budget talk

Buy It or Make Your Own

During every trip to the supermarket I ask myself is it cheaper for me to buy that item already prepared or should I make my own. It’s not only money that I base my decision on, time plays a factor too. Here are some guidelines I’ve come up with and items I will and won’t buy already prepared.

If you’re short on time then opting for readymade makes perfect sense. One great example is potatoes, whether they’re mashed, oven roasted etc. I keep at least one package of each in the freezer or pantry. And the great thing is instant potatoes taste a lot better than they used to and they’re always on sale too.

If it’s not only your wallet you’re watching, but your weight, sodium or fat intake then going the homemade route makes more sense.

Check the Season
Right now the produce department is brimming with berries, green beans, corn, etc. During the summer months I opt for buying fresh veggies, but when a particular vegetable or fruit isn’t in season, I’ll choose canned or frozen. Another example is red peppers. I love roasted red peppers but they can be pricey. I have found some good deals but when the prices go low…like right now, I’ll buy them, roast them myself and then store them for future use.

Things I’ll Never Buy Readymade

Fruit, Vegetable and Cheese Platters
They look tempting but they can run about $20-25. They’re easy to put together yourself and I can’t imagine handing over that much money for something that wouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to do yourself.

Flavored Oatmeal
I used to love the individual flavored packages of oatmeal… that was until I did an interview and we got onto the subject of premade foods. The interviewee pointed out the true cost of these little luxuries. Now I make my own and add things like chopped dried fruits and they’re just as good, if not better.

Sometimes I’ll buy soups to keep in the pantry if the price is right, or like last week, I had two $1 coupons for a brand that was on sale. However, most of the time I’ll make my own. It’s cheaper, you control what’s in there and it’s a good way to use leftover items like vegetables and cooked chicken.

Individually Wrapped
Lots of supermarkets have a special section with items that are washed and prepared for you and individually wrapped like potatoes, onions, etc. But have you seen the price for such convenience, $2 for one onion! Think I’ll pass on those.

Smoothie Mixes
Manufacturers must know we’ve gone smoothie crazy because each week another premade smoothie mix hits the stores. I’ve checked the ingredients on most of them and it’s just chopped frozen fruit. How easy and inexpensive is it to get a freezer bag and make your own mix.

Some Things I Will Buy Readymade

Salad Dressings
I do make my own but I will more a ready prepared one when I have coupons. Seems like I always have at least one on hand. They’re usually for a dollar so on double coupon day that’s $2 off a salad dressing that costs around $3.95. I probably could make one for that price but it’s nice to have one ready and waiting in the fridge if I don’t get around to it.

Spaghetti Sauce
Once again coupons and the fact at least one brand always seems to be on sale swings things in the favor of readymade.

Not Just Things You Eat
And it’s not just food items you can make yourself. One reason I make my own products like cleaning supplies is I know what’s in them. Baking soda and vinegar are my two favorites and I even started making my own dishwasher powder too. It’s really simple to make
2 cups washing soda
1 cup borax
1 cup baking soda
Mix ingredients together in a storage container and use about 1 ½ tablespoons per load. I added some essential oil to mine…lemon or tangerine to give the kitchen a nice smell while the dishes are being washed. If you live in an area with hard water, I’ve found squeezing about a tablespoon of lemon juice to the mix (for each load) helps glasses from turning white. I buy lemon juice in one of those plastic lemons you find in the produce department and keep it with the mix.

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