(Kristen is a guest blogger from The Frugal Girl.)
Going the DIY route with your food can save you some serious money, but almost none of us have time to make everything from scratch. To help you wisely choose which foods to DIY, here's a list of 10 that'll save you a lot of money but don't require a large time investment.
Granola is a relatively simple food: oats, nuts, oil, a sweetener, and maybe some fruity add-ins. But somehow, a small bag can easily cost $5 or more at the store. Try mixing up your own instead, and you'll get a big batch of granola for just a few dollars.
Simply dump the ingredients into a bowl, mix, press into a pan, bake, let cool, and break into granola pieces. No annoying stirring during baking is necessary! DIY granola recipe here.
Granola, hummus, and smoothies are easy to make, but they do all require a bit of prep. Trail mix doesn't even require any cooking or blending, though! Just buy nuts, dried fruit, and whatever other add-ins you want and toss the ingredients together. Your homemade trail mix will be cheaper, plus you can customize it exactly the way you want.
Whether hot or iced, the homemade versions will save you money every time. Tea bags, even fancy flavored ones, cost less than $0.20 apiece, which means that even after you add sweetener and cream, your cuppa will be a screaming bargain.
If you're an iced tea fan, try making iced tea in large batches to save extra time. And try watermelon or passion tea bags if fruity iced tea is your thing. For cheaper chai, try the tea bags, or buy the containers of Tazo chai concentrate (you just need to add milk and heat, or add milk and ice cubes for iced chai.) DIY iced tea directions here (or follow instructions on the box).
A canister of plain oatmeal is incredibly affordable, so buy that instead of the little packets. It only takes 2.5 minutes to microwave a bowl of oats, water, and salt, and you can mix in whatever you'd like to flavor your oatmeal. Try dried fruit, thawed frozen fruit, brown sugar, spices, and milk/cream. Or if you are more ambitious, you could make your own flavored instant oatmeal packets. DIY instant oatmeal recipe here.
In almost every grocer's freezer case, you can find bags of smoothie mix (at a markup, of course!). And you easily spend $5 or more on each smoothie at a smoothie shop. Try making your own at home instead. For a basic smoothie, you just need a banana, frozen fruit, and yogurt/milk/non-dairy milk (and a blender, obviously).
To make your smoothie healthier, you can blend in greens, and to vary the flavor, you can mix up the frozen fruit varieties you add in. Since frozen fruit is already washed, peeled, and prepped, a homemade smoothie should only take about 5 minutes to make, making it a speedy way to save money.
While honest-to-goodness homemade pizza is a bit of a project, there are lots of easy pizza options you should explore when you get the urge to order a pie.
The crust is the hard part, so instead of making a crust, use bagels, tortillas, English muffins, French bread or sub rolls as a simple base. Just add tomato sauce and toppings and bake until the cheese is melted.
Prepared hummus is little more than blended beans, which makes its price tag a bit surprising. Buy a can of garbanzos and blend your own! DIY hummus recipe here (with several flavor variations.)
While there are some homemade baked goods that are complicated and time-consuming, pancakes aren't one of them! You measure a few dry ingredients and a few wet ingredients, combine the two, and presto, you have pancake batter.
It literally takes about 5 minutes to do, which is only slightly more than it takes to throw together batter from a mix. DIY buttermilk pancake recipe here.
Panko? You probably should buy that. But plain old bread crumbs? You can make those in about 5 seconds with a food processor. Keep a bag in your freezer and use it to store heels/dry bread. To make the bread crumbs, thaw and toast the bread, tear it into pieces, and process the pieces in your food processor until they're crumbs. So easy, and perfect for using in meatballs, fish/crab cakes, or any other recipe that calls for soft bread crumbs.
While broth does take hours to cook, the hands-on time required is next to none. And since it relies on bones that would otherwise be thrown away, it costs just pennies.
A small word of advice: to avoid overwhelming yourself, try just one of these ideas at a time. Pick a food item to DIY, practice until you can make it without thinking, and then add another to your repertoire. Over time, you'll develop a library of skills, which means you'll be able to DIY all sorts of foods without blinking an eye. Your wallet (and your taste buds!) will be delighted.
Part of saving money by making your own food means that you should save every step of the way - and that means saving money on the materials. With that being said, visit DealsPlus to find coupons and promotions when purchasing your cooking essentials!