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45 Healthy Foods to Make and Never Buy Again
Nix those suspicions that good, homemade and healthy food comes with an exorbitant price tag. We found exactly the opposite, actually. If we roll up our sleeves and make homemade pasta, cookies, or just about any other food, it costs a whole lot less than buying the pre-made versions. Not to mention the pride of putting a from-scratch meal on the table.
1. Granola bars $0.48 each for homemade | $0.69 each for Kashi brand Who doesn’t love a crunchy, chewy grab-and-go snack? But there's no need to shell out big bucks or entrust our health to unpronounceable ingredients. Oats, nuts, berries, and honey star in this recipe and significantly cut back on costs. Also check out Greatist's Fruit and Nut Bar recipe.
2. Granola/Breakfast cereal $0.37 per ½ cup homemade | $0.41 for Arrowhead Mills brand Skip the boxed stuff and DIY it for a personalized cereal. These homemade bran flakes rival the store-bought stuff in nutrition and flavor. Add a small handful of dried fruit and roasted nuts for some extra crunch and flavor.
3. Oatmeal $0.25 for homemade | $0.28 per packet Quaker Oats brand Swap that paper package of instant oats for classic whole rolled oats. Whip up a big batch at the beginning of the week and then soup up each serving with add-ins like fruit and spices.
4. Pancakes $0.13 per pancake homemade | $0.29 per pancake Eggo brand Put down that Bisquick. Whipping up pancakes at home is an opportunity to add in whole wheat flour and raisins for fiber and a little sweetness without sugar overload. Plus, the added fiber helps us feel full and improve digestion.
5. Waffles $0.85 per homemade Belgian-style | $1.31 for two Kashi brand frozen Leggo my Eggo! Skip the refined grains of classic toaster waffles and the exorbitant price of the healthier versions. Instead, try some hand-crafted whole-grain waffles. Extra points for using fresh-cut fruit instead of corn-syrup heavy Aunt Jemima's.
6. Salsa $3.40 per 16 oz. homemade | $3.75 per 16 oz. jar Green Mountain Gringo brand Take a page out of Slim Shady's book and serve up some salsa. Boiling and blending creates a restaurant-quality dip that's way better than the jarred stuff.
7. Guacamole $0.75 per ¼ cup homemade | $0.87 for ¼ cup Santa Barbara brand Guacamole's an easy and stove-free snack to whip up on a warm, summer afternoon. Making it at home not only ups the freshness (and flavor), but also makes it easier to control saltiness and the heat. Pair with homemade tortilla chips for even more healthy points. Ole!
8. Hummus $0.21 per 2 tablespoon serving homemade | $0.43 for 2 tablespoons Sabra brand Dangerfood or not, this dip is delicious. And when restraining ourselves to a two-tablespoon serving, it costs less than a quarter. Plus, the directions are simple — just blend! No more $6 hummus tubs needed.
9. Soft Cheeses $0.63 per ¼ cup homemade (paneer or ricotta) | $0.67 for ¼ cup fresh specialty brand No need to be a professional chef to make cheese. Paneer and ricotta are ridiculously easy to make at home, and they'll always be fresher than what can be bought at the store.
10. Yogurt $0.43 per 8 oz. homemade | $1.07 per 8 oz. Stonyfield Farm brand It's like a miracle! It's possible to turn ½ cup of yogurt into 2 quarts just by adding milk. Okay, so there's a little more to the process than just stirring them together, but DIY yogurt saves a pretty penny and yields a fresher final product that's easy to feel good about!
11. Fruit snacks $0.63 per roll homemade | $0.72 for Fruitabu brand Homemade fruit snacks or "fruit leather" is a steal even when buying the fruit from the grocery store. But if it's mid-summer and that fruit tree just keeps producing more, fruit leather's an awesome and practically free way to preserve it. Just add lemon, sugar, and spices (which are actually optional!).
12. Tortilla chips $0.31 per 12 chips homemade | $0.53 for 12 chips Tostitos brand Don't buy the family-sized bag! Repurpose old tortillas as chips by lightly spraying with oil and baking. While any tortillas will do, we recommend the homemade ones below.
13. Tortillas $0.13 per tortilla homemade | $0.27 per tortilla for Mission brand These Tex-Mex staples are actually a piece of cake to make. Simply combine flour, baking powder, oil, salt, and milk — no intimidating yeast! Swap in whole-wheat flour for added fiber and a richer texture. Gone gluten-free? These can also be made with corn flour.
14. Pita chips $0.41 per 2 oz. serving homemade | $0.77 for 2 oz. Stacy's brand The recipe for pita chips isn't all too different from tortilla chips. Simply coat with oil and seasonings and bake. No more wasted pitas, no more wasted cash on the packaged stuff!
15. Jam and jelly $3.04 per 8 oz. jar homemade | $3.77 per 8 oz. Sarabeth's brand Yes, it's possible to make jam and jelly in the microwave. Seriously. All it takes is some frozen fruit, lemon, pectin, and sugar. Just remember, this doesn’t preserve the jam the way true canning does, so it has to be gobbled up within a few weeks.
16. Bread $0.40 for 2 slices homemade | $0.52 for 2 slices Arnold brand It's not always easy to discern which breads are masquerading as health foods and which are actually good for you. But making bread at home helps clear things up real quick, since it's easy to control exactly what ingredients go in the bowl. Since fresh baked varieties don't contain preservatives, remember to eat within a week, or freeze for longer safe keeping.
17. Nut butters $0.29 per 2 tablespoons homemade | $0.29 for Smuckers Natural brand It's peanut butter-jelly time! Homemade nut butters eliminate the need for crazy preservatives and over-the-top fat and salt content. Just grind those nuts up for any variety of nut butter imaginable!
18. Salad dressing $0.52 per 2 tablespoons homemade | $0.64 per 2 tablespoons Maple Grove Farms brand This one's a Greatist favorite: toss some olive oil and balsamic vinegar into a nearly empty mustard jar and shake. It'll get out those last drops of flavor from the mustard and serve as a simple storage container for the dressing. Not to mention it's C-H-E-A-P. Or try one of these easy recipes for some variety.
19. Soup $0.90 per 1 ½ cups homemade | $2.23 for 1 ½ cups Amy's brand Skip the potential threat of BPA in the canned stuff by whipping up a big pot of soup at home. Combine any veggies, broth (check out how to make it from scratch below), pasta, and any leftover meat on hand. Freeze in single-serve portions for easy defrosting!
20. Chili $2.77 per 1 ½ cups homemade | $3.19 for 1 ½ cups Amy's brand Canned chili can be seriously disappointing. Instead, control the spiciness, type of meat, and overall fat and sodium content but going homemade. Our buffalo turkey chili is surprisingly healthy and a fun twist on the traditional version. Go cheaper (and meat-free!) by using an assortment of beans instead of the turkey.
21. Baked beans $0.31 for ⅓ cup homemade | $0.38 per ⅓ cup Bush's Original brand Baked beans are a heart- and tummy-warming recipe, that doesn't need to be ultra-heavy or sugary. Stick with dry beans, molasses, and just a few herbs and spices to keep it cheap and healthy.
22. Croutons $0.11 per serving homemade | $0.17 per serving for Olivia's Croutons brand These salad toppers are notoriously dangerous since they're typically made with refined grains and lots of oil. Instead, DIY it for guilt-free added crunch.
23. Frozen burritos $1.81 per burrito homemade | $2.99 per burrito for Amy's brand Believe it or not, it is possible to imitate the gooey goodness of a freezer burrito at home. Combine a homemade tortilla, cheese, roasted veggies, and leftover meats. Wrap in foil, freeze, and reheat! This is especially great for those with allergies or intolerances!
24. Marinara sauce $0.97 per ½ cup homemade |$1.22 per ½ cup Amy's brand Pasta sauce is the original sneaky way to add veggies to a meal, so why settle for the store-bought stuff? It takes just a few minutes of active prep to get the basic ingredients together, then just let it simmer.
25. Broth $1.21 per quart homemade | $3.29 per quart College Inn brand Stock and broth seem like one of those things only fancy-pants cooks make, but they're actually super-easy and a great way to use up stuff that’s already on hand. The basic recipe is water, bones or carcass, vegetables, and seasonings. (The seasonings are actually optional. Technically, broth is seasoned while stock is just a blank slate.)
26. Pesto $0.64 per 2 tablespoons homemade | $0.72 for Buitoni brand The crisp, green taste of pesto is best when made with ultra-fresh basil. Store-bought brands tend to compensate with loads of oil and salt. When that basil plant's growing as quick as a weed, grab a few handfuls and combine with a touch of olive oil, cheese, pine nuts, and garlic. If basil's out of season, capitalize on in-season greens like kale or spinach. (Bonus points for superfood greens!)
27. Pasta $0.34 per ¼ lb. serving homemade | $0.62 per ¼ lb. serving Bionaturae brand It's just eggs, flour, oil, and salt, and yet people tend to shy away from making their own pasta. Doing it at home makes it easy to control just how healthy and whole-wheat-filled the final product is.
28. Filled pasta $0.50 per 1 cup serving homemade | $2.15 per 1 cup serving Buitoni brand With that stockpile of freshly made pasta dough and ricotta in the fridge, it's easy to throw together some homemade ravioli. Combine ricotta with sautéed spinach for quick and easy healthy dinner. Better still, filled pasta can be rolled by hand and is far easier to cut than that pesky, thin spaghetti.
29. Roasted chicken $1.40 per ¼ chicken homemade | $1.75 per ¼ store-bought rotisserie chicken Sure, it takes some time, but don't be intimidated by the idea of roasting a whole bird. Making it at home eliminates all that broth-injected, unpronounceable-chemical-laced stuff that comes pre-cooked.
30. Mashed potatoes $0.76 per ¾ cup serving homemade | $2.50 per ¾ cup store-prepared potatoes Mash up some cauliflower rather than chowing down on boxed or prepared mashed potatoes. We swear it tastes the same! Can't commit all the way to cauliflower? Go half cauliflower, half potatoes. And keep it light on the butter and milk!
31. Breadcrumbs $0.11 per ¼ cup homemade | $0.16 per ¼ cup Progresso brand Unseasoned bread crumbs are ultra-easy to make. Just grind up a few slices of bread and toast. For flavored crumbs, add in dried herbs. Use whole-wheat bread for added fiber and B vitamins.
32. Ketchup $3.86 per 16 ounces homemade | $3.34 per 16 ounces Heinz brand Some of us probably already have the necessary ingredients to make ketchup right in our spice cabinets, but are still turning to the high-fructose variety. This version is especially cheap if you have the spices on hand, and entirely worthwhile to avoid additives (and impress those dinner guests!).
33. Barbecue sauce $0.09 per tablespoon homemade | $0.08 per tablespoon KC Masterpiece brand Down-home comfort food is rarely healthy, but DIY barbecue sauce could be the answer for scrapping unnecessary sugar and salt. The magic ingredient? Coffee. We'd say $0.01 is worth knowing how to pronounce all the ingredients!
34. Pizza dough $0.98 per 12" pizza dough homemade | $0.98 for 12" store-bought, fresh dough It's time to get Italian! The number one way to feel like a BAMF in the kitchen is to toss around pizza dough. Making it whole-wheat cuts back on the costs of the packaged stuff, and, say it with us, "gives us control of the ingredients."
35. French fries $0.72 per ½ cup serving homemade | $0.90 per ½ cup serving Alexia brand Sweet potato fries are basically the new Micky D's, and this is one trend we recommend everyone get in on. Just slice up some sweet potatoes and toss with oil, salt, and spices, and bake until crispy. There's no frying involved and the potatoes are practically the only cost.
36. Cookies $0.32 per 2 cookies homemade | $0.35 per 3 mini Entenmann's brand We'd make homemade cookies just for the awesome smell, so getting to devour them is a pretty awesome bonus. Adding superfoods banana and oatmeal into the mix practically turns these cookies into a superfood themselves.
37. Brownies $0.35 per brownie homemade | $0.52 per brownie Entenmann's brand Yes, it is actually possible to make delicious brownies without any flour. The surprising stand in? Black beans, which add fiber and protein. This is an especially great for those with celiac disease, who might otherwise shell out major cash to get a flour-free recipe. (Even wheat-lovers will devour this recipe, we promise!).
38. Ice cream $2.43 per pint homemade | $4.19 per pint Ben & Jerry's brand Who doesn't love having a little ice cream on hand to dip into now and then? Whip up a big batch (no need for an ice cream maker) and personalize it with any flavors or add-ins desired. Of course, several of these frozen treats are fruit-based, which makes them an even healthier option in our book!
39. Ice cream sandwiches $0.52 per sandwich homemade | $1.07 per sandwich Skinny Cow brand Sandwich together two small, healthier homemade cookies (from above!) and a dollop of that homemade ice cream and freeze. There's a single-serving indulgence without the temptation of bulldozing through the whole pint of ice cream. Plus, you'll avoid the additives and artificial sweeteners found in low-fat, reduced-sugar brands.
40. Pudding $1.22 per cup homemade | $0.97 per cup Kozy Shack brand Buckle your seatbelts, kids! We're making pudding with avocado. Just blend with milk and honey. It may not be cheaper than a puddin' cup, but we'll let it slide because, heck, it's avocado!
41. Smoothies $1.14 per cup homemade | $1.37 per cup Naked brand Skip the watery smoothie drinks that can be packed with sugar and miss out on a lot of the fruits' benefits. Blend together spinach, yogurt, ice, orange, banana, strawberries, and just about any other fruit for a green smoothie without any added sugar. And compared to that $7 green smoothie at the juice bar, it's actually a deal!
42. Sparkling water $0.25 per liter for SodaStream | $0.99 per liter Poland Springs Bottled water is an easy way to flush money down the drain while also wasting lots of plastic bottles. Instead, rig up a carbonation station to add bubbles to pure, delicious water — no additional sugar or sodium.
43. Flavored water $0.37 per liter homemade | $0.99 per liter Poland Springs brand To create flavor-infused water, simply put water in a pitcher and add slices of lemon, lime, orange, mint or other sliced fruits. Let it sit for an hour or as long as you've got, then strain off the fruit for a debris-free drink.
44. Drink mixers $1.31 per cup homemade Sweet and Sour mix | $1.25 per cup Mr. & Mrs. T's brand Put down the margarita mix! But no need to go margarita-less. Just make less-sugary drink mixers with fresh juices and honey-water instead of simple syrup or packaged mixes.
45. Lemonade $0.58 per cup homemade | $0.67 per cup Santa Cruz brand There's nothing more refreshing than this summer classic, but it can often be packed with sugar. Nix powdered mixes or bottled beverages and stir together water, lemon juice, mint, and just a touch of honey.
Note: Per-serving prices for homemade versions were determined by adding the common price of the portion of each ingredient used in the recipe and dividing by the number of servings. Where the "homemade" link mentions multiple recipes, an average was used. What's your favorite item to make from scratch at home instead of buying pre-made?
Comments Leave a comment
Awesome list! I'm definitely going to try making the homemade bran flakes.
@StephanieGrau I didn't see a recipe for bran flakes. Did you try a recipe and was it any good?
Disappointed... most of these suggestions are not gourmet, foodie like or even really healthy! Sorry to say it like that, but it is the truth!
I'm happy to say that I do make most of these foods myself most of the time. There are a few store bought tortilla chips mixed in, but generally I bake my own. It's funny how many siple food items people would rather buy than make.
I like to make veggie burgers... so much cheaper than frozen, and no harmful chemicals/additives.
Hey I need a good veggie burger recipe ....will you share yours?
I like to make homemade veggie burgers... so much cheaper, and no additives.
I love making nut butters from scratch! So easy!
to make veggie burgers, I prepared lentil soup in a crock pot, with red and green bell peppers, garlic, sea salt, basil and chives. cook until thick, lentils very tender... then removed about 2 c., mixed tofu and quinoa (I prepare it in the microwave w/water for 10 mins.) mash/mix well and form patties. I cooked them in a little olive oil for several minutes on each side until browned... you may add liquid smoke or taco seasoning if you want variety...
This is a great list!! I am elimiating processed foods from our home and have conquered some of these...I have more work to do!!
One can make these at home, sure... and you save a few pennies here and there. BUT how much is your TIME worth? More than the few pennies you save. And it's not like these homemade versions are so much healthier. I'll buy this stuff at the store.
@JIH73 Thanks so much for the comment! One of the things we love about these recipes is that you can tailor them to you own liking. You can skip the salt or cut down the sugar to suit your needs — something you can't do that with store-bought goods. We're a huge fan of healthy options, and we think this list just adds more options to that list.
You're right that time plays a huge factor here. Is everyone in the world going to take the time to make each and every option listed above from scratch instead of buying from the store? Definitely not. But it's always nice to have the option. Everyone's different, and each individual can decide if making stuff from scratch is practical for them, and to what degree.
@JIH73 Homemade food is NEVER the equivalent of store-bought. There are scores of ways that processed food gets messed up: the use of poor quality oils, BPA from the can or lid linings, high processing temperatures cause food changes that alter the nutritional value, and all that packaging garbage, label printing and driving food around-- from the farm, to the processing plant, to the store warehouse, to the store, to your house-- pollutes the environment we live in. There's more waste and pollution along the way--processing machinery, washing jars, inks for the labels, fluids for the trucks driving everything around.
And finally, you need to try it to appreciate the intangible value of spending your time in the occupation of nourishing yourself. Suffice it to say that for most people, food is their only meaningful interaction with nature.
It's possible that you are busy with something highly valuable, like caring for a disabled relative. But most of us spend "free" time googling around, watching TV and reading random publications. Or we have no energy--but what's to blame for that (I am not that young, so you can't say "age")?
The act of growing just a little food for yourself, if only a couple of herbs in a little pot, helps you see the magnitude of the food absurdity we have created (and defend!).
I love this!!!!
@ChristinaBonecutterKlaus We're glad! Any favorites you think we missed?
This is good, and much needed.
How 'bout assigning some Greatist staffer to select a few of these and do a video showing us how to shake and bake in the kitchen?
@jgarma stay tuned for this! Hopefully sometime in the near future :) Gotta get our camera skills under control first, but we're working on it!
You can make brown sugar from scratch &your own bisquick mix!
@mcwilliamscourtnei How do you make your own brown sugar?!
Great list, a great way to achieve healthy eating lifestyle and saving a few pennies. I love to try home made jam.
Hi! I read your recipe for tortillas, you said: "Simply combine flour, baking powder, oil, salt, and milk" and I have good news, there is an even healthier and more accurate way of making tortillas. There is a corn flour brand: Maseca, it should be in the states, just add watter following the instructions, and cook them or heat them in a pan. No need of salt, oil or milk. It is important that it is this flower and not just corn powder as it is done in a special way. In Spanish it is called: Harina de maíz nixtamalizada and is what tortillas are made with and what you can find in all Mexican tortillerias (there is also another brand, but this is the most popular one).
I haven't read through everything yet, but wanted to add that my family likes syrup on their pancakes. When we can't afford the organic real maple syrup, I make my own simple syrup with maple flavoring and vanilla (homemade using real vanilla beans). Tastes way better than store bought and healthier too.