Make Your Own Groceries

Food’s getting too expensive, leaving us with two choices: lose our lead on per capita obesity, or find new ways to save money. We’re not the type of nation to give up a first place position on anything, so that leaves us with saving money, and one way to do this is to make your own stuff. We know, it’s crazy! Apparently early settlers somehow created their own Cheetos and Frappuccinos, but we’re not going to get that primitive. Instead, here’s a quick rundown of some interesting Do It Yourself tutorials we found that might give you some ideas on how to cut costs the next time you go grocery shopping.

Make Your Own Baby Food
The process is pretty easy–puree the food and strain it. This post suggests you spoon individual servings into an ice tray, then cover it with plastic wrap and freeze it. “Then, put the frozen blocks of food into a freezer bag.” The author doesn’t go on to mention thawing out the food, which leaves us with images of her babies sucking toothlessly on foodsicles, but we assume you’re supposed to reheat the food when you’re ready to use it.

Of course, if you need advice on how to make your own baby, you can head over to our sister site Fleshbot.

Make Your Own Instant Oatmeal
Trent at The Simple Dollar makes his own instant oatmeal packets. Instant oatmeal is a simple recipe, which means even the kitchen-phobic can accomplish this without ruining anything. Trent writes that the initial batch actually comes out to slightly more per serving than prepackaged, if you factor in the purchase of one-time supplies like reusable baggies and salt. Batch #2 is the same price as pre-packaged, and batch #3 is where the real savings kick in.

While this is a great idea, we think you can go one better and forego the plastic bags entirely, which drops the cost per serving immediately. Baggies are good if you have to eat your breakfast in the break room at work, but otherwise the “recipe” is so simple that you can assemble it on the spot each morning in less than 30 seconds. If you follow Trent’s advice to grind up some of the oatmeal to make the final product thicker, simply grind up a predetermined amount and keep it in a plastic container.

Make Your Own Ice Cream and Sorbet
Real ice cream requires cooking a custard first, and you’ll have to purchase eggs, heavy cream, and milk, which are exactly the sort of ingredients that are going up in price. Since the point is to save money, you’re better off buying in-season fruit and trying your hand at sorbets.

This is maybe the funniest/laziest sorbet recipe we can find: freeze a can of fruit, then puree it in a blender with a little liquor. (We’re going to try this over the weekend.)

If you’re too lazy to puree and blend, go even simpler and just make ice pops.

Make Your Own Hot Dogs
Just kidding.

The Big Question: Is This Really Worth My Time?
If you’re asking yourself that, there’s a good chance you already know the answer: you probably feel your time is better suited doing something more productive and/or entertaining.

However, Trent the Oatmeal Guy writes that he made his instant oatmeal packets while talking on the phone with his mother. We’ve discovered family phone calls are the perfect time to multitask with housework and kitchen activities, especially if you have a hands-free headset.

(Photo: Getty Images)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Bladefist says:

    If we lose our per capita obesity, that’ll be the straw that broke the camels back, and this country will officially have fallen.

  2. sir_pantsalot says:

    Better yet, you could take all the ingredients with you when you have to take care of your business. While on the john and talking to your mom you can mix up your individual oatmeal packets. Now what should we do with all of this free time and extra money?

  3. wring says:

    ugh i won an ice cream maker for opening the most macy’s credit card accounts a couple years ago. still haven’t used the damn thing.

  4. Chris Walters says:

    @sir_pantsalot: Drugs and hookers. That’s always the answer.

  5. kittenfoo says:

    I remember a TV commercial from some 20 years ago for a cereal that had “that great homemade taste.” It made me wonder if anyone actually made their own cereal.

  6. queenofdenial says:

    @wring: you know what a good use is for an ice cream maker? Selling it on Craigslist. Give it a try, it might be the most fun you’ve had with a small appliance in a long time.

  7. sir_pantsalot says:

    “it might be the most fun you’ve had with a small appliance in a long time”

    -This statement does not hold true on fleshbot

  8. Elvisisdead says:

    You laugh at make your own hot dogs, but making your own sausage can save a ton of money and is way healthier. Esp. for something of dubious content when bought at the store.

    I make my own breakfast sausage from port tenderloin ($4.50/lb at costco), and make it 95% lean. Better tasting than any turkey sausage, and I know the real fat content. Takes maybe $1 in spices for a 5 lb batch. I package it up in 1/2 lb freezer bags. Comes out to around $5/lb which is better than $7-8/lb for Jimmy Dean, etc. that’s 30-40% fat. Fat only costs around $1/lb, which is why most pre-packaged meats are so fatty.

    Of course, it will take me around 5 years to recoup equipment costs at $2/lb savings. But it’s worth it to not have my mind wander to The Jungle in the morning.

  9. Toof_75_75 says:

    My parents still have an ice cream maker in their basement that they thought looked so cool and that they’d make ice cream all the time with. They made it once or twice, decided it was a pain in the ass, and now it’s been sitting in the basement for 20 years. LOL

  10. B says:

    If instant oatmeal costs $.30 per packet, how much money could you possibly save making it yourself?

  11. tedyc03 says:

    Why is baking one’s own bread not listed?

  12. tgos2012 says:

    @tedyc03: 2nd that. I got a breadmaker for $10 at a yardsale 3 years ago, and I’ve been using it 2-3 times per week ever since. Depending on the recipe, a fresh loaf costs 60-75 cents, and it takes about 5 minutes to assemble.

  13. Toof_75_75 says:

    Maybe -$0.03?

  14. firesign says:

    hey! cooking! who knew?

  15. mike says:

    I make my own smoothees all the time. The all-fruit kind, of course. Better than the mall!

  16. jmuskratt says:

    I make groceries every time I go to the Schwag-amans wit my momenem.

  17. DrGirlfriend says:

    I agree with baking your own bread. Especially if you are looking for a very basic loaf, not something artisanal which will require a lot more of your time and attention. You can easily make a sandwich loaf, for example, with not a lot of fuss.

  18. somuch says:

    Hey, don’t knock frozen baby food! My kids all ate a lot of frozen bread. It’s “self-serve” and very soothing to their gums.

    I give it from about 6 months. I store my bread from the bakery in the freezer, anyway. No prep needed.

    The only thing to avoid is any kind of grain bread. It’s not bad for them, it just makes diaper changing more difficult.

    I know this isn’t nutrionally identical to organic kale mush, but since my kids wouldn’t eat any of the vegetables, it’s a moot point.

  19. JackHandey says:

    Growing your own food might have a better payoff for your time. Look into square foot or container gardening if you don’t have much land. []
    Just avoid using treated lumber (heavy metals leaching into soil), and watch out for vinyl garden hoses (they leach lead).

  20. ThunderRoad says:

    Dammit, I was looking for information on homemade Cheetoes. I feel ripped off.

  21. Jurph says:

    My wife and I use the sausage-maker attachment for our KitchenAid to grind up pretty much anything for our 9-month-old.

    Chicken breasts are about $4.00/lb, and you can fill three to six ice cubes’ worth of space (in a freezer tray) with one breast, boiled and ground.
    Apples (baked) grind up into about four cubes each, sometimes five, and you can buy a dozen apples usually for less than a dollar each.
    A large mango ($1.00 or so) will fill six-ish cubes.
    Avocados are about $1.50 each and grind up into two or three meals each.
    Collard greens are a great bargain – one bag, boiled shredded and ground, fills one or two whole ice cube trays.
    Sweet potatoes and carrots are also great.

    We figure about four cubes per meal, and we can tailor the mixture to keep a good balance of nutrients going in. A cube of chicken, two cubes of orange veggies, and one cube of greens is a great balanced lunch and costs us a little under a dollar.

    By contrast, “single” serving baby food packs (our kid could eat two in a sitting) can cost well over $1.00 per pack, and generate lots of plastic waste.

    Considering he eats about 16 food-cubes a day, we’re saving something like $4.00/day by making our own. We make his food in bulk, so it only takes about two hours to prepare enough food for a week and a half.

  22. savvy9999 says:

    One word to save money eating: Soup!

    Big batches of healthy and hearty soups. I make a huge kettle-fulls at a time– chicken soup, veggie soup of every variety, chili-ish soups– and freeze them in 2- or 4-serving plastic containers.

    The other day at the grocery store, I couldn’t believe what a can of simple Campbell’s minestrone was going for, almost $2. That’s ridiculous.

    Overall, the way to save is to cook your own (soup or pasta or rice or whatever) dishes, and in big batches, so you have enough leftovers to drive the per-meal/per-person price to nil.

  23. theblackdog says:

    @DrGirlfriend: The best part is that the fresh loaves of bread last longer than store bought (probably due to the lack of corn syrup).

  24. Toof_75_75 says:

    The store bought loaves have also possibly been sitting on the shelf for a few days, not including the time it took them before they even arrived on the shelf.

  25. jscott73 says:

    I have eaten oatmeal every morning at work for like 5 years now, I do it partly because it is healthy and easy but the main reason I do it is because it is so darn cheap to begin with.
    I mix one scoop plain oatmeal with one packet flavored oatmeal, I buy it all at Costco for about $15 and it lasts me over two months.
    When my current supply of flavored packets is gone I plan on bringing in a small box of brown sugar and adding a small teaspoon full to my plain oatmeal, cutting the cost even more.

  26. Gann says:

    @JackHandey: I second the gardening. It’s a rare hobby that actually saves you money. And your food will taste better.

  27. BlackFlag55 says:

    Google YouTube 10 Minute Cooking Schoool, Breakfast Tacos by Robert Rodriguez. Wait for the money-line at the very end. Not knowing how to cook is like not knowing how to ….

    Learn to cook. Grow some herbs. Grow some fresh greens in a pot on a Bronx rooftop. If you can, get in with a local rancher and some of your pals and buy into a side of REAL beef. Food only costs so much because of BIG catering to a lifestyle that is so frenetic it no longers notices how much it costs to be so frenetic. Big agriculture, big food processing, big transportation, big marketing, big retail. Get local. Learn to cook. Detox from boxed canned foods and you’ll save so much you’ll be tempted to slap yourself.

  28. notallcompaniesareevil says:

    Actually, the easy sorbet sounds smart. I was making a sorbet out of frozen strawberries and an ice cream machine, and so I had to puree the strawberries first. Right after smashing them into a paste, it looked pretty much like sorbet. Less sweet, but actually really, really, tasty.

  29. Curves says:

    @Gann: Great way to get kids to try veggies too. If they watch them grow, they will be more apt to try them. There is no better salad than one that was harvested 5 minutes before you eat it.

  30. Gann says:

    @Curves: Worked on my nephews. Kinda.

  31. Sudonum says:
  32. ludwigk says:

    @jscott73: you should buy bulk rolled oats from a place like whole foods, its like $.89 / lb. You can also get some bulk brown sugar and cinnamon to top with. That’ll drive your cost/serving straight into the ground.

    Home made icecream doesn’t save any money unless you live on a dairy or otherwise have access to cheap heavy cream. It is, however, delicious and easy to make.

  33. orielbean says:

    I just put the receiver down carefully so as not to make noise, and continue doing what I was doing before they called.

  34. Sudonum says:

    WTF is wrong with my damn keyboard today?
    @jmuskratt: I was thinking the same damn thing but didn’t think anyone else would get it. I’m headed out to make groceries right now

  35. Gann says:

    @ludwigk: I’ve also never had a store bought icecream that was chocolatey enough. Making your own = flavor control.

  36. Toof_75_75 says:

    Who knows, perhaps you can make your own keyboard as well?

  37. NotATool says:

    Don’t forget – dandelion greens are edible. Instead of dousing your lawn with toxic chemicals, harvest the dandelions for food!!!

  38. jscott73 says:

    @ludwigk: Nice, thanks for the tip, I’ll definitely look into that, I’m thinking some good honey to go with that too…but I’m not about to raise bees and harvest my own honey.

  39. HeartBurnKid says:

    A little tip on the “make your own ice cream” front — make banana-flavored ice cream, and you can skip the eggs. Avocado-flavored ice cream doesn’t need eggs either, but that’s only for the adventurous.

  40. jamesdenver says:

    I make my own pizzas by getting by making my own crust or using pitas for a crust.

    I get the toppings, including cheese, from the salad bar. You can get all your toppings for $4-5, including fancy stuff like olives, and don’t have to chop up stuff and buy a packet of expensive cheese.

    Its faster, easy, and much better pizza than greasy delivery.

    james []

  41. jamesdenver says:


    Ditto on soup. Homemade soup with chicken, veggies and pototoes fills me up like a full meal.

    You know you’ve made good soup when it takes a LONG time to microwave leftovers, as opposed to can soup which heats up in under a minute.

  42. Anonymous says:

    The baby food thing is a good idea because it lets you control what you’re feeding your baby. We have a steamer that can do two veggies at once and we make two large batches and then freeze them in 2 oz blocks. The only hard part is making sure there are no chunks when you puree it. We can make a few weeks worth of food in an hour.

    We just take a few out of the freezer each night after dinner and they’re thawed and ready to eat by the following night. Also, I don’t know that this saves us any money but we’re not doing it to cut costs.

    We do use our ice cream machine but only because we have a strawberry patch. Otherwise, it sits in the cabinet. Not sure this is any cheaper given all the ingredients and work some ice creams require but the ice cream it makes is great.

    I saw the Simple Dollar oatmeal post a few weeks ago and it struck me as way too much work. He also wrote a post about DIY laundry detergent which felt a lot like Depression era advice.

  43. realjen01 says:

    @DrGirlfriend: You’ve obviously never tried ‘no-knead bread’. It’s super easy and it comes out like a yummy artisan loaf. Way easier than any other bread I’ve ever made. Time is the magic ingredient.


  44. Gann says:

    @jamesdenver: I live near an italian market/deli that sells pizza dough for $2. For lunch today I had reheated homemade margharita pizza with fresh basil and oregano from the garden. Although I personally believe you do have to spend a little more on cheese to make a really good pie. And soup kicks ass.

    One of the best $ saving kitchen gadgets I own is a crockpot. It’ll make the toughest cuts of meat fork tender, is a quick easy way to make soup, and is the first step in making homemade refried cheesy beans (one of the most delicous cheap foods ever).

  45. balthisar says:

    BEER! It costs about half as much as the kegged stuff (which I also buy, and subsequently costs half as much as bottles do).

    Also because of the beer dispensing system, I’ve taken to making my own sparking water (club soda, soda water, seltzer, whatever you call it in your respective area). Just paid $22 for 20 lbs of CO2 today. Water’s effectively free. Every two liter bottle costs less than a nickel, versus the grocery store prices.

    Don’t like sparkling water? Make your own soda-pop. Cream soda’s easy — simple syrup made from sugar and water, with a bit of vanilla. Add it to your soda water!

    I was making our own home made break for a while, but my yeast colony died last time I was out of town. Next time I make beer, I’ll start a new one. Yeah, I could use the active dry yeast, but the brewers’ yeast gives it an extra something.
    And of course, home made chorizo beats store-bought. Not sure it’s cheaper, though, given the price of the fancy imported chile peppers.

  46. @kittenfoo: My mother did! The only store-bought cereal I had was Cheerios until I went to college.

  47. theblackdog says:

    @jscott73: I have a similar routine. I buy a Costco sized box of Quaker Oats and scoop out 1 cup into a container at work. I pour hot water from the coffee machine over the oats, wait a few minutes, then add about 1 teaspoon of honey.

    The honey gives it a sweet flavor, but it’s only about 10-15 calories.

  48. Toof_75_75 says:

    Wow, you are a self-providing super-hero! That sounds like a lot of work, though…I guess that just makes me lazy… LOL

  49. _catlike_ says:

    I’ve done the instant oatmeal and the ice cream plenty of times…we rarely have enough raccoon feet and old boots to do the hot dogs, though.

    I’ll vouch for the homemade powdered laundry detergent, too. I started using it a few months ago–easy to make, no more crazy unidentifiable additives and the clothes are softer and smell better.

  50. wring says:

    @queenofdenial: glad I don’t live in so-cal or I’d end up in Adam Carolla’s show “Who the f sells this s?”

  51. Sudonum says:

    In south Louisiana “Make” = “Shop”. Hence “Makin’ Groceries” = “Grocery Shopping”. So therefore I could “Make a keyboard” but that means I’d have to go to Best Buy or Circuit City.

  52. ninabi says:

    Make your own baby food sounds economical but why is the baby so upset about pureed serrano n’ string beans?

  53. says:

    i love cooking. unfortunately, our generation (made in the 80s!) HATES to cook…which is super unfortunate.

  54. bohemian says:

    We started making sorbet. Ice cream components are too spendy and kinda bad for you. I got older bananas for 50 cents a bag and made 2 gallons of banana sorbet. It stayed fresh in the freezer for about a month before it was all gone.

    We also make granola. Way cheaper than buying it.

  55. parnote says:

    Also waaaayyyyyyy cheaper to make your own tartar sauce (mayonaise and pickle relish) and your own seafood cocktail sauce (ketchup and horseradish).

  56. Jevia says:

    I was just at my pediatrician the other day, who mentioned that while making my own baby food is great, I shouldn’t cook my own carrots. She said that its hard to tell how much nitrates are in the store-bought carrots, but the baby food people will have the right amount. She also mentioned collard greens and parsnips in that group, but I haven’t cooked those.

  57. Aladdyn says:


    Have you tried “Better than Bullion” for a base for your soup? Its the best.

    Im actually considering buying a meat grinder to make my own hamburger meat. Not sure if ts cheaper but would be tastier plus no mad cow disease.

  58. ChuckECheese says:

    @sir_pantsalot: Your comment reminds me of an old Ruben Bolling comic:


  59. Xerloq says:

    I skipped the oatmeal packets all together. I buy store brand instant oatmeal at $1 a box, and use simple brown sugar to top it. I keep it in a drawer at work and make it in my XXL coffee mug. No bags, no mixing, no time wasted.

    It works perfectly with the hot filtered water from the coffee machine. I haven’t calculated my costs yet, but I figure I get about 20 servings out of the oatmeal box, and the amount of brown sugar is minimal, and my work provides the creamer, so I’m at about $0.10 on the heavy side ($0.05 for oatmeal, %0.05 for brown sugar) for a greener breakfast than the DIY packets – I know the OP washes and reuses the baggies, but they’ll be thrown away someday. I give the oatmeal boxes to my 2-year-old to play with and recycle them when they’re trashed.

  60. Kajj says:

    @Jevia: What’s the concern with nitrates? Would cooking your own risk there being too many or too few?

  61. mgomega says:

    My wife found out about making baby food about two years ago. We tried it with our second and he loved it! Never had a single jar of store-bought baby food, and MAN does it save a lot of money!! The freezer gets a little full at times, but the food is a lot better for them. You spice it any way you like, and it seemed to make the transition to adult foods much simpler.

    For cheap eggs and meat, raise your own chickens! Most towns and cities allow it to some extent. A bit messy, but well worth it. We’ve got several friends that raise them, and our own coop will be going up next spring.

    And hey, what about hunting? A round of ammo costs a lot less than a pound of beef…

  62. mgomega says:


    I’ve heard that about the carrots too, but it doesn’t make sense. Do you really believe baby food manufacturers have “special carrots” that somehow contain less nitrates? If we assume that’s true, they’re either growning them specially (which I doubt), or they’re removing the nitrates. If they’re removing the nitrates, they’re removing nutrients as well with the extra processing. Honestly, I believe they probably just do batch testing to make sure the nitrate levels in their carrots don’t exceed normal levels. Food is expensive (duh!), and baby food manufacturers aren’t going to take on the extra expense of special crops. I think its more likely that they simply control their buying to only purchase from fields that produce acceptable levels of nitrates.

    Anyway, feed your kids a well-rounded selection of fruits and vegetables and they’ll be fine. If you’re only feeding them carrots then, yeah, watch the nitrates!

  63. chrisbacke says:

    Wasn’t there a book published awhile back about how to cook one day out of the month? Anyone got any ideas on combining THAT with the ‘make-it-yourself’ crowd?

    You CAN make your own Cheetos – just Google Cheetos recipe and follow the recipe… Cost-effective? I think not, but the point is that you can.

  64. @mgomega: We want backyard chickens but we, unfortunately, are forbidden by local ordinance from having “livestock” on city lots.

    One thing I make at home is pancake mix. My husband lurves pancakes and makes them every weekend. Homemade mix is easy, cheap, takes 10 minutes to put together, and lasts probably three months. (My recipe makes about 5 lbs.) It’s more nutritious, too, since I can make it 1/3 whole wheat flour, add powdered milk (for calcium), and know there’s no preservatives in it.

    I’ve also learned to make bread and really enjoy that. To my surprise, it’s actually really easy! I haven’t tried sandwich loaves yet, but we’re not big sandwich eaters, so I make a lot of baguettes and artisanal-looking loaves.

  65. Hulapop says:

    These are some of the things I do to save money and have better quality products.

    Coffee Beans
    Roasting coffee is easy, and cheap but you have to watch it during the whole roasting process, and have a well ventilated area. Green coffee starts at $3.00 /lb. Organic, fair trade, shade grown,bird friendly coffee from all over the world. Fresh roast is a world apart from the stuff you might buy at the grocery store, which could have been roasted weeks or months before. I have had great selection and service from Burman Coffees: [] You can roast pretty much as dark as you like . The roasters start under 100 dollars, which would pay for itself quickly. Save 80-85% on what you are now spending for coffee, and if you buy an inexpensive espresso machine, you can wave bye bye to the prices and lines at the coffee shop.

    I keep sourdough starter on hand and just need flour, water and salt to make bread. If you time it right (it takes 3 days to make a proper yeast-less sourdough) you can have fresh bread every week. I even use it to make sourdough flour tortillas and sopas. If you want it the same day, go ahead and add (expensive) yeast.

    Soap making has come a long way from making it from scratch, using casutic lye. You can now buy it in bulk, and add your own colors, fragrances and essential oils. You can buy from a large variatey of soap bases and use the oil base you want (e.g. Olive instead of palm oil). This can be extended to make your own bath salts, bubble bath, shampoo, lip balm, etc. all from pre made bases for each type.

  66. P_Smith says:

    I can’t be bothered with the rigamarole of making oatmeal in the mornings. Even toast is too much.

    So, I eat sandwiches for breakfast. It’s filling, you can eat it on the go, and because you’re eating the same for lunch most days, the cost per unit goes down.

    What could be unhealthy about a tomato, ham and cheese on whole wheat for breakfast? Plus, making breakfast and lunch at the same time *saves* time.

  67. planetdaddy says:

    Day old bread store.


    Sale papers. Walgreens, CVS, Target, Albertsons

    Saving money on groceries requires a little work, but every little bit helps.

  68. HungryGrrl says:

    I make my own pizzas a lot… the frozen selection isn’t too charming anymore. I use pita bread as crust, tomato paste jazzed up with some herbs and garlic as sauce (freeze the leftovers in a small plastic container and then next time you need a bit of it you can shave it off with a spoon much like italian ice), fat free ricotta cheese and mozerella, plus whatever else (leftover meatballs, fresh basil, onions and peppers, etc) I feel like.

    Don’t buy rice mixes, pilaf is really easy from scratch… just sautee some minced onion/garlic/shallots/whatever in a few tablespoons of oil or butter, add the dry rice, stir to coat rice with butter, add broth (I make my own out of leftover chicken carcasses) and cook on low. There’s also methods of making homemade pilaf in the oven.

    Likewise, make your own ‘mexican’ rice simply by using bottled salsa as part of the cooking liquid, and adding garlic and cumin powder.

    Please don’t buy those bagged chopped lettuce things. Really expensive and tasteless. Put a salad spinner on your birthday list, or be reckless like me and eat most of your lettuce unwashed. I am, however, a sucker for the bagged baby spinich…

    Frozen vegetables are often the best compromise of taste/price. You can even buy frozen minced onions to use in recopies, great for people who are not organized enough in the kitchen to use up all their produce before it goes bad. Frozen corn, frozen pepper strips, frozen green beans are all staples in my kitchen.

  69. Wubbytoes says:

    When my wife and I decided to start eating healthier, we stopped eating out a few days a week and saved a lot of money just making dinner at home every night. We’ve started growing a few herbs and vegetables ourselves and that has helped out a bit too.

  70. battra92 says:

    One of these days I have to start making my own bread. It wasn’t such a big deal when Wal*Mart had loaves for $0.50 but now it might make more sense.

    Making your own pizza dough is a pain the behind, though.

  71. Brunette Bookworm says:

    @battra92: It takes a little time the first time but I try to make a double batch and freeze some so when I want pizza next, all I have to do is thaw it. I cook for just me so last time I made dough, I froze the dough and sauce in individual sizes. It makes it really easy to do homemade pizza.

  72. Mr. Gunn says:

    @jmuskratt: Beat me to it!