I just read an article on Slate, that talked about the writer's experiment with homemade versus store-bought pantry items. She tried a few specific items (like crackers, jam, bagels) and did a cost-analysis to see what was cheaper to make and what was better to buy at the store. I found it pretty interesting, especially that she chose an item like cream cheese which I would never have thought to make at home.
I've actually touched on this as well in my Bricklaying series. I try to do the same thing when I am looking at my pantry - is it better to make myself, or is the store bought version good enough? Here's what I have determined:
- if I make it myself, I know exactly what has gone into it. I know there are no preservatives or chemicals (usually added to make things shelf-stable) and I can control and adjust the recipe to my family's needs and tastes.
- SOME baked goods are cheaper at the store. I have yet to find a homemade bread recipe that I can make for the $0.79 per loaf that I pay at Price Rite, but I'm still looking! I often make my own biscuits but they are a bit more expensive than buying the canister of biscuits from Price Rite at $0.35. But there's no harm in trying a homemade version and comparing the cost to make it with the store version! You may save a ton of money - or you may find the quality is worth the extra cost.
- It is surprisingly EASY to make things at home. I keep a healthy stockpile of muffins on hand for breakfast and snacks, because I can make them in the time it takes one load of laundry to go through the washing machine. I can have fresh, homemade pizza from scratch (including the dough) on the table in 25 minutes. I have been experimenting with buns and rolls (without using a bread machine!) and have found numerous recipes that take very little time and are worlds better than the store bakery's! I'll be trying a homemade yogurt recipe I found a while back that uses the crockpot, so very little work will need to be done on my part.
The bottom line is, don't be afraid to try - homemade is a scary word, especially for folks that are already juggling full or part time work with family management. But it's not impossible! Make baking time a family affair - kids adore the process of baking and it can be a great teaching time. Recipes move faster the more you make them - what takes you 45 minutes today may only take 20 minutes after a few tries!
Some of my resources - what are your favorite recipes and sites?
The Homesteading Housewife's recipe box
The Pioneer Woman Cooks