Eat Well, Spend Less: A personal Q&A with 7 bloggers behind the series

mini tourtiere hand pies

My homesteader upbringing instilled in me a lifelong love of cooking from scratch, and this passion I feel privileged to, in turn, share with you here on Simple Bites.

Making many of my own foods such as preserves, soups, and condiments, instead of relying on the options provided by companies to feed my family, is a conscious choice and one that I feel is the absolute best for my family’s health. It’s not always easy to choose homemade pantry staples over grocery store convenience, but I take small steps and pick up speed as I gain experience.

It’s a journey away from processed foods and back to natural, simple ingredients. I know why I can my own food, I understand the importance of healthy food culture, and I’m happy to roll up my sleeves and put in some hours in the kitchen to benefit my family – and save some coin in the process.

We all know that no two kitchens, budgets, and dietary needs are alike, and so the fabulous food blogging mothers behind our Eat Well, Spend Less series have come together to share a handful of different perspectives on a series of questions related to EWSL.

Naturally, my question was on the subject of scratch cooking, and these girls gave some great answers. Hit the jump to read them all.



“Which homemade substitute of a grocery staple is saving you the most money in your kitchen right now? What is one pantry purchase you’d like to eliminate and make from scratch this year?”

Responses from our Eat Well, Spend Less bloggers:

Amy from Kingdom First Mom said:

We are a pasta-loving family, so making our own pasta sauce has been a HUGE money-saver. I love that I can make a big batch and freeze it, which is easier to me than buying a ton of jars at the grocery store. Plus, I know what goes into my sauce. There is no telling what is in the stuff at the store!

Carrie from Denver Bargains said:

I would probably say it’s a toss-up between chicken broth and marinara sauce. I use chicken broth all the time (it’s not just for soups!) and I made it for free using chicken bones and vegetable scraps. I use probably the equivalent of a carton a week if there’s no soup on the menu (and lots more if there is). I make marinara sauce in big batches (usually about seven quarts at a time) and freeze it. I used to be able to get jars of sauce for pennies on the dollar, but then I made my own once, realized how much better it is, figured out that it was cheaper even though I was using red wine in it, and I haven’t looked back!

Jessica from LifeasMOM said:

I just read an article about how much sugar is in jarred pasta sauce. I’ve been making my own since 1996 when I was preparing to be a stay at home mom. Between pasta sauce and salsa, I can’t imagine spending money on those since they are so easy and cheap to make at home.

I’d like to learn how to make my own enchilada sauce. There’s only one brand we like that is chile-based (no tomato sauce). We love enchiladas and I don’t buy any other kind. But, the ingredients label makes me raise an eyebrow. I’ve seen lots of enchilada sauce recipes that call for tomato sauce. I don’t want that. I want chile. I made it once when we lived in Kansas, far far away from a can of Las Palmas. It was good but seemed like a pain. I’d like to try again.

Katie from Kitchen Stewardship said:

Homemade yogurt continues to be the biggest money saver for us. I save over $1000 a year, for real, just by making my own. (I detailed the math in last year’s Eat Well Spend Less prioritizing post) Chicken stock is second place, particularly now that I use my bones more than once.

The second question is much harder…I buy so little that has a label already, and with a few things, like peanut butter and pickles, I’ve already proven myself to be a pretty big failure. Two things I still buy and probably should make from scratch are tortilla chips and spaghetti sauce, but I just don’t have the motivation. I do want to figure out more about gluten-free baking: how to balance the flours, trying out some more cookie and roll recipes, and ultimately nailing gluten-free sourdough if I can – I already have Amy’s recipe printed. Now to find that 25th hour in the day…

Mandi from Easy Homemade said:

Making our own pasta sauce is definitely our biggest money saver! With an Italian heritage and a picky husband, we tend to go through a lot of pasta sauce — on pasta, pizza and as a dipping sauce for a variety of other foods — and making it at home not only allows me to control the sugar content but also lowers our grocery budget each month fairly significantly.

Although I make some bread at home, I don’t yet do sandwich bread, and I’m not even consistent about making our buns and rolls, so my goal for this year is to figure out how to make varieties my family loves and how to make that a regular part of my weekly routine!

Shaina from Food for My Family said:

The largest money-saver in my kitchen is homemade stock. It can be made from all sorts of kitchen scraps that would otherwise go to waste. Not only does it save money because I don’t have to buy stock, but I use it more often because I’m constantly making it. It ends up being like a nearly free meal a few times a month, and I can’t complain about that.

One thing I’d like to get better at is a variety of homemade breads coming consistently out of my kitchen. There are several we make from scratch routinely – naan, pizza dough, quick breads, popovers, biscuits – but I tend to just fall back on the local bakery when it comes to a good sourdough, sandwich bread, or a crusty loaf of french bread. I could definitely save us a bit of money if I would be a bit more driven to make everyday breads from scratch.

Thanks, ladies!

roasted tomato sauce

Personally, our household savings are similar to those mentioned above. Making sauces -meat, pesto, tomato, etc – from scratch is a big money saver for us. How do I want to broaden my repertoire of homemade staples this year? So many ways! I’m not very creative with snacks, though I like to munch on them just as much as my children do… I’m hoping to add more items like granola bars, dried fruit, healthy spreads, and fun frozen treats to my ‘must make’ list.

What is one pantry purchase you’d like to eliminate and make from scratch this year?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. That is a really interesting question! I think that making nut butters would be top of my list. My family goes through a lot of peanut butter, and would go through almond butter just as fast if I bought it more often. But not having a food processor or a high speed blender…I’m not entirely sure how I could go about that! Perhaps I need to invest in one of these tools.

    • Making nut butters is a snap in a food processor, much more work in a blender. There are a lot of mid-priced options on the market now. Maybe a Mother’s Day gift? 😉

  2. Great post! But what are those things in the picture?! They look sooo good!
    I think yogurt or bread is probaby the thing we save the most money on. If I was buying sandwhich bread, it would probaby be something like Dave’s Killer Bread, which is very expensive. I know my bread is much cheaper.
    I would love to get better at making whole wheat artisan breads (sourdough, etc). And I wish I could come up with a canned salsa recipe that I like as well as fresh. Buying cilantro gets a bit expensive and we often throw away the last little bit because it goes bad.

  3. I’ve tried making both yogurt and homemade broth this last year. While I don’t have it perfected yet, I think once I get it down it will save us a ton.

  4. Such a inspiring tips ladies! I can’t wait to put some of this to good use. 🙂

  5. Great tips from your bloggers! Last year I finally figured out what to do with all the tomatillos my farm share was inundating me with–salsa verde. I canned a small batch, only 6 jelly jars, but I’ve been using it in so many ways that this summer I plan to can much more. After years of making and freezing spaghetti sauce, I finally canned crushed tomatoes as well. [No room in the freezer.] I’m sold–I’m sticking these plain crushed tomatoes in Indian dishes, Mexican dishes, as well as the Italian dishes for which they were originally destined. I’m trying to think what I’d like to eliminate . . . I buy plenty of prepared stuff from the store, don’t get me wrong, but this morning I can’t think of what I take off the store shelf and think ‘boy, I could make this at home’.
    Great post, Aimee!

    • Sounds like you are already doing an amazing job! Your salsa sounds mouth-wateringly good.

      • Aimee,
        You have no idea how delicious the salsa verde was. I’d planned to just follow the recipe from the Ball Blue Book, but then my local grocery store had a “We’re roasting fresh Hatch chilies in the parking lot, come on by and pick up a quart!” event so I swapped out the green chilies in the recipe with roasted Hatch chilies. Yum! I have thought of something–when I am out of In Her Chucks’ Cherry Tomato Pesto recipe (fall stash in my freezer) it would be great to have small, 2-3 pizzas worth, jars of canned pizza sauce for my Friday Night Pizza Nights. So I’ll work on that, and find small jars in the meantime.

  6. I have always wanted to try making my own mayonnaise. When you make your own you can een change things up with different flavours and ingredients.

  7. Love this Q & A! Very helpful tips 🙂

  8. What pantry item would I make myself? Spice blends.

  9. I don’t know how much making my own stock is saving me, but I feel much, much better cooking with it. I can make it taste exactly the way I want it to, and it doesn’t have the insane sodium levels of store-bought stock. Plus it’s easy!

  10. what a fun series!! the one pantry staple that i’d love to eliminate is bbq sauce and ketchup!! they’re so easy to make (from what i’ve seen) that i can’t believe i haven’t gotten around to it!

  11. Snack foods! My kids go through a ton, not only would it be a money saver, but a mom-guilt saver. Who knows what us really in all that stuff?

  12. What a great conversation! Would these ladies be willing to link a few of the recipes they refer to in their responses?

  13. Love this series! I love to make my own BBQ sauce! xoxo

  14. Okay, I need to do some serious pantry overhaul. Love this series-so inspiring

  15. Last year I started making homemade peanut butter and love it – so easy and tastes awesome. I would like to start making my own pizza sauce, but haven’t found the right recipe yet. Ideally I would can it in the summer with tomatoes from our garden. I’m really excited about trying to make my own mustard!

  16. This is a great topic, and great responses, too. Some seriously committed moms! Jessica, I just had a quick response to your post about enchilada sauce. It is really easy to make a good, nutritious red chile sauce if you have access to red chile powder. This is not “chili powder”, which is a blend of spices, but actually ground red chiles. Mild is best when cooking for a family. Here is the recipe:
    2 T fat – butter/bacon grease
    1 T flour
    2 T chile powder ( more or less according to how hot you like it)
    1 clove garlic, minced
    2 cups beef broth, or water
    1/2 tsp dried oregano
    Salt to taste
    Make the sauce like a white sauce: melt butter, add flour, chile pdr, garlic. Cook a minute or so, stirring. Whisk in liquid, season, cook 20 mins or so until desired thickness. Delicious on cheese enchilada, With an egg on top, or with beef. Green chile sauce tastes better with chicken enchiladas IMHO =)

  17. Great post! One pantry item I’d like to make from scratch this year is salsa!

  18. Homemade jam! I need to be better about canning in the summer. Want to help me? 🙂

  19. As a former baker I feel somewhat embarrassed to say bread. It is not the skills that I lack but the time. It would be wonderful to also make my own goldfish crackers, being that those little buggers are one of the very few “middle of the store” items I purchase regularly.

  20. Wow, everybody’s making pasta sauce! …but how is it cheaper, please? I buy a jar of store brand for around a dollar, and an equivalent amount of tomatoes surely costs more than that, at least in the winter. Help?

  21. This was really helpful! Glad to finally hear I’m not the only one who thinks chicken stock and spaghetti sauce is absolutely worth it!

  22. I save the most by making chicken/turkey broth and salsa. We go through a ton of salsa, and getting a 30-oz can of tomatoes for $1 is much cheaper than the little jars of Pace for 2.50. And we like the taste and texture much better, too!

    And Aimee, you mentioned drying fruit for snacks. I just made dried apples in the oven with some leftover apples that didn’t have great flavor and were about to go bad. I added some lemon juice and cinnamon and put them on a rack in the oven at about 170 for several hours (I turned the oven off a few times in there) and they turned into delicious chewy dried apples! You should totally give it a try–I bet you’ll love them 🙂

  23. I love this series! Thanks for posting. I do chicken broth and yogurt (mostly because of inspiration from you ladies!) and I love the idea of adding one more this year. I’d love for it to be breads, but tomato sauce is probably more realistic…

  24. Erica Spears says

    I would love a recipe for homemade pasta sauce that is GOOD! We are really picky about sauce and have been super afraid to be a failure at it… I agree though making EVERYTHING from scratch almost always saves money! Thanks.

  25. Samantha says

    I absolutely love this q&a series! I am able to make a lot of this from scratch, but I don’t think I’ll be consistent until I find a good way to can or freeze what I make. I need a system! What is the best way to freeze things like sauces? And can you freeze salsa? I love Pioneer Woman’s salsa, but it always makes such a large amount.

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