this myself. But then I remember that I live in America — land of the free and home of the processed, prepackaged foods that have perfected the art of cheap and convenient. In many cases, the store-bought version of a food item, although not always as wholesome as the homemade version, might be easier on your wallet.
However, there are still many foods you can make at home that will cut your grocery bill.
Granola is both trendy and delicious, which means it can get pretty pricey, pretty quickly. The good news is, you probably already have all of the ingredients in your pantry and with about fifteen minutes of prep time, 30 to 45 minutes of watchful baking, and a fraction of the cost, you can make it at home. Start with rolled oats and add your choice of nuts, dried fruits, and coconut; toss everything in equal parts honey (or maple syrup) and oil (or melted butter).
2. Salad Dressing
Making your own salad dressing is cheaper than purchasing high-quality salad dressings and is usually healthier, as processed salad dressings often feature old or rancid oils and plenty of preservatives.
A homemade salad dressing of oils (olive, sunflower, sesame), vinegars (red wine, white wine, balsamic) and spices can last in your refrigerator for a week or two.
The secret ingredient in many homemade salad dressings is anchovy paste — it doesn’t taste like fish, but it gives the flavors in your dressing a certain depth and richness.
3. Frozen Burritos
Frozen burritos are quick and convenient meals when you’re on the go or just too busy to cook. Make your own by wrapping refried beans, cheese, and meat in tortillas; wrap them individually in foil, then freeze them. Pop them in the microwave whenever you’re ready, and serve with salsa and fresh toppings.
4. Smoothies and Juices
I’m not sure when the trend of juicing and smoothies really got going, but I’ll be honest: I hope it never ends. Depending on the day and the mood, either a smoothie or juice can supercharge you with nutrients and bursts of natural energy. They can also drain your bank account 10 times faster than you can fill it.
Smoothies are the easiest to replicate at home: Gather ideas from your favorite brands and juice bars, and blend fruits and veggies with a base of juice, water, coconut water, milk (almond, soy, coconut dairy), or ice.
You can make your own juices without owning a juicer, too: Blend fruits and veggies with a cup or two of water and, if you want more of a juice and less pulp, pour through a fine-mesh strainer.
5. Baby Food
In terms of price for weight, baby food is probably one of the most expensive items in the grocery store. It’s incredibly easy to make your own high-quality baby food. Your pediatrician will provide you with guides to the types of food that your baby is ready for, and the easiest and cheapest option you have is to buy those foods raw, boil them, mash them, and store them in the fridge. Many foods, such as apples and sweet potatoes, can also be mashed and then frozen in ice trays and thawed weeks later. There's no need to add sugar or spices.
You can also pop a frozen cube of mashed fruit or veggie (or a blend of both!) into a teething feeder and let baby chew away. It’s a great way to introduce new flavors, and they love the cold against their teething gums.
What does your pantry look like? Do you make any foods at home that are cheaper than the options available in stores?
(Image credits: Michaela Cisney)