It’s not realistic for most of us to make the majority of the foods we consume on a daily basis from scratch, but many of them are easier and less time-consuming than you might think. Salad dressing, almond milk, pie crust, tortillas and yogurt are just a few of the supermarket staples that taste a lot better and save quite a few pennies when made at home. Pick and choose a few that you like best and that make sense for your lifestyle, and your diet will be considerably fresher and healthier.
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Store-bought salad dressings are nearly always packed with preservatives, sugar and unpronounceable ingredients. Skip all that and make them yourself – sometimes it’s really as easy as whisking together a handful of ingredients that you already have on hand. Real Simple has recipes for 6 super-easy salad dressings including tahini dill, meyer lemon vinaigrette, thousand island, carrot apple, creamy tarragon & avocado and shallot vinaigrette.
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There’s really no need to have a refrigerator bursting with a wide array of condiments. Keep a few key ones on hand, and they can provide the basis for more interesting variations, like roasted garlic chipotle mayonnaise. Saveur offers recipes for all sorts, from barbecue sauce to aioli.
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If you’re buying almond milk from the store, you’re missing out on the much fresher, richer flavor of homemade. Have no fear – it’s ridiculously easy. You simply soak almonds in water overnight, give them a whirl in the blender, strain out the milk and then you can use the resulting almond meal in baked goods. Learn more at Scaling Back Blog.
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If you go through a lot of potato chips, making them on your own might not make much sense. But if you just enjoy them as a once-in-a-while snack, creating them from fresh potatoes is worth your time. While many recipes require a deep fryer, you can also use a large heavy-bottomed pot, or bake them in the oven.
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Store-bought hummus can be a little pricey. All it takes to make it at home is tahini (sesame paste), canned or cooked dried chickpeas, and the flavorings of your choice. Summer Tomato offers a recipe for traditional hummus which contains garlic, lemon juice, cumin, olive oil and cayenne pepper.
Salsa & Guacamole
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Avocados taste best when they’ve just been peeled. Take full advantage of their flavor by making homemade guacamole with red onion, serrano chiles, cilantro, lime juice and tomato. Get the recipe at Simply Recipes, and one for fresh restaurant-style salsa at The Pioneer Woman.
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Making crackers is easier than it sounds, and if you’re gluten-intolerant, it can be a frugal choice. Serious Eats has a recipe for easy gluten-free crackers, while The Kitchn has 10 more recipes for homemade cheez-its, ritz crackers, graham crackers, wheat thins and more.
Fresh Mozzarella & Ricotta
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If you imagine cheese-making to be a labor-intensive process that takes months to complete, you’re right – in some cases. But other cheeses are really easy to make at home, including fresh mozzarella. Ricotta is similarly simple, made from whole milk, heavy cream and white wine vinegar.
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If you’ve ever tasted frozen pie crust from the grocery store side-by-side with homemade, you know there’s absolutely no comparison. They key to a flaky, tender pie crust is the addition of very cold butter and/or shortening, and chilling the dough for a while before rolling it out. King Arthur Flour walks you through each step, with detailed photos, at their website.
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You don’t need a fancy tortilla press to make tortillas at home. While the process of rolling them out takes a bit of time, you’ll find that the flavor and texture of homemade tortillas is totally worth the effort. Pioneer Woman has step-by-step directions with photos; while she uses a griddle, you could alternately cook them in a large pan.
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Did you know that to make yogurt at home, all you have to do is heat and then ‘inoculate’ milk with a little bit of store-bought yogurt? Get a recipe for plain yogurt at Food Republic, and Greek yogurt at Serious Eats. The difference basically comes down to straining out excess liquid.
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Baking bread seems downright archaic to people who are accustomed to simply picking it up at the store, but like many of these other food items, the difference in flavor is remarkable. Believe it or not, making bread from scratch does not have to take up your entire day. The New York Times offers two recipes: simple crusty bread, and the ever-popular ‘no knead bread‘.
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Cooking dried beans can save a lot of money over buying them canned. The trick is simply letting them soak in water overnight; this step makes them cook faster, and eliminates the compounds that cause flatulence. Learn more at Chez Bettay.
Pasta Sauce and Pesto
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Pasta sauce has a reputation for taking a long time and a lot of attention to prepare, but not all recipes are so complicated. Basic homemade tomato basil sauce (recipe at AllRecipes) is fresh, flavorful and takes just 30 minutes between prepping and cooking. And if you have a food processor, you can make pesto in minutes using fresh basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, cheese and olive oil.
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Granola is often expensive and packed full of extra sugar. Make it exactly to your own tastes at home in just minutes. All it really takes is oats, seeds and nuts, dried fruit and a mixture of honey and oil. Get three variations at A Beautiful Mess.
Meat and Vegetable Stock
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Chop vegetables, cover with water, simmer and in about 30 minutes you’ll have enough meatless, flavorful stock to make soups, rice, sauces and other dishes for weeks. Making meat stock is just as easy. Go to The Kitchn for both veggie stock and chicken stock instructions.