What Do I Buy That I Can Make?

In my ongoing quest to a) frugally feed my family and at the same time b) improve the quality of our diet, I had a bit of an epiphany the other day.

I decided to make a list of things that I currently BUY that I could MAKE from scratch.

A lot of stuff we purchase at the grocery store (like condiments and cleaning supplies) weren’t even available to our Grandmothers or weren’t affordable. These items were made at home.  Typically, the made at home version is far superior to the store bought, and usually cheaper.

Here’s what I came up with after a little brainstorming. Some of these items I regularly make myself, but I threw them in there because I thought it might be helpful to you. If you have any more suggestions, links to recipes or tips, please comment!
make instead of buyphoto credit

Stuff To Make At Home Instead of Buy

Salad Dressing – I love a simple olive oil, apple cider vinegar and honey vinaigrette. Sometimes a “Ranch” style dressing is nice too. Here is a creamy salad dressing recipe to try. (MSG and other icky ingredients not included.)

Laundry Detergent – I haven’t bought laundry detergent in several years. I make my own. (Big Z thinks I’m some kind of genius!) It’s cheap as dirt and works great. I use this recipe for homemade laundry detergent.

Dishwasher Detergent – I’ve made this in the past and found that it made my glasses cloudy, but after reading the recipe and comments on this site, I’m motivated to try again. Update 1/2012: After months of experimenting with various recipes, I’ve found that homemade dishwasher detergent just doesn’t work well enough for me to use full time. I buy the regular stuff and cut it 50% with homemade.

Dishwashing Liquid – I make my own dishwashing liquid by the gallon and it is dirt cheap! I also like the fact that it doesn’t have a strong fragrance.

Mayonnaise – This won’t be a cost savings (due to the eggs), but that doesn’t matter. Homemade mayo is more nutritious. I avoid soy products and commercial mayo is made from soy oil (or canola, just as bad). An easy recipe for homemade lacto-fermented mayonnaise is here on @cheeseslave’s blog. Because it’s lacto-fermented, it’s probiotic, lasts longer in your fridge and is a “live” food. This is one of those instances where making your own won’t save you money in the short term, but the end result is a healthier diet.

Ketchup – As soon as my tomatoes start growing I want to try my hand at homemade ketchup. I’ll use the recipe from my Nourishing Traditions cookbook.

Salsa – I love my homemade lacto-fermented salsa! Again, the homemade version is a superior product in terms of nutrition and taste.  Hurry up garden, I need tomatoes and peppers!

Jelly – I’ve never tried my hand at making homemade jelly because I didn’t have a source of free berries. When my strawberries start coming up (if there are any left after the kids pick them and eat them!), I want to do this.

Coconut Milk – I had no idea you could make your own coconut milk until I got an email in my inbox with this recipe. This is especially exciting since coconut milk is super nutritious, yet very expensive – I often cannot bring myself to pay $2 a can for it but now I don’t have to go without!

Homemade Tooth Powder – I love making my own homemade tooth powder. It’s very inexpensive, and my dental hygienist approves – as long as I leave out the cinnamon! (Read the post for an explanation.) It’s great especially during pregnancy if your foamy regular toothpaste triggers gagging.

Deodorant – I use straight up baking soda. It works better than anything I’ve used.

Kombucha – Kombucha is very expensive store bought and costs almost nothing if made at home. The SCOBY will live forever if you take care of it, so the only challenge is getting one. Ask around amongst your crunchy friends, or order it online or from eBay (Google search will turn up sources). Or you can culture your own by buying a bottle of GT’s kombucha (around $4) and growing the “mother”. Easy instructions here.

Kefir – Another expensive item ($4 a quart!) when store bought that can be made for pennies at home, and is soooo easy. I used to make kefir regularly but my grains froze in the refrigerator once and I have not replaced them. Similar to kombucha, once you get the kefir grains you can make kefir forever with just the cost of milk. Get them from a friend or online.

Yogurt – I make yogurt from raw milk in my slow cooker.

Sauerkraut – Homemade sauerkraut is super nutritious (great for your gut!) and cabbage, even organic, is cheap. Since most of the sauerkraut you see in stores is cooked, it’s “dead” and a very poor substitute for homemade. You can Google for easy sauerkraut instructions. Here is a recipe for a “no pound” method. I have this fermented veggie maker from Cultures for Health and I use it to make kraut easily.

Tortillas – Ummm, homemade tortillas are so delicious and don’t compare to store bought! I don’t have a cast iron tortilla press but it’s on my list of things to buy! You can get them from a mercado or amazon.com

Bread – My oldest son is our resident bread baker.  He loves to knead dough by hand and says it’s great for stress relief (from an 11 year old!). I want to challenge him to try his hand at homemade sourdough.

Gluten Free Baking and Pancake Mix – These are very pricey in the store but a necessity for me and my youngest, who are wheat allergic. I think I’ll just stop buying these at all now that I’ve discovered using coconut flour for pancakes, breads and muffins. It’s nutritionally superior to rice flour, corn and potato starch (common ingredients in GF baking mixes), and a little of it goes a looong way (a typical recipe calls for just 1/4 cup coconut flour). To save money, I’ll start buying it in bulk online.

Wheat Free Cookies – Ditto. These are outrageously priced in the stores, and I admit to the occasional impulse buy (fix: I now go shopping without kids!). Making cookies for my youngest at home is cheap and easy enough.

Cream Soups – SO many recipes I have that are convenient (slow cooker recipes for instance) for my family call for cream soups. I don’t buy these because they all contain wheat, MSG and other ingredients I want to avoid. I knew there had to be a substitute for this addition to recipes so I did a little searching and found that cream soup can be replaced by a simple white sauce! DUH. The cream soup serves as a thickener basically. Obviously if the recipe calls for “cream of mushroom soup”, you could add diced mushrooms. Finding out this info was a big forehead slapper!

Pickles – My kids LOVE pickles, but I don’t buy them because commercially available pickles usually contain food dyes, HFCS and other ingredients I avoid. Homemade pickles (using a cold method) are more nutritious since they’re raw, lacto-fermented, not cooked. I planted cucumbers this year just so the kids could make pickles homemade. Can’t wait!

What types of things do you make instead of buy? Got any great homemade recipes?

Please comment!

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8 Responses to What Do I Buy That I Can Make?

  1. Candi says:

    Yum! I make a lot of the food items you listed from scratch. We’ve started making our own bread, pancakes, cookies (unless I can get the boxed variety for free – I know that’s not always good for you, but occasionally you can pick up an organic or natural variety for pennies with coupons & sales). I just made some Strawberry Preserves this week that are to die for! I’ve got an easy vinaigrette recipe that me and the kids prefer over bottled any time. And we’re going to try our hand at pickles this year. I’ve never tried to make my own mayo…but I’ll have to try it one day just to say I’ve done it :)

  2. carrie says:

    Ah, pickles! Can’t believe I forgot! I have never made those but hope I get a bumper crop of cucumbers to make my own. I’ll add that to the post. This would be a fun project for the kids to do. Our kids LOVE pickles.

  3. Emily says:

    I make kefir, sourdough bread, sauerkraut and salad dressing from scratch. Ditto on ketchup–when I have enough tomatoes, I want to make that from scratch, too.

    Tried cukes once–they got moldy. Maybe will try again when I have cukes from garden later this summer.

    IMHO I can’t do better than Ezekiel 4:9 tortillas, so I’ll keep buying those. ;)

    I’ve noticed the castile soap doesn’t do well on greasy dishes. Let me know if your recipe works for you, Carrie, and I might try it.

    I also make my own “deodorant” from baking soda and cornstarch, and all my household cleaning formulas are homemade as well.

    BTW homemade yogurt, although it takes a lot longer to make than kefir, is easy to do. The main thing is to keep it well-insulated for a long enough period.

  4. carrie says:

    Thanks Emily, I keep forgetting things I make too, like homemade tooth powder. And my Dad swears by baking soda as a deodorant as well. What’s your recipe?

  5. KimC says:

    I’ve been using homemade deodorant for over a year now, since I finally found a simple recipe that works better than anything I ever bought from the store!
    We just mix equal parts cornstarch and baking soda, then stir in a tiny bit of tea tree oil. I’ve heard you can also add coconut oil in larger amounts to make a firm paste that looks and acts like traditional deodorant, but we just dust the powder under our arms.
    The powder is also good for stinky shoes. :D

  6. Carrie says:

    Thanks Kim, that recipe looks easy. I’ll surely put it to the test with my pregnant self in the Georgia heat this summer. LOL

  7. Carrie, thanks for stopping by the Cellulite Investigation. After checking out your site, I am equally fascinated! I love reading child psychology type books (even though I don’t yet have kids) and learning new ways to keep things simple (and natural).

  8. Wendy McKenzie says:

    You need to visit Passionate Homemaking.com. I have tried, and recommend, her recipes for homemade toothpaste, soaked bread and tortillas, and want to try her deodorant recipe. While you’re there try the Healthy Delicious Fudge recipe – Cocoa powder, honey and coconut oil- excellent!! I also add chopped dried cherries and pecans.

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