Making these foods from scratch is not only healthier, but it’ll save money, too! How many of these staples are you making at home?
I’ll admit it. Making food from scratch isn’t always the easiest thing to do, especially when you’re balancing multiple plates. Work. Kids. Cleaning. Meals.
In the case of my own great-grandmother, she stayed at home to take care of her family.
It was pre and post-war Germany, so food was scarce and while some of the things on this list weren’t within her scope, everything she placed on the table was homemade.
I personally stay at home, so I have the time to make food from scratch, but if that’s not you, don’t worry.
I’ll explain how you can start making some of your own pantry staples without getting overwhelmed.
Because at the end of the day, food prepared at home not only tastes better, but it’s healthier and cheaper, too.
PANTRY STAPLES TO MAKE FROM SCRATCH – THE VIDEO
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GOOD FOOD TAKES TIME (it’s true!)
Back in the day, nothing was instant.
Soup didn’t come from a can, pancakes weren’t sold in boxes, and buying sugar-laden packets of oatmeal was unthinkable.
Instant food sells because it’s convenient. We’ve become a grab-and-go culture, and we’re suffering for it.
Connections are being lost because there’s no breakfast table or because we’re eating microwavable dinners in front of the television.
Everyone knows that good food takes time. So does that mean the reverse is also true? That food made in no time at all isn’t good?
Maybe, maybe not, but fast food certainly comes at a cost.
WHY ARE HOMEMADE PANTRY STAPLES BETTER THAN STORE BOUGHT?
While store-bought staples are convenient, they need to make a profit for the company that sells them, which means they need to be shelf-stable.
How is food made shelf-stable?
As Paul Stitt explains in his book Beating the Food Giants,
Processed foods are more profitable for a variety of reasons; with much of the food value removed and dozens of preservatives added, processed foods last practically forever.”Paul Stitt, Food Giants
Preservatives really took off with the introduction of grocery stores in the 1910s, which is when some of the first processed foods became available. And what’s happened to the health of our population?
We’ve gotten sicker. There’s more cancer, more heart disease, and more allergies.
Now I won’t place the blame on food additives as there are many contributing factors, but those additives aren’t doing anything to benefit our health.
Homemade pantry staples are better than store-bought food because we get to control the ingredients. Instead of highly processed vegetable and seed oils, we can replace those with something heart healthier, like olive oil.
We get to decide on the quality of our ingredients and how much salt and sugar goes into our food.
Plus, I highly doubt that any of us will be adding ingredients like monosodium glutamate, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, or “natural” or artificial flavours to our food.
And since I just brought it up, there’s nothing natural about natural flavours. That’s a prime example of something called greenwashing.
IS IT REALLY CHEAPER TO MAKE FOOD FROM SCRATCH?
Most of the time, yes! Especially if your ingredients, like flour, are organic.
However, as the saying goes, time is money. And if your time is worth a lot, then it’s probably cheaper for you to buy the highest quality food money can buy.
I, for one, take pleasure in the time that I spend in the kitchen preparing food for my family, so it’s absolutely worth the extra trouble to make everything from scratch. I just prop my kid up on the counter and he watches what goes into making homemade pizza dough.
Good food is going to cost you one way or another (either time or money). Still, it’s cheaper than letting poor food choices destroy one of our most valuable (and controllable) assets: our health.
MAKING FOOD FROM HOME IS MORE SUSTAINABLE, TOO!
When you make your own staples and food from scratch, you’re going to be saving a whole lot of plastic waste from clogging up landfills.
Unnecessary packaging is one thing that always amazes me. Whether it’s individually wrapped snacks or wasteful yogurt cups, there’s no question that the brunt of store-bought food comes with plastic waste.
Making your own staples dramatically reduces waste.
WHAT FOODS ARE WORTH MAKING FROM SCRATCH?
I like to think that any foods that contain preservatives are worth making from scratch, but there are some items that I don’t bother with. Like puff pastry. I just can’t be bothered!
When I was doing research for this article, I came across one list that said making things like pizza dough, broth and pancake batter isn’t worth it.
I disagree because they’re not even that hard! I mean, I learned how to make pancakes from scratch when I was five. If a five-year-old can make pancakes, so can you!
HOW TO START MAKING MORE FOOD FROM SCRATCH
If making your own food from scratch seems intimidating, it needn’t be.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. The key is to start small.
SET GOALS FOR YOURSELF
Whenever I start learning something new, I make goals for myself.
When I started learning how to make fermented foods, I made a list of the projects I wanted to master.
As a habit, I read a lot of cookbooks. When a recipe catches my eye, it goes on a list, which I use when I’m creating my weekly menus.
Make goals for yourself. Make a list. If you’ve never made your own broth, make it one of your targets for the month.
Batching is another excellent way to make more of these staples from scratch. Get your family and friends involved and go wild.
Make a giant pot of broth and freeze it in sizable portions.
When making salad dressing, make more than you need so you can use it throughout the week.
Always make more than you need to save it for later.
I’ll be including tips and tricks to help you out with this as we get into each item.
1. SALAD DRESSING
Do you know what’s easier than buying a bottle of dressing from the store?
A squeeze of lemon (or balsamic), a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. It’s easier, cheaper, and WAY healthier than anything that comes out of a bottle.
Besides, most commercial dressings rely on canola oil, which is an oil I want nothing to do with. If you want to learn more about why canola oil isn’t all that it’s hyped to be, check out this article.
But maybe you want something a bit more complex. No problem. Get out a jar (or a Magic Bullet) and shake up a big jar of vinaigrette for the week.
If you want something like a blue cheese dressing, find a recipe and make it! Or put it on that list of culinary goals I mentioned earlier.
RELATED: DIY Vinaigrettes
Nothing gets more classic than a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. And what’s not to love? It’s the ultimate healthy breakfast option.
If you’re in the habit of buying those small packets of flavoured oatmeal, it’s time to let those go. There are better options.
One is to make overnight oats which you can grab from the fridge and head out with in the morning. Pinterest has THOUSANDS of recipe ideas for overnight oats.
Another option is to measure out old-fashioned rolled oats into little containers or reusable bags. All you need to do is dump them in a bowl, pour in hot water, cover, and let them sit for five minutes until all of the water is absorbed. Use maple syrup, coconut palm sugar or Sucanat to naturally sweeten your breakfast.
Or you can prepare a big pot of steel-cut oats that you can break your fast on throughout the week.
The next time you want pancakes for breakfast, try making you’re own!
It doesn’t take very long to whisk up flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, eggs and milk.
Really, it doesn’t!
If you find measuring out these ingredients to be too time-consuming, there’s always the possibility of batching the dry ingredients.
Just mix them together, store them in an air-tight jar, and use it as your own homemade pancake mix. All you’ll need to do is add the wet ingredients when you’re ready!
RELATED: Fluffy Kefir Pancakes
Good broth resurrects the dead.South American Proverb
I save a ton of money when it comes to stock, especially once I realized how awful the ingredients are in the cheaper boxes of broth.
Instead, I save my kitchen scraps and make a huge pot of stock whenever I have beef bones or a chicken carcass from quartering a whole chicken (that’s something our great-grandmothers did, too!).
After simmering on the stove for a while (most of the time spent making broth is hands-off), you let it cool, strain it, and freeze or pressure can what you don’t need.
This is a big one.
When I don’t bring home a loaf from the bakery (because I quit buying plastic-bagged bread ages ago), I have my sourdough starter rising on the counter.
Since I only bake once a week, I usually bake two or three loaves at a time, storing the extra loaves in the freezer.
A lot of people just don’t have time to bake bread though. My brother, for example.
To save money, he bought himself a bread maker and buys flour and active dry yeast in bulk. When he’s low on bread, he measures out the ingredients and lets the machine do all of the work for him. It mixes, proofs and bakes.
My friend Katie from Heart’s Content Farmhouse has a plethora of bread recipes to help get you started on your bread baking journey.
My great-grandmother was German. She didn’t make naan, let alone know what it was, but I’m willing to bet she would have made her own from scratch if she was born in the East!
This is one of those bread staples that you can make a big batch of. Get your kids to help roll out the dough and then get a couple of skillets going to bake them on the stovetop.
Freeze whatever you don’t use, pulling what you need from the freezer until it’s time to make another batch.
RELATED: Skillet Sesame Naan Bread
I’m probably crazy for making my own tortillas, but I insist on it.
Every time I go to the grocery store and am tempted to buy a convenient plastic bag of wraps, I look at the ingredients and remember why I make my own.
My tortillas are a lot more rustic than the uniform ones in the bag, but they taste better. One day I’ll get a tortilla press to help out with that.
I also have a lot of fun with flavouring them. My three-year-old doesn’t know it, but he’s eating a sizeable helping of spinach or kale when he munches on one of my green wraps.
RELATED: Making Flour Tortillas with Kefir
While it’s a little more work than making pancakes, nothing beats watching made-from-scratch biscuits rising in the oven.
I usually make a batch of biscuits when there’s no bread for breakfast.
Like pancakes, you can measure multiple batches of the dry ingredients and store them in an air-tight container.
RELATED: Cheddar Thyme Biscuits with Kefir
I stopped buying breadcrumbs the day I took the time to read the label on a popular brand. I couldn’t understand what sugar was doing in there. Game over.
Besides, making your own breadcrumbs is ridiculously easy.
Whenever I have a heal of lonely bread that no one wants, I let it dry out and then store it in a container.
When I need breadcrumbs, I run my collection of stale bread through the food processor.
If stale bread isn’t available, you can also toast your bread, crush it, and then bake the crumbs in the oven until golden.
Like breadcrumbs, croutons are also easy to make, and they taste wonderful!
I never used to like croutons because I only had the kind that came out of a box growing up. That changed when I learned how to make my own.
Use up stale bread to make croutons. Saw it into chunks and then toss them in seasoning and bake.
Or, you can heat butter with a crushed clove of garlic in a skillet and stir the bread around in that, getting them golden and crispy.
If you want a recipe for buttery croutons, check out my caesar salad recipe post!
11. PIE DOUGH
When it comes to pie dough, it seems so much easier to go to the store and buy a couple of shells.
Well, it is, but will they taste better than the ones you make at home?
Whenever I make my own shortcrust, I double or triple the recipe and stash the extra dough in the freezer to roll out later.
You could also roll it out, press it into a pie plate and freeze it that way, too. I like the idea of having homemade shells ready to go for when you need them.
RELATED: Buttery Shortcrust Pie Dough
RELATED: Sweet Shortcrust Dough for Tarts
Do you want to know an old bakery trick?
Triple or quadruple a recipe, portion out the cookies and then freeze the balls of dough in a single layer on a cookie sheet.
Once frozen, transfer the frozen cookie dough to a freezer bag.
When a hankering for cookies strikes, all you need to do is preheat the oven, and pop a few of those on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
It’s perfect because that way you bake what you need and don’t have two dozen ready-to-eat cookies tempting you in the cupboard.
You get to eat warm, gooey homemade cookies AND control the portion size. It’s a win-win!
13. PIZZA DOUGH
Having worked in the pizza industry, I can tell you firsthand that making your own dough is a piece of cake.
You will need to plan it out though. If you’re making the pizza the day of, a basic pizza dough takes about an hour and a half to rise before it’s ready to work.
If you’re a meal planner with a busy schedule, make the dough the night before so it has time to proof.
When you get home from work, pull the dough from the fridge and let it warm up before pressing it out onto the pan.
You can even freeze the dough! Once it’s made, ball it up and pop it in the freezer and pull it the day before to give it time to thaw and proof.
14. GRAVY AND SAUCES
The next time you roast a chicken or pan-fry a steak, use the drippings and deglaze that pan to make a flavorful sauce.
Deglaze with wine and use homemade stock to get a sauce going, then thicken everything with a roux (equal parts butter mixed with flour) or cornstarch mixed with water.
Remember to season it to taste!
If you haven’t already, it’s time to rethink microwavable popcorn, because nothing about microwaved popcorn is good for you.
And get yourself popcorn kernels, too. You’ll need them.
When basil is flourishing in late summer, it’s time to fill your freezer with pesto!
Pull out the food processor and mix basil leaves with olive oil and pine nuts. Parmesan cheese goes in there, too, but if you’re freezing it, add the cheese right before use.
To save money, I often make my pesto with walnuts, which is the beauty of making your own.
In the spring, you can make pesto with dandelion greens or garlic mustard.
Or if you have arugula in the fridge that’s about to expire, you can turn that into pesto, too!
RELATED: Making Garlic Mustard Pesto (feel free to swap the garlic mustard with something else!)
17. ICED TEA
I drink a lot of tea. When I have leftovers, I pour the tea into a glass bottle and store it in the fridge.
That’s how easy it is to make iced tea.
You can be more intentional about it, too. Steep your tea, add ice and sweeten it with a flavoured simple syrup or honey.
You’ll never buy iced tea, or worse, the powdered mix, again.
18. JUICE AND LEMONADE
When it comes to fruit juice, you’ve probably heard it said that it’s better to eat the whole fruit. Not only are you getting fibre, but you’re also not introducing an overwhelming amount of sugar into your system.
If you’re really craving juice, then this is what you do.
For orange juice or grapefruit juice, squeeze an orange or a grapefruit into a glass.
For anything else, use a juicer.
As for lemonade, squeeze a lemon into a glass. Add water, ice and sugar.
That was easy.
RELATED: Old-Fashioned Lemonade
RELATED: Frosty Basil Blended Lemonade
19. HERBAL TEAS
If you don’t have your own tea garden, it’s time to start one!
Almost anyone can grow mint in pots, especially if you don’t have space for a garden.
For those of you with land, why not give up some of your lawn to grow chamomile? Bee balm? Lemon balm? Lemongrass? If you live in zone 6b-8, you can even plant Camellia Sinensis for green, white and black tea!
Interested in picking up a new hobby? Learn how to forage so you can pick your own plants for tea! Collect raspberry leaf and stinging nettle. Harvest horsetail, rosehips, and pineapple weed (that’s wild chamomile).
That’s what our great grandmothers did!
20. HOT CHOCOLATE
Can I tell you a secret? I’m guilty of buying those handy packets of hot chocolate. Even the ones that are flavoured to emulate popular chocolate candies.
One of my goals this year (I have culinary goals, too, you know!)is to swap them out with homemade mixes.
All you need is a good cacao powder, milk and sweetener. The rest, as they say, is gravy.
21. ICE CREAM
Along with instant hot chocolate, I’m also guilty of buying ice cream.
What’s worse, I know how to make my own!
To make a good old-fashioned vanilla ice cream, all you need is cream, milk, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, and an ice cream maker.
This is between you and me, but I’m also working on developing a recipe for date-sweetened ice cream.
Making a healthy version of ice cream basically eliminates guilt and I don’t mind feeding it to my kid, because the good Lord knows he has enough energy without refined sugar coursing through his little system!
Sugar, modified cornstarch, dextrose, tetrasodium pyrophosphate and disodium phosphate (for thickening), contains less than 2% of mono- and diglycerides, salt, calcium sulfate, xanthan gum, artificial flavor, artificial color, yellow 5, yellow 6.Vanilla instant pudding ingredient label
In other words, always make pudding from scratch.
When I say pickles, it’s a wide umbrella. Whether it’s cucumbers pickled in brine, dilly beans, beets, or cocktail onions, pickles were something that was always made at home.
Back in the day, there were kitchen gardens. During the harvest season, food was preserved to help get the family through the winter months.
Vegetables were either stored in the root cellar (like carrots and potatoes), they were fermented (like sauerkraut), or they were pickled.
If the thought of making your own pickles intimidates you, call up a friend or two and host a pickle party. Buy a bushel of pickling cucumbers and figure it out together!
An afternoon spent making pickles will ensure a healthy supply for a couple of years.
Canning, however, is a lot of work. For low-fuss pickles, try your hand at fermenting.
RELATED: Fermented Jalapeño Pickles
RELATED: Fermented Carrot Stick Pickles
When it comes to condiments, I can’t help but think of the ketchup scene from the 1944 movie, Meet Me in St. Louis:
While ketchup can be a bit of a production, there are other condiments you can turn your attention to.
Mayonnaise, for one. All it takes is an egg yolk, oil, lemon and salt. It can be made in a food processor, or, if you have a strong arm, you can whisk it.
Mustard is another condiment that isn’t hard to make if you have a good recipe.
And let’s not forget salsa. Just chop up a couple of tomatoes, mince a bit of red onion, and toss that with lime juice, cilantro, and maybe some finely minced jalapeno. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in a few mashed avocadoes in there and you have guacamole.
Sally Fallon Morell’s Nourishing Traditions is an excellent recipe book that covers these basic recipes (including how to make sauces and gravies), and so much more.
25. SEASONING BLENDS
Whenever I open up my mother’s cupboards, I am always astounded by the spice clutter.
I mean, I’m a spice hoarder myself, as you can see in this video:
But my mom has a problem. She buys just about every spice blend there is when she also has everything she needs to make it herself.
I understand not wanting to pull out seven different spices and herbs when you want to season taco meat.
This is why I’m in the habit of making spice blends in bulk and storing them in a labelled glass jar for later.
26. VEGGIE PLATTERS
This is going to sound unreasonable, but store-bought veggie platters upset me.
Yes, yes, I know. They’re convenient.
But they’re boring and wildly overpriced. Plus, the dip somehow tastes like chalk.
There’s also plastic waste to take into account.
It doesn’t take an outlandish amount of time to fix your own platter. Throw your vegetables in a vinegar or baking soda rinse, and then quickly chop them up and arrange them on a reusable platter.
I came close to posting a granola recipe, but then I remembered that the internet is littered with them and probably doesn’t need mine.
Besides, granola is simple.
You preheat your oven to 400ºF/200ºC and throw rolled oats (or quinoa flakes) in a bowl. Add some chopped nuts. Almonds. Walnuts. Pecans. Maybe pumpkin seeds. Coconut flakes and coconut palm sugar. Melt coconut oil or butter with honey or maple syrup, and then mix it in with the oats.
Get it all on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then pop it in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring it halfway. You want it to be golden.
Then let it cool. Store it in airtight jars for a month or two. Sprinkle it on yogurt, oatmeal, bowls of fruit, or anything that needs a good sweet crunch.
28. TRAIL MIX
If you need to buy trail mix, it’s because you don’t have enough nuts, seeds, and dried fruit around, and you totally should because they make great healthy snacks.
Just blend your favourites together to make a unique mix.
Or copy your favourite one.
Do you know what you get when you blend salted peanuts, cashews, almonds, raisins and M&M’s? The Kirkland Signature trail mix from Costco.
Which is where I go to buy those ingredients in bulk.
There’s nothing like a good bowl of soup. It’s an entirely different story if it comes out of a can.
Don’t get me wrong, some commercial soups have good ingredients, like Amy’s Soups, but there’s something about having a pot of homemade soup simmering on the stove.
Hearty classics, like minestrone, were an easy opportunity for our great grandmothers to use up any produce that had seen better days. After all, waste not, want not!
When’s the last time you made soup from scratch?
RELATED: Easy Borscht Soup (a WWII recipe)
Did you know that you can make your own yogurt?
All you need is a couple of tablespoons of plain yogurt to get it started and a litre (a quart) of whole milk.
START MAKING MORE HOMEMADE PANTRY STAPLES
I could have added way more than thirty basic items to this list, but I had to reign it in. I lumped the condiments together and left out things like burger patties, cake mix and salad (as opposed to buying those convenient pre-made salads you see at the grocery store).
Is there anything you would add to the list?
Also, do you make some of these food items from scratch already, or are you just starting to get to know your way around the kitchen?
I hope you’ll give me a holler in the comments below to let me know your thoughts!
In the meantime, here are some related posts you might be interested in: