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Food Foolishness: Why Make it When You can Buy it?


maggiethecat
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I dream of the day when I can retire and have some sort of routine for making my own staples, but for now, I have to make do with experimentation when time permits. I make dinner from scratch almost every night, but it doesn't involve having prepared my own canned goods or stock in advance. In an ideal world, it would!

I make my own pizza dough, since making it is easier than trekking to buy the fresh pre-made stuff. I could go over to Arthur Avenue, but that's an hour round trip on the bus, plus shopping time and waiting at the bus stop time, so it doesn't happen on a regular basis.

I make all of my own desserts, that much I can say. I can't see spending $30 on cake I can make at home, even if ingredients cost almost as much.

Steaming live lobsters recently was wonderful. I could have bought them steamed, but doing it myself was a learning experience. Too expensive to do routinely, but certainly quick and easy.

Ditto on sausage and pasta making. If I could do it weekly, I would. Nothing like homemade sausage and ravioli. But with shopping and clean up time added in (with no doorman for special order ingredients, and no dishwasher), it is often not practical.

Oh that I could pay the bills with a part time job!

"If you've heard this story before, don't stop me, because I'd like to hear it again." --Groucho Marx

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Other things that I make that most people buy: Sour cream, yogurt, butter, candied ginger and citrus peels, chestnuts, glacé fruits, sambals, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise and other condiments. Also pickles and etc.

How do you make sour cream?

Tracy

Lenexa, KS, USA

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Other things that I make that most people buy: Sour cream, yogurt, butter, candied ginger and citrus peels, chestnuts, glacé fruits, sambals, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise and other condiments. Also pickles and etc.

How do you make sour cream?

I use Ricki's sour cream starter culture

Scroll down until you see sour cream. The instructions are simple and the product is superior to anything you can buy.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Andie -

Do you freeze it? Sour cream is one of those things that I use infrequently enough that I don't always have it on hand, but often enough that I'm frequently upset I don't have any. It would be nice to keep some in the freezer. Also, how long does your homemade last in the fridge?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Andiesenji,

the photo you linked to for the sour cream made it look like the texture was a bit grainy. I've had this happen sometimes with yogurt - does it happen with the sour cream or is that just a bad photo? I cannot abide that gritty texture.

Thank you for all of the wonderful information you provide to this board and on your blog - you are a treasure! :smile:

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  • 3 years later...

The other day I reached into the fridge for some pre-cut butternut squash and I got to thinking, what other shortcuts do I take, and why? And what do I insist on doing myself that makes friends and family members look at me funny?

Here are a few things I would rather just buy:

Fried chicken - It takes a while, it's messy, and the kitchen smells like fried chicken for days. It's handy at the grocery store, just like ...

Rotisserie chicken - It just smells too good in the store to pass by. So handy.

Butternut Squash cubes - Because I nearly chopped off my thumb that one time.

Homegrown tomatoes - Believe me, I've tried, but while I can grow many other fine vegetables, tomatoes elude me here in the Northwest. So I buy POMI boxed ones year-round.

Some things I'd rather do myself:

Beans - No more canned beans for me. It's too easy to dump a bunch of dried beans in the slow cooker, top with a little meat, some chopped veggies (maybe some POMI tomatoes), and some stock. Plus, those cans are heavy!

Stocks - They're easy, cheap, wonderfully aromatic, and just way better. And again, those cans/boxes are heavy!

Ground meat - I just don't want to eat it if it's been ground in huge mixed batches, and I like to season burgers and sausages myself.

Bread - Again, it's easy, aromatic, and just way better.

Mayonnaise - An egg, some lemon juice, some mustard, a pinch of salt, and some oil in a mason jar. Let the oil rise to the top, and then hit it with the stick blender. Lid and refrigerate. Can be seasoned any way you want. Does not last for a year in the fridge, which I happen to think is a good thing.

Growing my own fruit and vegetables (within my space limits) - Except tomatoes, unless I give in and try again this year. There is nothing like a freshly dug potato or carrot!

Tomato sauces - Well, using POMI, but still.

I'm sure I've forgotten lots and lots of things in each category.

What do you buy, and what do you insist on preparing yourself?

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Pre-pealed garlic. So much cleaner and easier and they seem fresher than the whole bulbs I can buy here. The bulbs I get always have green sprouts and are already drying out.

Prewashed lettuce. Lots of times I won't make a salad purely because I don't want to wash the lettuce.

Jarred minced ginger.

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I don't have any hard and fast rules. As an example, I always have boxed stock on hand, but I also make my own. Toots likes the rotisserie chickens at some stores, and she frequently buys them, but I don't - ever. But then, I don't make roast chicken, either, preferring other types.

We grow some of our own vegetables, and we buy others - depends on the season and what we've planted.

I hate peeling garlic, so recently I bought a refrigerated bag of peeled cloves. Never again! They didn't save me much of anything, and the fresh or storage bulbs are so much better. I'll suffer the peeling process.

We do like bagged lettuce, but we buy mostly, although not exclusively, the romaine hearts.

Edited by Shel_B (log)
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 ... Shel


 

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I buy bagged salad. If I didn't we would very rarely have salad. Tearing and cleaning lettuce is so not worth the effort when I can buy lettuce blends we all like for about $1.60/10 oz bag. I typically buy 2 different blends and then mix those before serving since ti provides more color and variety.

I have been buying canned beans for several years. I have just started cooking up larger batches of beans than I need for a meal and freezing the rest. The jury is still out on that one.

The home-made vs. boxed/canned stock debate has almost lived a life of its own on this forum. Bouillon and canned/boxed in my kitchen.

I have no interest in making my own tomato sauce. I don't use that much anyway. I do keep a jar or so of pre-made pasta sauce for when I am in a time crunch.

Canned/boxed soups for lunch because seriously am I going to make soup from scratch for one? Since today is "Clam Chowder Day" according to a friend who posts what each day of the year is I will be having Campbell's Chunky Clam Chowder.

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Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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Prewashed Lettuce for sure, unless we want a head for some reason.

Prepackaged chicken parts - while it's nice to have the carcass for stock - we used to do that but not any more. My freezer thanks me.

Chicken stock - sure it's easy to make - but the freezer is already full of enough stuff and I don't use that much at a time.

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I just bought a container of pre-cut mirepoix today at TJ's. First time...but I have to put something together quickly, I didn't have the veggies on hand, and the savings in time appealed to me at the moment. Weekday cooking is different than weekend.

Stock, I have canned, boxed, and better than bullion. Plus smaller amounts in the freezer when I didn't need to use that whole can or carton (marked with amount, like 1/2c or 1c usually). Good to add to the water when making grains and such.

"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast" - Oscar Wilde

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Yogurt, tofu and cream cheese (making is not economical)

Tomato and fruit juices (")

Shelled frozen peas (a pain to shell)

Blanched chopped almonds (a pain to skin)

Filo and puff pastry (the spirit is willing but the arms are weak)

Deep-fried food (I'm hazard-averse and prefer not to smell of oil)

Hummus (mine is just not tasty :hmmm:)

Anything from a coconut (I don't argue with nature)

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I cannot eat store bought rotisserie chicken. Dry overcooked mushy meat.

dcarch

It's funny you say this - I'm not sure where you live, but I get the sense that you have some decent food choices. I'm surprised you've never found a good one.

I've had some awful roti chicken but also had some fabulous ones - and it varies all over the place. One thing I don't like is the tendency in the US to brine chicken (or add that godawful saline solution or whatever it is). A good quality bird doesn't HAVE to be brined. And I have to say that I think that the mushy texture that results is not always moist meat, it is just mushy!!!

In Canada or Mexico I think I can find a decent chicken more easily, it's a bit harder here in the US. But maybe some of that is personal taste. I still remember some fabulous chicken in the Caribbean, though other places had awful stuff.

And when you find something good here in the US, it usually is really good.

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Things I make instead of buy:

Bread and all other baked goods

Yogurt

Butter

Crème Fraiche
Ricotta
Ice Cream
Tomato sauce

fresh sausage/ground beef
Salad dressing

Things I buy instead of make:

Tortillas
Puff pastry
Condiments
Tomato paste
Mozzarella
Dried sausage

What should I be shifting? Should I make my own mozzarella?

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I buy bagged lettuce leaves maybe 95% of the time I'm eating lettuce. Mid-week especially. I'll buy bags of 'slaw, too. I load it up with my own dressing and sometimes extra vegetables or other ingredients but the base is as bagged as, well, a bag.

Stock? Sometimes. On the weekend I'll usually dump some bones or a handful of mince or off-cuts from a cut I'm using into the pressure cooker to make a small batch of stock. Weeknights? A tolerable commercial stock does the job. Shit, sometimes even on weekends I'll use off-the-shelf.

I've been on a fried chicken kick lately. Most local options are shite or very expensive. And the methods I've experimented with are quite different to what I can buy, anyway.

Edited by ChrisTaylor (log)

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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I cannot eat store bought rotisserie chicken. Dry overcooked mushy meat.

dcarch

When we lived in NJ we had 4 different supermarkets within easy reach -- A&P, WholeFoods,Kings and Stop&Shop. They all carried rotisserie chicken and we tried all four stores, assuming that WholeFoods would be best, followed by Kings (an expensive chain). What we found was that the A&P roti chicken was delicious, with succulent meat and a clean chicken flavor. Barely acceptable was the WholeFoods chicken, which was bland and sometimes dry. The expensive Kings chicken was meh, tended to be dry and was the highest price. The Stop&Shop chicken was mushy with an off-taste and not worth buying -- we'd change our dinner plans if that was all that was available. But I was surprised at the marked difference in the 4 stores' results.

I almost never buy bagged "pre-washed" lettuce and if I do, I wash it. But with tearing a few handfuls of lettuce and popping them in the salad spinner, what's the hassle with buying whole lettuce?

Make lots of fresh beans but always have canned varieties on hand -- chick peas, especially.

Always have chicken stock or bouillon in the pantry.

Where do people buy friend chicken?

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But with tearing a few handfuls of lettuce and popping them in the salad spinner, what's the hassle with buying whole lettuce?

When you look at things from your own point of view and experience, it's sometimes difficult to imagine why someone else can't do, or has difficulty doing, what you do.

I can easily buy, or grow, fresh lettuce, and most of the fresh lettuce we eat we grow ourselves. But, compared to fresh, store bought lettuce, the bagged lettuce we get (mostly whole, organic romaine hearts) lasts longer in our vegetable crispers than fresh.

Both Toots and I have small kitchens, and minimum storage. We really have no place to store a salad spinner, and the salad spinners I had when I had a bigger kitchen, still required drying the lettuce leaves by hand. so the damned things saved very little time. Then there's the ability to get the spinner to spin fast enough to do a good job, and for some of us, that's a difficulty. Arthritis can get in the way, plus some people just don't have the requisite strength to get those spinners spinning. It may not seem possible to younger, stronger folks, but I know a lot of seniors that have such difficulty.

And then there's time. It takes time to get the spinner from its storage space, time to separate the lettuce leaves and wash them, time to clean and dry the spinner, and time to store it again. A lot of older people just don't want the hassle, plus for some, putting things up on shelves in cabinets is just plain physically difficult. Being short, having mobility problems, or, as in my case, a bad back, makes getting things onto a shelf difficult and sometimes painful.

Sure, we could use a step stool, but older people sometimes have problems with balance, and it's not unusual for a senior to take a fall, not something we look forward to, and so we avoid situations that can cause us harm, or at the minimum, discomfort.

What sometimes bugs me about this forum, and other forums and internet sites, are the number of people who have difficulty seeing or understanding the problems or preferences of others. One day you'll be older, or have some problems, and then you'll know, and understand, that others may have problems with lettuce and salad spinners, or opening a can, or using a step stool. Maybe you'll understand that it's easier, more comfortable, and safer to open a bag of lettuce, or zap a frozen dinner in the microwave, etc., than it is to go through what, to some of us, is a hassle and uncomfortable to do certain things. To a lot of people, food and eating and food preparation is not the adventure it once was. For some, the adventure is getting through the day.

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 ... Shel


 

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I cannot eat store bought rotisserie chicken. Dry overcooked mushy meat.

dcarch

Have you a Costco where you live? Their rotisserie chicken is heads and shoulders above any other I've ever tried.

We asked once what they used as a rub and were told that the birds come already prepared for the rotiss.

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I cannot eat store bought rotisserie chicken. Dry overcooked mushy meat.

dcarch

Have you a Costco where you live? Their rotisserie chicken is heads and shoulders above any other I've ever tried.

We asked once what they used as a rub and were told that the birds come already prepared for the rotiss.

There is Costco, as well as all supermarkets within 15 minute from me.

I can't eat their chickens because I sous vide my chickens first, then air dry the skin in the refrigerator, and finally rotisserie in my oven broiler.

Sometimes I also smoke the chicken a little after sous vide.

dcarch

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