Everyone wishes they could shave a few extra dollars off of their grocery bill every now and then. But not everyone knows exactly what they can do to cut back. There are, of course, hacks like buying store brands and meal planning to save money. But lots of people are wasting cash on pre-made items that could actually be better made at home.
In addition to cutting costs, DIY-ing these items can actually help you eat healthier. Many pre-made and packaged versions of foods can come with extra additives and less nutritional value than ones you might make yourself. Companies add in food colorings and dyes to make their products stand out visually on the shelf. Sometimes, these companies also add preservatives and other chemicals to make their products last longer.
By making your own grocery items, you can avoid these unnecessary ingredients and save money. And it’s easier to do that than you might think. You don’t have to be a wizard in the kitchen to conquer any of these simple recipes. In fact, many of the items on this list don’t require an actual recipe at all. With a little know-how and some pantry staples, you can avoid buying all of these items and just make them instead.
Once you learn how to make your own stock at home, you’ll never buy the pre-packaged stuff again. It’s surprisingly easy to make and incredibly cheap. All you need is a large pot, water, and some remnants from the chicken you cooked last night. Then, you can use the stock you made to cook even more dinners for your family by making soup or stew.
It’s certainly better to have your own creamer at home than spend an arm and a leg at a coffee shop every day. But some store-bought coffee creamers are seriously unhealthy, often chock-full of additives, sugars, and other unnecessary ingredients. The good news is that you can easily control what you’re pouring in your cup — just make your own creamer. Simply mix a 14-ounce can of condensed milk, 2 cups of either milk or heavy cream, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Store in an air-tight container and refrigerate for up to two weeks. Shake prior to serving. If you want to jazz it up a little more, try making flavored creamers by adding ingredients such as cinnamon, pumpkin spice, or hazelnut extract. You’ll get all the flavor of your favorite creamers without all the sugar!
Do you love the crunch of croutons in your salad? Cut the luxury item from your grocery list and make your own with a few inexpensive ingredients. All you need is some bread, olive oil or butter, and seasonings such as salt and garlic. Brush both sides of your bread with olive oil and season to your liking. Cut the bread into small, crouton-sized squares. Then, use either a toaster oven or regular oven to bake until the bread is toasted and crunchy. Allow them to cool and store in an airtight plastic bag or other container.
Whether you’re making icing or frosting — and yes, there is a difference — you can easily DIY. Don’t opt for the jarred kinds that have all kinds of colorings and hydrogenated oils. Some frosting recipes have as few as three ingredients, and they’re some of the best!
When you buy pre-cut fruit, you’re paying a huge upcharge for someone at the store slicing it for you. A serving of store-bought fruit salad can cost upwards of four dollars — the same price as nearly four servings of un-cut fruit. Buy an assortment of fruit for your family and set aside a few minutes to chop and slice them all at once. Store the fruit salad in an air-tight container for easier snacking. Unless, of course, you’re one of those haters that thinks fruit salad is trash. What’s that about?
No party — and no taco — is complete without a generous helping of guacamole. But don’t make the mistake of buying the pre-made kinds at the grocery store, or even the ones made at your local store’s deli. Guacamole is insanely easy to prepare yourself, so long as you know how to get your hands on a perfectly ripe avocado. Use this classic recipe to make the ultimate guacamole yourself, or try something new with one of these 50 — yes, 50 — alternative ways to make the Mexican dip.
Hummus is the perfect pairing for baby carrots, crackers, or anything else you want to dip, but a tub of that stuff goes fast. Store-bought hummus tastes great and is definitely convenient, but it’s also pretty easy to make in large batches all on your own. Buy a few cans of garbanzo beans and some tahini. After that, all you need are some pantry staples to make the delicious dip in your food processor. Here are some of the best recipes to get you started.
Premade iced teas can come loaded with added sugars and preservatives. If you really just enjoy the refreshing beverage plain, there’s no need to splurge on these sugary iterations. Make your own iced tea at home! Here’s a simple recipe for basic iced tea. Then once you’ve got that one down, you can get fancy with these tricks to upgrading your homemade batch.
Flavor-infused oils can rack up your grocery bill quite a bit — but they can also ramp up the flavor of your dishes. A simple sauté gets far tastier when you use flavored oil instead of plain. Luckily, you don’t have to miss out on these delicious dinners just because you don’t want to overspend on the fancy bottled oil. Simply infuse your own with whatever herbs and spices you desire. Here’s a simple tutorial to get you started.
Everyone loves a good potato salad — or coleslaw, or an egg salad, or any other kind of salad that has more mayo than vegetables. Your grocery store’s deli has all kinds of side-dishes pre-made and ready to serve. However, you’d be better off making these items at home. Tuna salad, chicken salad, and all those other dishes are relatively easy and inexpensive to make. Plus, seeing for yourself how much mayonnaise is really involved might make you rethink that third serving…
Peanut butter is pretty cheap, but almond butter? Cashew butter? All those specialty nut butters tend to be expensive. Making your own nut butter is easier than you might think. All you need is a food processor and whatever nuts you want in your butter. (Here are a few ideas other than peanut.) Blend them in your food processor with a dash or two of salt until the blend is completely smooth, scraping the sides with a spatula. If you want, you can even add chocolate or other ingredients to make your nut butter a little more interesting. It might take 10 to 15 minutes of blending, but your patience will pay off. While those jarred and processed versions can be tasty, there’s nothing quite like the pure, real thing!
Right next to the guacamole, grocery stores usually sell freshly made pico de gallo in small plastic containers. But just like the avocado-based dip, this tortilla chip companion should never be bought pre-made. It’s so easy to chop up your own! Round up some onion, tomato, spicy chile pepper, lime, and cilantro. Dice all the vegetables and squeeze in some lime juice. Add salt and serve! Of course, that’s the most basic recipe. Try mixing things up by adding mango or other flavorful ingredients.
In the rice aisle amidst the bulk bags of plain, dry rice you might be tempted by the variety of boxed and bagged rice pilafs and blends. These options take the actual cooking part of making rice out of the equation by adding in the spices, oils, beans, and vegetables for you. But there’s no need to rely on these microwave and one-pot meals. You can make your own rice dish for far cheaper with just as few dirty dishes! Cook your rice as you would normally and then add in some pizazz with the flavors you desire. Onions, garlic, canned beans, and spices are simple ways to elevate boring rice.
Dry-roasted almonds, peanuts, and other nuts make for a nutritious and filling snack. Buy the nuts raw in the bulk foods section of your grocery store and simply roast them yourself. Mix an assortment of nuts with your favorite cooking oil and salt. Add more spices if you want — you can make your snack spicy, cinnamon-dusted (in which case you should omit the salt), or peppery. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and roast in the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown.
Store-bought salad dressing is often made with chemical additives and colorings, many of which are totally unnecessary. Other dressings are made less healthy with fewer real food ingredients and more fake sweeteners and treated oils. Salad dressing is easier than you think to make at home. All you need to concoct basic vinaigrette is some vinegar, oil, and spices. Mix them together in whatever ratio tastes best and store in your fridge to use whenever you’re craving a salad. Here are eight simple recipes for the classics like balsamic vinaigrette and Italian!
Barbecue sauce, stir-fry sauce, or whatever other condiment you’re using for cooking can be store-bought, sure. But those bottled and jarred varieties often contain thickeners, preservatives, and other ingredients that you don’t need in your dinner. This stir-fry sauce recipe has only four ingredients and takes just minutes to make. You don’t have to be a Michelin-starred chef to make your own barbecue sauce, either.
Making your own cocktails at home is easier than you’d think and can be a lot of fun. Every bartender’s go-to ingredient? Simple syrup. But, sold alongside bitters and other specialty cocktail ingredients, simple syrup can cost you more than it needs to. To make your own, all you need is a small pot, some sugar, and water. Add two parts sugar and one part water to the pot then bring to a boil. Lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer. Stir. Continue until you’ve reached the desired syrupy consistency. Voila! You’re ready to DIY some refreshing cocktails.
Every home cook needs a well-stocked spice cabinet. But you don’t need to buy a new product every time you want a specific spice blend. Taco seasoning, poultry seasoning, and other spice mixes are a must for certain dishes, but they’re easy to make in small batches at home. Taco seasoning, for instance, is just a blend of five or six spices. The specific spices you use depend on how spicy you want your taco — but you get the point. Just do a quick search online for the spice blend you desire and use the seasonings you already have.
Making an ice cream sundae or a pecan pie? Please don’t opt for the canned spray stuff. And don’t even get us started on Cool Whip. Whipped cream requires just two ingredients (whipping cream and sugar). Whip up a batch on your own by using an electric mixer to alter the consistency of the whipping cream sold in a carton. Add sugar and bam. You’ve just made pure, unadulterated whipped cream, ready for use on your sweetest homemade pie recipes.
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