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45 Healthy Foods to Make and Never Buy Again

April 24, 2012

Nix those suspicions that good, homemade food comes with an exorbitant price tag. We found exactly the opposite, actually. If we roll up our sleeves and make homemade pasta, cookies, or just about any other food, it costs a whole lot less than buying the pre-made versions. Not to mention the pride of putting a from-scratch meal on the table.


1. Granola bars
$0.48 each for homemade  | $0.69 each for Kashi brand
Who doesn’t love a crunchy, chewy grab-and-go snack? But there’s no need to shell out big bucks or entrust our health to unpronounceable ingredients. Oats, nuts, berries, and honey star in this recipe and significantly cut back on costs.

2. Granola/Breakfast cereal
$0.37 per ½ cup homemade | $0.41 for Arrowhead Mills brand
Skip the boxed stuff and DIY it for a personalized cereal. These homemade bran flakes rival the store-bought stuff in nutrition and flavor. Add a small handful of dried fruit and roasted nuts for some extra crunch and flavor.

3. Oatmeal
$0.25 for homemade | $0.28 per packet Quaker Oats brand
Swap that paper package of instant oats for classic whole rolled oats. Whip up a big batch at the beginning of the week and then soup up each serving with add-ins like fruit and spices.

4. Pancakes
$0.13 per pancake homemade | $0.29 per pancake Eggo brand
Put down that Bisquick. Whipping up pancakes at home is an opportunity to add in whole wheat flour and raisins for fiber and a little sweetness without sugar overload. Plus, the added fiber helps us feel full and improve digestion.

5. Waffles
$0.85 per homemade Belgian-style | $1.31 for two Kashi brand frozen
Leggo my Eggo! Skip the refined grains of classic toaster waffles and the exorbitant price of the healthier versions. Instead, try some hand-crafted whole-grain waffles. Extra points for using fresh-cut fruit instead of corn-syrup heavy Aunt Jemima’s.


6. Salsa
$3.40 per 16 oz. homemade | $3.75 per 16 oz. jar Green Mountain Gringo brand
Take a page out of Slim Shady’s book and serve up some salsa. Boiling and blending creates a restaurant-quality dip that’s way better than the jarred stuff.

7. Guacamole
$0.75 per ¼ cup homemade | $0.87 for ¼ cup Santa Barbara brand
Guacamole’s an easy and stove-free snack to whip up on a warm, summer afternoon. Making it at home not only ups the freshness (and flavor), but also makes it easier to control saltiness and the heat. Pair with homemade tortilla chips for even more healthy points. Ole!

8. Hummus
$0.21 per 2 tablespoon serving homemade | $0.43 for 2 tablespoons Sabra brand
Dangerfood or not, this dip is delicious. And when restraining ourselves to a two-tablespoon serving, it costs less than a quarter. Plus, the directions are simple — just blend! No more $6 hummus tubs needed.

9. Soft Cheeses
$0.63 per ¼ cup homemade (paneer or ricotta| $0.67 for ¼ cup fresh specialty brand
No need to be a professional chef to make cheese. Paneer and ricotta are ridiculously easy to make at home, and they’ll always be fresher than what can be bought at the store.

10. Yogurt
$0.43 per 8 oz. homemade | $1.07 per 8 oz. Stonyfield Farm brand
It’s like a miracle! It’s possible to turn ½ cup of yogurt into 2 quarts just by adding milk. Okay, so there’s a little more to the process than just stirring them together, but DIY yogurt saves a pretty penny and yields a fresher final product that’s easy to feel good about!

11. Fruit snacks
$0.63 per roll homemade | $0.72 for Fruitabu brand
Homemade fruit snacks or “fruit leather” is a steal even when buying the fruit from the grocery store. But if it’s mid-summer and that fruit tree just keeps producing more, fruit leather’s an awesome and practically free way to preserve it. Just add lemon, sugar, and spices (which are actually optional!).

12. Tortilla chips
$0.31 per 12 chips homemade | $0.53 for 12 chips Tostitos brand
Don’t buy the family-sized bag! Repurpose old tortillas as chips by lightly spraying with oil and baking. While any tortillas will do, we recommend the homemade ones below.

13. Tortillas
$0.13 per tortilla homemade | $0.27 per tortilla for Mission brand
These Tex-Mex staples are actually a piece of cake to make. Simply combine flour, baking powder, oil, salt, and milk — no intimidating yeast! Swap in whole-wheat flour for added fiber and a richer texture. Gone gluten-free? These can also be made with corn flour.

14. Pita chips
$0.41 per 2 oz. serving homemade $0.77 for 2 oz. Stacy’s brand
The recipe for pita chips isn’t all too different from tortilla chips. Simply coat with oil and seasonings and bake. No more wasted pitas, no more wasted cash on the packaged stuff!


15. Jam and jelly
$3.04 per 8 oz. jar homemade | $3.77 per 8 oz. Sarabeth’s brand
Yes, it’s possible to make jam and jelly in the microwave. Seriously. All it takes is some frozen fruit, lemon, pectin, and sugar. Just remember, this doesn’t preserve the jam the way true canning does, so it has to be gobbled up within a few weeks.

16. Bread
$0.40 for 2 slices homemade | $0.52 for 2 slices Arnold brand
It’s not always easy to discern which breads are masquerading as health foods and which are actually good for you. But making bread at home helps clear things up real quick, since it’s easy to control exactly what ingredients go in the bowl. Since fresh baked varieties don’t contain preservatives, remember to eat within a week, or freeze for longer safe keeping.

17. Nut butters
$0.29 per 2 tablespoons homemade | $0.29 for Smuckers Natural brand
It’s peanut butter-jelly time! Homemade nut butters eliminate the need for crazy preservatives and over-the-top fat and salt content. Just grind those nuts up for any variety of nut butter imaginable!

18. Salad dressing
$0.52 per 2 tablespoons homemade | $0.64 per 2 tablespoons Maple Grove Farms brand
This one’s a Greatist favorite: toss some olive oil and balsamic vinegar into a nearly empty mustard jar and shake. It’ll get out those last drops of flavor from the mustard and serve as a simple storage container for the dressing. Not to mention it’s C-H-E-A-P. Or try one of these easy recipes for some variety.

19. Soup
$0.90 per 1 ½ cups homemade | $2.23 for 1 ½ cups Amy’s brand
Skip the potential threat of BPA in the canned stuff by whipping up a big pot of soup at home. Combine any veggies, broth (check out how to make it from scratch below), pasta, and any leftover meat on hand. Freeze in single-serve portions for easy defrosting!

20. Chili
$2.77 per 1 ½ cups homemade | $3.19 for 1 ½ cups Amy’s brand
Canned chili can be seriously disappointing. Instead, control the spiciness, type of meat, and overall fat and sodium content but going homemade. Our buffalo turkey chili is surprisingly healthy and a fun twist on the traditional version. Go cheaper (and meat-free!) by using an assortment of beans instead of the turkey.

21. Baked beans
$0.31 for  cup homemade | $0.38 per ⅓ cup Bush’s Original brand
Baked beans are a heart- and tummy-warming recipe, that doesn’t need to be ultra-heavy or sugary. Stick with dry beans, molasses, and just a few herbs and spices to keep it cheap and healthy.

22. Croutons
$0.11 per serving homemade | $0.17 per serving for Olivia’s Croutons brand
These salad toppers are notoriously dangerous since they’re typically made with refined grains and lots of oil. Instead, DIY it for guilt-free added crunch.

23. Frozen burritos
$1.81 per burrito homemade | $2.99 per burrito for Amy’s brand
Believe it or not, it is possible to imitate the gooey goodness of a freezer burrito at home. Combine a homemade tortilla, cheese, roasted veggies, and leftover meats. Wrap in foil, freeze, and reheat! This is especially great for those with allergies or intolerances!


24. Marinara sauce
$0.97 per ½ cup homemade |$1.22 per ½ cup Amy’s brand
Pasta sauce is the original sneaky way to add veggies to a meal, so why settle for the store-bought stuff? It takes just a few minutes of active prep to get the basic ingredients together, then just let it simmer.

25. Broth
$1.21 per quart homemade $3.29 per quart College Inn brand
Stock and broth seem like one of those things only fancy-pants cooks make, but they’re actually super-easy and a great way to use up stuff that’s already on hand. The basic recipe is water, bones or carcass, vegetables, and seasonings. (The seasonings are actually optional. Technically, broth is seasoned while stock is just a blank slate.)

26. Pesto
$0.64 per 2 tablespoons homemade | $0.72 for Buitoni brand
The crisp, green taste of pesto is best when made with ultra-fresh basil. Store-bought brands tend to compensate with loads of oil and salt. When that basil plant’s growing as quick as a weed, grab a few handfuls and combine with a touch of olive oil, cheese, pine nuts, and garlic. If basil’s out of season, capitalize on in-season greens like kale or spinach. (Bonus points for superfood greens!)

27. Pasta
$0.34 per ¼ lb. serving homemade | $0.62 per ¼ lb. serving Bionaturae brand
It’s just eggs, flour, oil, and salt, and yet people tend to shy away from making their own pasta. Doing it at home makes it easy to control just how healthy and whole-wheat-filled the final product is.

28. Filled pasta
$0.50 per 1 cup serving homemade | $2.15 per 1 cup serving Buitoni brand
With that stockpile of freshly made pasta dough and ricotta in the fridge, it’s easy to throw together some homemade ravioli. Combine ricotta with sautéed spinach for quick and easy healthy dinner. Better still, filled pasta can be rolled by hand and is far easier to cut than that pesky, thin spaghetti.

29. Roasted chicken
$1.40 per ¼ chicken homemade | $1.75 per ¼ store-bought rotisserie chicken
Sure, it takes some time, but don’t be intimidated by the idea of roasting a whole bird. Making it at home eliminates all that broth-injected, unpronounceable-chemical-laced stuff that comes pre-cooked.

30. Mashed potatoes
$0.76 per ¾ cup serving homemade | $2.50 per ¾ cup store-prepared potatoes
Mash up some cauliflower rather than chowing down on boxed or prepared mashed potatoes. We swear it tastes the same! Can’t commit all the way to cauliflower? Go half cauliflower, half potatoes. And keep it light on the butter and milk!

31. Breadcrumbs
$0.11 per ¼ cup homemade | $0.16 per ¼ cup Progresso brand
Unseasoned bread crumbs are ultra-easy to make. Just grind up a few slices of bread and toast. For flavored crumbs, add in dried herbs. Use whole-wheat bread for added fiber and B vitamins.

32. Ketchup
$3.86 per 16 ounces homemade | $3.34 per 16 ounces Heinz brand
Some of us probably already have the necessary ingredients to make ketchup right in our spice cabinets, but are still turning to the high-fructose variety. This version is especially cheap if you have the spices on hand, and entirely worthwhile to avoid additives (and impress those dinner guests!).

33. Barbecue sauce
$0.09 per tablespoon homemade | $0.08 per tablespoon KC Masterpiece brand
Down-home comfort food is rarely healthy, but DIY barbecue sauce could be the answer for scrapping unnecessary sugar and salt. The magic ingredient? Coffee. We’d say $0.01 is worth knowing how to pronounce all the ingredients!

34. Pizza dough
$0.98 per 12″ pizza dough homemade | $0.98 for 12″ store-bought, fresh dough
It’s time to get Italian! The number one way to feel like a BAMF in the kitchen is to toss around pizza dough. Making it whole-wheat cuts back on the costs of the packaged stuff, and, say it with us, “gives us control of the ingredients.”

35. French fries
$0.72 per ½ cup serving homemade | $0.90 per ½ cup serving Alexia brand
Sweet potato fries are basically the new Micky D’s, and this is one trend we recommend everyone get in on. Just slice up some sweet potatoes and toss with oil, salt, and spices, and bake until crispy. There’s no frying involved and the potatoes are practically the only cost.


36. Cookies
$0.32 per 2 cookies homemade | $0.35 per 3 mini Entenmann’s brand
We’d make homemade cookies just for the awesome smell, so getting to devour them is a pretty awesome bonus. Adding superfoods banana and oatmeal into the mix practically turns these cookies into a superfood themselves.

37. Brownies
$0.35 per brownie homemade | $0.52 per brownie Entenmann’s brand
Yes, it is actually possible to make delicious brownies without any flour. The surprising stand in? Black beans, which add fiber and protein. This is an especially great for those with celiac disease, who might otherwise shell out major cash to get a flour-free recipe. (Even wheat-lovers will devour this recipe, we promise!).

38. Ice cream
$2.43 per pint homemade $4.19 per pint Ben & Jerry’s brand
Who doesn’t love having a little ice cream on hand to dip into now and then? Whip up a big batch (no need for an ice cream maker) and personalize it with any flavors or add-ins desired. Of course, several of these frozen treats are fruit-based, which makes them an even healthier option in our book!

39. Ice cream sandwiches
$0.52 per sandwich homemade $1.07 per sandwich Skinny Cow brand
Sandwich together two small, healthier homemade cookies (from above!) and a dollop of that homemade ice cream and freeze. There’s a single-serving indulgence without the temptation of bulldozing through the whole pint of ice cream. Plus, you’ll avoid the additives and artificial sweeteners found in low-fat, reduced-sugar brands.

40. Pudding
$1.22 per cup homemade $0.97 per cup Kozy Shack brand
Buckle your seatbelts, kids! We’re making pudding with avocado. Just blend with milk and honey. It may not be cheaper than a puddin’ cup, but we’ll let it slide because, heck, it’s avocado!


41. Smoothies
$1.14 per cup homemade | $1.37 per cup Naked brand
Skip the watery smoothie drinks that can be packed with sugar and miss out on a lot of the fruits’ benefits. Blend together spinach, yogurt, ice, orange, banana, strawberries, and just about any other fruit for a green smoothie without any added sugar. And compared to that $7 green smoothie at the juice bar, it’s actually a deal!

42. Sparkling water
$0.25 per liter for SodaStream $0.99 per liter Poland Springs
Bottled water is an easy way to flush money down the drain while also wasting lots of plastic bottles. Instead, rig up a carbonation station to add bubbles to pure, delicious water — no additional sugar or sodium.

43. Flavored water
$0.37 per liter homemade $0.99 per liter Poland Springs brand
To create flavor-infused water, simply put water in a pitcher and add slices of lemon, lime, orange, mint or other sliced fruits. Let it sit for an hour or as long as you’ve got, then strain off the fruit for a debris-free drink.

44. Drink mixers
$1.31 per cup homemade Sweet and Sour mix $1.25 per cup Mr. & Mrs. T’s brand
Put down the margarita mix! But no need to go margarita-less. Just make less-sugary drink mixers with fresh juices and honey-water instead of simple syrup or packaged mixes.

45. Lemonade
$0.58 per cup homemade $0.67 per cup Santa Cruz brand
There’s nothing more refreshing than this summer classic, but it can often be packed with sugar. Nix powdered mixes or bottled beverages and stir together water, lemon juice, mint, and just a touch of honey.


Note: Per-serving prices for homemade versions were determined by adding the common price of the portion of each ingredient used in the recipe and dividing by the number of servings. Where the “homemade” link mentions multiple recipes, an average was used.

What’s your favorite item to make from scratch at home instead of buying pre-made?

  1. I feel healthier already knowing that we can and do make many of these things from scratch with no weird ingredients that we cannot pronounce. Great post.

  2. Great post! I love things like this! It’ always good to make things yourself, they just taste better plus it’s an added bonus that it’s usually much cheaper 🙂

  3. Carlie Chew permalink

    I would love to make everything from scratch myself and it is one of my goals this year. I already make my own cookies, hummus, french fries etc, but theres no reason not to do it all yourself and then you know where it all came from. Thank you for this post, I found it very informative and I look forward to going to through all of the recipes you’ve posted. Thanks!

  4. Reblogged this on A Dollop and A Pinch and commented:
    Here’s a little “homework” to keep you busy while I recover from eye surgery! More of my own posts will return asap.

  5. Really good post – it’s nice to see that others are making things from scratch too. I have some improvements to make to make my list as long as yours, but I do make as much as I can. Our next venture is cheese – just bought some rennet to get started.

    I’m going to have to compile a list of my own soon, so I can feel good about it. Thanks for all of the good ideas.

  6. Super! Its great to know how to make typically fattening and sugar laden foods like granola bars, breakfast cereals, and tortilla chips at home and avoid the harmful ingredients!

  7. Great post! And so true – homemade tastes so much better (or is that my pride talking? ;)).

  8. pattyabr permalink

    I love making hummus and pita chips tastes much better than the store. I’ll have to check out making some of the other ones on the 45 list 🙂

  9. Great post. I love the list you came up with. It is always a much smarter move if you could make your own foods at home. That way you can control what’s in it.

  10. Reblogged this on onedadskitchen and commented:
    This is a great post about things made at home that I received as a re-blog post from chefconnie at Marinating Online. Check at her blog as well, it’s great!

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