This is a guest post by Hannah Cross that originally appeared on Renee DeGroot’s blog Culinary Reformation.

homemade energy bars

Don’t Buy That! …here are ten things, normally purchased, that you can make at home instead!

As food prices continue to rise, many families are looking for practical ways to cut their grocery budget and save money. Making certain foods homemade may sound like a lot of work; but often, it’s just a matter of planning ahead a little. It may take a bit of extra time; but not only are you saving money, you’re also better able to control exactly what ingredients go into your food. You might even find you enjoy preparing certain food items yourself and they taste better than the store-bought variety!

Obviously, you can learn to make many more complicated foods as you get more experienced and adventurous. This list of twelve contains some of the simplest DIY foods to get you started.

1.  Jam

Store-bought jam is often straight sugar via high fructose corn syrup with a minimal sprinkling of actual fruit. Make your own jam using real fruit and a natural sweetener in a smaller quantity, such as honey. Try this recipe:
Julie's Jam

2. Refried Beans

Buying your refried beans in cans at the store? You’re probably spending at least a dollar on a little can. Try making your own in the crockpot for pennies. Cover pinto beans in crockpot with plenty of water and cook until tender. (at least six hours) Drain excess liquid, but leave some with the beans depending on how runny you like them. Mash with potato masher and add salt, pepper, garlic, onion, whatever you like!

3. Granola Bars

Organic or all-natural granola bars can run up to $2-3 apiece and can contain GMOs, excess sugar, and preservatives. When you make your own, you tailor them to fit your diet; whether it’s making them grain-free with just nuts and dried fruit, gluten-free, or sugarless. There are plenty of various recipes on the internet and you can even try making up your own style of granola bar. Creative possibilities are endless!

4. Tomato Sauce

People are becoming more aware of BPAs that lurk in the linings of store-bought cans, including in traditional canned tomato and pasta sauces. Additionally, sugar or preservatives are often added to the sauce. Making your own is simple and can be done with various methods. If you have preserved your own tomatoes or have bought canned tomatoes, simply blend them in a food processor or blender with salt, pepper, garlic, or any seasonings you like. Otherwise, you can cook down fresh tomatoes and then do the same.

5. Salad Dressing

Have you ever read the back of a traditional bottle of salad dressing? You will find many ingredients, usually including preservatives and sugar. When you make your own, you can use only two or three pure ingredients. A simple oil and vinegar dressing or sour cream with seasonings to make a ranch style dressing are easy options. There are plenty more elaborate options for special occasions or to add variety; google-ing will produce many results.

Don’t miss items 6-10!

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