Paycheck Chronicles

Making It From Scratch


You may have noticed, I'm a little obsessed with our food bill.  It seems like such an easy place to cut our spending.  Hmm, easy is probably not exactly the best choice of word, but food spending does have a lot of different ways to cut costs.  You can plan lower cost meals, use coupons, eat at home, use leftovers, and...

make things from scratch.

No, really, you can do it.  I'm not asking you to make everything from raw ingredients.  Just one thing.  Pick one thing, and try making it without a box, or a mix, or a frozen package.  See how it goes.  See if it is hard, if it tastes good, and how much it costs.  Then decide if it is something that you would like to do.  Then maybe try something else.

I recently tried sweet potato fries.  We used to buy the Alexia brand, which is currently $2.49 for a bag at the commissary.  You can find coupons, but not often.  They taste great and they are easy.  I tried making sweet potato fries from actual sweet potatoes and found that it was almost as easy, even tastier, and healthier.  The price comparison depends on your location and the season as sweet potato prices can vary a lot over the course of a year.  I discovered that I like homemade sweet potato fries better than the frozen ones, and in my case they are a little bit less expensive.

Sometimes you'll find that the packaged item is actually less expensive than homemade.  You'll have to balance out the convenience, the taste, the nutrition and the cost to find out which items you should make yourself.  For example, an enormous Stouffer's frozen lasagna from my commissary costs between $8.50 and $11.50.  In theory, I'd love to make homemade lasagna, but it is time consuming, Stouffer's is better, and it costs less than the individual ingredients.  The nutritional stats are OK, given that it is lasagna, so I buy frozen and we use it as an emergency meal at our house.

I encourage you to give a few recipes a try.  You'll find some that are better homemade, and some that are better purchased prepared.  However, you won't know unless you try.

Happy experimenting!

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