One of the best food shopping tips I ever received was to stay to the outside perimeter of the grocery store. That is where you will find the basic things like vegetables, meats and dairy products. The further you travel toward those inner aisles, the more unnecessary and expensive junk food you will encounter.
That got me thinking. What if I could stock my kitchen with only the necessary staple foods and learn to create recipes from scratch rather than buying foods ready-made? I started looking around my kitchen at the packaged food I was buying and began to experiment with recipes to make those foods myself.
This experiment really started from a desire to save money at the grocery store, but I quickly realized that when I made food from scratch, the end product was much healthier than its store-bought counterpart. Take pancake syrup, for instance. A typical bottle of pancake syrup consists of mostly corn syrup, artificial colors and artificial flavors. Yuck! By trial and error, I eventually came up with a wonderful substitute that is delicious, less expensive and contains no artificial ingredients!
1 cup loose brown sugar
1/2 tsp. light molasses
1 T. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. butter (optional - for more richness)
Enough water to just melt the brown sugar - don't use too much!
Mix all ingredients in a microwave safe measuring cup and heat for 2 minutes on high. Stir and let cool for a few minutes before serving. Pour warm over homemade whole wheat pancakes and it doesn't get much better than that!
Whole Wheat Pancakes
2 cups milk
2 T. vegetable oil
1 T. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
Mix all the wet ingredients together. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add to milk mixture and stir just until moist, but still lumpy. Pour by spoonfuls onto a hot griddle until golden brown on both sides.
Instead of buying packaged Italian breadcrumbs, you can take those heels from your loaves of bread that nobody wants to eat and place them in an oven that has been heated just to 200 degrees and turned off. Let them stay in there overnight. By morning, they should be dry and crispy. If not, repeat the process again. Break up the heels and put them in your food processor and process until crumbly. If you don't have a food processor, you can place them in a freezer bag and crush with a rolling pin. Now, add basil, oregano, salt, pepper and parmesan to your crumbs and - voila! - Italian bread crumbs.
Why buy jars of tomato sauce? Just keep a good store of tomato paste in your pantry and you can create pasta sauce any time you want for pennies. Just add water, basil, garlic, salt, sugar or honey and any other favorite ingredients like mushrooms, bell pepper or onion. Add a can of diced tomatoes if you want chunky style.
To take this idea even a little further, consider canning your own jams, jellies and relishes. If you have children, you probably use a fair amount of jam. Most jams are loaded with sugar and other unhealthy ingredients, not to mention they are getting more expensive all the time. Homemade jam ensures that you are using the freshest possible fruit and you can make your jam with honey instead of sugar for an even healthier product.
Hopefully, you can see where I am going with this. As you look around at the packaged products you use each day, think about ways to make that product from scratch. Look at the ingredients on the package. There will be a few basic components and a lot of additives and preservatives. Begin to make a list of the ingredients you will need to make your own. As time goes on, you will have a pantry that is stocked with all the staples you will need to make most of your favorite foods from scratch. It may take a few tries before you get the results you want, but they will be worth it! Why pay more for unhealthy food when you can produce your own that will be more wholesome and less expensive?
I hope you will begin to make a practice of creating foods from scratch rather than buying pre-packaged. You will save lots of money and you will have the satisfaction of knowing exactly what is going in to your family's food.
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