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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: mushroom on March 21, 2013, 12:36:29 PM

Title: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: mushroom on March 21, 2013, 12:36:29 PM
I was thinking about buying a popcorn popper device like my MIL has, but after 5 seconds of Google I found this http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/perfect_popcorn/ (http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/perfect_popcorn/) and realized wait a minute, making your own popcorn is really easy, and way cheaper and healthier and more delicious than microwave popcorn. Forgive me if this is incredibly obvious to you, but I only grew up with the microwaved kind!

It got me thinking about other stuff I see in the store that's expensive but easy/tastier/cheaper to make at home. I like making:

hummus (also recently discovered that starting with dried chickpeas in general provides a nicer texture for my recipes than canned chickpeas)
guacamole
salad dressing
granola
frosting

I've been trying to move away from processed foods to more basic ingredients in general, so I'd love to hear ideas on what other people find easy and cheaper to make at home rather than buying the packaged kind in the store. Oh, and it's too bad that homemade whipped cream tastes way better than the stuff in a can but probably isn't any healthier for me.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: mushroom on March 21, 2013, 12:43:53 PM
It's lame to already be the first person responding to my own post, but I totally forgot: cranberry sauce is incredibly easy to make and 11 billion times better than the kind in a can. I think discovering this changed my life. Please do not ever buy canned cranberry sauce. Thank you.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: Self-employed-swami on March 21, 2013, 12:56:51 PM
Most soups are easy to make, and super tasty as well, compared to their canned cousins.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: Kazimieras on March 21, 2013, 12:59:54 PM
Your own stock can be cheap to make.

Take your vegetable scraps and toss them in a bag in the freezer. When you have enough take them out, boil them for a few hours and put them into mason jars. Pressure can the jars and you have cheap stock that is also low in sodium (which you pay a premium for in store). All done with garbage scraps!

You can do the same thing with chicken bones too!

Learning how to pressure can is oddly fun and can be great so you have food around for those "oh crap" nights, rather than having to go out and buy something.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: dorothyc on March 21, 2013, 01:07:23 PM
Pancakes and waffles. The family also appreciate them as a real treat. Since I have a bread machine that makes dough, I've recently started making yeast raised doughnuts as well. They take a little time to rise and deep fry, but they are beyond delicious.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: the fixer on March 21, 2013, 01:08:21 PM
Too many processed foods from the grocery store are laden with extra sugar, salt, or fat. Making your own tastes much better if you're not addicted, and even if you are it should only take a couple weeks to get over it.

My favorites:
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: Zaga on March 21, 2013, 01:08:41 PM
kale chips!  They are very expensive but super cheap to make yourself.  A bit time consuming though, but well worth it!
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: KatieSSS on March 21, 2013, 01:27:56 PM
kale chips!  They are very expensive but super cheap to make yourself.  A bit time consuming though, but well worth it!

Kale chips are the least time-consuming thing I have ever made! You spread kale on a baking sheet, drizzle with a little olive oil/spices and bake for 15 mins. or so. Done!
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: Jamesqf on March 21, 2013, 01:29:01 PM
I like making:

hummus (also recently discovered that starting with dried chickpeas in general provides a nicer texture for my recipes than canned chickpeas)
guacamole
salad dressing
granola
frosting

Excuse me, but frosting?  People will seriously buy pre-made frosting?
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: gecko10x on March 21, 2013, 01:47:11 PM
hummus (also recently discovered that starting with dried chickpeas in general provides a nicer texture for my recipes than canned chickpeas)

+1

Also, you can do bulk popcorn in the microwave - 1/3C in a paper lunch bag. Seasoning is more difficult this way that stove top though, but you don't dirty a pan either ;-)
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: brewer12345 on March 21, 2013, 02:20:16 PM
Yogurt is up there on the savings scale.  We frequently do pizza and it is better than the vast majority of what I can get from a restaurant and far cheaper.  Beer is a no-brainer.

Refired beans are easy, cheap and far better for you than the canned.  We buy 50 pound sacks of pintos, throw a pound in the crock pot with water, salt when they are done, and then dump the beans minus most of the liquid into a large frying pan with a bit of olive oil in the bottom.  Heat medium and squash the beans with a spatula, periodically scraping the bottom of the pan with the spatula.  10 to 15 minutes later you have a lot of refries.  We do this at least once a week and then use it for quesadillas, nachos, burritos, taco night, etc.  One of my daughters is vegetarian, so these are definitely a staple.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: MtnGal on March 21, 2013, 02:37:08 PM
I'll second the peanut butter. And almond butter (best with roasted almonds). And cashew butter.

Also dark chocolate/dark chocolate peanut butter cups. Super easy, tends to be a variation on: cocoa powder, coconut oil and agave nectar/maple syrup (plus vanilla).
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: tmac on March 21, 2013, 02:40:18 PM
I'm totally on board with this. Some of the things I no longer buy at the store are:

* Stock, usually a mix of whatever I've got leftover and shoved in the freezer (chicken and ham bones, veggie trimmings). Boiled in my biggest pot all day. Spoon hot into mason jars, with the fat, which solidifies into a nice seal that can be scooped out before use. They last in the fridge for two weeks at least.

* Spaghetti sauce. Tomato paste and/or crushed or sauced tomatoes, water or stock if needed, some veggies, herbs, salt, and pepper.

* Salad dressing. Drizzle some vinegar/lemon juice/other acid and olive oil, with some salt and pepper. I have a bottle with various dressing recipes printed on it if I want to get fancy.

* Granola bars. They're so good homemade, and much less sweet than the alternative, even with agave and coconut. I use bulk ingredients as much as possible and no dried fruit, which keeps the costs down. I also cut banana bread into "sticks" and give them to the kids. Good use for bananas that have turned the corner (as are smoothies).

* Granola cereal. I just crumble up two of the granola bars with some milk and I'm good to go. :)

* Baked goods of most kinds (crusty loaf bread, hamburger and hot dog buns, cookies, cobblers). Easy recipes abound.

* Hot chocolate mix. Regular milk chocolate, heated in the microwave.

* Microwave popcorn. Big glass bowl, handful of corn, put a wet paper towel on top and a light plate if it's going to bug you that some of the kernels jump out. It takes longer to finish than regular microwave, but tastes great. I haven't tried it without the paper towel yet, but that's next.

* Pizza. Every Wednesday night like clockwork.

* Soup. There's just no comparison. It's like a completely different food.

* Canned beans. Soak overnight, crockpot some the next morning for dinner, freeze the rest for later.

* Instant oatmeal. Just make a big pot of rolled or steel-cut oats and scoop some out every morning.

* Frozen french fries. Microwave whole potatoes until they've started getting soft. Slice into wedges. Rub with olive oil and salt. Bake at a high temp (say, 425F) until they're crispy on the outside.

I'm sure there are others, but this list has gotten really long. I hadn't realized how much my cooking has changed over the last two years, since I started paying attention.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: tongzhi on March 21, 2013, 02:49:07 PM
Fresh, pure juice, not watered down or from concentrate, is relatively cheap to make at home (often less than $1 per large glass) compared to what you would pay for it from a place like Whole Foods. There's the cost of buying a juicer up front but it's so much fun to juice and experiment with different fruits and veggies.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: Captain and Mrs Slow on March 21, 2013, 02:53:49 PM
I'm reading the book Salt Sugar Fat (even thought the author covers this in reverse order) and to say it's been an eye opener is a huge understatement, we all think of processed foods as heat and serve but anything you buy from the store is 100% processed, all around reducing costs, I mean even corn flakes or kids juice.

The most eye opening part was salt, your table salt is perhaps 5% of your daily intake.

Very good book and very helpful in nudging us away from processed foods.
 

Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: CNM on March 21, 2013, 03:01:58 PM
Also, an incredibly easy way to make air popped popcorn is in the microwave.  Just take a brown paper lunch bag, a couple of tablespoons of popcorn kernels, and roll up the open end of the bag a little.  Stick it in the microwave for a few minutes (the popcorn setting on my 'wave works great) and take it out once the popping slows.  BOOM you got popcorn.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: noob515 on March 21, 2013, 03:34:40 PM
It's lame to already be the first person responding to my own post, but I totally forgot: cranberry sauce is incredibly easy to make and 11 billion times better than the kind in a can. I think discovering this changed my life. Please do not ever buy canned cranberry sauce. Thank you.

This past Thanksgiving, I made cranberry sauce for the first time.  It was AWESOME.  But whenever I told people I was making it myself, everyone was like "WHY?".  Hell, just the fact that I make my own bread seems to shock people. 

I think the art of making things from scratch has become almost obsolete - people don't know HOW to cook anymore.  Even simple shit.  Everywhere you turn in the grocery store, there's prepackaged kits.  It's all "just add chicken", or in the case of something I saw today, "meat included" (that was a fajita kit thing, and it was NOT in the refrigerated section, so that troubles me).  Everyone makes the same excuses, not enough time or money.  But really, they don't want to think - they want to be on autopilot.  Because how hard is it to make some basic veggie stir fry or grilled chicken w/ sweet potatoes?  Those are some of my go-to meals during the week, when my time is really limited.


Excuse me, but frosting?  People will seriously buy pre-made frosting?


I know. Now there's even these kits in the store where you buy a jar of flavorless frosting, and then buy whichever flavoring packet you want - orange cream, white chocolate raspberry, etc - and you mix them together.  Besides me feeling like this is Corporate America's way of cutting overhead  (they save space by only needing to stock the flavor packets and the blank frosting, rather than lots of each individual can of flavored frosting), I feel like it's trying to trick fuck consumers into feeling like they "made" the frosting themselves. 

Open a cookbook and read.  Most cooking and baking isn't hard, you just have to take the time to try doing it yourself.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: destron on March 21, 2013, 03:42:54 PM
Pancakes and waffles. The family also appreciate them as a real treat. Since I have a bread machine that makes dough, I've recently started making yeast raised doughnuts as well. They take a little time to rise and deep fry, but they are beyond delicious.

Let me add crepes to this list. They are surprisingly easy to make (the trick is in getting the right heat and having a non-stick pan). They reheat very well. I have a fantastic recipe if anyone is interested...
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: brewer12345 on March 21, 2013, 03:55:38 PM
It's lame to already be the first person responding to my own post, but I totally forgot: cranberry sauce is incredibly easy to make and 11 billion times better than the kind in a can. I think discovering this changed my life. Please do not ever buy canned cranberry sauce. Thank you.

This past Thanksgiving, I made cranberry sauce for the first time.  It was AWESOME.  But whenever I told people I was making it myself, everyone was like "WHY?".  Hell, just the fact that I make my own bread seems to shock people. 

I think the art of making things from scratch has become almost obsolete - people don't know HOW to cook anymore.  Even simple shit.  Everywhere you turn in the grocery store, there's prepackaged kits.  It's all "just add chicken", or in the case of something I saw today, "meat included" (that was a fajita kit thing, and it was NOT in the refrigerated section, so that troubles me).  Everyone makes the same excuses, not enough time or money.  But really, they don't want to think - they want to be on autopilot.  Because how hard is it to make some basic veggie stir fry or grilled chicken w/ sweet potatoes?  Those are some of my go-to meals during the week, when my time is really limited.


Excuse me, but frosting?  People will seriously buy pre-made frosting?


I know. Now there's even these kits in the store where you buy a jar of flavorless frosting, and then buy whichever flavoring packet you want - orange cream, white chocolate raspberry, etc - and you mix them together.  Besides me feeling like this is Corporate America's way of cutting overhead  (they save space by only needing to stock the flavor packets and the blank frosting, rather than lots of each individual can of flavored frosting), I feel like it's trying to trick fuck consumers into feeling like they "made" the frosting themselves. 

Open a cookbook and read.  Most cooking and baking isn't hard, you just have to take the time to try doing it yourself.

I take pride in doing it myself.  One of the reasons I want to bail on the cube is because I would like to learn how to do more by myself.  I am hopelessly unmechanical, but I should be able to learn basic carpentry.  Can already do lot sof other things, but would like to learn to make things like soap, bag and butcher my own deer, etc.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: Zaga on March 21, 2013, 04:19:34 PM
kale chips!  They are very expensive but super cheap to make yourself.  A bit time consuming though, but well worth it!

Kale chips are the least time-consuming thing I have ever made! You spread kale on a baking sheet, drizzle with a little olive oil/spices and bake for 15 mins. or so. Done!
Um...maybe we have different ways of doing this.  I wash it, cut it into chip sized pieces, toss it in a big bowl with oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then bake it at 250 for at least an hour (turning once) before it's crispy.  Maybe because I make a large amount at once and pile it a bit deeper than I should on the baking sheet it takes longer to bake?  But really the time consuming part is getting it thoroughly clean and cut up.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: Gerard on March 21, 2013, 07:28:36 PM
bread, but I'd only rank this as "easy" with a bread machine. Without a bread machine, white breads are still relatively straightforward but kneading whole wheat dough is a sticky mess! I never got good at it.

Jim Lahey's no-knead bread recipe is just as easy with whole wheat. I know, I've hyped this recipe before, but it's really good.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: innkeeper77 on March 21, 2013, 08:04:34 PM
Pancakes and waffles. The family also appreciate them as a real treat. Since I have a bread machine that makes dough, I've recently started making yeast raised doughnuts as well. They take a little time to rise and deep fry, but they are beyond delicious.

Let me add crepes to this list. They are surprisingly easy to make (the trick is in getting the right heat and having a non-stick pan). They reheat very well. I have a fantastic recipe if anyone is interested...

I am building up my recipe collection, and finally learning to cook well- please do share! Crepes are delicious!
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: sideways8 on March 21, 2013, 08:27:41 PM
SOUP is such a great one to start with, especially if you aren't particularly confident in the kitchen. I know this has already been suggested and I'm consciously suggesting it again because it's fucking stupidly easy, cheap, and healthy (well, depending on the recipe!!). I'm good at screwing up things in the kitchen so I really appreciate the forgiving nature of soup. I can get a bunch of pieces wrong and still end up with a tasty meal... with plenty leftovers for more tasty meals!
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: destron on March 21, 2013, 09:24:01 PM
I am building up my recipe collection, and finally learning to cook well- please do share! Crepes are delicious!

No problem! Please enjoy.

CrÍpes

★★★★★

Prep Time: 0 hr 0 min | Cook Time: 0 hr 0 min | Makes: 1 serving | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp vegetable oil
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp table salt
11/2 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 tbsps unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Sugar and Lemon Topping:

8 tsp sugar for sprinkling
1 lemon cut into wedges

Bananas and Nutella:

Spread Nutella with banana slices onto crepe. Fold into quarters.

Honey and Toasted Almonds:

Drizzle honey on top of the crepe along with finely chopped toasted sliced almonds and a pinch of salt.

Chocolate and Orange:

Rub 1 tsp finely grated orange zest into 1/4 cup sugar. Stir in 2 oz finely grated bittersweet chocolate. Sprinkle over top half of crepe and fold into quarters.
Directions:

1. Place 12" non-stick skillet over low heat. Heat for 10 min.

2. Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in bowl. In separate bowl whisk together milk and eggs. Add 1/2 milk mixture to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Add butter and whisk until incorporated. Add remaining milk mixture and whisk until smooth.

3. Using paper towel, wipe out skillet leaving thin film of oil. Increase heat to medium and leave for 1 min. Test heat by placing 1 tbsp of batter and cooking for 20 secs. If mini crepe is golden brown on bottom, skillet is heated properly.

4. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into the far side of the pan. Tilt and shake gently until batt evenly coats the bottom of the pan. Cook crepe until top surface is dry and edges start to brown. Loosen crepe with spatula, about 25 secs. Gently grasp with fingers and flip crepe. Cook until crepe is lightly spotted, about 20 secs. Cool on wire rack spotted side up. Heat pan for 10 secs before repeating.

5. Transfer crepes to plate and invert another plate on top Microwave crepes for 30-45 secs until warm. Sprinkle sugar on each crepe and fold into quarters. Serve on plate with lemon wedges.

Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: Jamesqf on March 21, 2013, 10:12:12 PM
SOUP is such a great one to start with...

I'd suggest this book http://www.amazon.com/Twelve-Months-Monastery-Victor-DAvila-Latourrette/dp/0767901800 for a bunch of good (and generally frugal) soup recipes.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: cosmie on March 21, 2013, 11:29:41 PM
Chili!

I bought Hormel chili while staying somewhere I couldn't cook, and it was absolutely tasteless. Had the most delicious smell, but blandest taste. I was so disappointed. No comparison to a crockpot of homemade chili!


I'm reading the book Salt Sugar Fat (even thought the author covers this in reverse order) and to say it's been an eye opener is a huge understatement, we all think of processed foods as heat and serve but anything you buy from the store is 100% processed, all around reducing costs, I mean even corn flakes or kids juice.

The most eye opening part was salt, your table salt is perhaps 5% of your daily intake.
Sodium is like the duct tape of industrial food production. It's everything from a preservative to a stabilizer to a byproduct of some intermediate process(es). Oh, and sometimes it's added for taste. There are newer production processes that avoid such heavy handed use of sodium, but they use drastically different production methods and require almost complete plant equipment replacements. The company that I'm interning for is actually in the process of replacing about $100 million worth of equipment across several of our plants to lower sodium use. Hopefully in 5-10 years the majority of food producers will be switched over.

Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: swick on March 21, 2013, 11:36:48 PM
Copying from the Fire Drill! Skip this week's grocery shop thread (there are lots of great ideas on it)

I make my own Chai concentrate in the crock pot, it is super awesome to keep in the fridge.
I use this basic recipe: http://athomewithginac.blogspot.ca/2011/10/slow-cookin-sunday-chai-tea-concentrate.html (http://athomewithginac.blogspot.ca/2011/10/slow-cookin-sunday-chai-tea-concentrate.html)

Except I don't measure the water, I fill the crockpot and double the rest of the ingredients. I also add whatever spices I feel like adding - star anise, cinnamon sticks, black peppercorns, lots more ginger... If you can get your spices in bulk at an ethnic store, it is much cheaper.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: mm31 on March 22, 2013, 08:43:01 AM
Bread. I estimate a $2.50 loaf costs us less than $1 to make overall (and is fresher).

Granola.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: EngGirl on March 22, 2013, 08:51:21 AM
Bean Burgers! I'm a vegetarian who avoids the "vegetarian section" (ie. the weird fake meat section) of the grocery store like the plauge. What could be cheaper than mashing some black beans, adding onion, garlic and spices, and frying in a bit of olive oil? Way cheaper than the crappy, fake, weird textured, "veggie" burgers which come frozen and in excessive amounts of packaging. Also cheaper and healthier than beef burgers.

I second the hummus as well. I love to laugh at the grocery store version - $4.50 for less than 1 cup of product!?!?!? I make 1.5 cups for around $1.00. And you can do really nice things with it too - roasted garlic, lemon zest, jalepenos, etc.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: Jamesqf on March 22, 2013, 12:25:50 PM
Bean Burgers! I'm a vegetarian who avoids the "vegetarian section" (ie. the weird fake meat section) of the grocery store like the plauge.

Yeah, that's something I've never really understood.  While I'm not a vegetarian, there are lots of delicious vegetable (and grain & fruit) recipies out there that I enjoy.  So why buy fake meat that's neither a good fake, nor good on its own merits?
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: Iron Mike Sharpe on March 22, 2013, 01:57:59 PM
Bread. I estimate a $2.50 loaf costs us less than $1 to make overall (and is fresher).

Granola.

I thought about the whole bread making thing.  But a loaf of whole wheat at Aldi is $1.29.  Just not worth it for me to make my own.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: Dee18 on March 22, 2013, 02:31:35 PM
I am addicted to 0% fat Fage yogurt.  Does anyone have a recipe that will come close to it?
Thanks
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: igthebold on March 22, 2013, 03:09:39 PM
If you grow your own basil, pesto can be very cheap, at least relative to the grocery store pre-made variety. And you can freeze it in ice cube trays and have it available all year.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: the fixer on March 22, 2013, 03:41:08 PM
If you grow your own basil, pesto can be very cheap, at least relative to the grocery store pre-made variety. And you can freeze it in ice cube trays and have it available all year.
My step-mom does this in Houston, and down there basil grows like a weed. Not so easy in Maryland though :)
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: Undecided on March 22, 2013, 04:13:49 PM
Bread. I estimate a $2.50 loaf costs us less than $1 to make overall (and is fresher).

Granola.

I thought about the whole bread making thing.  But a loaf of whole wheat at Aldi is $1.29.  Just not worth it for me to make my own.

So mm31 should have written "Good bread."
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: mm31 on March 22, 2013, 07:34:43 PM
Bread. I estimate a $2.50 loaf costs us less than $1 to make overall (and is fresher).

Granola.

I thought about the whole bread making thing.  But a loaf of whole wheat at Aldi is $1.29.  Just not worth it for me to make my own.

So mm31 should have written "Good bread."

My bad :). I always say the best kind of bread is fresh bread.

Something that freaks me out about some supermarket breads is the fact that they can stay good for whole months. Makes you wonder how many preservatives they put in those things.

Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: mushroom on March 23, 2013, 08:51:51 AM
Love these replies and great ideas! I tend to stick to cooking certain kinds of things, so I'd love to try out some of these other things. Although a few months ago I didn't like how crispy and dry kale got when I stuck it in the oven, but maybe it was just in there too long.

Bean Burgers! I'm a vegetarian who avoids the "vegetarian section" (ie. the weird fake meat section) of the grocery store like the plauge. What could be cheaper than mashing some black beans, adding onion, garlic and spices, and frying in a bit of olive oil? Way cheaper than the crappy, fake, weird textured, "veggie" burgers which come frozen and in excessive amounts of packaging. Also cheaper and healthier than beef burgers.

I'm vegetarian, too, and in the last couple of weeks have made different lentil burgers, black bean burgers, falafel patties, etc. and I generally agree with you. However, I do have to say that a few things like Field Roast are pretty darn good - but maybe I say that since I only became a vegetarian last year and miss the taste and texture of meat. I am planning to make some seitan too once I get my hands on some nutritional yeast. I can definitely see how a lot of vegetarians would be turned off by the whole "fake meat" thing, though.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: ShavenLlama on March 23, 2013, 09:11:18 AM
It's lame to already be the first person responding to my own post, but I totally forgot: cranberry sauce is incredibly easy to make and 11 billion times better than the kind in a can. I think discovering this changed my life. Please do not ever buy canned cranberry sauce. Thank you.

My cousins will only eat canned sauce, and they are otherwise very healthy eaters! So at Thanksgiving I make a fancy sauce from scratch for the "sophisticated" palates, and buy a can of sauce for the rednecks. It gives me something to razz them for. :)

Last year I toyed with the idea of making a fancy sauce and setting it with gelatin in a can so it would have the lines, but it got too hectic. Maybe this year.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: LizzyBee on March 23, 2013, 10:51:00 AM
Spaghetti sauce is super easy. I just use crushed tomatoes, dried thyme, basil, and oregano and then wine (i freeze red wine when i cant finish the whole bottle and use it for sauces). If you have your own garden, you can use fresh tomatoes and can the sauce. I love canning, but I have to buy my tomatoes from the farmers' market, which isn't super economical, but the taste is much better and then I know there isn't any salt or additives in the final product.

Pesto is also cheap to make when I can get basil at the farmers market. I make several batches and then just freeze for the winter.

Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: Beaker on March 23, 2013, 11:23:09 AM
Frozen macaroni and cheese: just make your own and freeze it in single-serving portions, then microwave when you need a quick meal. Avoid the ones with baked toppings, since you'll lose the crunchy texture anyway. I also throw in some cubed ham to give it a little more protein.

Frozen butternut squash soup: I know soup has been mentioned, but butternut squash soup freezes and thaws perfectly. It's also really healthy if you make it yourself - just a bunch of veggies, a little oil, and some chicken stock. The premade stuff from Safeway has a bunch of cream in it.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: Self-employed-swami on March 23, 2013, 12:23:17 PM
I sometimes like a creamy texture to my soup, so I'll add either a bit of (fat free) sour cream, or plain greek yoghurt.

I made this for lunch today:
http://pepperandpaint.squarespace.com/-pepper-paint/2013/3/21/roasted-chickpea-soup.html

I modified it slightly for what I had on-hand though. (an open 1/4 can of chick peas, so I only used 1 1/4 can, only 1 tablespoon oil, an onion instead of shallots, and I threw in a red pepper).  Spices I used were gram marsala, garlic, thyme, chili powder, and some onion salt.  I like it, and I have 3 more lunches now!
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: domestix on March 23, 2013, 12:40:08 PM
Yoghurt:

We buy the milk on it's expiry date. One litre organic milk for $1.50 = one litre yoghurt.
Easy peasy to make, just takes organization. Google it.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: meadow lark on March 23, 2013, 09:24:14 PM
MMM, that chai concentrate looks good.  May have to go buy some spices.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: Dicey on August 20, 2017, 12:05:29 PM
I fat-fingered this thread today. There's some good stuff here, so I'm going to revive it. Anyone have any new ideas?
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: sparkytheop on August 20, 2017, 03:07:40 PM
I am building up my recipe collection, and finally learning to cook well- please do share! Crepes are delicious!

No problem! Please enjoy.

CrÍpes

★★★★★

Prep Time: 0 hr 0 min | Cook Time: 0 hr 0 min | Makes: 1 serving | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp vegetable oil
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp table salt
11/2 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 tbsps unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Sugar and Lemon Topping:

8 tsp sugar for sprinkling
1 lemon cut into wedges

Bananas and Nutella:

Spread Nutella with banana slices onto crepe. Fold into quarters.

Honey and Toasted Almonds:

Drizzle honey on top of the crepe along with finely chopped toasted sliced almonds and a pinch of salt.

Chocolate and Orange:

Rub 1 tsp finely grated orange zest into 1/4 cup sugar. Stir in 2 oz finely grated bittersweet chocolate. Sprinkle over top half of crepe and fold into quarters.
Directions:

1. Place 12" non-stick skillet over low heat. Heat for 10 min.

2. Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in bowl. In separate bowl whisk together milk and eggs. Add 1/2 milk mixture to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Add butter and whisk until incorporated. Add remaining milk mixture and whisk until smooth.

3. Using paper towel, wipe out skillet leaving thin film of oil. Increase heat to medium and leave for 1 min. Test heat by placing 1 tbsp of batter and cooking for 20 secs. If mini crepe is golden brown on bottom, skillet is heated properly.

4. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into the far side of the pan. Tilt and shake gently until batt evenly coats the bottom of the pan. Cook crepe until top surface is dry and edges start to brown. Loosen crepe with spatula, about 25 secs. Gently grasp with fingers and flip crepe. Cook until crepe is lightly spotted, about 20 secs. Cool on wire rack spotted side up. Heat pan for 10 secs before repeating.

5. Transfer crepes to plate and invert another plate on top Microwave crepes for 30-45 secs until warm. Sprinkle sugar on each crepe and fold into quarters. Serve on plate with lemon wedges.

Thank you for the recipe!  I cook pretty much everything from scratch, but the one time I tried crepes, it did not go well.  I've been wanting to do them again, but haven't yet.

ETA: I just realized this thread is years old, but the "thank you" still stands!
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: mozar on August 20, 2017, 07:56:52 PM
I enjoyed this old thread.
My addition is prosciutto! I haven't actually made it but cured meat is actually really easy. For lox and bagels I take a pound of raw salmon from the store and make a mixture of a cup of salt and 2/3 cup of sugar, mix it up, cover the salmon with it and put it in the fridge for a week. Then I peel off the skin and slice it thin, and voila, lox (smoked salmon is different, it's where they cold smoke salmon and it has more of a cooked texture).
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: oldtoyota on August 20, 2017, 08:02:33 PM
It's lame to already be the first person responding to my own post, but I totally forgot: cranberry sauce is incredibly easy to make and 11 billion times better than the kind in a can. I think discovering this changed my life. Please do not ever buy canned cranberry sauce. Thank you.

Haha. This is so true. I grew up eating cranberry sauce served in the congealed form of the can it was packed in and, as a result, thought I hated cranberry sauce! As an adult, I started to make it from scratch. Mind changed!
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: GoConfidently on August 20, 2017, 08:31:52 PM
kale chips!  They are very expensive but super cheap to make yourself.  A bit time consuming though, but well worth it!

Kale chips are the least time-consuming thing I have ever made! You spread kale on a baking sheet, drizzle with a little olive oil/spices and bake for 15 mins. or so. Done!
Um...maybe we have different ways of doing this.  I wash it, cut it into chip sized pieces, toss it in a big bowl with oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then bake it at 250 for at least an hour (turning once) before it's crispy.  Maybe because I make a large amount at once and pile it a bit deeper than I should on the baking sheet it takes longer to bake?  But really the time consuming part is getting it thoroughly clean and cut up.

This might sound weird but I figure on MMM there's a lot of weirdness so here goes. I grow my own greens (usually chard and turnip but it'll work with kale) and learned how to wash a lot of dirty greens quickly from my grandfather who was a master gardener. Wash the inside of your washing machine with vinegar and wipe it down thoroughly. Then load up the greens (whole leaves but not in bundles). Rinse and spin. It's super fast and easy for large quantities.

If you don't have that many but more than you want to wash by hand, fill a deep sink with water and put all the greens in the sink. Swish vigorously and leave alone for ten minutes. Leaves will float but dirt will settle.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: horsepoor on August 20, 2017, 10:26:29 PM
I fat-fingered this thread today. There's some good stuff here, so I'm going to revive it. Anyone have any new ideas?

I don't think it was mentioned before, but sauerkraut and Kim Chi.  The real, fermented kinds are super expensive, but so easy and cheap to make.

I've been making a Kim Chi that is mostly Napa cabbage and Daikon radish with lots of ginger and turmeric, some pineapple, and Meyer lemon rind.  I half gallon jar probably costs me <$5 to make if I don't grow my own cabbage and Daikon, and tastes better than the stuff that's like $9 a pint at Whole Foods.

BBQ sauce is another one.  Super cheap for me since I use homegrown tomatoes, but still pretty inexpensive if you use canned tomato sauce/paste.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: galliver on August 21, 2017, 12:29:29 AM
I know juice has been mentioned, but I wanted to specifically call out green juice. Unlike apple, cranberry, etc you don't even have the option of cheaper ones, it's all "cold pressed" $5/pint (but I love the flavor... :'( ) I started making my own last week with a blender and my yogurt-straining bag. Shopping judiciously for the ingredients, I get 2L for &lt;$5.

Re: yogurt, especially Greek, I made it for a while, but after I moved it started coming out a wash cost-wise vs sale prices. And more hassle to make myself. And in case Dee18 is still reading, IME the flavor largely depends on what you use as starter...add some Fage, it'll taste like Fage, etc.

Growing your own greens; arugula loses its flavor SO fast.

Dried fruit, etc with a dehydrator. I'm sure I under-utilize mine, and it would be even more practical for anyone with a garden.

I'm kind of wondering how DIY nut butters come out cheaper...nuts are pretty expensive...maybe the point was just better flavor?

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Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: Schaefer Light on August 21, 2017, 09:53:22 AM
Has anyone tried making kombucha tea?  It's usually $3.50 per 16-oz. bottle in the grocery stores around here.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: Noodle on August 21, 2017, 11:01:04 AM
The one that always shocks me is fairly simple baked goods (brownies, cookies, simple cupcakes) as sold at the grocery store bakery. I don't mind at all paying for complicated pastries like croissants, but I can put together the simple stuff at home and it will taste better and cost a lot less. Even using mixes will taste as good and cost less than the bakery stuff.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: JanF on August 21, 2017, 12:35:17 PM
Quote
fried potatoes ("chips" in a skillet or "fries" in the oven), especially with sweet potatoes or Yukon gold. My roommates buy frozen cut-up potatoes... WTF??
I am ashamed to admit that I buy frozen fries. I don't know what's wrong with me but I never get them crispy and yummy with regular potatoes!

homemade jerky! I probably save 50%-75% off of "retail" price and get better quality jerky
bacon: I will never go back to store bought bacon ever again
salsa: probably cost me $5-7 to make a huge batch of it vs $5 bottles from the store
bread: I just started trying Jim's simple bread recipe and it's ok so far...I'm probably only going to use this for pizza dough
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: SunshineAZ on August 21, 2017, 12:51:44 PM
I have a recipe for making lemon curd in the microwave.  (Those tiny jars you get in the grocery store are barely enough to make anything and they cost like $3.00.)  I make a big batch one day and then the next day or two make a lemon cake and fill it with the lemon curd, then put a few tablespoons in some stabilized whipped cream to make lemon whipped cream frosting.  It stays good in the fridge for a couple of weeks, so I can usually make something else with it the following week.  I don't make it very often, but I get a craving for lemon cake once or twice a year. 
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: sparkytheop on August 21, 2017, 05:47:56 PM
Has anyone tried making kombucha tea?  It's usually $3.50 per 16-oz. bottle in the grocery stores around here.

We've been making it for the last year (my ex was making it 20 years ago).  It's simple and easy, you just need a scoby to get started.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: GreenSheep on August 21, 2017, 06:48:11 PM
I am ashamed to admit that I buy frozen fries. I don't know what's wrong with me but I never get them crispy and yummy with regular potatoes!

If you haven't tried this already, turn up your oven temp. I can't get anything crispy unless it's at least 400 degrees, and I usually go with about 425. Also, leave some space between the potato slices. If the moisture they're releasing can't evaporate, they'll just stay mushy. The more impatient you are, the thinner your slices should be. :-) Just try to keep them uniform so they'll all cook at the same rate, so you won't have some burned ones and some soggy ones, or burned tips and soggy middles.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: Schaefer Light on August 22, 2017, 05:36:05 AM
Has anyone tried making kombucha tea?  It's usually $3.50 per 16-oz. bottle in the grocery stores around here.

We've been making it for the last year (my ex was making it 20 years ago).  It's simple and easy, you just need a scoby to get started.

Sounds simple enough.  I may have to give it a shot.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: horsepoor on September 02, 2017, 03:25:38 PM
Today I made tahini and coconut butter.  Both require a high speed blender (I have a Blendtec), but that machine makes it dead easy.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: GuitarStv on September 02, 2017, 03:50:00 PM
Hummus is ridiculously easy to make.  We do large batches every few months and freeze them.  (It freezes very well too).

BTW - don't skin chickpeas to make smooth hummus, that takes forever . . . stick your chickpeas in the food processor while they're still hot from boiling and the hummus will come out very smooth and yummy.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: SnackDog on September 02, 2017, 05:22:20 PM
I can not think of any prepared food which is not tastier, healthier and cheaper to make from scratch.  Come to think of it, that's why we only buy meat, produce, dairy, and grains at the grocery.  We skip anything with more than a couple items on the ingredient list including just about anything boxed, canned or frozen.  Sounds fanatical but it has just sort of evolved that we are not into the taste of processed foods.  My one indulgence is pickled cherry peppers but I really should grow and pickle my own.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: ambimammular on September 02, 2017, 06:24:33 PM
roasted coffee beans

You can buy them green online (shout out to sweetmarias.com), roast them yourself, and get amazing fresh roasted coffee at a fraction of the cost. We've been doing it for 12 years now.

It's hard to spend dollars for the burnt acidic stuff at Starbucks when you know yours tastes better at home.
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: life_travel on September 03, 2017, 06:52:18 AM
Thank you for ideas about green coffee beans ! I had to google sites for Australia and I may need to roast and on sell some of it as they come in 1kg bags and I drink coffee on weekends only . But I may end up with our coffee free that way ;)
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: NatalieMarie on September 03, 2017, 08:20:39 AM
Has anyone tried making kombucha tea?  It's usually $3.50 per 16-oz. bottle in the grocery stores around here.
Yes! So inexpensive to make! You can make the Scoby starter yourself out of one store bought bottle. Then all it takes is sugar, tea bags, and water! And whatever flavoring you want to add, small amounts of fruit or fruit juice or honey.


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Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: ambimammular on September 04, 2017, 12:20:15 PM
For a while DH and I talked about getting the next-size-up roaster and selling fresh beans in our local community, as a nice little side gig. But decided to wait until we're retired.

If you ask me the Sweet Maria's guy has the dream job, traveling the world, helping small farmer businesses, drinking coffee. If I didn't have small kids and a cat, I could be persuaded...
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: galliver on September 04, 2017, 01:27:23 PM
Do you need any special equipment to roast coffee? How many batches do you screw up while learning? How long does it take?
Title: Re: Foods that are expensive in the store but cheap and easy to make
Post by: sparkytheop on September 04, 2017, 04:54:15 PM
Do you need any special equipment to roast coffee? How many batches do you screw up while learning? How long does it take?

My brother has been roasting his own coffee for a long time and has given me several tips, etc. 

Currently, I use a stainless steel "Whirly Pop" (yes, the popcorn popper) to make mine.  He started with a heavy stainless steel broiler pan in the oven (that I bought for him when I was around 18--at his request!  He still loves it 20 years later, probably the most use out of a gift that I've given, anyway...)  I've heard some people use air poppers (again, popcorn popper), but that many don't get hot enough if you want a darker roast.  My brother has some really nice (over $300) coffee roasters.  But, there are many ways to do it, and many cheap ways to do it (even just using a pan you already have and stirring constantly, or a baking sheet, etc).  I'm not sure I'll spend the money on the roaster ("happiness curve"), but I do look forward to when I really figure out exactly what I want (a good espresso coffee).

With the Whirly Pop, I stir constantly, and if I start with 1 cup (by volume, close to 5 oz weight), it takes me about 12 minutes.  If I start with 2 cups, it the time about doubles.

Start with small batches and play a little to see what you like.  By my fourth batch, I had it pretty well sighted in (until I doubled the amount I made...) as far as temp, time, color, etc.

Even so, my first batch was good, and I was able to reduce the amount of sugar I used in my coffee.  I'm not at my brother's level yet (he can make it so good that I can drink it black), but he has years of experience on me.

I got the tips from him, and then watched some youtube videos.