Have you ever considered the true cost of convenience? What price are you really paying for all of those pre-packaged convenience foods?
Pre-packaged, preservative-laden processed foods aren’t just bad for our health (hello extra health care costs!), pound for pound, they also cost us more money.
Saving on the Cost of Convenience
If you’re looking to eat better and save money, you’re much better off making food at home from scratch. Buy whole ingredients and staple food items (in bulk when possible) and turn them into all sorts of delicious but frugal meals and snacks. You’ll be surprised by how much money you can save by preparing food at home from scratch. Plus you have total control over what goes into every meal you make, so you know exactly what’s in (and what’s not in) the food that you and your family eat.
How to Avoid Paying the Cost of Convenience
Does the above image look familiar? Wandering down rows of packaged foods at the grocery store, comparing brands of food items that our grandmothers used to make at home from scratch?
Sadly, the average, quick trip to the grocery store usually consists of a trip down these aisles and ends with a cart full of packaged, prepared foods, packed lettuce, frozen pizzas, bakery items, frozen entrees, and more!
Packaged, prepared foods are convenient, but in our busy, hurried-up world they have become the norm and cooking from scratch has become a lost art.
Next time you go to the grocery store take this challenge…..
Stop! Back away from the packages…pick up a few whole ingredients instead and make it from scratch! The savings are well worth the extra time it takes to prepare a meal from scratch and the taste and health benefits are more than worth the effort.
Eat This, Not That!
Here are some simple grocery switches:
Lettuce: When was the last time you bought a head of lettuce to make a salad? Do you often find yourself buying those pre-mixed bagged salads? It really only takes a few minutes to wash and chop your own lettuce and the price difference is significant:
Buy: a head of Romaine lettuce ($0.99)
Instead of: a bag of chopped Romaine ($3.50)
Syrup: Growing up, my mom always made homemade syrup for our pancakes. It was warm, delicious, and made the whole kitchen smell sweet! Did you know that a bottle of syrup costs about $3.50 and you can make it in a few minutes for only pennies? If you can’t afford 100% maple syrup, this is a good alternative.
Cheap Syrup Recipe
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon maple flavoring
- 1 teaspoon butter flavoring
Heat in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, let cool slightly before serving.
You can also make homemade Pancake Syrup from Apple Peels.
Pizza: We are a nation of pizza lovers, and it’s so simple to make for a fraction of the cost! Let’s take a look at a large cheese pizza….
Delivery = $12
Frozen, Name Brand = $8
Frozen, Store Brand = $5
Homemade = $2
Make your own Pizza Dough and Pizza Sauce instead! Press the homemade dough into a greased sheet, top with sauce and cheese, and bake at 350F. If it’s the “fastness” that you want, try this 30 Minute Pizza Recipe.
Birthday Cake: Wow, half a sheet cake from the bakery costs $25 or more! Next time you need a cake, bake it, don’t buy it, and save about $20. Here are some delicious homemade birthday cake ideas:
Or try any one of these 50 Cake Recipes From Scratch.
Oatmeal and Grits: This is such a simple switch! Look at the instructions on a big box of grits or oatmeal….you simply measure the water, add the oatmeal or grits to your bowl, and microwave! I think that’s just as simple as opening one of those individual serving packets and it is an awful lot cheaper.
Big Box of Oats = $2 for 30 servings
Instant Oatmeal Packages = $3 for 10 servings
For more ideas on things, you can make instead of buying from the store, check out this list of 7 Pantry Staples to Start Making at home from scratch.
The Cost Of Convenience Goes Beyond Food
There are so many things we pay extra for when we could just as well make it at home from scratch and save big money (all those dollars and cents really add up!). Check out my extensive list of posts and tutorials on frugal homemade substitutes for non-food convenience items that we usually pay top dollar for at the grocery store:
So what simple grocery switches will you make this week?
Even though some of the things we get are purchased with coupons and they are cheap, sometimes its even cheaper just to make it homemade. This is especially true when you’re cooking with whole food ingredients.
Often the items you can find coupons for are pre-packaged items, but even after using coupons, the homemade version is usually still cheaper and is almost always healthier. Whole foods and bulk ingredients might even cost a little more up front for a bulk portion but they average out to much less per meal when you do the math.
Costco is a great option for buying quality, whole ingredients in bulk. They even offer many organic options now! Your best bet is to work on stocking your pantry with large quantities of versatile food items that can be transformed into many different things. Do this and you’re sure to save money and avoid paying the true cost of convenience!
I hope this article gives you some ideas on some simple switches that you can make in your everyday shopping and cooking to save money and preserve your health!
For even more quick “convenience foods” that you can make at home, check out my article on 13 Convenience Foods That You Can Stop Buying and Start Making.
Want to learn how to make the most with what you have and make your own “store-bought” foods and products at home? I feature pages and pages of frugal tips in my book Little House Living: The Make Your Own Guide to a Frugal, Simple, and Self-Sufficient Life along with over 130 recipes.
What else do you make at home instead of buying from the grocery store? Let me know in the comments!
This blog post about How to Save On the Cost of Convenience was originally published on Little House Living in May 2010. It has been updated as of January 2019.