If you’re on a budget there’s always the temptation to try and make everything from scratch. Many times I’ve been in the middle of making a homemade salad dressing and thought I wonder if it would be cheaper just to buy it. Part of the appeal of making my own has nothing to do with cost, and more to do with knowing what’s in the food I eat.
A few months ago while I was on one of the book trading sites I stumbled across this book. Make The Bread, Buy The Butter by Jennifer Reese. It’s all about what you should and shouldn’t cook from scratch, so I thought why not use one of my trade points and check it out.
I’m really glad I need because the book, besides being brand new, is a fun read with lots of useful tips about how to decide on what to make and what to buy at the store. The author lost her job which set her on the course of food related experiments like making her own breads and peanut butter. It’s full of recipes and now definitely a keeper on my book shelf. After reading the book it got me thinking more about what’s worth making at home. Here are some things I make from scratch and how I decide-
I love bread and sometimes eat too much of it. It’s one of the things on my list that no matter how tight the budget, I try to squeeze in a gourmet loaf of bread now and then. In the past they’ve been around $5, but in the last year or good quality bread has become more expensive, but I don’t want to go without. I’ve been making my own and one thing that comes to my rescue each time is my bread machine. Without it I’d probably still make bread but not so often. Just the other day while I was doing a million other things I put flour, yeast, oatmeal, yogurt, salt and water into it and three hours later had the best wheat and oatmeal bread for lunch. The same thing at the store would probably be around $6.
Jams and Jellies
For me the biggest appeal isn’t the cost because jam always seems to be on sale, but the pleasure in making it and eating something in the dead of winter that I made in the summer. You can control the sugar content too which is big deciding factor for me.
I admit I do keep some canned soups in my pantry supply because they’re handy, always on sale, and if you get sick and don’t have homemade, they’re great to fall back on. Having said that, once you get into the habit of making and eating ones you’re made yourself, there’s no going back. Best thing about soup is depending on what ingredients you use you can turn it into a low cost meal. And they’re great for using up leftover ingredients too.
Once upon a time I always kept a box of pastry in the freezer but now the only types in there are phyllo and puff. I’ve never tried to make phyllo and don’t think I ever will. And I have made puff pastry but it was too time consuming. However, short crust pastry is always homemade now. I make double the amount and freeze half of it so it’s always ready and waiting.
Most of the dressings I make have some mayonnaise in them and for awhile I thought if I have to keep buying it, wouldn’t it be cheaper to buy salad dressing? But once again, mayo always seems to be on sale so I stock up. And one type of dressing that I’ve never had second thoughts about making at home is vinaigrette. Easy and simple and oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper and some herbs don’t cost much.
While regular yogurt isn’t that expensive, the better qualities ones are so I usually end up buying one and then using some of it to make my own batch using my yogurt maker. Nicest thing is you can add just about anything to it, and even turn it into your own Greek style variety.
How to Decide
As well as your budget you have to look at the time factor. If something’s going to take you hours and then sometimes it’s worth going to the store. Also, if something is on sale or I have a coupon or both then the store bought variety wins hands down. Lastly, if it’s something that doesn’t have a load of strange sounding ingredients in it then I usually don’t mind buying it at the supermarket.
And if you’ve ever thought about making your own version of things you find at the store or a restaurant, check out this site for some ideas- http://www.copykat.com/