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10 Foods that You Should Make from Scratch

10 Foods that You Should Make from Scratch

Cooking from scratch can be time consuming but it can also be healthier and even save you money. Here are 10 foods that you should make from scratch!

I think that the key to cooking from scratch is knowing which foods are worth the time and effort and which are not. Foods that are worth it for me are ones that save money, are healthier than their store-bought counterparts, or both. If you can find an equivalent at the same price that’s just as wholesome, I don’t consider that worth the effort of cooking from scratch.

Cooking from Scratch: Tips and Tricks

Go big. Like I mentioned above, the thing that can be intimidating about cooking things from whole ingredients is that it’s more time consuming. To make that easier, I suggest making these things in big batches and then – where appropriate – freezing them. For example, if you’re going to make beans in your crock pot, why not double, triple, or even quadruple the recipe, then store the extra for a rainy day?

Get social. Turn your from-scratch cooking into an activity! Get your family or some friends together for a leisurely afternoon of cooking from scratch. Multiply the recipes to make big batches of a few different items, then divvy it all up. You’ll have more fun when you team up with friends, and you can walk away with a few different items, instead of just one.

Related Reading: Plan a Fall Soup Swap

Plan ahead. Some of these items take a while to complete – from a few hours to a few weeks (don’t panic!). Extracts are a good example here. Don’t wait until you’re out of vanilla extract to start steeping a new batch. When you’re three fourths of the way through your jar, start the next one. That way you won’t run out.

Ready to get cooking? On the next page, check out items that you should make from scratch instead of buying prepared.


Making Beans from Scratch

Beans cooked from scratch are easy, delicious, and save you money!

1. Beans

Canned beans are inexpensive, but dried beans are downright cheap. You can make your own beans for pennies a pound, and it’s really not that difficult. Different types of beans require different amounts of preparation and cooking time, so it’s best to start with a basic recipe. I really found this page from Whole Foods helpful. It breaks down all sorts of different types of beans and explains how to prepare and cook them.

Pro tip: You can make smaller beans, like lentils and split peas in your rice cooker in under 30 minutes. Check out my recipe for rice cooker lentils vindaloo to see how easy it is!

2. Applesauce

Fall is apple season, and homemade applesauce is a great way to preserve that bounty! You can make applesauce easily in the crock pot with just two ingredients, so there’s really no reason to ever buy it pre-made from the store. Toss everything into the crock pot on a lazy morning, and you’ll have applesauce by supper time! If you score a big bag of seasonal apples, your homemade applesauce won’t just be healthier and fresher than store-bought – it’ll be cheaper too.

3. Extracts

Premade extracts for baking are often made with artificial flavors and even artificial colors. Boo on that! You can make your own extracts from organic herbs and spices. All that it takes is a few minutes of prep and a lot of patience. Extracts have to steep for a few weeks to get good and potent, so you can’t make vanilla extract on the same day that you’re planning to bake cupcakes. The good news is that since they’re made from alcohol (all extracts are), they keep for a very long time. I’m still using the vanilla extract that I made 10 months ago!

Check out this recipe for vanilla extract and this one for mint extract. Start today, and your holiday cookies will never be more special. You can also give homemade extracts as gifts to foodie friends!

Related Reading: 5 Easy Vegan Desserts

4. French Fries

Did you know that pre-made french fries that you buy in the freezer section of the store are already deep fried? You might think that when you bake them, you’re doing your heart a favor, but since they’ve been fried already, you’re still serving up a fried food. Oven fries are super easy to make, and they’re much healthier than the frozen sort. Try making your own sweet potato fries from scratch – you’ll never go back to frozen fries!

5. Veggie Burgers

Store-bought veggie burgers often have a lot of filler ingredients and preservatives. They can also be pretty pricey. Remember that big batch of beans you made? Set some aside to make yourself veggie burgers! You can fry them up and freeze them to reheat in the oven for a quick meal. If you need a recipe to get started, try these red lentil veggie burgers.

 

Baby Food Made from Scratch

Baby food is easy to make from scratch, and it uses much less wasteful packaging.

6. Baby Food

Is your baby on solid food? Organic baby food uses a lot of packaging and be very pricey. You can save time and money and make your baby additive-free baby food by making homemade baby food from scratch.

Pro tip: If cooking and peeling veggies feels too time-consuming, try using frozen veggies. They’re just as nutritious as fresh, and they’re already peeled and blanched. I make my son’s peas, green beans, and peaches from frozen to save time in the kitchen without losing the health benefits of from-scratch baby food.

7. Granola Bars

Many of the pre-made granola bars you can find at the store are full of preservatives and other processed ingredients. When you make your own from scratch, you save on money and packaging and you get to control what ingredients go into each bar. Check out this dairy free granola bar recipe, if you need some inspiration!

8. Almond Milk

Nut milks like almond milk are easy to make yourself, and unlike premade nut milks, they don’t have chemical stabilizers and thickeners. The cool part of making nut milks is that you can use the solids left behind after straining as a gluten free flour! Almond flour, for example, is normally just finely-ground almonds, but you can also dry the leavings from homemade almond milk in the oven to make almond flour. Check out how to do both here! Are cashews more your speed? Here’s a recipe for homemade cashew milk.

Related Reading: Non-Dairy Milk Additive Could be Making You Sick

9. Cookies

Even if you’re not great at baking, it’s hard to mess up a batch of cookies. Cookie recipes are very forgiving, and when you make your own, you know they won’t contain icky ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. The other benefit to baking instead of buying your cookies? Baking takes some time, so you’re more likely to eat fewer cookies. And as Cookie Monster reminds us, “Cookies are a sometimes food.” Want a cookie recipe that’s extra special? I love these lacy chocolate cookies from The Little Foxes.

10. Ground Herbs

Whole dried herbs stay fresher longer, so grinding your herbs as you need them means you get the freshest flavors in your cooking and baking. You can dry fresh herbs and grind them yourself or choose to only grind your own when you can get the whole dried herb at the store. Herbs and spices like peppercorns, cardamom, coriander, and fennel all come dried and whole, for example.

Pro tip: It’s easiest to grind herbs in a food processor or an old coffee grinder.

Are there any foods that you prefer making from scratch rather than buying already made? Let’s talk cooking from scratch in the comments!

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Read more: Basics, Food, Green Kitchen Tips, , , ,

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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!

350 comments

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10:41AM PST on Mar 6, 2014

Love all the homemade recipes. Don't forget you can even make babies rice cereal from scratch.

3:13AM PST on Feb 27, 2014

Thank, interesting article. Bookmarked for future reference.

10:47AM PST on Feb 21, 2014

Just finished reading the "homemade soap" recipe as well as the "slow cooker lentils and extracts - learn somethin new each time I re-read them - and if nothing else works out for me, I've found an "organic vodka". Don and WE CAN! :-))

6:13AM PST on Feb 21, 2014

Sweet potato oven chips (that's English for fries) are a favourite treat in my house, as are home baked cakes, cupcakes & cookies. I also make soup from scratch, by just cooking up anything I happen to have available, & adding a potato to thicken. Sauces, like pasta sauce or sweet & sour are also really easy to make, & home made comes without all the horrible sweeteners, thickeners & additives you get in store bought ones. I have a kitchen range which runs all winter to provide heating & hot water as well as for cooking, so slow baked things like rice pudding & long-simmering things like soup are easy & cheap. A few herbs in the garden (mint for new potatoes & carrots is an absolute must) make it easy to add them to stuffing, casseroles, sauces, etc.

6:29PM PST on Feb 18, 2014

Thank you.

6:09AM PST on Feb 17, 2014

Thanks for the great tips for those learning what's best and a great reminder for those who already know but still like learning! Some of which I have done for many years.
My children are over 30yrs old and I never bought (even back then) baby food. Always made homemade. I make my own applesauce whenever I need it. Store bought applesauce is not common here in Greece. Usually imported and very expensive.
Beans that I cook are always dried beans. Canned beans are also very rare (imported) and very expensive.
French fries also. If I want french fries I cut regular potatoes and fry them. I know not healthy but at least I know I will eat a regular potato fried in olive oil or sprayed with olive oil and baked in the oven.
Cookies I love baking. Yes over the years I bought cookies from the store but very rarely.
Also herbs I have a small garden where I grow my own herbs and either use fresh or dry myself.
Veggie burgers I make about twice a year when we have lent. I've made various kinds using lentils as a basic ingredient, beans, carrots, artichokes and of course potatoes.
For the past few years I like learning and making extracts, almond milk & granola bars. Yes time consuming but fun, especially when you know what your feeding your family & friends.

3:14PM PST on Feb 16, 2014

Frosting is super simple. Confectioners sugar, REAL butter, vanilla and if you want flavors add cocoa, jam, or juice. Start with creaming the butter and sugar, add "some" vanilla and go from there with your cocoa, etc. I use milk to"loosen" the butter / sugar combo but making frosting is about as simple as it gets and you aren't using those cans of flavored mystery fats. If I have leftover chocolate frosting, I make a "sandwich" with saltine crackers. My great granny did this... keep them in the fridge and you have a great.treat!

6:45AM PST on Feb 15, 2014

Thank you Becky and Care2 as always.

10:53PM PST on Feb 13, 2014

Just gonna have to try the home made "veggie burgers". Will let you know. Don and WE CAN! :-))

9:18PM PST on Feb 13, 2014

Thanks for all of the great tips. Soups are best made from scratch.

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