With so many modern grocery options, sometimes it’s hard to know when you’re better off making something at home. Yes, you could buy that can, bottle or frozen package, but at what cost? What are you really getting for your money? Unfortunately, a lot of the time you’re sacrificing food quality and hard-earned dollars for convenience.
If you want to eat less expensive, highly processed convenience foods and do a little more cooking at home, start by making some of these basics to get more financial and nutritional bang for your buck.
1. OATMEAL PACKETS
Oatmeal is a wonderful breakfast, but those little packets can be crazy expensive, not to mention loaded with added sugar. It’s easy to make your own and portion them into little baggies to save money.
Store-Bought: $3 per box of 10 packets | Homemade: $2 for 10 packets
Less added sugar + nutritious add-ons like dried fruits, seeds and nuts!
2. PANCAKE MIX
It’s so convenient to have pancake mix on hand. But why not mix your own? By doing so, you can control the ingredients and keep out any additives you might not want.
Store-Bought: $3.50 per box | Homemade: $2 for an equivalent amount of mix
Save $1.50 per box, and enjoy pancakes made without preservatives or hydrogenated oils.
3. FROZEN WAFFLES
Yes, frozen waffles go on sale from time to time, but their ingredient lists are long. Making a big batch of waffles on the weekend and freezing them is easy enough to do and a great way to save a few dollars each week. Simply pop one or two in the toaster oven, and top with fruit, peanut butter or nuts for a nutritional boost!
Store-Bought: $4.78 per 25-count box | Homemade: $4 to make 25 waffles
Save $1 per box, and enjoy waffles made with just a few ingredients.
4. FREEZER BREAKFAST SANDWICHES
Good job skipping the drive-through! Now ditch the frozen breakfast sandwich that is costing you way too much. Spend a little bit of time this weekend making your own freezer-ready breakfasts that will last you an entire week.
Store-Bought: $1.25 per sandwich | Homemade: 48￠ per sandwich
Save at least 75￠ per sandwich + less added sugar, salt and preservatives
Smoothies make a great fast breakfast or snack, but, man, can they get pricey! Save big-time money by making your own at home. One simple way to save on prep time is to portion fresh or frozen fruits and veggies into individual smoothie packets that you can just pop into the blender along with water, milk, yogurt—whatever mix-ins you like. Alternatively, you can freeze yogurt in ice cube trays for a protein boost of creamy goodness in your homemade smoothie pack.
Smoothie Bar: $6–8 per smoothie | Homemade: Less than $2 per smoothie
Serious financial savings + a great way to use up fresh fruits and veggies that would have gone bad otherwise
6. SALAD DRESSING
Take a look at the ingredient list on the side of a bottle of store-bought salad dressing. I know I was shocked the first time I read those long lists. Dressings are simple to make at home. You probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry right now!
Store-Bought: $3.36 for 16-ounce bottle of dressing | Homemade: $1 for same amount homemade
Save at least $2.25 per bottle + simple ingredient lists that can create limitless flavor combos
7. TOMATO SAUCE
Skip the additives and price tag, and make your own tomato-based sauce. Ditching store-bought sauce will reduce the added sugar and sodium for a better-for-you sauce. If you have the time, you can make a giant batch to can or freeze.
Store-Bought: About $2.50 per 14-ounce jar | Homemade: About $1.40 for an equivalent amount of marinara made with canned tomatoes
Over $1 savings per jar + way less added sugar and the ability to add in whatever veggies you need to use up
8. SOUP & CHILI
Fall is the best time for big, comfy sweaters and heaping bowls of soup. Skip the crazy amounts of salt in canned varieties and make your own. These easy recipes are a great place to start your homemade soup and chili explorations.
Store-Bought: $2 per can | Homemade: 40￠ for a hearty bowl of soup
Save at least $1.50 + control over how much sodium you slurp down
This healthy punch of sweet grains is a time-honored breakfast, snack and anytime yogurt treat. Try it on your ice cream! Amazing flavor and so much less expensive when you make your own at home!
Store-Bought: $5 (or more) per 12 -ounce bag | Homemade: $2.50 for same amount of granola
Save at least $2.50 per bag + customize your granola to include more of the ingredients you love!
10. SNACK BARS
For an afternoon boost or an any-time healthy snack, energy bars (or bites!) are fast and easy to make and take. Save yourself some serious cash by making and packing your own rather than picking one up in the grocery checkout lane!
Store-Bought: About $2 per bar | Homemade: 40￠ per bar
Big-time savings (around $1.60 per bar) + the ability to control the amount of sugar and customize mix-ins and spices to your liking