8 Foods You’re Wasting Money (and Calories) On If You Buy Them at the Store
I must preface this post with an admission: I am pretty much the furthest thing from a “serious” home cook you’ll ever encounter. I don’t spend my weekends working my way through a Julia Child cookbook. I don’t obsessively pin recipe ideas on a Pinterest board. I don’t make piles of baked goods for the office just because I happened to be playing round with a snickerdoodle recipe the night before. Heck, I don’t even measure when I cook.
So yes, I’m a pretty lazy home cook. I have my stable of a dozen or so go-to recipes that I simply make over and over and over again. These recipes contain just a few simple ingredients I almost always have on hand, and they come together in 20 minutes or less. Sure, they’re delicious, but they are anything but complicated or creative.
I say all of this by way of background for today’s post, because I want you to understand that if a lazy home cook like me can muster the energy/creativity to make the items below at home, rather than buy them at the store, you can, too. Based on my culinary track record alone, you can trust the fact that these recipes are so embarrassingly simple, you’ll wonder why you ever store-bought them in the first place.
So here goes: My list of eight no-brainer, easy-to-make-at-home foods you’d be crazy to buy at the store ever again.
Once I started making my own hummus at home, I actually started silently mocking those who wasted money on the store-bought stuff. All you need is a food processor (a blender would probably work, too, though I’ve never tried it). To make a basic hummus recipe (Remember, I eyeball everything, so you’re not going to get any real measurements here, sorry), I dump a can of chickpeas (Reserve the liquid!), juice from half a lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin and garlic (or garlic powder) into a food processor, and puree. You’ll want to add some of the reserved liquid back in slowly while processing until you reach your desired consistency. Technically, traditional hummus contains tahini, which you can find in the ethic-foods aisle if you so desire. But having made it with and without over the years, I can honestly say it doesn’t make a ton of difference, flavor-wise.
The nice thing about homemade hummus is that you can customize the flavors how ever you want. Add some roasted red peppers, sneak in some roasted eggplant (Done it! Delicious.), or, heck, add some spinach for an extra nutritional punch. The combinations are literally endless.
Oh, and if you’re wondering, one can of chickpeas makes almost double the amount of hummus you’ll find in those puny eight-ounce containers at the store.
Yes, jarred salsa is convenient, but once you’ve had the fresh-made stuff you’ll never go back. I’ve posted my favorite black bean salsa recipe before, which makes, as I pointed out, “a ridiculous, Army-size serving”—meaning, if you were making this for at-home consumption, instead of, say, a Super Bowl, you’d easily have it for a week if you ate it every day. I would say the recipe makes at least three times as much salsa as you’d get in a jar of the store-bought stuff. And hey, thanks to the beans, you’re getting a pretty killer protein serving, too.
3. Peanut Butter
Just like the hummus, the only kitchen tool required here is a food processor or blender. (Are you noticing a theme?) Buy one of those big ol’ bags of roasted peanuts at the store, and process them (de-shelled, of course) with one to two tablespoons of peanut oil or another oil, some salt, and honey if you like your PB sweeter. Reserve some crushed nuts if you like chunky peanut butter and add them in at the end. The beauty of making this at home is that you save yourself from needless calories and additives by controlling the ingredients yourself. Plus, the homemade kind tastes so much better.
I’ve heard that people buy jarred pesto, but I wouldn’t know firsthand because I’ve never done it myself. Why? Because I make it at home, duh. Bust out the trusty old food processor once again. Add a handful of fresh basil (or a mix of basil and spinach, which is what I usually do to sneak in some extra nutrients), a glug or two of olive oil, a clove of garlic, lemon juice, pine nuts, salt, pepper, and two spoonfuls of parmesan. Process until well combined. Done and done.
5. Tomato Sauce
Take a cue from our recipe blogger, Becca Boyd, and ditch the jarred tomato sauce once and for all. For one thing, many of the brands you’ll find at the store are loaded with sugar. And for another, it’s insanely easy to make tomato sauce for yourself at home. Check out Becca’s step-by-step recipe.
I almost forgot to put this on this list because it just about slipped my mind that some people actually buy this stuff instead of making it themselves. On the rare occasions I’ve been forced to go with the store-made stuff, I’m always disappointed: The consistency is off, and the flavors usually fall flat. So as long as you can get your hands on a few very ripe avocados (or if you can bare it to wait a few days while your rock-hard avocados turn soft and perfect), you’re better off making guacamole at home. Basic guac requires the innards of one or two avocados, lime juice, salt, pepper and diced tomatoes and onions. Add some chopped cilantro and a minced jalapeño if you like both of those things. Then mash it all together until you get the consistency you’re looking for. Just be sure to save one of the avocado pits; you can store leftover guac with a pit to keep it from turning brown. For easy guacamole variations, check out our roundup.
7. Salad Dressing
Have you ever stopped to read the ingredient list on a bottle of store-bought salad dressing? Do it once and you’ll be a convert: You should be making this stuff at home. Honestly, my go-to dressing is simply a drizzle of olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar, but if you want to get fancier, Becca Boyd to the rescue again. She’s got 10 easy-to-make salad dressing recipes you can whip up in seconds.
8. Flavored Water
Imagine me banging my head against a wall for even having to write this. You guys, flavored water is simply water … with flavoring! One of my go-to hydration tricks is spiking my water with frozen cut fruit (frozen pineapple is my current obsession). The frozen fruit not only keeps your water nice and cold, its natural flavors mix with your H2O as it defrosts. Best part? You get to eat the fruit at the end.
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