I’m passionate about food! I love to garden, cook, bake, and read everything I can get my hands on about the food industry. I also love to be as close to my food as possible. I love to see it go from its component parts–that I grow or produce, if possible–all the way to its final jarred or plated version. There is something incredibly empowering about knowing exactly how what you’re putting in your mouth was grown, harvested, and made edible.
But even if you’re not especially passionate about gardening or cooking, another great reason to make more staples from scratch is money. Simply making yogurt from scratch, we save $5 to $10 per week. We’re definitely not through with our transition from prepared foods to foods made from scratch, but today I thought I’d share the changes we have made, including recipes and how-to’s!
Easy, Cheap, & Eco-Friendly Recipes
1. Yogurt. For both the taste compared to store-bought yogurt, and the money we save making it ourselves, this one tops the list. There’s lots of high-quality yogurt in grocery stores these days, but there is nothing like the taste of fresh, homemade greek yogurt.
This recipe shows you how to make greek yogurt without a yogurt maker and we’ve never had it fail on us. We use a half-gallon of organic, grassfed whole milk per batch, which costs $2.49 and makes 4-5 cups of yogurt. The price for 4 cups of Fage at our local Target? $7.19. The difference adds up fast!
2. Black beans. Beans in general are very cheap, and while you do save money cooking beans from dry instead of buying canned, the big difference here is the taste. I grew up on canned beans, but I’m not going back! Beans cooked from dry are so tender and flavorful. How-to:
- Put your desired quantity of beans in a glass or ceramic bowl at least three times the volume of the dried beans. Cover with water, a few inches above the height of the beans.
- Soak in the fridge overnight.
- When ready to cook, drain the beans. Place in a pot and cover with fresh water, an inch above the beans.
- Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1-2 hours, until beans are tender but hold their shape.
- Stir in flavorings (salt, pepper, cumin, etc.) towards the end of the cooking time.
3. Chickpeas. We eat falafel pretty much every week, so we make these often. The instructions are the same as for beans, but they don’t take as long to cook (about an hour at a simmer).
4. Lentils. Lentils are awesome because you don’t even need to soak them before cooking! Use 3 parts water to 1 part lentils. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or so. This works for both brown and red lentils.
5. Guacamole. Skip on plastic-packaged guac and make your own! Avocados, luckily, come in their own sturdy, compostable packaging. Perfect guac recipe: 1 mashed avocado, 1 tablespoon finely minced onion, a few shakes of cumin + a squeeze of lime juice.
6. Lara Bars. We just started making these from scratch, but I’m kicking myself that we didn’t start sooner! I adore everything about Lara Bars but their price and packaging, so a couple of weeks ago, we started making Peanut Butter Cookie Lara Bites. Not only is the recipe insanely easy (with just two ingredients) and cheap (thank you, bulk aisle!), it’s also easily customizable and you can definitely taste the freshness compared to the store-bought version.
7. Granola. When I went on my homemade, local foods kick in high school, my mom started making granola from scratch instead of buying cereal and she (and I) have been making it ever since. My mom’s recipe, and my favorite, is adapted from Deborah Madison’s New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Perhaps I’ll post it at some point! But there are many excellent recipes on food blogs. Some of my personal favorites:
- Banana Bread Granola from the Minimalist Baker
- Peanut Butter Granola from A Table for Two
- Gingerbread Granola from Southern In-Law
(Also, when you have a gluten-free kitchen, the price of certified GF granola makes you want to run far away from the grocery store… so, there’s that. Homemade granola all da way.)
8. Gluten-free flour mix. Unless a book or recipe calls for a specific combination of flours, we use a mix that’s:
- 6 parts brown rice flour
- 2 parts potato starch
- 1 part tapioca starch
I buy the individual flours and starches at a discounted price from Thrive Market. It saves us quite a bit of money, compared to buying the tiny 2 or 3-cup boxes of gluten-free flour mix at the grocery store.
9. Frozen fruit. Nowadays, instead of picking up a cheap bag of frozen berry mix at the grocery store grown in goodness-knows-where, we buy fruit in bulk from the farmer’s market and freeze it ourselves. It’s not necessarily cheaper, but it tastes better, and you feel better knowing where your food comes from.
10. Fresh herbs. You don’t need a green thumb to grow an herb garden! Most common herbs are low-maintenance. Just test the soil with your finger daily and if it’s dry, water it–otherwise, leave it. Currently, we have basil, chives, and oregano on our balcony, but I’m planning to pick up a couple more from Whole Foods soon. So much cheaper than buying fresh herbs in those little plastic boxes–and so much more flavorful!
Next up on our list are homemade hummus, ricotta cheese, gluten-free bread and vegetable stock! I’ll keep you posted and share any good recipes that we find. I already have my eye on this GF bread recipe from Southern In-Law.
But I’d love to know: what are your favorite foods to make from scratch? Feel free to link to any recipes, including your own–I’ll check them out!