Continuing on the path to better domestic service by way of saving money we're going to talk about cooking from scratch. Don't get all panicky yet. I don't meant to scratch cook everything - as no one has that much time anymore. But there are a few things that will definitely save you money if you could make them from scratch instead of buying them. Convenience always comes at a cost, remember that! It will take longer to make but the goal here is to save money and we can always figure out how to budget time for the important things.
So what sorts of things can you make at home that will be cheaper (and often healthier) than the store-bought versions? Baked goods, sauces and soups/stock are a good start. They are all things that are overpriced at the store because you are paying for the convenience of someone else making them, and then all the preservatives in order to keep them tasting moist and tender past its homemade shelf life versions.
The first thing I decided to figure out if making it at home was cheaper was bread. The loaf of bread that KnyghtMare prefers is usually sold for $2.50. If I could make a loaf for less than that, that he would eat then I had a winner. Once I added the ingredients together I had a mere $1.25. It would be less if I purchased the flour and butter during sale seasons. My first experiments were a mess, but I was quickly a bread maker that KnyghtMare would ask for homemade bread over the loaf.
Now I make chicken stock, pizza sauce, bread, breaded chicken tenders, spice mixes like taco seasoning and my coffee mix (it's like International Coffee's French Vanilla Cappuccino). These things are cheaper than the store versions and taste better too!
Here are a few examples from my shopping trip this week:
- I looked at precut peppers and onions mix for fajitas in the produce section. It was $4.99/ lb! If you purchased and chopped your own.... the peppers were $1.50 for three and the onions were only 0.89/lb. I'm cutting my own, thank you.
- Baby carrots: $2 for 10 oz bag. Two pound bag of full size carrots for the SAME price. Just cut them into sticks, put in a container with a little water and they'll last just as long.
- Bone-in chicken breasts were $1.89/lb. The boneless ones? $4.29/lb! Buy a boning knife and remove the breast bone yourself. But don't toss it! It's prime stock making material.
- Taco seasoning packets were on sale for 95 cents each. But if you have the spices in your cupboard, and you likely do, it will cost you far less.
Don't do more than you can handle or have time for. I work at home, so a lot of the things I do for scratch cooking you may not be able to do but a few things I learned you can too. Perhaps you are a convenience shopper and you buy the precut vegetables, deboned meat, and sliced or shredded cheese. Consider how much money you could save if you cut your own veggies, deboned and prepped your own meat (it's not as hard as you think) or shredded your own cheese from a block. This simple change can save you money in the kitchen!
Spend 30 minutes after you come home from shopping to prep the veggies, portion out the meats and shred/chop the cheeses. This bit of work when you've already allotted time for groceries will save you time when rushed for meal prep after a busy day at work.
Use your crockpot!
This is the busiest pot in my kitchen. I make chicken stock, soups, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, shredded chicken and more in it while I'm off doing other things. If you are short on time, this is the best way to get some home-made foods made with very little time investment. If you can afford it, get a bread machine and you'll have homemade bread for just the time investment of tossing in the ingredients too.
Find home-made versions of your favorite foods.
Are you a mac and cheese fanatic? Or maybe your weakness chicken nuggets? These things can be made at home, in large batches and frozen to use when you get the craving. Batch cooking and "for the freezer" cooking are smart tactics to save money also. The next time you make a meal, double the amount and freeze the left overs for a future meal.
You can save money buying groceries if you take the time to prepare them at home. Convenience is nice, but only cost worthy if you just can't possibly find time to get it done yourself. And let's face it; better time management will give you the time you need to save money in your home.
Do you cook from scratch? What other tips do you have about cooking from scratch?