Taking it one extra step further by making the ingredients for those meals shaves a considerable amount from the grocery bill.
What can you make at home that will save you money (and also taste better) in the long run?
When I moved to Switzerland, I found out a little more about making my own simple vinaigrette, from a German woman who always made the most amazing vinaigrette when I went to her house for lunch.
If you prefer another dressing for your salads, do an internet search and try a few recipes for your favorite salad dressings. Most likely, you already have everything you need to create those dressings in your pantry. You might even have several recipes for salad dressings in your standard cookbook that is sitting on your kitchen shelf.
I usually make bread in the afternoon right after lunch, while we have quiet time. I have also started bread before dinner and it was done after dinner. I have done that while I am cooking something for dinner that is on top of the stove and not in the oven. I’ve started making bread before breakfast as well, to have fresh bread ready for lunch.
I usually make French bread and rosemary olive oil bread, but you can see the other breads I make here, including biscuits, chapatis, bagels, and all sorts of muffins, including lemon poppyseed muffins. A loaf of French bread costs me 25 cents to make, and it makes the best sandwiches.
Jams and jellies:
Jams are easy to make.
A friend of mine told me of a conversation that her neighbor had with the neighbor’s husband. The husband asked why in the world anyone would make their own jam. It seemed like too much trouble to him.
My friend then gave them a jar of her homemade jam.
Once he tasted it, the man realized why people make their own! He was amazed at how much better it tasted!
The price of making your own jams and jellies will depend on the cost of your ingredients. I find it is best to buy your sugar in bulk. (If you prefer a low-sugar or no sugar version, there are recipes for that, too!) There are usually coupons out for pectin in June of each year, as well as for canning lids. Summer is the easiest time to find jars, and if you haven’t canned before, you should know that the jars and rings are reusuable (the center part of the lid must be replaced each year). There are also reusable lids if you want to upfront (and then there are more expensive jars with rubber rings). You can also make freezer jam, which doesn’t need to be canned at all.
The main part of your jams and jellies is the fruit. The least expensive (and best tasting) jam is made with fruit in season. When fruits are in season, they are also the least expensive. If you’re growing a garden and you’re growing enough fruit to can, your costs are even lower. Pick your own farms (click here to locate one near you if you are in the United States) are another source. Craig’s List and Freecycle are ways to find fruit for free that other people are growing but don’t want. One of my readers cans hundreds of jars of fruits and jams all made with free fruit that she picked. Let friends know that you’re looking for places to pick fruit for free, and opportunities to pick may come to you, too!
I generally make:
Apricot Vanilla Jam (with apricots from my own tree and others that I pick for free)
Apple Butter or Pear Butter (with apples bought on sale, but sometimes with gleaned ones; I have made pear butter with gleaned pears and occasionally with a few from my trees )
Pomegranate Jelly (with pomegranates that I pick for free; you need a lot of pomegranates to make jelly and my tree hasn’t made that many yet)
Fig Jam and Fig Jam with rosemary, honey, and cinnamon (with Mission Figs from my tree; a Mission fig fruits twice a year)
Hot Pepper Jelly (Made with hot peppers that I grow in my garden and green bell peppers that I find on sale and freeze for when I want to make jam)
I will occasionally make strawberry jam, but the price of the strawberries has to be fantastic. (We love low-sugar strawberry jam in our yogurt; the low sugar jam is very easy to stir in). I have also made rose petal jelly (from the roses in my garden), johnny jump-up jelly (from johnny jump-ups from my garden) and tangerine jelly (from gleaned tangerines).
As you can see, my fruits are desert fruits, because those things grow well in the hot desert. If I lived in a cooler climate, I would make elderberry jam, blueberry jam, raspberry and blueberry jams, currant jelly, etc. I could make grape jelly (as I grow grapes) but we have more than enough jams and jellies to keep us going with what I have. Instead, I can grape juice from our grapes.
Sprouts are very simple to make: Add 1-3 tablespoons of sprouting seeds to the bottom of a jar. Soak them a few hours or overnight. In the morning, dump out the liquid. Rinse the seeds three times a day, dumping out the liquid each time. You can use a special sprouting lid, or simply use a clean piece of pantyhose from a torn pair, held in place by the canning lid ring.
I sprout lentils, mung beans (those are what you get when you buy bean sprouts for stir fry), and alfalfa seeds, but you can sprout lots of sprouting seeds. You can also buy seeds for microgreens (I bought arugula seeds this way before), and both kinds come in bulk (they work equally well in your garden, too!)
One day, years ago, I was in the grocery store looking at eggs. A woman who looked to be about 20 years my senior came near to me with her cart and a young child in it. She was looking at the cookie dough. She saw me with my small children and asked if I knew where a particular cookie dough was.
I told her I didn’t know, as I always make my cookies from scratch.
She said to me, “You must be one of those ‘homemaker’ people.”
Indeed I am.
Several years later I was at the store with my then 5-year-old son. He asked me if we could buy some of the things he saw at the store. I explained to him that we were only buying what was on the list. As we walked toward a few different things that he liked, he asked if those things were on my list.
When he saw an endcap of cookies, he said, “Cookies! I know those aren’t on the list.”
I should mention that I grew up with store bought cookies. They were okay. However, every single time that I make cookies, my mom wants one. She always asks if I saved any for her. (The children will see her through the gate and mention that they had cookies for snacks). I’m making it a point to keep a cookie for my mom. She loves homemade cookies.
For my husband, there is only Nestlé’s Tollhouse cookie recipe (without nuts and with extra chocolate; I always make a double batch). (A note to my readers outside the U.S. who have never had chocolate chip cookies; buy some chocolate bars and chop them into pieces and make these. They are wonderful!)
It’s not the least expensive cookie to make, however, so I’ll make others:
and then something different from different cookbooks when I want to have a change.
I don’t make cookies real often, as they are expensive compared to having fruit from the garden, but they are fun, and I like cookies 🙂 I do buy my ingredients in bulk to keep costs lower.
A few other random things that I make from scratch:
Steak sauce (this is really tasty on black bean burgers)
Chicken flavored rice (like rice a roni)
White Bean Dip
Pie crusts and tart doughs
What fun things do you make from scratch? Do you make your own cheeses, or mustards? Both are on my list to try. I’ve been making a lot of Asian recipe ingredients from scratch lately, too. She Simmers has a great Thai Sweet Chili sauce. Do you give any of your homemade ingredients as gifts?
All posts in this series:
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Introduction
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part One: Eat More Meatless Meals
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Two: Buy in Bulk
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Three: Make it From Scratch
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Four: Only Buy Food When It is at Its Lowest Price
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Five: Grow More in Your Garden
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Six: Glean
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Seven: Eat In Season Produce
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Eight: Eat More Soup
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Nine: The Price Per Pound, or in Other Words, Comparing Apples to Oranges
Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Ten: Snacks