CUT COSTS BY GOING HOMEMADE
Channeling your inner Martha Stewart to make some edibles from scratch has more benefits than just tastiness. The 10 foods highlighted here come prepackaged at the store but can be prepared more cheaply at home. Better yet, they are quick and easy to whip up in a home kitchen -- no exotic ingredients, equipment, or specialized skills required. Plus, flavors can be adjusted to fit personal tastes, so let your imagination run wild with new combinations.
No longer the breakfast of health nuts and hippies, granola is a well-loved and filling meal. The prices and sugar levels of store-bought granola can be absurdly high, however. Make your own granola at home starting with a base of oats and adding extras, such as favorite nuts, seeds, dried fruit, shredded coconut, or chocolate chips. A sweet and sticky substance such as maple syrup, honey, or molasses holds it all together. Finish it off in a low-temperature oven and store in an airtight container.
As far as DIY food prep goes, salad dressing tops the list for being easy and tasting infinitely better than the store-bought version. Shake together olive oil with an acid such as a vinegar or citrus juice, along with a little salt and pepper. To take it up a notch, add an emulsifier such as mustard or honey to keep the dressing from separating. The possibilities are infinite -- yogurt or tahini instead of oil or the addition of garlic, herbs, spices, anchovies, and so on. For a little more than the cost of store-bought salad dressing, purchase the Kolder Salad Dressing Bottle ($6 on Amazon) with ingredient quantities printed on the side.
Made from just a handful of ingredients, Irish cream is cost-effective to concoct at home compared with a store-bought variety such as Baileys Irish Cream. Follow Saveur's recipe or tweak it to be sweeter, spicier, boozier, or even vegan. Give as a gift or keep as a gourmet addition to a home bar.
This staple of Middle Eastern cuisine has become a fixture in many American kitchens recently. Since chickpeas (especially dried ones) are dirt-cheap, it's definitely less expensive to make this dish at home. Ina Garten's recipe from The Food Network is straightforward and easy. To jazz up the dip, consider adding more seasonings and flavors such as roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, paprika, olives, or roasted red peppers.
Java addicts favor cold-brewed coffee over conventional iced coffee for its smooth flavor, lower acidity, and higher caffeine buzz. Once a specialty item at boutique coffee shops, cold-brewed coffee is now available at Starbucks and in bottled form at the supermarket. However, it's much cheaper to make yourself. Start with coarsely ground coffee and a large container. Be prepared to use more coffee than for the hot version -- one cup of ground coffee for four cups of water, for example. Combine and let sit for three to 24 hours. Strain out the grounds and enjoy however desired. Bustle provides more detailed instructions.
Making your own salsa comes with more advantages than cost -- the flavors are brighter and the spiciness can be adjusted to your palate. For a restaurant-style salsa, use a food processor to whirl together canned tomatoes with onions or scallions, lemon juice, jalapeños, and salt. BuzzFeed has compiled 21 salsa recipes with something for everyone, including creative ingredients such as bacon and pumpkin seeds.
Homemade stock is an ideal way to make use of kitchen scraps. Instead of tossing out chicken bones, carrot peels, onion tops, mushroom stems, and the like, seal them in an airtight container and freeze them for stock. A basic chicken stock recipe from Serious Eats has the chicken bones and vegetables simmering with aromatics and water for a few hours until flavorful. Use immediately or freeze for later use. Homemade stock not only tastes better than boxed brands but is also practically free, considering it's made from food that is normally trashed.
Instead of throwing out tortillas when they turn stale, make them into chips. Just cut tortillas into wedges or squares, lightly toss in olive oil, arrange on a baking sheet, and bake in the oven until crunchy and slightly browned. Sprinkle with salt (or another seasoning) and enjoy. Use the same technique to transform old pitas into pita chips.
Mayonnaise is a controversial condiment -- while some can't stand it, others refuse a sandwich or french fries without it. Haters should try a homemade version -- The Petite Cook has a recipe -- before swearing off mayo completely. Made from ingredients already stocked in the kitchen, such as egg yolks, canola oil, and white vinegar, homemade mayonnaise is silkier, more delicious, and cheaper.
This refreshing summer dessert requires only a few ingredients -- one of which is water. Use whatever fruit is seasonal and at its bounty, such as summer peaches or winter plums. No special machinery required; follow Food52's instructions for homemade sorbet without an ice cream maker, substituting other fruit for the strawberries.