10 foods to MAKE instead of buy!

Every day is Earth Day, right? Over the last few years, there has been a few food items that I’ve stopped buying at the store and opted for the homemade version from scratch. But don’t get me wrong, it had to be worth my while. I have a lot on my plate, so while there are some foods I LOVE to make from scratch for special occasions or as gifts or when I have time (sourdough bread, for example), if it’s too time-consuming or involved, it won’t make it into my weekly routine.

My rule of thumb for the way we eat is basically as little processed foods as possible. We mostly eat real foods, or buy from local food makers, and cook most meals from scratch. I do buy some canned goods (beans, chickpeas, etc), aged cheeses, pasta and some cookies or crackers we enjoy. Yet there are 10 foods that most people buy, but that we consistently make from scratch, and for good reasons. Which reasons, you ask?

The Joy

It’s always my first reason. My go-to 🙂 What I have noticed about foods we homemake from scratch, is that we enjoy them in a very different way than the store-bought stuff. If I’ve made something, I have a certain pride, a sense of gratitude and satisfaction. I will eat it more mindfully and with more pleasure and appreciation for the process, the ingredients. It’s a more connected experience. And if I make it for friends or family, it feels like handing a gift made with love, not just serving food. That homemade food has a special aura, it’s a gem, a precious item.

That is also why it’s so important to involve kids in the making process. My sense of pride and that precious aura have somehow permeated Pablo’s psyche. I often hear him talk to others about the foods we make. He’s also proud, and eager to talk about it with others. It’s a topic of conversation he has with other people in his life. And there are no small tasks, younger children can help with simple tasks like stirring, mixing, pouring, etc, and older kids can sometimes do the whole thing. A lot of the time, they will enjoy that food with a lot more meaning and appreciation as when they’ve been involved.

The Body

If you make it with a simple list of ingredients, it’s just better for you. You avoid all preservatives and additives, you know it’s made with fresh ingredients. You’re in control of the making environment. Homemade foods tend to be more nutritious and generally healthier and more wholesome.

The Earth

Making these foods will mean that much less plastic and packaging from the store. There are no small steps. Every small gesture counts. I also found that when something is homemade, we’re much more careful about not wasting it. We plan when to eat it. Less waste, less plastic. Yay.

The Pocketbook

It is often more affordable to make instead of buy. And definitely the ratio of quality vs. cost is much better than with store-bought. You will have a much higher quality food you enjoy a lot more, for less money. It’s a no-brainer.

The Love

Apart from making all these foods for ourselves and our own family, these homemade foods are incredible gifts! Homemade food gifts are meaningful and made with love, they are eco-friendly and affordable, they are always appreciated as a token of friendship. You’re giving food, but you’re also giving of yourself, of your time and effort and skill. It’s like a giving a story. An edible story 😉

All the homemade items below, I’ve given as gifts, brought at potlucks and picnics, and made for school events or craft fairs and the like.

Ok, now you know why you should do it. Here’s WHAT you could be making instead of buying (in no particular order):

1. HOMEMADE YOGURT

Plain Yogurt is a staple in our family, we have it for breakfast or snack or as dessert, I use it in numerous recipes. Not so long ago, I was buying 2 plastic tubs of Greek Yogurt and European Style yogurt (mixed, they ended up having the perfect texture for us). Then I finally got around to experimenting with yogurt making in the Instant Pot and I never looked back! It’s an easy one to work into my routine. Start early in the morning. Stick it in the fridge at night. Ready for the next day. That means I’m buying 100 less plastic tubs a year. It’s also a lot cheaper.

Learn how to make it HERE, and enjoy creamy delicious yogurt asap!

A bowl of plain homemade yogurt

2. HOMEMADE JAM

I make jams twice a year, at the most. I make a large batch and I have a year’s worth of delicious jam! This definitely makes an easy gift for family, friends, neighbors and teachers. We take our homemade jam camping. It’s such a special treat.

Jam making is also a beloved family ritual for us. Every year, we go cherry picking at the orchard, we come home, pit the cherries and make the jam together. We’ve done that since Pablo was a toddler! He’s now come to associate cherry jam with the beginning of summer. It’s an exciting event we all look forward to.

My favorite jams to make are cherry and apricots. Though I think I will make strawberry jam this year too! I love David Lebovitz no-recipe recipe for Cherry Jam. Here’s his recipe for apricot jam too! They all follow the same principles.

Three tips for Jams:

  • Save your glass jars throughout the year so you don’t have to buy new ones for jam. And have different sizes, it works great for gift giving. We usually keep the larger “uglier” jars for ourselves and keep the cute little jars for gifts.
  • Make sure you add enough sugar for the jam so it’s shelf stable. That means about 70% sugar. It’ll keep for a year without being refrigerated if jars are sealed. Then a couple months in the fridge once opened.
  • Sterilize the empty jars – I still have this cheap microwave baby bottle sterilizer which works great for this! I highly recommend this method, it coudn’t be easier. Then when you pour the hot jam in the jars, make sure to turn them over right away while it’s hot. This will insure the jars are sealed.
cherry jam

3. HOMEMADE GRANOLA

Homemade granola tastes better, you can put exactly what you like in it and it has no preservatives. Possibilities are endless, online recipes abound. Our favorite is Chocolate Hazelnut Granola.

I recommend making a large batch that will last you at least the week or more. Pablo enjoys it for breakfast, but also as a snack or trailmix. He does love making it with me. Kids can mix and stir and flatten in the baking sheet.

My granola was also a big hit at school sales and as a gift in a cute little pouch with a bow and a recipe card!

Click HERE for our favorite granola recipe!

homemade chocolate hazelnut granola

4. HOMEMADE BROTH

Thanks to our new BFF the Instant Pot, I’ve started making broth from scratch and it is so worth it! You get to utilize vegetables scraps and meat bones and leftovers. You’re making a really healthy food you can drink straight or use in countless recipes. You can freeze the broth in glass jars or large ice cubes trays for convenience.

Whether you make beef broth, chicken broth or vegetable broth, you will not regret it! And do not feel you have to stick with recipes so closely. Any vegetable greens will do (leek greens, radish and carrot greens, asparagus peels, herb stems, mushrooms, etc.) Just work with what you have on end. A great way to fight waste and get the most out of your scraps!

jars of broth

5. HOMEMADE CRÈME FRAÎCHE

This is also a staple in our family. I was raised in Normandy, where dairy is king! (Or queen ;)) Crème fraîche is a type of fermented cream very similar to sour cream, just slightly less tangier, that was ubiquitous in my childhood. It is delicious with berries, baked potatoes, it makes great creamy swirls for soups, it turns these deviled eggs into angelic eggs, it’s an incredible alternative to milk or cream in quiches, it’s insane in this strawberry tart. (The French will also use a dollop of crème fraîche instead of a scoop of ice cream over warm apple pie.)

The major plus of this homemade crème fraîche is that it will last up to 6 weeks in your fridge. It’s well worth making a big jar to have on hand.

To talk about a recipe seems like an exageration. So here is the 2 step process:

Pour some organic heavy cream in a 32 oz glass jar and let it come to room temperature. Add 1/8 tsp of this mesophilic culture to the cream and stir with a fork. Cover with a kitchen towel and go live your life for 24-30 hours. When it looks set (gently shake the jar and see if it’s no longer liquid on top), put the lid on and put it in the fridge to finish setting. It’s ready to use within a few hours.

crème fraîche on a whisk

6. HOMEMADE GOAT CHEESE

I learned how to make this cheese with the amazing expert in all things goats, Gloria at Angeles Crest Creamery. I’ve made it on a regular basis for years, it’s always a hit at dinner parties and potlucks.

I will post a more detailed recipe on the blog soon, but in the meantime, the basic instructions are:

Place 1/2 gallon of good quality goat milk (I recommend Summerhill Goat Dairy) in a large bowl or pot. Let it come to room temperature. In a small glass, add 2 drops of rennet to a spoon of water. Pour that in the milk. Then add 1/8 tsp of mesophilic culture (same as for the crème fraîche). Stir, cover with a kitchen towel, and let be for 12 hours.

After 12 hours, it should have firmed up. Pour in a cheesecloth, tie a knot and hang over a bowl (I hang mine from my kitchen cabinets over a big bowl), to drain for 12 hours. Place in a bowl and add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of salt (taste before adding, don’t oversalt!), gently stir with a spatula, and put in glass jars. Will keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge.

jars of homemade goat cheese

7. HOMEMADE PESTO

One of those quick, versatile recipes that you can adapt to your tastes, and make ahead to have on hand in the fridge. Of course, you can put it over pasta for a quick dinner night, but it’s also a good base for a homemade pizza. I’ve mixed it to crème fraîche or goat cheese for dips and spreads too.

Find a good recipe HERE. It can be frozen in ice cube trays, or if you blanch the basil, you can keep in the fridge for quite a while.

a bowl of pesto with herbs

8. MINCED GARLIC (AND GINGER)

These jars of a pre-minced garlic and ginger at the supermarket can be so tempting, but for many compelling reasons, I stopped buying them. If I’m in a hurry, mincing garlic finely can seem time-consuming, until I realized I could simply grate the garlic! It takes seconds, it works in most recipes, and I now always use fresh garlic instead of processed (like most of the rest of the world does!)

Check out my Instagram Reels for a quick video tutorial. Same exact process goes for ginger.

garlic

9. VINAIGRETTE

Another one of those super quick “non-recipes”. My mom’s golden rule for vinaigrette has always been 1 part vinegar, 3 part oil. That’s probably one of the first recipes I ever memorized as a child. We use vinaigrette on a lot of things. We boil vegetables like leeks, zucchini, potatoes, green beans, cauliflower, asparagus, artichoke and eat them warm or cold with vinaigrette as a first course. So I like to make a jar of it for the week ahead. 1 cup of olive oil, 1/3 cup of red wine vinegar, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a bit of Dijon mustard if I think of it. Shake. Done.

homemade vinaigrette

10. HOMEMADE HUMMUS

Hummus is one of these ubiquitous foods that I only like if it’s GREAT. And most store-bought are pretty mediocre. If hummus is a regular snack in your household, make it weekly, it’ll keep in your fridge for a week (and 6 months if you freeze it.) You can store it preferably in a glass jar, and add a layer of olive oil on top to keep it extra fresh. I love this recipe. So forget those plastic tubs and make your own!

hummus

There you have it! Anything else YOU make from scratch that is totally worth it? Please let me know in the comments below! I’d love to try it 🙂

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