I make a lot of my own food from scratch. As many cheapskates will tell you, it’s a great way to save money.
As a result, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen baking, measuring, mixing and chopping. Sometimes it’s fulfilling to see — and smell! — my delicious homemade meals as they come out of the oven.
Making my own food can be fun, especially when my kids get involved. But other times, I wonder if my efforts are really worth it. Could I use my time more efficiently doing something else and just paying for packaged foods? How much money am I really saving?
I decided to crunch the numbers — not a natural task for this English major! My conclusion: These six foods are worth making at home because you can do so quickly and cheaply.
A Note on Prices
To estimate costs, I used prices from my local grocery store in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Walmart.com. Prices may vary by location, but the fact that you’ll save by making these items yourself will probably not.
1. Pizza Crust
Store-bought crust costs about $4 for two crusts. If you make crust from scratch, you need:
- 58 cents of flour.
- 6 cents of canola oil.
- 4 cents of sugar.
- 30 cents of yeast.
- 4 cents of salt.
My grand total is $1.02; my recipe will make two thin crusts or one thick crust.
If you have pizza for dinner once a week (we do!), you’d spend $208 a year on premade crust. If you make your own, it only costs you $53.04. That’s an annual savings of $154.96.
If you miss the convenience, try using tortillas instead of store-bought crust. Two tortillas stacked on top of one another is a perfect thin crust. You’d need four to make two thin-crust pizzas, which will cost you around 80 cents each time you have pizza — even less than homemade! By switching to tortillas instead of premade crust, you could save $166.40 per year.
Hummus is a tasty protein that’s very easy to make with your food processor at home.
Store-bought hummus costs around $3 for 10 ounces. That’s 30 cents per ounce. If you make your own, you’ll spend:
- $1 for a can of chickpeas.
- 30 cents for juice from a large lemon.
- 54 cents for tahini.
- 25 cents for a garlic clove.
- 32 cents’ worth of extra-virgin olive oil.
Your grand total is $2.41 for 15 ounces, which equals 16 cents per ounce. That’s nearly half the cost for the store-bought variety!
If you purchased store-bought hummus every other week, you’d spend $78 for 260 ounces. The same amount of homemade hummus would cost $41.77, for annual savings of $36.23.
Many parents rely on Lunchables for their kids’ lunches, which can cause your budget to take a hit.
There are many different types of Lunchables to choose from. The ham and cheddar with crackers option is relatively cheap at $1.66. But let’s see how much cheaper it would be if you made it yourself. Here’s what you’d spend:
- $2 for a box of 100 crackers, or 2 cents a cracker; Lunchables have around eight crackers, so you’d spend a whopping 16 cents on crackers for the homemade option.
- 24 cents for a slice of ham.
- 18 cents for a slice of cheese.
- About 10 cents for a Keebler Vienna Fingers cookie.
Your homemade total is 68 cents. If you bought three Lunchables every week for a year, you would spend $258.96. If you made them yourself, it would only cost you $104.53, leaving you with annual savings of $154.43.
Call me a hippy, but I love eating granola for breakfast. It’s healthy and keeps me full until lunch.
The cost for store-bought granola is around $8 for 6 cups. You can find tons of granola recipes online. The one I use calls for:
- 63 cents of rolled oats.
- 36 cents of whole wheat flour.
- 3 cents of baking soda.
- 1 cent of sea salt.
- 21 cents of cinnamon.
- 55 cents of cloves.
- 97 cents of raisins.
- $2.24 of maple syrup.
- 24 cents of canola oil.
- 43 cents of homemade vanilla extract.
My grand total is $5.67 for 6 cups. Maple syrup is by far the most expensive ingredient I use, but you could find a recipe without it to bring the cost down.
I eat granola for breakfast every day, which means I use about 6 cups per week. In one year, I spend $294.84 on homemade granola. My store-bought cost would be $448, so I’m saving $153.16 every year.
To save time, pre-mix the dry ingredients into gallon-size plastic bags. Then, just add the wet ingredients when you need a batch.
Do you like free food? Then you should probably start making your own broth. Our great-grandmothers wouldn’t have dreamed of buying a package of broth at the store when they wanted to make soup, mashed potatoes or countless other recipes. That’s because broth is one of the easiest ways to recycle food scraps.
Store-bought chicken or vegetable broth typically costs $2.09 for a 32-ounce (4-cup) package. Making your own from leftover chicken or beef bones and vegetable scraps will cost you nothing.
However, if you don’t have the veggie scraps to make it for free, here’s what it will cost you for vegetable broth:
- 50 cents for one large onion.
- 25 cents for two celery stalks.
- 23 cents for two carrots.
- 25 cents for garlic.
- 50 cents for parsley.
- 30 cents for two bay leaves.
- 2 cents of salt.
- 84 cents of dried thyme.
Grand total: $2.89 for 12 cups.
If you want to make beef broth, you can buy broth bones at your grocery store. That will cost you about an additional $4, though, which will bump your cost up to $6.89 for 12 cups.
For chicken, you’re better off buying the cheapest bone-in chicken you can find. I found some for 69 cents a pound. If I used 3 pounds of chicken to make broth, it would cost $4.96 for 12 cups of broth.
The store-bought broth is around 52 cents per cup; homemade vegetable broth costs less than half that at 24 cents per cup. Homemade chicken broth is 41 cents per cup. While that’s not much cheaper than store-bought broth, you can use the chicken meat for another meal. Beef broth is around 57 cents a cup, making it slightly more expensive than store-bought. If you really want beef broth, the store-bought option might be best for you.
If you buy broth every three weeks, you’d spend $36.23 per year. You could save all that money if you made your own with scraps. If you buy veggies to make your own broth, it would cost you $16.70, for annual savings of $19.53. Chicken broth would set you back $28.65 per year, which is an annual saving of $7.57.
6. Rice Krispies Treats
Everyone needs something sweet in their lives. Rice Krispies Treats are so easy to make, it’s a wonder anyone buys them.
Store-bought Rice Krispies Treats cost $3.68 for 16 bars, or 23 cents per bar. To make your own, you need:
- $1.56 worth of Rice Krispies cereal (or a generic to save even more).
- 28 cents of margarine.
- $1 of marshmallows.
Your homemade total is $2.84 for 16 bars, or 18 cents per bar.
If you bought a package every week for a year, you’d spend $191.36 on store-bought Rice Krispies Treats. Homemade will cost you $147.68, for an annual saving of $43.68.
Amy Robleski is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom from Kenosha, Wisconsin. She loves saving money, bagels and “The Walking Dead.”