Homemade is always better, and often times it’s cheaper, healthier, just as fast, and just as easy (if not easier) than making a trip to the store to buy the processed version. Not to mention it’s better for the planet as you use much less packaging, make less gasoline-fuelled trips to the grocery store and choose not to hand over your hard-earned dollars to goliath food-manufacturers who care much more about their bottom line than they do about your family’s health and well-being. Here’s how to make 7 grocery staples for your family.
7 Grocery Staples to Start Making
By Contributor Anna Sakawsky of The House and the Homestead
Not too long ago, everything was made from scratch. You either grew your own food or bought basic ingredients like sugar and flour and then made what you needed out of these ingredients. Nowadays, cooking from scratch is becoming a lost art, let alone making your own pantry staples like sauces and spice mixes.
But getting back to a simpler way of living, cooking from scratch, and becoming more self-sufficient are all making a comeback as people become more conscious of what’s in their food and where their money is going. It’s a positive trend that I hope will continue to spread as more people strive to take control of their food and finances.
So without further ado, I present to you 7 of my favorite basic pantry/kitchen/grocery staples that, I admit, I used to buy from the store, but that I now make from scratch (and wonder why it took me so long).
There is nothing quite like homemade bread fresh from the oven. Not only does it just taste better, but it is also super cost efficient and beyond easy to make as long as you have a little patience. It’s also healthier because it doesn’t contain any preservatives and can easily be made without sugar.
You can keep it extremely simple or get as creative as you want. And you don’t need a big kitchen or any fancy ingredients or gadgets to do it (no, you don’t need a bread maker).
To get started on your bread-making journey start with this Basic Bread Recipe. Then try your hand at different types of sandwich bread, rolls, and even natural sourdough: bread the way nature intended!
I would be willing to make a bet that once you try making mayo at home, you will not only never buy it from the store again, but you’ll wonder how anyone ever got tricked into buying it in the first place! It is one of the quickest, simplest condiments you can make at home and you can make it healthier by taking control of what type of oil you’re using (I love using avocado oil in mine for the flavor and the health benefits!)
Save your money and go whip up a batch right now. It will literally only take you one minute and you almost certainly have all the ingredients you need on hand right now. Here’s a basic Homemade Mayonnaise Recipe and here’s a great One Minute Homemade Mayo recipe.
Sauces, Marinades & Salad Dressing
While you will need to stock your pantry with some basics (like oils, vinegars, soy sauce, honey, mustard, sugars, maple syrup, hot sauce and spices), you can make a huge variety of sauces and dressing from scratch using these basic ingredients alongside fresh ones like garlic, ginger, fruits, veggies and herbs.
Ditch store-bought honey-mustard sauce by making your own with 3 simple ingredients: honey, mustard and mayo. Whip up a quick honey-garlic sauce with honey, minced garlic and soy sauce for your homemade chicken wings. And forgo expensive store-bought salad dressings for fresh, homemade alternatives. You can save yourself money and calories by making homemade dressings by combining simple ingredients like lemon juice, olive oil, vinegars, fresh and dried herbs, spices and even muddled fruit. The possibilities are endless! It’s all just a matter of taste.
If you have a well-stocked spice-rack in your pantry arsenal, you are already equipped to whip up almost any spice mix you can dream of in your kitchen right now. And again, you’ll be saving yourself money (those individual spice mixes can get really expensive!) while controlling the amount of sugar or salt in a recipe and ensuring there are no sneaky ingredients like MSG lurking.
Get started by whipping up a batch of Homemade Taco Seasoning, Ranch Dressing Mix or make your own Pumpkin Spice by combining 2 teaspoons of cinnamon with ½ teaspoon each of ginger, nutmeg, cloves and allspice. You can even make a bigger batch, throw it in a Mason jar in your pantry (with a label, of course), and just grab as much as you need as you need it.
Use these seasonings as intended or get creative! You can use the taco seasoning in your breakfast burrito, add ranch seasoning to your homemade kale chips and dip into your pumpkin pie spice all year round by adding it to smoothies and oatmeal for a healthy yet comforting treat.
A good quality tomato sauce will run you a good chunk of change at the grocery store, and while you can find some pre-made pasta sauces that boast healthy ingredients, these tend to be the pricier sauces. The cheapest ones often contain sugar -or worse: high-fructose corn syrup!- as one of their main ingredients.
Making and preserving your own tomato sauce from scratch when tomatoes are in season will save you money and ensure there are no evil ingredients hiding in this otherwise highly nutritious and delicious sauce.
There are many variations of homemade tomato sauce you can make, from thicker tomato paste and pizza sauce to pasta sauce with herbs and spices, but if you start with a basic tomato sauce like this one from Ball Canning, you can use it as a base for everything from pasta sauce to homemade ketchup.
Just crack open a jar and add your extra ingredients, or eat it as is. No sugar, no preservatives, no fat and no fuss. Just a small time investment at the right time of year to keep your wallet, your belly and your waistline satisfied.
Chicken Stock (or beef, veggie, turkey, etc.)
While it is convenient to forgo making your own stock at home and opt for the boxed stuff instead, homemade stock is lower in sodium and full of healthy vitamins and minerals that you just can’t get from a box. And it doesn’t cost a thing!
Just use the carcass from your next whole roasted bird (chicken, turkey, goose, etc.), the bones from your next ham or cut of beef, or veggie scraps that can be frozen until you have enough to throw in a pot for homemade veggie stock.
Making stock at home is a great way to keep food waste (and therefore food costs) low as you are using the byproducts from your other meals to make a base you can use in everything from soups and stews to roasts and sauces. Simply simmer the bones in a pot of water for a couple hours with some veggie scraps and herbs (optional) and a little salt (also optional). Then, turn the broth into a base for all sorts of different soups like chicken noodle (chicken stock), broccoli cheddar (chicken or veggie stock), french onion soup (beef broth), or split pea soup (ham bone broth).
Nut Butters (Peanut, almond, etc.)
Have you ever bought a jar of Almond Butter from the store? Often it’s tucked away in that dreaded, expensive “health food” section and it will cost you more than you should ever pay for a single jar of anything.
And peanut butter? It’s usually not quite as pricey but often contains added ingredients like salt, sugar and soy. Making your own from scratch will save you some coin and will ensure you are getting nothing but nuts in your nut butter.
Just roast your peanuts or almonds in the oven for a few minutes to start releasing some of the oils, then dump them in a high-quality food processor and blend until smooth. It’s really that simple! You can find a full tutorial on Homemade Peanut Butter here.
Now that’s just a sampling of all of the things you can stop buying and start making from scratch. The list could go on and on. One of my favorite ways to replace store-bought foods with homemade ones is to preserve food when it’s in season, so I make my own strawberry jam when strawberries are in season and never buy strawberry jam from the store. And I put up a year’s worth of jars of dill and bread and butter pickles when cucumbers are in season and have now eliminated those items from my shopping list as well.
What about you? What grocery staples do you make from scratch instead of buying from the store? I’m always looking for more ideas so be sure to leave a note in the comments section below!
My name is Anna and I’m a modern homesteader blogging at The House and the Homestead. I began homesteading a few years ago and it changed my life! I am passionate about growing and preserving food, making as much
as I can with my own two hands, and living a more frugal,
sustainable and self-sufficient life. I love to help and inspire others
to do the same & prove that the simple life doesn’t have to be
This article on 7 Grocery Staples You Should Start Making was originally published on Little House Living in March 2018. It has been updated as of September 2020.