Apr 17, 2023

20 Foods You Should Make – Not Buy!

I recommend making these things from scratch rather than buying them at the store.
Featured Recipe Image

Homemade versions of these kitchen staples are often quick to make, require few ingredients, can be made cheaper in larger batches, plus you miss out on many of the preservatives that have been added to store bought foods. These aren’t hard and fast rules. Of course sometimes I will opt for a box of mac and cheese with powdered cheese or a jar of Rao’s marinara. And like everyone I got into baking my own bread during the pandemic, but I still purchase baguettes and boules at the local boulangerie. 

Some things aren’t worth taking the extra time to make, but I recommend making these 20 at home! My tips will help you save money when shopping and create simple and delicious homemade recipes that can be used as building blocks for numerous other recipes. 

20 Foods You Should Make – Not Buy! 

marinara sauce one of the Foods you should make not buy

Marinara sauce

A few cans of peeled or diced tomatoes can go a long way into creating a fresh tasting and simple marinara sauce with no additives or sugar! Make this sauce and freeze it in batches or use it as the base for other recipes like eggplant parmesan, chicken parmesan or this baked goat cheese appetizer.

Chocolate chip cookies 

While buying the pre-made tubs of dough may seem like a good idea at the time, homemade cookies taste way better and are made with simple baking ingredients like butter, sugar, flour and eggs. Put your own spin on them by adding nuts or fun types of chocolate chips or keep them classic. I like to make a batch of dough, then roll them out and freeze them in bags so I can take out and bake a few cookies at a time for unexpected guests or nights when the cookie craving hits.

chocolate chip cookie one of the Foods you should make not buy
pizza dough one of the Foods you should make not buy

Pizza dough 

This easy homemade pizza dough recipe will have you creating your own pizzas in no time. This easy recipe is for a simple dough with a short rise time. Because it doesn’t have a long fermentation time, it will have a “bready” crust.

Pancake mix

There’s no need to add an extra box of mix to your pantry. Pancake mix is just flour, sugar and baking powder. To prep this in advance mix the dry ingredients ahead of time so they’re ready to go. I add apples to my pancakes for a bit of tangy crunch though you can easily swap it for chocolate chips, bananas or omit them altogether.

pancake mix one of the Foods you should make not buy
mac and cheese one of the Foods you should make not buy

Mac and cheese

If making a small batch then the boxed variety is more cost effective. But if serving a crowd then a homemade version of the American classic is the way to go. I prefer making my own and including my own twists like adding broccoli for a healthy-ish version. I start with a roux base made with butter and flour then add milk and whatever cheese I have on hand to create the sauce.


Homemade hummus is much smoother than store-bought. This hummus recipe is enhanced with zesty lemon and cloves of garlic, however it’s customizable. Try adding red pepper flakes, roasted red pepper, or sun dried tomatoes and serve with fresh cut vegetables or pita chips.

humus one of the Foods you should make not buy
salad dressing

Salad dressing

The bottled salad dressings you will find at the grocery store are not made with olive oil. They are often made with highly-processed ingredients, preservatives and more fats than necessary. Jars denoting they are “fat free” rely on excess sugar or salt to provide flavor. This simple vinaigrette recipe is customizable so you can put your own spin on it.


Vibrant homemade pesto is far superior to store-bought jars of dark green pesto. It’s low effort and much fresher, made with a few ingredients like basil, olive oil and pine nuts. Pesto is traditionally made with basil but it can easily be swapped for other greens like ramps, arugula or kale and the pine nuts traded for walnuts or cashews.

pesto one of the Foods you should make not buy
taco seasoning

Taco seasoning (and other spices mixes)

Turn to your spice drawer and make your own spice blend! I like to have a fully stocked spice drawer because with just a few jars you can make so many different spice blends rather than jars of blends you may or may not use once or twice. Plus with most spice blends you’re mostly paying for salt or sugar. Taco seasoning can be made with chili powder, paprika, cumin, coriander and cayenne.


These tortillas taste so fresh, and once you make your own, it will be hard to use store bought. My secret ingredient for my homemade flour tortillas is bacon fat! I save it in a jar anytime I cook bacon just for this recipe (no waste!). All you need is flour, salt and lard.



Half the battle of making your own guacamole is waiting for the avocados to be ripe enough, but the freshness and flavor is unmatched. While buying tubs of premade guacamole may seem appealing, it just doesn’t taste the same. I prefer to quickly make a batch of my own with avocados, onion, cilantro and peppers (either jalapeños or serranos). My recipe includes variations plus tips for storing guacamole.

Chicken soup

Skip the cans for homemade chicken noodle soup. The nutrient rich broths is perfect for sick days or days when you need to be warmed from the inside out. Chicken noodle soup adds protein and is filled with healthy vegetables while the noodles add a bit of substance to keep you full. Homemade soup is made with simple ingredients, no preservatives and flavors you can control. 

Chicken soup
BBQ sauce

BBQ sauce

I try to limit the number of bottles and jars in my fridge to save room for recipes. Homemade BBQ sauce is made with basic condiments you may already have: ketchup, Worcestershire, sugar, mustard and molasses.

Pizza sauce 

Rather than jarred varieties, opt for dressing up a can of crushed tomatoes. The goal of a good pizza sauce is to balance the natural sweetness of the tomatoes. This with the rich, savory olive oil, pungent garlic and the right amount of salt.

Pizza sauce 
cake mix

Cake mix 

Cake mix may seem like a great shortcut. However, in reality most boxes just contain a combination of simple (and cheap) pantry staples commonly used for baking like flour, sugar and baking powder. This olive oil cake is my favorite to make for special occasions!

Buttermilk biscuits 

These southern-style biscuits are big, fluffy and buttery just as biscuits should be. Homemade biscuits like these are made with simple ingredients like buttermilk and butter to give them a great flavor and crumbly (but not dry) texture, perfect for pairing with butter and honey or piling with eggs, cheese and bacon for a breakfast sandwich.

Buttermilk biscuits 
chicken stock

Chicken stock 

I love making my own chicken stock because it’s a great way to stretch food and reinvent scraps, cutting down on food waste for home cooks. Save bones from roast chicken in a bag in the freezer until you have enough to make stock (or you can buy bones specifically for stock) and use up vegetables about to go bad. I make homemade stock and freeze it, portioned out and flat in resealable plastic bags for easy use.


Make your own granola with oats, honey, nuts, spices and a bit of sugar. Homemade granola can be made using healthier swaps than the store bought counterpart plus you can add your favorite ingredients like dried fruit.

Homemade Croutons 

Homemade Croutons 

I use up any stale bread or baguettes that I have to make homemade croutons. Use plain olive oil or take it a step up and add chili oil for an unexpected spice on your Caesar salad.


Like cake mixes or biscuits, brownies can be made with a few ingredients from a well-stocked pantry. While I won’t turn my nose up at store-bought, it’s easy to make brownies from scratch. Try this recipe with a bit of cayenne and walnuts inspired by Mexican hot chocolate.


A Few More Shopping Tips 

Don’t buy pre-sliced fruit or vegetables.

While buying pre-sliced pineapple or pre-cut florets of broccoli in a bag may seem like a shortcut, you pay a premium and it won’t be as fresh or last as long. 

Don’t buy shredded cheese.

Buying a block of cheese is cheaper, plus pre-shredded cheeses often have additives to keep them separated. These additives will keep the cheese from melting as well. If you are going to buy shredded cheese go with a simple brand like Tilamook. 

Don’t buy jarred minced garlic.

I always use fresh cloves of garlic for cooking. The pre-minced jars of garlic don’t taste the same. It loses a lot of the powerful garlic flavor when it’s jarred because it has been soaked in water for a long period of time. Peeling garlic only takes a little time and if you do need a shortcut, opt for the bags of whole peeled cloves. Cloves of garlic are also extremely cheap and last a long time.

Don’t buy pre-cut meat.

I’m not talking about buying a whole cow – but buying pre-cut trays of “stew meat” are often marked up, not as fresh, and you don’t get to choose the exact cut of meat you are cooking with.

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