Prepackaged food is convenient, but it comes with a steep price tag, not to mention the hidden ingredients that manufacturers sneak into their products. If you do happen to find pre-made options that are healthy, they cost even more. Below are 9 things that you currently buy that you should make (or grow) yourself.
Buying fresh produce at the grocery store can rack up quite the bill. Growing your own will take more work, but it is worth it. You can also control what goes into your food when you grow it yourself, as you can choose what fertilizer and pesticides to use. The most cost-effective and easy to grow vegetables: lettuce, bell peppers, winter squash, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, and broccoli.
It is also a wise idea to grow your own herbs in a little kitchen herb garden. You can purchase potted herbs for a few dollars a piece, or even starting from seeds for less. This blog suggests that you try growing basil, rosemary and parsley for your first few herbs, and even gives you a few tips for how to use them in your cooking.
Hummus is ridiculously over priced when you buy it pre-made at the store. One tub can easily cost $6, while a bag of chickpeas will only run $1-2. Instead of forking out over $300/year or more on your weekly supply of hummus, start making it yourself. You might even discover the perfect mix of spices and wonder why you ever bought pre-made hummus in the first place.
Store bought trail mix is much more convenient than the DIY approach, but there always seems to be something in it that you don’t like. If you make it yourself, you not only save money, but you can omit any of the not-so-tasty ingredients (ie raisins), and add more of your favorites (M&Ms). Crowd favorite ingredients are M&M’s, cashews, peanuts, almonds, chocolate chips, dried fruit, and sunflower seeds.
You can easily make your own granola bars for half as much as it costs to buy them. Homemade granola bars also don’t contain preservatives and other artificial ingredients. Try this tasty recipe for chocolate peanut butter bars that only requires 5 ingredients: peanut butter, coconut oil, honey, oats, and dark chocolate shavings (directions found on this blog). Of course, if chocolate and peanut butter isn’t really your thing, you can always omit the peanut butter and substitute the dark chocolate shavings for anything of your choosing — nuts, berries, seeds, etc.
Pancake mixes can cost as much as 40 cents a pancake, while homemade pancakes cost about 6 cents each. Homemade pancakes are ridiculously easy to make, all you need is 1 ½ cups of flour, 1 ¼ cup of milk, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 egg, 3 ½ teaspoons baking powder, and 3 tablespoons of butter. You could even make your own pancake mix and add milk, eggs and butter when you’d like to make pancakes.
Macaroni and Cheese
While this might be the only thing on the list that can’t claim to be cheaper and easier than the pre-made packaged counterpart, it is by far more tasty, and a bit healthier too. There are many mac and cheese recipes on the internet, all of which include the following: noodles, butter, cheese, milk, and occasionally bread crumbs, roux, and fun mix-ins such as peas, mushrooms, bacon, etc.
If you or a neighbor has a fruit tree in your yard, make sure that you take advantage of the succulent fruits by making homemade fruit leather. If you don’t have a fruit tree, many fruits are on sale as they come in season. In order to make fruit leather you will either need a dehydrator, or be able to safely leave your oven on its lowest setting overnight. Puree the fruit of your choice, add honey and lemon juice (to preserve the fruit as well as add a pop of flavor), and then spread the mixture in a thin layer on parchment paper, and place in your dehydrator or oven overnight.
Everyone knows that instant mashed potatoes are full of preservatives and sodium, but too many people ignore these and other unhealthy ingredients for the sake of convenience. Often, instant mashed potatoes aren’t even real potatoes, just a cheap substitute. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of instant anything. Making things from scratch are always healthier and tastier.
Darci Maxwell is a walking contradiction, and she loves it. You are just as likely to find her outside tearing up a mountain as you are to discover her curled up at home with a steamy cup of herbal tea watching Dr. Who. She is terrified of heights, yet she is the first one to run to the edge and marvel at the spellbinding sight. As an introverted extrovert, writing is her favorite way to connect with many people while still enjoying the comforts of her own home. Her favorite quote is “Here’s to the movers, the shakers, and the mischief-makers.”