Make or Buy? Macaroni and Cheese

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Mac and cheese is a quick weeknight meal for a great many of us, especially on those nights when we get home too late to cook much else. But is the boxed variety really that much more convenient than making a batch from scratch? Or cost-effective? Let’s take a look.

For purposes of comparison, we’ll use Annie’s Shells and White Cheddar, our personal favorite boxed mac n’ cheese, and our own recipe for mac and cheese: Easy Homemade Macaroni and Cheese. All costs were taken from Peapod Online Grocery. In the homemade cost, we don’t account for the cost of salt, pepper, or other typical pantry staples.


Annie’s Shells and White Cheddar:
Box mix: $1.50
1/4 cup milk: $0.08
2 tablespoons butter: $0.13

TOTAL: $1.71

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese:
1 pound pasta: $1.00
1 1/2 cups whole milk: $0.45
2 tablespoons flour: $.04
2-3 cups shredded cheese: $2.99
1/2 teaspoon salt: $0.00
1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard: $0.15

TOTAL: $4.63


Annie’s Shells and White Cheddar: approximately 15 minutes

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese: approximately 20 minutes


Here’s where things get a little subjective. Making a box of store-bought macaroni and cheese is something that we can do sleepy, starving, tipsy, and all points in between. Homemade macaroni and cheese requires a little more attention…But not that much. After making it a few times, we think that homemade mac and cheese is just as easy and brainless as making the boxed version.

However, the boxed version is definitely convenient in that it contains almost all the ingredients right in the box. All we need to have are a few tablespoons of butter and a splash of milk (or yogurt). The butter is even optional! The homemade version requires us to have done at least a little bit of planning ahead so we have all the ingredients on hand.


In our mind, homemade macaroni and cheese that has been freshly-prepared with real ingredients that we chose and purchased ourselves is a clear winner in this category.


The cost and time breakdown are so close that they’re almost a wash. Convenience can be variable depending on our situation, but we’d probably have to give this one to the boxed version. But then we’ll take homemade over store-bought any time when it comes to tastiness and all-around healthfulness.

OUR VERDICT: Go for homemade macaroni and cheese.

Do you agree?

(Images: Peapod and Emma Christensen)