Being a foodie and wannabe chef, I always get a kick out of making my own unique versions of processed foods that I’ve historically bought pre-made off the grocery store shelves. Similarly, being something of a frugal living advocate, I like to cut costs where I can, so it’s just a natural fit that I would try to cut as many of these processed foods out of my diet as possible, while trying to save a few bucks in the process.
I’ve started slow by targeting those “convenience foods” that I would normally buy just to save time that might cost $2 to $5 per item, but after a little DIY magic, might conservatively cost 50% or less of what it costs for me to make it myself.
Naturally, if you’re not into cooking your own meals or enjoy the convenience factor more than I, the video recipes below aren’t going to be that attractive of an option. However, you can save you some serious money in the long run if you’re the type that buys the gourmet croutons for $6 per bag every week, when you can make the same thing at home for $0.60 with ingredients you probably have and 30 minutes of your time.
Not to mention… they taste way better too!
If you haven’t experienced what it’s like to walk into a home while making a fresh loaf of homemade bread, I would highly suggest you experience it at least once in your life. Nothing beats it, and nothing reminds me of Grandma’s kitchen like the smell of freshly baked bread. Yes, it’s that good!
So if you managed to get through your high school chemistry lab with your eyebrows in tact, you can make this very simple, yet very tasty bread recipe at home. And don’t let the false believe that baking is too difficult for the average person to make for themselves at home. That’s why I use video recipes to talk you through the process, so bookmark the page, and come back to it as many times as you need to for advice (or confidence).
First let me say that: you will not find a better store bought crouton than you can make for yourself right here from FoodWishes.com. Period. And no, I’m not exaggerating!
So next time you have some medium stale bread lying around the house and you’re about to toss it in the garbage, you’re throwing out the main ingredient of a homemade recipe that will match, or beat, any salad crouton you would eat at an upscale restaurant.
Plus, this recipe might cost $0.50 to $1 to make yourself considering that you’ve already bought the bread (or made it yourself), with the only remaining high cost items are the olive oil and cheese. If you time it properly, you might enjoy serving them hot out of the oven.
Salad dressings are, by in large, very simple to make. To prove my case, this basic Greek vinaigrette salad dressing takes less than 5 minutes to make. Yes, certain ingredients of this recipe can be on the expensive side (mainly extra virgin olive oil), but because you’re only using small amounts per serving, the costs are minimal on a per serving basis.
I’m sure I’m completely biased, but freshly made salad dressing has a more crisp and vibrant taste than most store bought dressings since the ingredients are fresh picked or just been opened. I can also control how much salt/sodium goes into each dressing, and if you want to be shocked, take a look at the sodium content in your favorite dressing. The numbers are even higher if you prefer the low fat or fat free dressing varieties, so it’s something to keep an eye on.
That boiled tasteless salsa like substance you buy in a glass container can’t hold a candle to freshly made homemade salsa. If you don’t agree, I would encourage you to try this recipe, or at the very least, checkout the salsas at Chipolte or Baja Fresh.
While the ingredients to make fresh salsa aren’t exactly cheap (tomatoes, limes, etc.), I’ll take quality over quantity any day. If you have a raised garden bed in your backyard or container garden on your deck, you can reduce your costs by planting some tomatoes and fresh cilantro.
(Please note: I included this video because it shows how to prepare raw tomatoes versus using canned tomatoes. Canned tomatoes contain high concentrations of Bisphenol A, and has been shown to have adverse health effects.)
All this grown up food and nothing for the kids? Okay fine, you busted me, I’m still a fan of frozen chicken nuggets or chicken fingers like Mom used to serve up as an after school treat. The problem is these things are usually overpriced, high in fat since they were fried prior to freezing, and may contain high concentrations of sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite (both known to have carcinogenic properties). I’m not trying to be a “Health Food Nazi” here, but personally, I like my foods to have as few mutagens as possible.
So with just a few minutes of prep work and the cost of a pack of chicken breasts, you can make several dozen high protein, low fat, oven baked chicken fingers in a relatively short amount of time. I like to make these in bulk, and keep them in the frig as finger foods for post workout protein cravings, or if I’m really lazy, I’ll store them in the freezer so I can nuke them at a later date.
Cost savings aside, after you try a few of these, you’ll probably begin to rethink why you ever wasted your time with lesser quality processed foods that have questionable health effects, high profit margins, and more than likely, have been sitting on the shelf longer than you realize.
Remember, an increase in your convenience usually means a trade off in the end product. So whether you want to save money, eat healthier foods, or just like to tinker around in the kitchen (like me), you’ll probably find making a few of these dishes a win-win proposition.