In case you had not notices the price of everything in the grocery store is going up, and it is only supposed to get worse. In our home that has meant that many of the products and foods that we like are on the no buy list, nuts for instance, and most prepackaged foods.
But for as many things that are on the no buy list, there are many more goodies and extras that can stay in our home, provided we make them ourselves.
It is become more and more the norm that it is cheaper to make rather than buy many of the extras and staples that your family eats. Below is a list of just 6 items that you can make yourself and save at the register, there are many more that are not on this list, in fact most of the items you buy in the store can be made at home.
Sundried tomatoes – Ever priced these in the stores? You don’t want to, and it would not be so bad but these are so easy to make. If you make them in the summer when you can grow your own tomatoes or buy them cheap in the store, you can enjoy the amazing flavor of sundried tomatoes all year long.
To make sun dried tomatoes, simply wash and core your tomatoes, and slice 3/8 of an inch thick. Try to make sure all of your tomatoes are the same thickness so they dry evenly.
Place tomatoes on a dehydrator or on a cookie sheet in your oven. In my dehydrator I set the temperature at 155 degrees and run for 18 to 24 hours, if you are using an oven, you will want to set it for 200 degrees and bake for 6 to 12 hours. The actual length of time will depend on the thickness of the tomato and the humidity and temperature in your house. Check them frequently and when they are leathery but not quite brittle they are done.
I pack mine in a food saver bag and then freeze them, they last forever this way.
Energy Bars – Energy bars are a very popular snack to pack in lunch boxes or to tuck in pockets, purses or the glove boxes on our cars to give us a pick up when we most need it.
Unfortunately this is another item that has skyrocketed in price, simply because of its popularity, and they are so cheap to make. Add a bit of fruit, grains and nuts and you have a perfect balance of carbs and protein that will give you the boost you need.
There are hundreds of different energy bar recipes across the Internet, so it is easy to find one that will suit your tastes. The following energy bars are cheap to make and will give you the energy you need.
Homemade Energy Bars
2 cups cereal coarsely chopped ( we use old fashioned oatmeal or granola, or if we have cereal in the cupboard that needs using up we will sometimes use that.)
3/4 of a cup of nuts chopped (use whatever is cheap here, most often we just use peanuts but sometimes we will use walnuts if we happen to have any in the house.
3/4 of a cup of chopped dried fruit
2 Tbs of Flour
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup of Chocolate chips
1/3 of a cup of honey ( can substitute this for any sweetener)
1/2 tsp salt
2 large egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 300 degrees, grease and flour a square pan that has been lined with foil. Add the first 6 ingredients to a large bowl and mix to combine. In a smaller bowl mix honey, salt, egg and vanilla, stir until combined and then add to the large bowl. Mix together just until combined. Press the mixture into a pan and bake 45 min to an hour until bars are set up and dry to touch. Cool then cut into bar size pieces.
Spice Mixes – Spices mixes can also be a big drain on money, taco, spaghetti and chili seasons may not seem expensive by the packet, but they can really add up, and these are all ingredients that you likely already have on your spice shelf, so there is no reason to buy them. The same goes for rubs, and seasoning mixes. Make your own and pay 1/10th of the price of the mixes you have bought instead.
These links will get you started on a wide range of different spice blends, you will be surprised at how easy these are to make and how much less money it will cost you to make your own. A bonus is that if you do not use a lot of a certain blend you can make only enough for the recipe or occasion you need it for, saving you even more money.
Cream soups – Cream soups may not seem that expensive, but I remember a time not that long ago I could get 2 cans for a dollar, and if I want to go way back I could get 4 cans for the same price. Now it can be tough just to get one can for a dollar and if you use a lot of cream soups in your recipes this adds up super-fast.
This recipe lets you make your own cream soup base then you can add whatever you want to it to get the flavors you want. Best thing about this recipe is you control what is going into your soups. This soup base is made ahead of time, stored in a container to be used whenever you need cream soup for a recipe or meal.
Cream Soup Base
1 cup of powdered Milk
1 Tbs. dried Onion flakes
2 Tbsps. Corn Starch
2 Tbsps. chicken Bouillon powdered
1/2 tsp. dry basil
1/2 tsp. dry Thyme
1/2 tsp. dry Parsley
1/2 tsp black Pepper
1 tsp salt
Thoroughly whisk all ingredients together and store in Ziploc baggie with all the air pushed out.
To Make Your Soup
Add 2 cups of water to the mix and heat in a pan over medium heat, stirring constantly until your soup begins to thicken. Add 1/2 cup of sautéed mushrooms or celery, mixed vegetables, onion, chicken or other ingredients depending on what type of soup you want. Add more water if the soup is too thick and add seasonings to taste. You can also use this as a base for casseroles and other soups.
There is not a single condiment that you cannot make, and the beauty of this is not only can you make them cheaper but you can make them healthier avoiding all of the additives and most of the sugars that commercial condiments have. You can make catsup, mustard, barbeque sauce, tartar sauce and the list just goes on and on. Don’t be afraid to experiment as well, you can make sandwich dressings, dips and a wide range of sauces and condiments that will cost you far less than buying any of them in the store.
Simply do a search for the recipe for the sauce or condiment you want on the Internet, I have included a ketchup recipe below that can be made with your home grown tomatoes.
3 pound of tomatoes
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar or honey
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup of onion finely chopped
1 Tbs. black pepper
1 Tbs. salt
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Clean core and cut your tomatoes and put them in a pan with half of the vinegar and just a bit of salt, boil for about 5 minutes, stirring to keep your tomatoes from scorching and mashing them a bit.
Strain out all the additional liquid into a pan then run the tomatoes through a food mill to remove seeds and skins. I like to add the step of running the tomatoes through a blender before putting them in the food mill because it makes using the food mill a bit faster and easier.
Add sugar to your solid tomatoes you ran through the food mill.
To the pan with the liquids in it, add the rest of your ingredients, and cook over low heat, stirring when necessary, for approximately 15 minutes or until you notice that your ingredients are beginning to thicken a bit.
Strain this into your other pan with the tomatoes you ran through the blender and cook for a while longer until the sauce is as thick as you want it. Be sure to taste your catsup and adjust seasons as needed until it suites your taste buds. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
Dressings are also very simple to make and can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for when they are needed. A simple search on the Internet will bring up thousands of different dressing recipes for you to try from oil and vinegar type dressings to ranch Thousand Island and more.
I like to make a simply thousand Island dressing that is mayo, a bit of catsup, finely minced onion, relish, garlic powder and salt and pepper. I don’t measure ingredients because it is so simply to make. The mayonnaise is the base and then simply add the other ingredients in small amounts until you have the taste and texture you want, about a quarter cup of catsup to a cup of mayonnaise will give you a nice blend.
Making your own condiments, dressings and other food items will take you only a few extra moments of your day and can be a huge money saver. Buy ingredients you will use a lot such as mayonnaise in bulk at your wholesale clubs, I buy a large container of Mayonnaise for less than $4 and use it for all of my mayonnaise based dressings.
Save containers from the condiments you have now to store them in and use a dry canning method to store herbs and dehydrated items from your garden or your spice mixes in. It will allow you to make things ahead of time when the items are in season then store them for winter use.