Supermarket ‘produce’ like stir-fry sauces, yoghurt and dips are all items you can easily make in your own kitchen – minus the nasty food additives, flavour enhancers and hefty price tag. Kidspot’s food editor brings you 10 easy make-from-scratch foods that she promises will slash your grocery bill, taste great and are way healthier than the supermarket version.
1) Stir-fry sauce
Off the shelf stir-fry sauces often contain thickeners and artificial colouring. They are also not so kind to your wallet when it comes to checkout time. But according to Jen, making your own stir-fry sauces using just a few pantry ingredients is easy and costs less than half the price of a bottled version. “Stir-fry sauces are easy to make in bulk at home and keep in the fridge,” she says. “I make my own honey soy sauce with two cloves of fresh garlic gently sauteed in the pan with a cup of honey and half a cup of light soy sauce.”
Yoghurt that you make yourself contains live cultures that are great for your family’s gut health, whereas bought sweetened versions often contains thickeners and artificial colours. It is also far more economical to make your own and according to Jen, it’s very easy too! “Add some starter and milk powder and 24 hours later you have delicious yoghurt that can be either sweet or savoury. The added bonus is that you can use a few spoons of your new yoghurt as starter to make the next batch and off you go again. Your homemade yoghurt cost 75 cents to $1.50 per kg. Bought yoghurt cost $4-$5,” she says.
As a mum or four Jen knows only too well how hard it can be to get to the shops when you’ve got small children. “Being able to make a loaf of bread at home comes in handy,” she says, adding. “I worry about the shelf life of bread these days and the chemicals that they use as mold inhibitors.” While there’s something really Zen about kneading your own bread, Jen says that even throwing a mix into the breadmaker will give you a deliciously satisfying loaf that’s free of commercial preservatives.
4) Toasted muesli
Okay, this one might seem a bit overboard, but making your own muesli is actually really easy to do and is far cheaper than buying a box off the shelf. “I make my own all the time so I can put in my favourite fruits and nuts,” says Jen. “Bought muesli usually has a LOT of oil in it whereas I like to add only a little before toasting in the oven. If the budget permits, I sometimes add macadamias.”
Jam is a must-have condiment of every pantry, but did you know it’s really easy to make yourself – especially in the microwave?! You will not only feel like Martha Stewart by making your own, but it is also a wonderful way to use up fruits like plums, apricots or strawberries. “It’s just so easy and it’s a great way to use seasonal fruit that you have a surplus of,” says Jen. “If you make it and eat it within two weeks you also don’t have to go through the whole bottling process. So, say you had eight peaches in the fruit bowl and they were going bad, you could make jam and store it in a jar or bowl in the fridge for up to two weeks and it will keep.”
6) Baked goods: biscuits, cakes and muffins
It’s easy to succumb to convenience packaged foods for lunch boxes, but making your own baked goodies will save you serious dollars and gives you the freedom to make healthier versions for your kids, too. “Making your favourites at home is great for the budget, especially when it comes to filling lunch boxes,” confirms Jen. “I bake because I can just never find what I want in the shops and I love to cook for my family. It’s a great way to use leftover fruit, too.”
- Apple cinnamon muffins
- Cheese and bacon scones
- Choc chip and oatmeal cookies
- More cakes and baking recipes
- More biscuit recipes
Dips are a great after-school snack when served with vegetable sticks, but can be quite expensive to buy every week. “I make a huge batch of fresh hummus for my son – which in volume turns out to be equal to about eight bought tubs. This costs me three dollars,” says Jen. She also makes Tzatziki out of fresh homemade yoghurt and whips up an easy French onion dip out of just sour cream with dry packet soup. “I like to save bought dips for picnics, etc, but I always make fresh dips at home,” she says.
8) Roast chicken
There’s nothing particularly bad about a supermarket rotisserie chicken, but this is one supermarket item that’s so easy to make yourself, it makes little sense to pay the extra for it to come in a bag. “If I see whole chickens on sale I always buy up big! You just sprinkle some all spice seasoning on the chook, pop it into an oven bag and one hour later, you have delicious roast chicken,” says Jen, who adds that the bag’s juices make a flavoursome gravy. A roast chook is not only an easy and favourite dinner, but the leftover shredded meat is also great on sandwiches, in soup or tossed through pasta.
9) Stir-fry veggie packs
Just like fruit packs, these are designed for us busy mums who are looking for cheaty ways to get dinner on the table in a hurry (and hello, who isn’t?). As much as these pre-packaged veggie packs are tempting, they aren’t really value for money says Jen. “These are OK for convenience but you pay so much for them. If you open a pack and actually look at it vegetable by vegetable, then you will realise that you can make your own stir-fry veggie pack for less. Often these packs have a quarter of a capsicum, a few carrot sticks, half a sliced onion and broken broccoli,” says Jen. To make your own stir-fry veggies for those ‘dinner in a hurry’ nights, simply cut up some fresh veggies and store them in resealable bags with a sheet of paper towel lining it. They will keep for up to five days in the crisper section of your refrigerator and you will have the makings of a fast dinner without the strain on your budget.
10) Meat portions
Jen advises that you never look at the price per pack when buying meat, rather, look at the price per kilo and says you’ll soon realise that there’s a premium to have your meat neatly portioned and placed in trays. “Buying portioned meat comes down to convenience and price for me. I always look at the “per kg” sticker and if it’s cheaper at my local butcher, then I buy it there. You can still just buy your six chops but you don’t want to pay an extra $5 per kg for having them put on a tray with cling wrap,” says Jen. To make your own portioned meat to put in the freezer, simply buy it in bulk, divide it up into meal-sized portions in freezer bags and freeze.