Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Budget Cooking Unpacked

Grist recently published an article on the top five foods not to buy pre-made. Looking at the list below, I can't help but agree; each is simple and probably cheaper to do on your own.

Soup - often high in sodium and preservatives, plus soup is one of the easiest things to make! You just throw everything into a pot, let it simmer for a while and voila. Granted, some times you just crave Cambell's tomato soup, but seriously, homemade is tastier and better for you. Try:
Stock - this is easily made with vegetable scraps! I usually throw celery, carrots, a sweet potato, and some onions in a pot along with a bunch of herbs. But apparently, you can toss in just about anything for flavor - potato peels, apple cores, leak tops, you name it! It's handy to have some pre-made stock on hand, so plan ahead and make a big batch.

Canned Beans - this is not the first time I've advocated for dried beans (and other bulk food items). If you get in the habit of leaving some legumes to soak overnight, you can save a bunch of cash and, in my humble opinion, have better tasting beans. Also, unlike canned beans, dried bean options are often more diverse, allowing you to try some heirloom varieties (see Monday's What's Cooking?). Try:
Hummus - I feel pretty strongly about homemade hummus. It is so incredibly easy and fast. In fact, a while ago I questioned why should I ever buy pre-made hummus again? This is a food group (yes, according to Gena at Choosing Raw, it is) that merits much experimentation in order to develop your own technique for your ideal hummus. Ok, there are times when I just want that creamy smooth Sabra hummus, but there is something to be said about the joys of dumping some tahini, garbanzos, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and a dash of salt in a food processor. You also can make some really interesting variations, like Pumpkin Pie Hummus!

Cereal - perhaps the biggest point of departure for me is cereal. I hardly ever buy cereal anymore, although I used to consume a good amount of Special K Red Berries (former, processed-food life). Admittedly, I did give in a couple of time to buy Leapin' Lemurs...but that was primarily because of my obsession with the primate. Now, my default it to buy oats, puffed barley or corn, and then just make my own granola. When bought in the store, granola tends to have a lot of added sugars and fats, so making it at home allows for much more control. Applesauce and fruit butters are excellent subs for sugar and oils, and you can add in all sorts of nuts and dried fruits. Check out:
Well, if you were hankering for some DIY, here you go. Other food items I rarely purchase rather than make include: tomato sauce, apple sauce, and salad dressing. What prepared foods do you always make at home? 

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