We all assume that preparing items at home not only saves money, but can also be so much healthier than buying prepared items. Many people say they don’t know how to cook or don’t have the time. As a working mom with three small children who can’t even boil water, I am telling you that if I can do it anyone can. Here we share recipes and cost-comparisons for 10 easy to make items at home.
Welcome back to another Food Finances Fridays Feature. This week, I gave my beloved husband the task of not only sharing some of his favorite recipes, but also comparing the cost of making them at home versus buying prepackaged items.
We often assume that making things at home is always less expensive than buying it at the store. As Trent Hamm at The Simple Dollar points out in his post 14 Frugal Failures, or When The Bottom Dollar Isn’t The Best Answer “Unless you’re doing something strictly for fun or learning, make sure you’re doing the math beforehand when making something at home. It can often end up costing more than just buying the item at the store.”
Let’s see how I fared with the things I regularly make at home. Spoiler alert: Not everything was cheaper than buying them at the store.
I grew up in a family that ALWAYS went to a certain Mexican restaurant every holiday. Somebody’s birthday? Father’s day? Is it Tuesday? We were at this restaurant (sadly it has closed and all we have are the memories) with a minimum of 20 – 25 in our party. So needless to say, I love salsa and restaurant style salsa specifically. Meaning there should never be vinegar or any other preservatives other than lime juice. That is hot sauce not salsa! So I have come up with a fresh salsa that my whole family enjoys, and doesn’t cost nearly what jarred salsa costs at the store.
The jarred salsa that I used to purchase is $2.98 for a 24 ounce jar and 12.5 cents per ounce.
- 6 – 8 fresh roma tomatoes $1.98
- 1/2 onion $0.44
- 1 jalapeño $0.15
- cilantro $0.49
- 1 clove garlic $0.04
- 1 tablespoon lime juice FREE
- (we have a lime tree)
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt $0.004
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin $0.03
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar $0.0013
Total $3.14 for 32 ounces / $0.10 per ounce
Cut the top off tomatoes and halve. Roughly chop onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and garlic. Add lime juice, salt, cumin, and sugar. Blend in a food processor until the desired consistency is reached.
As much as we like salsa, we enjoy guacamole too! I used to buy the pre-packaged guacamole in the produce section. It was ok but I knew I could do better. The store-bought stuff is $3.38 for 8 ounces or 42.5 cents per ounce.
- 3 Haas avocados $2.94
- 1/3 cup homemade pico de gallo $0.32
- 1 clove garlic $0.04
- 1/2 teaspoon salt $0.005
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin $0.03
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne $0.04
Total $3.38 for 20 ounces / $0.17 per ounce
Halve, seed, and peel avocados. Add 1 tablespoon juice from pico de gallo. Add salt, cumin, and cayenne and mash with a potato masher. Fold in pico de gallo and garlic. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.
We have been eating a lot of hummus lately. I would buy it at the supermarket for $4.72 for 17 ounces or 27.8 cents per ounce. I was tired of paying a premium and decided I could make it myself for much cheaper!
- 1 pound cooked Chickpeas (cooled) $1.44
- Cook 1 pound dry chickpeas in 7 cups water and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in a slow cooker for 4 hours on high or 8 to 9 hours on low until tender
- 2 cloves minced garlic $0.08
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt $0.015
- 5 tablespoons lemon juice FREE
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/3 cup tahini $0.64
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil $0.62
Total $2.80 for 20 ounces / $0.14 per ounce
In a food processor mix chickpeas, garlic, and salt for 15 to 20 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl and run again for 15 to 20 seconds. Add lemon juice and water and run again for 20 seconds. Add in tahini and run for 20 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl and run processor while drizzling in the olive oil.
Taco and Chili Seasoning
I have already mentioned my seasoning recipe in the post They Put What In Cheese? Now I will compare the store-bought at $0.87 per ounce to my homemade blend.
My Seasoning Blend
- 4 tablespoons Chili Powder $0.65
- 2 tablespoons Cumin $0.34
- 1 tablespoon Kosher Salt $0.03
- 1 tablespoon Black Pepper $0.30
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder $0.02
- 1 teaspoon Onion Powder $0.05
- 1/2 teaspoon Crushed Pepper Flakes $0.16
- (1 tsp. for spicy)
- 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper $0.04
- (more for extra spicy)
- 1 teaspoon Dried Oregano $0.33
- 2 teaspoons Paprika $0.26
Total $2.18 for 4.96 ounces / $0.44 per ounce
Mix everything up in a mason jar and shake to combine.
We use tomato sauce for both pasta and homemade pizza. I grew up always eating Ragu pasta sauce from the jar. I refused to eat any other brand. When I started making my own in the Instant Pot I was hooked on homemade. I recently picked up a jar of sauce because I was in a rush, and I did not care for the taste AT ALL! I missed my sauce. A 23.9 ounce jar is $1.77 or 7.4 cents per ounce.
- 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes $1.24
- 15 ounce can tomato sauce $0.74
- 1/2 onion $0.44
- 4 cloves garlic $0.16
- 1 tablespoon sugar $0.02
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes $0.68
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano $0.33
- 1 teaspoon dried basil $0.33
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil Free from the garden
- pinch crushed red pepper flakes $0.08
- salt and pepper to taste
Total $4.14 for 48 ounces / 8.6 cents per ounce
Simmer onions and garlic with a little olive oil (directly in the Instant Pot), add tomato sauce, tomatoes (use a wooden spoon to break up whole tomatoes), sugar, dried parsley flakes, oregano, basil, pinch of chili flakes, and fresh basil. Then put the lid on and set it for 30 minutes.
In How To Save Time In The Kitchen I wrote about how easy it is to make your own vegetable broth in the Instant Pot from veggie scraps. This produces 2 quarts of vegetable broth for virtually FREE! 32 ounces of vegetable broth at the store is $1.98 or 6.2 cents per ounce.
I love sweet iced tea. I order it anytime I don’t just drink water (which is most of the time). I once indulged myself and ordered iced tea at a restaurant and was astonished to see that I was charged $6.95 for 1 glass! I didn’t even get a refill. Honestly that was the last time I have ordered anything other than water while dining out. Store bought isn’t much better. A gallon of sweet tea at the store is $2.98 or 2.3 cents per ounce.
Making iced tea at home is super easy. Just boil 2 quarts water and remove from heat. Steep tea bag covered for 3-5 minutes and pour into pitcher with your desired amount of sugar (I use 3/4 cup $0.19). Then add remaining water to fill up to 1 gallon. 24 gallon size tea bags is $5.98 or $0.25 + $0.19=$0.44 per gallon or $0.003 per ounce.
The Debt Shrink recently wrote about How Much Is Coffee Costing You? I have not purchased coffee that was not made by me in years. I don’t even know how much it costs anymore. I always buy my coffee on sale for $5.99 for 30.5 ounces or 19.6 cents per ounce. That works out to $0.10 per cup of coffee brewed at home. You can see how purchasing your coffee for convenience can really add up!
Who doesn’t like warm fresh from the oven chocolate chip cookies? I know everyone in my house does because they never get a chance to cool off. They get eaten up before then. You just can’t get that wonderful texture and smell from a box purchased at the store. For comparison I looked to see what they charged for cookies, it was $3.56 for a 19.5 ounce bag or $0.10 per cookie.
My Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 2 1/4 cups AP flour $0.46
- 1 teaspoon baking soda $0.004
- 1 teaspoon salt $0.009
- 1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter $1.56
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar $0.19
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar $0.33
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract $0.83
- 2 large eggs $0.46
- 2 cups Nestle Toll House MILK chocolate chips $2.52
- (Don’t let anybody tell you that semi-sweet is better)
Total $6.36 for 60 cookies / 10.6 cents per cookie
We love to snack on popcorn. We used to buy the microwave stuff, but soon we were popping at least 2 bags for all 5 of us. We then got ourselves an air popper. Not only is it a lot healthier (it does not require any oil), it is a lot faster than popping on the stove. Microwave popcorn is $4.98 for 12 bags ($0.42 per bag). Each bag is 4.5 cups of popcorn when popped or $0.09 per cup.
1/3 cup of unpopped kernels makes 12 cups of popcorn or $0.03 per cup.
I was surprised by some of these numbers. I have never actually sat down and done the math for a lot of these recipes. Regardless of the price of homemade, it is no question much healthier than buying pre-made. You can control what goes into what you’re eating. Not to mention that you know when it was made. Who knows how long some of these things have been sitting on the shelf. Even though my tomato sauce and cookies are slightly more to make at home, I won’t be buying them pre-made at the store anytime soon!
What things do you make at home rather than purchasing at the store?