Nix 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| $0.72 for Kashi brand Who doesn’t love a crunchy, chewy grab-and-go snack? But there’s no need to shell out the 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 1/2 cup homemade| $1.50 for Bear Naked brand Skip the boxed stuff and go DIY instead. These homemade bran flakes rival the store-bought stuff in nutrition and flavor. Add a small handful of dried fruit and roasted nuts for extra crunch and flavor.
$0.13 per pancake homemade | $0.33 for Aunt Jemima brand Put down the Bisquick! Whipping up pancakes at home is an opportunity to add 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.
$0.85 per homemade Belgian-style | $1.00 for two Kashi brand frozen Leggo my Eggo! Skip the refined grains and high price of of classic toaster waffles and make a healthier version instead. We love hand-crafted whole-grain waffles. Extra points for using fresh-cut fruit instead of corn-syrup heavy Aunt Jemima’s!
$0.25 for homemade | $0.28 per packet Quaker Oats brand Swap that package of instant oats and opt for classic whole rolled oats instead. To save time, whip up a big batch at the beginning of the week and top with fruit and spices for variety.
$0.21 per 2 tablespoon serving homemade| $0.40 for 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.
7. Soft Cheeses
$0.63 per 1/4 cup homemade (paneer or ricotta) | $1.25 for 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 store-bought varieties.
$0.75 per 1/4 cup homemade| $1.00 for Sabra brand Guacamole’s an easy and stove-free snack to whip up. 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.
$3.40 per 16 oz. homemade| $4.99 for 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.
10. Pita Chips
$0.41 per 2 oz. serving homemade| $0.90 for 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!
11. Tortilla Chips
$0.31 per 12 chips homemade| $0.57 for Tostitos brand Don’t buy the family-sized bag! Repurpose old tortillas a by lightly spraying with oil and baking. While any tortillas will do, we recommend the homemade ones below.
$0.13 per tortilla homemade| $0.30 for Mission brand These 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.
$0.43 per 8 oz. homemade| $1.00 for Stonyfield Farm brand It’s a miracle! It’s possible to turn 1/2 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!
14. Fruit Snacks
$0.63 per pack homemade| $1.00 for Annie’s Homegrown 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!).
15. Nut Butters
$0.29 per 2 tablespoons homemade| $0.87 for Justin’s brand It’s peanut butter and 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!
$0.40 for 2 slices homemade | $0.55 for 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, as it’s easy to control the ingredients. Since fresh baked varieties don’t contain preservatives, remember to eat within a week, or freeze for longer safe keeping.
17. Jam and Jelly
$3.04 per 8 oz. jar homemade| $4.00 for Sarabeth’s Kitchen 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 gobble it up within a few weeks.
$0.90 per 1 1/2 cups homemade| $3.00 for 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 leftover meat you have on hand. Freeze in single-serve portions for easy defrosting!
$2.77 per 1 1/2 cups homemade| $3.01 for Amy’sbrand Canned chili can be seriously disappointing. Instead, control the spiciness, type of meat, and overall fat and sodium content but making it yourself. 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.
20. Baked Beans
$0.31 for 1/3 cup homemade | $0.32 for 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.
21. 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. Simply fill a homemade tortilla with cheese, roasted veggies, and leftover meats, wrap in foil, freeze, and reheat! This is especially great for those with allergies or intolerances!
22. Salad Dressing
$0.35 per 2 tablespoons homemade | $0.45 for Annie’s Naturals 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 cheap.
$0.11 per serving homemade| $0.20 for Olivia’s Croutons brand These salad toppers are notoriously dangerous as they’re typically made with refined grains and lots of oil. Instead, DIY it for guilt-free added crunch.
$1.21 per quart homemade | $3.99 for Imagine 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.)
25. Marinara Sauce
$0.50 per 1/2 cup homemade|$0.62 for Classico brand Pasta sauce is a delicious and 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 all you need to do is let it simmer.
$0.64 per 2 tablespoons homemade| $0.78 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.
$0.34 per 1/4 lb. serving homemade| $0.62 for 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 for 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 spaghetti.
29. Mashed Potatoes
$0.76 per 3/4 cup serving homemade| $2.50 for store-prepared potatoes Mash up some cauliflower instead of 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 try keep it light on the butter and milk.
30. Roasted Chicken
$1.40 per 1/4 chicken homemade| $2.50 for 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.
$0.11 per 1/4 cup homemade| $0.27 for Progresso brand Unseasoned bread crumbs are ultra-easy to make. Just grind up a few slices of bread and toast. For flavored crumbs, add dried herbs. Use whole-wheat bread for added fiber and B vitamins.
$2.04 per 16 ounces homemade | $2.39 for Heinz brand You probably have the necessary ingredients to make ketchup at home, but are still turning to the high-fructose variety. This version is especially cheap if you have the spices, and entirely worthwhile to avoid additives (and impress those dinner guests!).
33. French Fries
$0.72 per 1/2 cup serving homemade| $0.92 for Cascadian Farm brand Sweet potato fries are basically the new Micky D’s, and this is one trend we recommend everyone get into. Simply slice up some sweet potatoes, toss with oil, salt, and spices, and bake until crispy. There’s no frying involved and the potatoes are practically the only cost.
34. Barbecue Sauce
$0.05 per tablespoon homemade | $0.07 for KC Masterpiece brand 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!
35. Pizza Dough
$0.98 per 12″ pizza dough homemade| $2.00 for 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.”
$0.32 per 2 cookies homemade | $0.36 for Tate’s Bake Shop brand We’d make homemade cookies just for the awesome smell, so getting to devour them is a pretty awesome bonus. Adding banana and oatmeal into the mix practically turns these cookies into a superfood themselves.
37. Ice Cream
$2.43 per pint homemade| $4.19 for 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!
38. Ice Cream Sandwiches
$0.52 per sandwich homemade | $1.08 for Skinny Cow brand Sandwich together two small, healthier homemade cookies (from above!) and a dollop of homemade ice cream and freeze. It’ll provide 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.
$0.35 per brownie homemade | $1.25 for store-prepared brownies Yes, it’s 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.
$0.60 per cup homemade| $0.82 for Jell-O 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!
$1.14 per cup homemade| $1.37 for Naked brand Skip the watery smoothie drinks. They 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| $1.19 for Poland Spring brand 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. Drink Mixers
$1.31 per cup homemade| $1.25 for 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.
$0.58 per cup homemade| $0.75 for 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.
45. Flavored Water
$0.37 per liter homemade| $1.19 for Poland Spring 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. 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.