Five foods that are MUCH cheaper to make at home
All of these are easy. Some are so super easy it's embarrassing that I ever bought them in a store.
1. Croutons. Got too much bread? Is some of it going stale? For homemade croutons, cut bread into cubes, put it on a baking tray, add some melted butter, salt and garlic powder. Bake until golden brown. These taste better than store-bought croutons, and save you so much money: store-bought, stale croutons cost between $3-$4 a pound. For variety, you can use onion powder instead of garlic, or any other spice you choose.
2. Gravy. For about $1.50/cup canned or bottled, you can buy premade gravy. While it's cheaper to buy this as a packet mix, which has a final cost of only $0.50 a cup, gravy made from scratch tastes just as good–or better–and can cost as little as ten cents a cup.
Your basic gravy can be made as follows:
Boil 1 cup of water per 2 bouillon cubes. When the cubes are dissolved in the hot water, in a separate cup or bowl mix in 2 tablespoons of flour to a cup of cold water. Use a whisk to slowly add the cold flour-and-water mix to the hot bouillon water.
To the above you can add variations like herbs: a little poultry seasoning in great in chicken gravy, and Worchestshire sauce is nice in beef gravy. But even with such flavorings, this way a cup of gravy costs only pennies.
(Pro tip: Store-bought canned chicken broth costs about $1.30 a cup. If you are boiling a lot of chicken, and have a pressure canner, save the broth you boiled the chicken in and pressure can it! This broth makes excellent gravy, and you can control the amount of salt in it. We boiled 36 pounds of chicken thighs and got 13 pounds of meat, 5 cups cat food from the skins, etc, and 13 pints of incredibly rich and flavorful chicken broth.)
3. Popcorn. Not only does microwave popcorn have unhealthy fats and oils, it's very salty. And it costs anywhere from fifty cents to a dollar a microwaved bag, for 3.2 ounces of food each. It's healthier and better to make your own popcorn with an air-popper, which is six cents a portion, plus any energy cost – butter and salt are optional. Or you can make your own microwave popcorn in brown paper lunch bags for about 10 cents a portion. http://www.instructables.com/id/Microwave-Popcorn%3A-Home-made,-cheap-and-easy/
4. Coffee. Yes, coffee. Brewed coffee has one of the highest profit margins of any food. Here's the math: a simple 12-ounce takeout coffee costs about $1.59, but making that same cup at home is less than $0.20. And you get to stay in your robe and slippers while you drink it. (Almost the same markup applies to tea, but for ridiculous savings grow herbs like chamomile and make your own herb teas for practically nothing.)
5. Iced Tea. I have no idea why people buy premade iced tea. Here is the price comparison, and remember that when you make it at home YOU control how much sugar goes into it.
- 1 quart of premade iced tea: 80 cents if you buy it by the gallon
- 1 can or bottle of convenience iced tea like Snapple: anywhere from 50 cents each bottle in a 6-pack ($1/qt) to $1.59/pint individually ($3.18/qt.)
- 1 quart of iced tea from a mix (Lipton's): 30 cents.
- Homemade iced tea: six cents for three tea bags per quart, plus what ever sugar or flavorings you add–the above premade costs were for plain or "lemon" flavored. You can add whatever seasonal fruit or sweetener you wish, preferably things like home-grown stevia from your garden, or honey or crushed berries. And if you make sun tea there is no energy cost.
I invested in a stovetop hand-crank popcorn popper. I use organic popcorn that I buy in bulk, virgin organic coconut oil, sugar and salt to make healthy kettle corn. The kids love it as a treat and it keeps for a day or two in a sealed container. The cost is maybe a dollar or two per large batch.
Bonus: We can use the popcorn popper on the top of the woodstove if needed.
How about bread? Three dollars a loaf, unless you want to use your breadmaking machine: then it comes out to about seventy-five cents.
Yogurt — a very high price item, unless you make your own. But better and easier ehan that is
Kefir — also useful if you don’t have electricity, but want to preserve your milk.
For fermented foods, those who like Natto, that little seventy-five cent, eighth-ounce package of 30 soybeans is EXTREMELY expensive. It’s great for vitamin K2, good for rebuilding bones. Set up a good operation, and you go from 75 cents for 30 beans to 75 cents for a pound.
I have not done this myself (planning to start) but my sister does and she says it is very easy. Just scald the milk, let it cool to about 45C (repeat 45 degrees centigrade) and then add a little (about a tablespoon to a pint)of the whey from yogurt you already have (do NOT put the solid yogurt) and stir gently. Keep the container in a warm place (about 26-30C) till it sets and then transfer to the fridge. In India, many people do this every day, and it's a bit like the making of sourdough in that your culture life ends up being decades old.
Store bought yogurt cost s over 2x the price of milk and it takes just a few minutes to do it.