Making from Scratch–And Not
Joke: “Of course I made it from scratch. Scratch is what comes in those boxes, right?”
We’ve actually never been big spenders, so when we started trying to cut back even further, one obvious place was buying fewer things in their final, more expensive form, and instead making them from cheap ingredients. Another leading factor was that we wanted to avoid certain toxins and chemicals, and organic/natural/etc. products can be a lot more expensive.
Our time, however, is not infinite, and if I wind up using my work time (that is, paid daycare time) to make things from scratch, it probably doesn’t pay off. So we focus on the things that are most worthwhile and give the best return for our time.
So far, here’s what we used to buy but now make:
- Hummus. Commercial hummus often contains the preservative sodium benzoate, which we’re trying to avoid, and is often made with cheaper oils like soybean and canola instead of just olive oil. It’s also pricey. One pound of dried chickpeas will make three containers of hummus; even with the tahini, EVOO, and toasted pine nuts, it costs about a third what the store-bought stuff costs.
- Laundry detergent. I use a common Internet recipe for powdered detergent made from soap, borax, and washing soda. Vinegar in the final rinse helps keep the clothes from turning yellow. ( I do NOT use this on my cloth diapers as the manufacturer says not to use soap or vinegar; I buy BumGenius detergent for them.)
- Granola. There’s a pretty high disparity between the cost of granola ingredients and the high cost of prepared granola. This is about the cheapest cold cereal that exists, although we actually don’t eat it that way–we mostly put it in yogurt
- Sugar wax for my eyebrows. I never bought wax, but I used to pay to have my eyebrows done professionally.
Not exactly “made”:
- Hand soap. We bought containers of Method foaming hand soap and refill them with one part Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap to four parts boiled water (cooled). The foaming action saves a lot of soap and it’s the only way to use Dr. Bronner’s in a dispenser without clogging it.
- Shampoo. I’ve switched to baking soda with a vinegar rinse.
And here’s what we still buy:
- Yogurt. I am not convinced that the cost of milk vs. the cost of quarts of plain store brand yogurt would really make this worthwhile, as it sounds labor-intensive.
- Dishwasher detergent. I tried homemade, but got bad results. Unfortunately, I also didn’t get good results from natural brands, so I am back to using large boxes of Cascade, purchased at Costco. I only need to fill the compartment about half-way.
- Bread. I know how to make bread, but Mr. FP just prefers store bought for his sandwiches and again, I’m not sure that the cost of my time would make it worthwhile to make it from scratch. (We get Sarah Lee Soft and Smooth 100% Whole Grain Bread, which Mr. FP has selected as having a good price and fewer undesirable ingredients.)
Let me know in the comments if you want to see full recipes for any of these! Or share your own make-from-scratch money savers.