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Home-made Cheaper than Store-bought


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34 replies to this topic

#1 Peter the eater

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 08:25 AM

Here’s a question for thrifty shoppers and home cooks: what can you make in your own kitchen for less than it costs at the supermarket?

For example, I can make a decent 500g loaf of white bread at home for a buck or two. However, when I tried to make hot dogs from scratch, they tasted fine . . . but it worked out to around $9 per wiener. That’s more than $100 a dozen!
Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .
Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .
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#2 jgm

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 08:58 AM

A very worthy topic for discussion.

A few years ago, to take my mind off a missing cat, I went to the grocery store to buy concord grapes for making jelly. After realizing it was going to cost me $20 to $30 to make the jelly (and I already had the jars and the rest of the equipment), I went home empty-handed. If I'd known for sure that the grapes were really good, a batch of homemade grape jelly might be worth that much. But since I didn't know the quality of the grapes, I decided not to do it.

Fortunately, by the time I got home, the cat had returned. :biggrin:

I think it's acceptable, when considering this question, to factor in quality and taste. If the flavor of the homemade product is significantly better than what's available in the store, it makes a big difference. I'll be interested to see how others weigh in on this.

#3 sparrowgrass

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 09:26 AM

I have a huge garden. I can green beans, tomato sauce and salsa, freeze corn and peppers and some tomatoes, I grow my own asparagus. A couple of years ago, the wild grapes were so big and abundant that I made jelly--my only cost was sugar and the propane to cook and process the jelly.

I seem to spend a fortune every spring on plants and seeds, but I never buy any of the above produce from the grocery store. I also have herbs--oregano, chives, basil, cilantro, sage, etc--a plant from the garden store is about the same price as a bunch of herbs.

I bake bread, and make my own pizza--I know that is cheaper (and better tasting) than store bought. I used to make my own wine and beer--also cheaper. I don't drink much any more, so that is not worth my time. Home baked cakes, pies, and cookies are cheaper than store bought--unless I get carried away and add macadamia nuts or primo chocolate.

I bought 25 cockerels (male chicks) this spring, and will be putting them into the freezer in a month or so. I am pretty sure that will be more expensive than the $.69/pound leg quarters I buy at the supermarket, but I will know where my meat comes from, and what it has been eating. I also have hens--again, I don't really know the cost, but the cost of the feed is offset somewhat by the wonderful compost my girls make for me. And I sell most of the eggs, for $2 a dozen, but I am pretty sure I don't break even.

Edited by sparrowgrass, 26 April 2010 - 09:28 AM.

sparrowgrass

#4 Dakki

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 10:02 AM

I don't do bread, but cakes? Haven't bought a box mix since I moved out of the old man's house. So simple, so cheap, so good!

Pickled jalapenos. Buying is already cheap but making them in season is practically free (and the end product is so much better).

Salad dressing. Unless you go for 200 year old balsamic or something storebought just can't beat homemade's price. And the taste!

Croutons, breadcrumbs (not the panko kind, just regular old breadcrumbs). Raw ingredients are practically free. Even if you end up buying a baguette or two rather than using leftover bread the markup on those things is utterly ridiculous. And, again, the end product is infinitely superior.

Pate. Chicken livers in bulk? Practically give 'em away. So much better than storebought (okay, maybe we shop at different stores) it's like a whole different food. (I think there's a hidden theme to the my list).
This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

#5 Moopheus

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 10:10 AM

However, when I tried to make hot dogs from scratch, they tasted fine . . . but it worked out to around $9 per wiener. That’s more than $100 a dozen!


Yes, but at least you know what's in them.

It's hard to make a direct comparison, because usually ingredients and methods won't match precisely with what's on the store shelf (and that means what's left out as much as what's put in). I mean, those cheaper hot dogs are cheaper for a reason, and not necessarily a good one. So, comparing the cost of your own product to an industrial one can be misleading, not a good way to judge the value of your own work. For one thing, you're getting a custom product, one that's tailored to your own taste. Or, to put it another way, to get a product that matched your own might cost quite a bit more than what's ordinarily in the supermarket.
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#6 Shel_B

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 10:43 AM

Home made apple sauce (using high quality organic apples from the trees in the neighbor's yard) is substantially cheaper than any store bought apple sauce. And while I've not actually run the costs, it seems that apple sauce made from in season organic apples purchased at the farmers' market is less expensive than the organic apple sauce purchased at Whole Foods and similar, local stores.

.... Shel


#7 Peter the eater

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 11:07 AM

. . . . make my own pizza--I know that is cheaper (and better tasting) than store bought.

I try, but I can't make a 750g pepperoni/pepper/mushroom/mozza/tomato pizza for less than McCain's $5 frozen version. The meat and cheese are big ticket items. In fact, I'd make more fresh cheese if milk wasn't so pricey.
Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .
Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .
Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

#8 Doodad

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 11:09 AM

Our garden is kicking this year and should provide abundant salsa, curry paste and tomato products until fall and then cool crops again.

Much cheaper I would have to think as we grow from seed or cheap seedlings.

And beer. I can make a 5 gallons of very high quality lagers and ales for about $5 excluding the initial investment of goods which have more than paid for themselves. At one point I had two lagers and three ales all available. Each of these would have been easily $9 a six.

#9 ethermion

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 11:26 AM

Toaster Waffles. It is ridiculous how cheap you can make a big pile of waffles to freeze.

Mustard. Tastes a treat and very easy!

Mayo. With a nice stick blender very easy.

But don't be just cheap. Also take comfort in the fact that you can pronounce all of the (few) ingredients, nothing is "mechanically separated", and the result shares no ingredients with shampoo.
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#10 sparrowgrass

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 12:00 PM

Peter, you are right about the pizza--I never buy frozen, so I didn't think of that.
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#11 Peter the eater

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 12:02 PM

Incidentally, the inspiration for starting this topic is my recent success making granola bars.

There are many issues beyond price when comparing store-bought and home-made, I'm merely looking to add more to my repertoire. There's a ton of crap in most factory foods, and if I can make something for my family using basic ingredients which are better and cheaper, then I will.

I know I'll never faithfully emulate a chunk of Bleu d'Auvergne, a shot of Lagavulin, or a bite of Hostess Twinkie.
Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .
Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .
Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

#12 HungryC

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 12:15 PM

Hummus ranks as #1 on my list. Dried chickpeas are seriously cheap, a jar of tahini lasts forever, and hummus requires NO special technical skill to make. So why do people buy tiny premade packages? Dunno.

#13 Dakki

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 12:58 PM

Mustard. Tastes a treat and very easy!

Can't believe I forgot to list this. Storebought just tastes like cornstarch + water + food coloring after you start making your own.

Also, beans are insanely cheaper (and superior) bought dried instead of canned.
This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

#14 Peter the eater

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 01:50 PM

Hummus ranks as #1 on my list. Dried chickpeas are seriously cheap, a jar of tahini lasts forever, and hummus requires NO special technical skill to make. So why do people buy tiny premade packages? Dunno.

That's what I'm talking about -- chick peas and other beans are a great examples of cheap building blocks for dips. Which brings me to tzatziki -- I can't make cheap yogurt. Maybe I'm not doing it right.
Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .
Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .
Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

#15 therippa

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 02:04 PM

Smoothies - I make one for myself every morning, comes out to about $1.25, compared to the ~$4 I would pay at some place like Jamba Juice

Stocks. I save chicken carcasses, so it's the price of the aromatics. And surprisngly enough, the 4 quarts of veal stock using The French Laundry recipe was one of the cheapest (and most time consuming) things I've ever made ($17 worth of materials gave a lot of stock, meanwhile a 10oz jar of veal demiglace sells at williams sonoma for $30)

Simple syrup...I use it instead of sugar when making sangria for parties. 12oz of simple syrup is $5.79 at BevMo, I can make the same amount at home for about 50 cents

Edited by therippa, 26 April 2010 - 02:17 PM.


#16 IndyRob

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 02:11 PM

I once calculated my pizza dough cost based on the best buys I could find on the 'net or elsewhere. 19 cents for one pie. This was helped a lot by finding yeast at pastrychef.com at around $5/pound (though I could become a yeast farmer by keeping a levain and treat yeast as virtually free).

Also, I've always been amazed by eggs. Considering all the things you can do with them they have to be best value out there. My usual breakfast of two eggs and toast probably costs me less than 25 cents when I limit myself to sale items.

#17 Darienne

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 02:42 PM

Lots of good and interesting replies.

Add to them chocolate truffles and just about any other confection you could dream of making or eating.

And also salad dressings. Never been able to figure out why folks would buy that awful supermarket stuff. Never found one I liked.
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#18 Porthos

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 04:18 PM

Does anybody make home-made bleu cheese dressing? Is it cheaper?

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#19 Dakki

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 05:24 PM

Depends on the blue cheese you can get. I scored 6 kilos of some really cheap, nasty stuff in a closeout late last year so it has worked out for me.
This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

#20 Katie Meadow

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 05:28 PM

Bread, ice cream and marmalade are probably our most cost effective home-made foods. My favorite jam-maker at the farmers' market sells her stuff for $8.50 for an 8 oz jar. Figuring in the cost of Seville oranges and sugar, we spend less than that per batch, which is five or six PINTS.

The least cost effective stuff we make is probably ketchup, tomato sauce and, believe it or not, beans. Using high quality Italian tomatoes for ketchup and sauces definitely costs more than Heinz or most jarred sauces. And my pot of beans, using home-made stock from ham shanks and Rancho Gordo beans, can't possibly cost less than canned beans or bargain dried beans. I don't think making our own pizzas is much of a savings either, when you factor in cost of sauce, and ingredients like radicchio and artichokes and buffalo mozz.

#21 Darienne

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 05:40 PM

The least cost effective stuff we make is probably ketchup, tomato sauce and, believe it or not, beans. Using high quality Italian tomatoes for ketchup and sauces definitely costs more than Heinz or most jarred sauces. And my pot of beans, using home-made stock from ham shanks and Rancho Gordo beans, can't possibly cost less than canned beans or bargain dried beans. I don't think making our own pizzas is much of a savings either, when you factor in cost of sauce, and ingredients like radicchio and artichokes and buffalo mozz.

But we are really talking about two different issues, in a way. What can you make at home which is cheaper than what you can buy in a supermarket...where the food isn't as tasty or as nutritious or as healthy? You can buy a pizza for just a couple of dollars at the supermarket when they are on sale. Can't beat the 'price'. But what are you getting?

Can you tell me where you could find a store-bought pizza with radicchio, artichokes and buffalo mozzarella for a few dollars? You could buy one in an upscale pizzeria...I guess...but then it WOULD cost you a lot more than making it at home.

Edited by Darienne, 26 April 2010 - 05:43 PM.

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#22 nakji

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 04:06 AM

I can't make cheap yogurt. Maybe I'm not doing it right.


Really? Have you checked out our yogurt topic? As soon as I started making my own granola, I also started making yogurt. It's a snap - the bacteria do all the work, and all you're out is the original pot of yogurt and a litre of milk.

#23 Doodad

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 04:44 AM

Incidentally, the inspiration for starting this topic is my recent success making granola bars.

There are many issues beyond price when comparing store-bought and home-made, I'm merely looking to add more to my repertoire. There's a ton of crap in most factory foods, and if I can make something for my family using basic ingredients which are better and cheaper, then I will.

I know I'll never faithfully emulate a chunk of Bleu d'Auvergne, a shot of Lagavulin, or a bite of Hostess Twinkie.


and like the pizza example you have to compare apples to apples. A good, all healthy, non factory granola goes for large bucks in the grocery stores here. I mean $7 a pint large.

#24 Moopheus

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 08:50 AM

The least cost effective stuff we make is probably ketchup, tomato sauce and, believe it or not, beans. Using high quality Italian tomatoes for ketchup and sauces definitely costs more than Heinz or most jarred sauces.


Sure, but then they're not really the same product, are they? You can't really be price competitive with the cheapest industrial products--there's always going to be someone willing to cut more corners than you are. I'd have to agree--the sauce I make at home probably costs me more than even the more expensive supermarket jarred sauces. But those sauces suck.
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#25 Indirect Heat

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 09:11 AM

I've never really thought as home cooking as a money saver. Really, it's almost always cheaper to buy some canned or frozen crap. But if you compare equivalent quality food, then it makes much more sense to home cook. Most prepared foods are kinda nasty. It's simply not possible to buy as good stuff as you can make at home...

#26 Toliver

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 09:36 AM

This discussion is wandering off the original topic:

what can you make in your own kitchen for less than it costs at the supermarket?


There have been oodles of previous discussions here on eGullet concerning "why buy it when you can make it?". That's not the issue here.
Regarding the original question, I think besides the cost of ingredients you also have to factor in the cost of your time spent making the item. Minor issues would be amortizing the cost of utilities/energy, equipment used, and so on. But cost of personal time seems to be a major factor in this case.

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#27 ChickenStu

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 09:46 AM

Mayonnaise
Puff Pastry (still buy in store though)
Ice cream...texture isnt the same if you dont have commercial machine though
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#28 Dakki

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 10:36 AM

Oh yeah. Beef jerky.

I don't use good cuts. The stuff sold as "milanesa de pulpa negra" tastes perfectly fine and is already sliced to the right thickness.
This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

#29 Shalmanese

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 10:46 AM

I've never been able to make any kind of juice that's anywhere near as economical as store bought, not-from-concentrate.
PS: I am a guy.

#30 Peter the eater

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 11:50 AM

I've never been able to make any kind of juice that's anywhere near as economical as store bought, not-from-concentrate.

That's a good point. If I lived in Florida with a backyard full of citrus plants, I could justify a fancy power juicer. Buying oranges for juice isn't a frugal idea where I live -- frozen concentrate is the way to go. I'm not sure what ingredients I'd need to make a citrus "punch" or "drink".
Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .
Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .
Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack