As Tim and I have become more comfortable in the kitchen over the past few years, we’ve definitely started making more food at home from scratch instead of buying the store-bought versions.

There are a few reasons we like to do this:

  • The main reason we’ve stopped buying so many pre-made items at the grocery store in the first place was to eat cleaner. As we became more educated about food production, we decided that it was important to us to be in control of the ingredients that we put into our bodies, at least as much as possible. We’ve found we can cut back on a lot of added sugar, sodium, chemicals and preservatives, and more when we make things from scratch.
  • Second, flavor. A lot of the food we make at home just tastes so. much. BETTER! than when it comes from a jar, can, box, or bottle.
  • Third, we find that we’re able to save a little money when we don’t buy the pre-made variations.
  • Finally, it’s fun! Trying new recipes and cooking together is something that we enjoy doing as a couple. We also get a little sense of accomplishment when something we make from scratch comes out great and our family/friends love it.

Friendsgiving 2015

Before I get into some of the things we like to make at home, it’s important to note that we definitely do not make every single one of the items on the list below from scratch 100% of the time. During busy weeks when we don’t have as much time to meal prep, it can most certainly be easier for us to grab things from the store instead of making them from scratch. I find that typically it tends to be a mix of both for us: maybe we have time to make our own breadcrumbs and guacamole, but we don’t have enough time to dedicate to making my own broth. With this in mind, please think of the items below as things you can consider not buying at the store as much. I don’t want you to think I’m claiming to be all perfect over here and/or telling you to never buy these things at the store ever again! Remember: don’t let perfect be the enemy of good! Good can be good enough.

Here’s the list!

15 Store Bought Foods You Can Start Making at Home

1. Breadcrumbs
Tim and I actually often use oats as a substitute for breadcrumbs. We’ll just grind some up in the food processor and add some herbs if we want more flavoring. For a true breadcrumb, you can do the same with pieces of bread.

2. Broth/Stock
Since we roast whole chickens often, Tim and I will save the leftover bones/carcass and keep them in the freezer until we have enough to make our own broth. In the interim as we’re saving up enough discarded chicken bits, we’ll just buy low sodium from the store. We combine with water, veggies, and other seasonings, and this helps us eliminate waste!

3. Dry Rubs/Seasoning Mixes
Now that we have a spice grinder (wedding gift from our friend Meghan!), making our own seasoning mixes has become so much easier. We actually gave away Tim’s famous dry rub recipe as wedding favors!

4. Granola Bars/Granola
There are sooo many brands of bars out there that have a laundry list of unpronounceable ingredients and high sugar content. When I’m in the mood to bake, I like to make own granola bars with ingredients like oats, berries, raisins, honey, etc. I use a lot of nuts and seeds to up the protein content, and I must say I’ve been told my two go to homemade granola recipes are like crack! I definitely buy my share of Kind bars and Health Warrior bars to have on hand, but I enjoy making my own too.

5. Guacamole
I would argue that our homemade guacamole is one of the tastiest out there. Making it at home ups the freshness and flavor, and it also makes it easier for us to control the heat to our liking! Plus, we just throw everything in the food processor, and voila. Perfect for taco night, a salad topper, snacking, etc.

Guacamole

6. Hummus
This is another one that requires just a blender or food processor for the minimal ingredients it needs. Hummus is something we always have in our fridge, and buying expensive tub containers at the store week after week can definitely add up. Especially when you and your husband have different flavor preferences!

7. Nut Butter
You can basically grind up any kind of nut to make your own nut butter, or seed for seed butter! No preservatives or excessive sodium content needed.

8. Oatmeal
We skip the packets that are loaded with sugar and instead buy steel-cut, rolled, or old-fashioned oats. We then flavor with our own toppings such as fruit, yogurt, nut butter, raisins, cinnamon, etc. In the colder months, I actually love whipping up some crock pot oatmeal at the beginning of the week so I have warm breakfasts ready to go.

9. Pesto
Tim loves, loves, LOVES making pesto. We love using fresh basil in the summer, but we’ve also made pesto out of kale or greens we don’t want to waste like the greens of radishes or beets! For those with tree nut allergies, using sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts is a great option. Pesto freezes extremely well and makes an excellent topping for fish, chicken, and other main dishes, and it can be used as a healthier spread in lieu of mayo. We’ve even used it as sauce on our pizza!

Beet green pesto

10. Pita or Tortilla Chips
We just take pita bread or tortillas, coat with oil and seasonings, and bake in the oven. This way you can use leftovers from other meals to make your snack instead of having to buy giant snack bags. Also, baking your own tends to cut down on the amount of salt and/or oil utilized.

11. Popcorn
I’d say this is one of the items we actually never buy at the store anymore, ever. We buy the popcorn kernels and then use a brown paper bag to cook them ourselves. From here, we either mix in some of our favorite seasonings or mix into trail mix.

12. Salad Dressing
This is the other one we never buy at the store anymore either because it’s so quick and easy to throw a dressing together and many dressings have hidden added sugars. A good tip to keep in mind when making your own dressing is to always use 1 part acid (ie lemon, vinegar, etc.) to 3 parts fat (oil).

13. Salsa
Like salad dressings, store-bought salsas also tend to have a lot of added sugar or sodium. Also, fruit flavored salsas from the store tend to leave us wishing there was more of a fresh fruit flavor to them. We love using pineapple, berries, peaches, mangoes, cranberries, and more to make our own salsa creations. Aside from using for a snack, you can then use the salsa to top fish, tacos, burrito bowls, big crunch salads. Options are endless.

Grilled Pineapple Chipotle Salsa

14. Sauce
BBQ sauce, aioli, tomato sauce, the options are endless. I mean, have you ever met an Italian who hasn’t told you that their family’s homemade tomato sauce recipe is THE BEST? Plus, homemade sauces are a great way to sneak veggies in if you don’t tend to like them on their own or if you want to sneak them in for picky little ones.

15. Soup/Chili
In the fall and winter, we love to make big batches of soup or chili to have on hand for the week. Sometimes we’ll even double the recipe because soup freezes really well, and then it cuts back on the amount of time we need to prep during a later week. After making my own soups for a few years now, canned soup just tastes gross now and is always, always disappointing.

Swiss Chard and White Bean Soup

Tell me, what do you guys make homemade instead of buy at the store? What else should we try making ourselves? Leave a comment below! 

  1. couldn’t agree with you more and I’m lucky to be married to someone who also shares these values! He always has homemade bone broth in the freezer and we most often use it when we make up a big batch of lentils. I also always have some sort of paleo bread/muffin/bar in the freezer (but also love larabars!) and always try to make my own salsa and guac since they really are SO easy to make! Knowing exactly what goes into your food and your body is really the best feeling! and ps- his mother’s sauce really IS the best sauce hahaha I tried making it once and it just didn’t compare!

  2. A couple months ago I was home in Pittsburgh and we were making Thai chili wings on the grill. We told my mom to buy Thai chili sauce…. and she came back with straight Heinz chili sauce (when you try to have a 100% Italian woman buy non-Italian ingredients it’s a disaster) I googled a recipe and realized we actually had everything at home to make a homemade Thai chili sauce and it was INCREDIBLE! Plus I could more easily control sugar content and no icky preservatives. Opened my eyes really to the value in homemade items

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