There are many products available at your local supermarket to help you simplify meal preparation. Convenience products have become incredibly commonplace. Therefore, you may not realize how easy and inexpensive it is to prepare the same foods from ingredients you have at home. Ditching pre-packaged convenience foods to make your own can save you money and help you control which ingredients go into the foods you eat. Here are 15 items you can prepare at home to save money and improve the quality of your meals.
15. Bread Crumbs
Sure, it’s convenient to grab a box of bread crumbs to mix into meatballs, bulk up meatloaf, or sprinkle atop a casserole. However, it is incredibly easy to make your own bread crumbs. Furthermore, making your own bread crumbs helps you use up bread that would otherwise go to waste. First, place slices of bread on a cookie sheet in your oven and bake at 300 degrees for about 10-12 minutes. Then, place the toasted pieces of bread into your food processor and process until they are fine. Store extra breadcrumbs in your freezer for up to three months.
Like breadcrumbs, you can make your own croutons at home from stale or day-old bread. Gimme Some Oven has instructions for making Homemade Croutons. This recipe requires one loaf of bread, olive oil, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, black pepper, and sea salt. These croutons make a tasty addition to soups, salads, and casseroles. You can even make salad croutons from leftover hot dog or hamburger buns after hosting a barbecue. Simply cut up leftover buns to use in place of the loaf of bread.
13. Energy Bars
The energy bars you find at the grocery store contain processed ingredients and may be high in sugar. When you make energy bars at home, you can control the ingredients that go into these healthy snacks. Hello Glow has a recipe for Gluten-Free No Bake Almond Blueberry Granola Bars. Ingredients for these bars include rolled oats, almond butter, maple syrup, dried berries, nuts, and cinnamon. You can create variations of these bars by using different nut butters, dried fruits, and nuts.
Granola is another healthy food that can come from the supermarket packed with chemicals, additives, and processed ingredients. To make homemade granola, try Cookie and Kate’s recipe for The Very Best Granola. Old-fashioned oats, raw nuts, seeds, dried fruit, cinnamon, maple syrup, and olive oil combine to make a healthy, tasty snack. You can alter the flavor by choosing different fruits, nuts, and seeds. Furthermore, you can choose your own add-ins such as chocolate chips, shredded coconut, or white chocolate chunks.
The guacamole you find in the refrigerated section of your supermarket is never as tasty as the guacamole you can whip up at home. It takes only moments to combine mashed avocado with diced onion, garlic, chopped tomatoes, lime juice, and sea salt. You can also experiment with different flavors by adding ingredients such as cilantro, jalapeno pepper, and spices. Enjoy your homemade guacamole on toast, on top of a bowl of chili, or as a dip for fresh veggies or tortilla chips.
10. Iced Tea
Pass by the jugs of iced tea in your local supermarket and make iced tea at home. Allrecipes has a recipe for Iced Tea II using orange pekoe tea bags, sugar, lemon juice, and water. According to Simply Recipes, you can make Sun Tea by dropping four tea bags into a two-quart glass container of water and placing it out in the sun for three to five hours.
9. Jarred Marinara Sauce
You may associate spaghetti sauce with hours of simmering. If so, you will be happy to realize that you can make your own tasty marinara sauce in less than half an hour. Sabrina at Dinner Then Dessert has a recipe for Quick and Easy Marinara Sauce that she says can be made in 15 minutes. However, allowing it 40 minutes cooks it to perfection. This recipe utilizes onion, garlic, crushed tomatoes, and spices. Double the recipe and freeze a batch to pull out for future meals.
8. Pancake Mix
Given the number of pancake mixes lining grocery store shelves, you would think homemade pancakes are difficult to prepare. However, you can whip up fluffy, delicious pancakes in minutes using flour, baking powder, eggs, milk, butter, salt, and sugar. All of these ingredients probably reside in your kitchen pantry and refrigerator. Make your pancakes extra special by mixing in ingredients like mashed banana, pumpkin puree, fresh blueberries, or chocolate chips.
7. Salad Dressing
There is no need to purchase pre-made salad dressings when whipping up your own is so simple. You can make a simple vinaigrette from olive oil, white wine vinegar, and a dash of salt. Use mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, dill weed, and spices to whip up ranch dressing in just minutes. Homemade Italian dressing requires ingredients you probably have in your pantry. These ingredients include vinegar, oil, garlic salt, onion powder, oregano, thyme, basil, parsley, and celery salt.
Store-bought doesn’t hold a candle to homemade pico de gallo. Ree Drummond has a recipe for Pico de Gallo using onions, Roma tomatoes, cilantro, jalapenos, lime, and salt. Meanwhile, you can whip up a tasty restaurant-style salsa in your food processor using the same ingredients. Substituting a can of fire-roasted tomatoes for the fresh Roma tomatoes adds an extra boost of flavor.
5. Shredded Cheese
Buying pre-shredded packages of cheese from the grocery store may save you some time in the kitchen. However, shredding a block of cheese at home takes only minutes and provides you with a smoother, meltier cheese. Pre-packaged shredded cheeses contain extra ingredients to prevent the cheese shreds from clumping together. While this keeps them looking nice in the package, it prevents them from melting smoothly. Improve the flavor and texture of your dishes by buying a block of cheese and shredding it as you need it.
4. Pre-Packaged Salads
The refrigerated shelves lined with a variety of pre-packaged salads makes it clear we enjoy the convenience of grabbing a salad-to-go. However, you can create your own salad at home for a fraction of the cost by purchasing a head of Romaine lettuce or a package of spinach. When you consider it only takes minutes to chop up a head of lettuce, you will wonder if the pre-packaged products are worth the price.
3. Taco Seasoning
The little packages of taco seasoning may be convenient, but you can make your own at home for only pennies. This Taco Seasoning I recipe at Allrecipes uses a mixture of spices you probably already have on hand. Double or triple the recipe and keep this seasoning in your pantry for the next time you make tacos. Spices needed include chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, and cumin.
2. Vegetable Stock
Refrain from throwing away vegetable scraps, such as the unused portions of onions, celery, carrots, bell peppers, and potatoes. Instead, freeze them to boil into vegetable stock. This will save you money on expensive pre-packaged stocks, and allow you to control the amount of sodium in your broth.
1. Whipped Cream
Bypass the whipped cream containers at the supermarket and make whipped cream at home from real whipping cream. Whip up cream, sugar, and vanilla extract with your electric mixer for a heavenly topping for desserts, hot chocolate, or frozen beverages.