10 Meals Staples That Are Low cost and Simple to Make at House
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Most people would agree that cooking from scratch tastes better than cooking with pre-mixed ingredients – or ordering fast food. And magazines, books, TV channels and Pinterest want to make Martha Stewarts out of all of us.
Few people have the time or inclination to prepare every meal from scratch. But it’s not an all-or-nothing situation. Making a few important staples yourself not only improves your meals, but also your budget – and possibly even your health.
We recommend starting with some of the following staples. We skipped time-consuming things like bread and soup broth and instead highlighted recipes that are super easy and can save you a decent coin.
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Tons of protein and no fat: beans are nature’s most perfect food. Always keep a few cans in the pantry for emergency meals.
But cook in times when there are no emergencies, for reasons detailed in Beans 101: A Guide to Enjoying the Stockpile Staple:
- A serving of canned beans can cost more than twice as much as a serving of homemade dried beans.
- You can reduce or omit the salt and otherwise adjust the spices to your liking.
Cooking beans is pretty easy. Our article offers instructions, tips, and recipe sources. A slow cooker makes things foolproof.
To save time, I cook a three or four fold amount of beans in advance, then drain and freeze them flat in Ziploc bags. I keep the broth drained from the beans and use it as an ingredient for soup, stew and curry.
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Making this healthy probiotic is pretty easy. Here is the process I use:
- Heat 2 liters of milk to 185 degrees Fahrenheit and then cool to 105 to 110 degrees. You can use “Manager’s Special” milk at half price.
- Place half a cup of active culture natural yogurt in a ceramic or glass bowl, then gently stir in a few cups of the cooled milk.
- Place the dish on a heating pad set to “low” or another heat source. (I use an electric warming tray.)
- Carefully stir in the rest of the milk, close the bowl with a lid and cover with a heavy cloth. Let it sit there on the heat source for eight to 13 hours.
- For a Greek-style product, place it in a colander lined with a cloth napkin to drain in the refrigerator. When it has reached the desired consistency, pour it into a container with a tightly fitting lid.
That’s it. You are done.
Depending on what you pay for milk, regular homemade yogurt will likely cost anywhere from $ 1 to $ 1.75 for 2 liters. If you are lucky with the Manager’s special milk, you can pay for as little as 50 cents.
In the grocery store, you’ll pay $ 4 or more for that much instant yogurt – and at least $ 5-6 for instant yogurt.
Oh, and set aside half a cup of the undrained yogurt to use as a starter next time. Once you start making yogurt, you probably won’t stop.
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Even the simplest branded teas generally cost at least several dollars a gallon. If you want lemon or other varieties, you often pay more – but you don’t have to.
Black tea is one of the cheapest cold drinks on the market and so easy to make.
I pour almost boiling water over eight tea bags and let them steep for 17 minutes. Then I add enough water to make a gallon.
If you want sweet tea, stir in sugar while the water is piping hot.
Use unbranded branded tea bags and in my experience you pay anywhere from 8 to 24 cents a gallon for a simple brew.
Use a higher quality blend to make a fancier, leaner tea if you want. But the cheap stuff tastes pretty refreshing on a hot day. And if you add lemon or other flavorings, you probably won’t notice a difference.
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For just over a dollar, Jennifer Schreiner can bake enough pizza crust to feed her entire family. In comparison, store-bought options can cost $ 3 to $ 5, if not more.
The dough only needs to rise for an hour and freezes easily. Homemade pizza is a great way to use up leftover spaghetti sauce – not that the dish is limited to a marinara base.
For carpenter who runs the blog Inspiring Savings, there is a homemade pizza night at least once a week. Your kids look forward to creating their own personal pizzas without arguing about too much cheese or no hot peppers. In fact, she tells Money Talks News that pizza night is “joyful”.
Here’s another delight: Pay no more than $ 10 for takeaway pizza. Even when you factor in the cost of sauce and toppings, it saves you a bunch by making it yourself.
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Amanda Brackney’s family loves tacos and taco salads. The flavor is so popular in her household that she uses the flavorful blend in other dishes like Beef and Black Bean Tortilla Stack, Turkey Taco Penne, and Slow Cooker Taco Soup.
Brackney says it’s not just about saving money. She tells Money Talks News:
“It helps me limit the amount of processed food in my pantry, saves money … and allows me to customize any condiment to suit my family’s tastes.”
It’s a bone head simple process: stir 10 common spices together. You can find the recipe on Brackney’s blog Stewardship at Home.
Brackney uses spices she buys from a warehouse club or on sale on Amazon, which brings the price down to just 17 cents for the equivalent of a store-bought package, which can cost 99 cents or more.
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Products like Bisquick and Jiffy Mix are undeniably practical as they allow you to quickly assemble biscuits, cobblers, pancakes and the like. But they often contain ingredients that most of us cannot recognize or cannot pronounce.
In comparison, Kristie Sawicki’s copycat bisquick recipe only requires five ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and shortening.
She’s never done the math, so she can’t be sure she’s saving a lot over buying the pre-mixed stuff. What she can say is that she “can make a lot on a few dollars”.
Sawicki, who runs the blog Saving Dollars & Sense, stores the result in the refrigerator and is ready to make pancakes, waffles or strawberry shortcakes at any time. She tells Money Talks News:
“You’ll never want to go back to products you’ve bought.”
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An essential ingredient in so many Mexican recipes, this stuff can be expensive: up to 25 cents an ounce.
Fortunately, the Budget Bytes blog has a ridiculously cheap and easy alternative.
In 10 minutes, I can make 4 cups of this addicting sauce for the price of a 6-ounce can of tomato paste, a little oil and flour, and a few basic condiments. It annoys me to pay so much for the canned food and the homemade version makes me eliminate salt.
Even taking spices, oil, and flour into account, we’re probably talking about no more than pennies an ounce for homemade enchilada sauce.
Bonus: It freezes well. Do a double batch.
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In general, it’s not cheaper to make peanut butter yourself. That is, unless you use so little that a store-bought jar goes rancid before you can use it up.
If that’s the case, then Kristie Sawicki’s recipe couldn’t be simpler: pulse some peanuts – and salt if you like – in a food processor until you get the consistency you want. Sometimes she adds honey for a cute, super spreadable version.
There you have it: an absolutely fresh product in quantities that you will be consuming.
Making your own can also help control sodium and avoid ingredients like hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are found in some commercial peanut butters.
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What do you mean by cake is not a staple food? In our house it is!
Why bake from scratch when cake mixes make it so easy and inexpensive, you ask? Well, they’re not necessarily easier to start with: you have to go out and buy a mixture, and at the end you have to measure the oil and water and crack eggs anyway.
My partner and his granddaughter prefer the Lightning Cake recipe from the Choosing Voluntary Simplicity blog. It only takes a few minutes to stir and uses items that most households have on hand.
Note: We use cooking spray on the pan and don’t bother sifting the dry ingredients – and it’s still delicious.
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Some people call this foodie fad “soaked oatmeal,” because that’s what you get: oatmeal that has been marinated for at least five or six hours in a liquid, usually fortified with flavoring, protein powder, or yogurt.
The commercial version can cost $ 1.50 or more for each 2.29-ounce mug, but you can make your own version for far less.
Oatmeal generally costs about 99 cents per pound, or about 6 cents an ounce. They could be even cheaper in the bulk food section of the supermarket. I bought them for only 68 cents a pound.
Overnight oats are ridiculously easy to make: put twice as much liquid as oatmeal in a glass in the refrigerator before bed. It is ready to eat in the morning or as a take-away item.
Many food blogs offer recipes and tips.
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