Make it yourself or buy it? A question lodged in the mind of anyone trying to balance the demands of time, budget, and health. [bctt tweet=”Convenience foods deceive our tastes and corrupt our cooking standards.” username=”DeniseSultenfus”] With the help of co-real foodie and busy mom Olivia DeRoos, we devised a short list of the essential refrigerator and pantry staples that are better homemade than purchased.
When you are exhausted and overworked, the slightest kitchen chore seems daunting. With that in mind, we selected ten forgiving, uncomplicated and versatile foods without compromising our real food standards. Even if you are the sort that would rather clean the bathroom than cook, you still have to eat. Since you have to eat then eat real, whole food as often as possible. We’ve done the work for you. Follow the links or recipes (don’t forget to have fun!).
8 Essential Real Foods That are Better Homemade Than Purchased
The chickpea-based dip is a culinary pioneer that expanded American taste buds to the corners of the Middle East and the Mediterranean. The thick beige spread requires a mere handful of ingredients. The vital ingredient in hummus is a sesame paste most commonly known as tahini.
However, if chickpea is not your legume of choice, then make your hummus with black/white beans or edamame. Don’t be timid, think outside of the ordinary legume or vegetable box for your hummus.
Traditional Hummus Recipe
4 cups of soaked, drained cooked chickpeas or canned (reserve the liquid)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
5 Tablespoons of tahini
Juice of 3 lemons
Salt to taste, usually 1 1/2 teaspoons
3 Tablespoons of olive oil
2 Tablespoons of the reserved liquid from chickpeas
Place all of the ingredients in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Blend until smooth. Thin the paste with additional reserved liquid from chickpeas. Add more salt if necessary.
Traditional pesto is a creamy concoction made with basil, good olive oil, real Parmesan cheese, and nuts (walnuts, pine, pecans). Pesto bought at the store comes with a hefty price tag. In my household, our pesto palates are not limited just to mixing the creamy sauce with pasta. Fresh pesto finds its way onto slices of sourdough artisan bread, slathered on chicken, or incorporated with roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetables. In the summer when our crop of Genovese basil hits its peak, we eat pesto like some families eat peanut butter.
Try my Spinach-Basil Whole30 Pesto recipe.
I’ve learned to freeze pesto and use it to enhance winter meals. A basic food processor is all that you need to acquire a smooth texture.
After a hectic week, tacos are an easy way to fuel your family. The trickiest aspect of pulling off a fresh taco Tuesday entree is procuring a decent seasoning for the meat. Most prepackaged taco seasonings that line the supermarket shelves contain unsavory ingredients.
Perfected Taco Seeasoning
2 Tablespoons of chili powder
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of coriander
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
salt to taste
Snack Bars & Granola
As a busy mom of two littles, this item is an indispensable staple in our home. Our snack bars and granola recipes pack well for a trip to the park. Also, the crunchy dynamic duo serves as a guilt-free indulgence as a midnight snack—its true that snacks bars and granola do the job. However, buying quality bars and granola in large quantity can become expensive and frankly, out of the budget, which is why I decided that this was one item I needed to start making at home. I make both granola and granola bars as well as snack bars like Larabars and energy bars. These snacks take just a few minutes to whip together in the food processor (totally doable during nap time!) and ready to freeze or stash away for a later date. Plus, the flavors and add-ins are endless (think whatever you have in your pantry.) Here are our favorite recipes for Larabars and Granola
Homemade mayo is trending right now in the land of Whole30—but even if you aren’t participating in a Whole30 and are merely concerned about nutrition, this is one kitchen staple you need to make. Even with two toddlers wrangling for my attention, I can attest to the ease of preparation and can whip up a batch of mayo in less than ten minutes.
Crafting homemade mayo may seem like ten minutes of wasted time when you can pluck a jar of mayo from the supermarket shelf. Settling for the simple way is not always the best way. The nutrition and taste of homemade mayo are incomparable to that of conventional brands.
Full of healthy fats and rich flavor, homemade mayo is not only easy to make but also inexpensive to make. Mayo, the pantry’s most versatile condiment doubles as the base for endless dressings and sauces. Here is our no-fail mayonnaise recipe.
Yogurt is a faithful breakfast companion. Factory made yogurt will deplete your food budget before you get to the end of the dairy aisle. Most store-bought yogurts, even seemingly “healthy” versions, are notoriously high in sugar and low in fat. Homemade yogurt is extremely easy ( a nap time chore) with the right equipment. If your family eats yogurt frequently, consider purchasing a yogurt maker and begin your yogurt making journey.
Jam & Jelly
If you’re a mom, you make many PB&J sandwiches. PB&J proficiency is part of the badge of motherhood, and therefore to be taken seriously. Avoid the marketing temptation of buying boxes of expensive frozen PB&J. The store-bought round, crustless, crimped edged sandwich disks is an over-priced counterfeit PB&J. The red gelatinous filling tastes and looks more like the filling for a jelly donut.
On the other hand, buying quality jams and jellies can be a budget buster. Besides, isn’t making homemade jam and jelly one of those tasks from the June Cleaver-era? Quite the contrary, the art of housemade preserves is alive and thriving.
The key is to purchase in-season fruit in bulk. Scour yard sales or dollar stores for mason jars. After you make your first batch of preserves, you’ll never want to go back to store-bought again. Here is my favorite recipe.
Really. Does this need an explanation? Once you’ve made stove-top popcorn with coconut oil, you will never want to go back to microwave pseudo-corn. Indeed, homemade popcorn smothered in grass-fed butter, sprinkled with salt and garlic powder, is not only inexpensive but delicious. When you binge on your favorite Netflix or Brit Box series, fill your bowl with homemade popcorn.
Housemade Movie Popcorn Recipe
In a stainless steel stock pot, melt 3 Tablespoons of coconut oil (make sure the bottom of the pot is well-coated with oil) and add 1 cup of GMO-free popping corn. Cover the pot with a lid and shake the pot every few minutes to prevent kernels from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Salt to taste.
Visit the Environmental Working Group site for a host of articles that contain reliable information regarding the toxicity of microwave popcorn (sorry to deliver the bad news).
Homemade or Buy It?
This list of essential pantry and refrigerator foods is not a precursor to living a life off the grid. Consider this list as a simple way to prepare foods better than products that show up in the supermarket. Also, preparing these nutrient-dense foods at home will inevitably save you money. Allow our list of eight easy, essential real foods to make at home ignite the inner cook in you.
Tools and Equipment