The Top 10 Store-Bought Items You Should Be Making at Home

Erin Chase
by Erin Chase
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The Top 10 Store-Bought Items You Should Be Making at Home

With so many modern grocery options, sometimes it’s hard to know when you’re better off making something at home. Yes, you could buy that can, bottle or frozen package, but at what cost? What are you really getting for your money? Unfortunately, a lot of the time you’re sacrificing food quality and hard-earned dollars for convenience.

If you want to eat less expensive, highly processed convenience foods and do a little more cooking at home, start by making some of these basics to get more financial and nutritional bang for your buck.

Oatmeal is a wonderful breakfast, but those little packets can be crazy expensive, not to mention loaded with added sugar. It’s easy to make your own and portion them into little baggies to save money.

Price Comparison
Store-Bought: $3 per box of 10 packets | Homemade: $2 for 10 packets

Homemade Benefit
Less added sugar + nutritious add-ons like dried fruits, seeds and nuts!

Some to Try
Make-Ahead Instant Oatmeal Jars
Brown Sugar & Spice Oatmeal Packets
Blueberries & Cream Oatmeal Packets
Three Delicious Varieties of Microwaveable Oatmeal Packets

It’s so convenient to have pancake mix on hand. But why not mix your own? By doing so, you can control the ingredients and keep out any additives you might not want.

Price Comparison
Store-Bought: $3.50 per box | Homemade: $2 for an equivalent amount of mix

Homemade Benefit
Save $1.50 per box, and enjoy pancakes made without preservatives or hydrogenated oils.

Some to Try
Make-Ahead Whole-Grain Pancake Mix
Buttermilk Instant Pancake Mix
5-Grain Pancake Mix

Yes, frozen waffles go on sale from time to time, but their ingredient lists are long. Making a big batch of waffles on the weekend and freezing them is easy enough to do and a great way to save a few dollars each week. Simply pop one or two in the toaster oven, and top with fruit, peanut butter or nuts for a nutritional boost!

Price Comparison
Store-Bought: $4.78 per 25-count box | Homemade: $4 to make 25 waffles

Homemade Benefit
Save $1 per box, and enjoy waffles made with just a few ingredients.

Some to Try
Simple Waffle Recipe
Rosemary & Orange Waffle
Spicy Gingerbread Waffles

Good job skipping the drive-through! Now ditch the frozen breakfast sandwich that is costing you way too much. Spend a little bit of time this weekend making your own freezer-ready breakfasts that will last you an entire week.

Price Comparison
Store-Bought: $1.25 per sandwich | Homemade: 48¢ per sandwich

Homemade Benefit
Save at least 75¢ per sandwich + less added sugar, salt and preservatives

Some to Try
Simple Egg Sandwiches
Egg & Bean Breakfast Burrito
Freezer-Friendly Breakfast Sandwiches with Bacon & Scrambled Eggs
Easy Egg Biscuits

Smoothies make a great fast breakfast or snack, but, man, can they get pricey! Save big-time money by making your own at home. One simple way to save on prep time is to portion fresh or frozen fruits and veggies into individual smoothie packets that you can just pop into the blender along with water, milk, yogurt—whatever mix-ins you like. Alternatively, you can freeze yogurt in ice cube trays for a protein boost of creamy goodness in your homemade smoothie pack.

Price Comparison
Smoothie Bar: $6–8 per smoothie | Homemade: Less than $2 per smoothie

Homemade Benefit
Serious financial savings + a great way to use up fresh fruits and veggies that would have gone bad otherwise

Some to Try
Red Cabbage Smoothie
Refreshing Kale & Pear Smoothie
Simple Green Protein Smoothie
Banana Strawberry Peach Smoothie

Take a look at the ingredient list on the side of a bottle of store-bought salad dressing. I know I was shocked the first time I read those long lists. Dressings are simple to make at home. You probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry right now!

Price Comparison
Store-Bought: $3.36 for 16-ounce bottle of dressing | Homemade: $1 for same amount homemade

Homemade Benefit
Save at least $2.25 per bottle + simple ingredient lists that can create limitless flavor combos

Some to Try
Easy Lemon Dressing
Quick & Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette
Ranch Dressing Mix
For limitless flavor options, check out this simple salad dressing formula.

Skip the additives and price tag, and make your own tomato-based sauce. Ditching store-bought sauce will reduce the added sugar and sodium for a better-for-you sauce. If you have the time, you can make a giant batch to can or freeze.

Price Comparison
Store-Bought: About $2.50 per 14-ounce jar | Homemade: About $1.40 for an equivalent amount of marinara made with canned tomatoes

Homemade Benefit
Over $1 savings per jar + way less added sugar and the ability to add in whatever veggies you need to use up

Some to Try
Easy Marinara Sauce
Garlic Roasted Tomato Sauce (if you have an abundance of homegrown tomatoes)

Fall is the best time for big, comfy sweaters and heaping bowls of soup. Skip the crazy amounts of salt in canned varieties and make your own. These easy recipes are a great place to start your homemade soup and chili explorations.

Price Comparison
Store-Bought: $2 per can | Homemade: 40¢ for a hearty bowl of soup

Homemade Benefit
Save at least $1.50 + control over how much sodium you slurp down

Some to Try
14 Quick and Simple Lower-Calorie Soups
Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup
Triple Squash Soup
Spinach & Orzo Soup

This healthy punch of sweet grains is a time-honored breakfast, snack and anytime yogurt treat. Try it on your ice cream! Amazing flavor and so much less expensive when you make your own at home!

Price Comparison
Store-Bought: $5 (or more) per 12 -ounce bag | Homemade: $2.50 for same amount of granola

Homemade Benefit
Save at least $2.50 per bag + customize your granola to include more of the ingredients you love!

Some to Try
Nutty Six-Ingredient Granola
Coconut Quinoa Hazelnut Granola
Maple Granola

For an afternoon boost or an any-time healthy snack, energy bars (or bites!) are fast and easy to make and take. Save yourself some serious cash by making and packing your own rather than picking one up in the grocery checkout lane!

Price Comparison
Store-Bought: About $2 per bar | Homemade: 40¢ per bar

Homemade Benefit
Big-time savings (around $1.60 per bar) + the ability to control the amount of sugar and customize mix-ins and spices to your liking

Some to Try
No Bake Granola Bars
Pumpkin Pie Power Bites
No-Bake Peanut Butter Granola Bars
Chocolate Cranberry Granola Bars

About the Author

Erin Chase
Erin Chase

Erin Chase is the founder of, The $5 Meal Plan & the popular Grocery Budget Makeover video course, and author of the $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook series. When not whipping up delicious, frugal meals in the kitchen, she can be found out of a run, chasing her boys around the neighborhood, or taking escape from the summer heat in the pool.  She lives with her husband, 4 boys and 1 furry boy in San Antonio, TX.


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