Eat Well, Spend Less: Homemade Substitutes for Grocery Staples

Has anyone else noticed the rapidly rising price of food lately?

I have, and I’ve been comparing receipts with several other food bloggers. The results of our research has prompted us to bring you a series to help you spend less while continuing to eat well.

Our series Eat Well, Spend Less will touch on topics such as buying (and storing) food in bulk, frugal meals, menu planning, and much, much more.

Get ready to learn a lot and be equipped for the rising costs of everyday food.

The Big Bucks: Organic Health Foods

The series is about both eating well AND spending less because let’s face it, spending less can be pretty easy: cheap food is abundant in heavily processed form. Sure it is possible to eat on a budget, but eat well?  And by well, I don’t mean filet mignon for Sunday dinner, I’m talking about providing our families with wholesome, healthy food. That is the goal of this series.

Robyn O’Brian has a fantastic TED talk where she partly highlights the need for us to reject processed foods and embrace the “real food” movement for the health of our children. It’s powerful stuff. If you haven’t watched the clip, I definitely recommend making it a priority. (My latest multi-tasking duo is folding laundry and listening to TED talks on YouTube.)

I think it’s fair to say that the more processed our food becomes, the lower the price drops.  The items that generally increase my grocery bill are the ones that are best for me: organic products, made with real ingredients, that have been treated with respect. Because I care about what I serve my children and I put into my own body, I pay a higher price for organic or natural products – unless I can make them myself for less, which is often the case.

Why pay $4 for a container of organic chicken broth when I’ve got the carcasses from last night’s dinner that I can simmer down to make fresh stock? Why get gouged $6 for a small bag of granola when I can get the raw oats for $1 and make my own with the kids after school?

Not only is it cheaper to make your own real food staples, you know exactly what is going into your food. You can customize each item- be it a condiment, salad dressing or spread –  to suit your family’s needs, avoid allergens and cater to taste preferences.

Homemade Substitutes for Grocery Staples: Important Factors to Remember

  • Food should be purchased and preserved in season. This is the best way to save money. Example: stock the pantry with canned tomatoes in September when they are practically giving them away.
  • Ingredients should be purchased in bulk when possible. The advantage is a reduced unit price. Go in on big purchases with a friend, if needed.
  • Set aside a realistic amount of time to make your homemade grocery staples. Accept that it is going to require some time, and remember that you will get faster as you gain experience. Team up with a friend on major canning projects and organize preserve swaps to gain a varied selection.
  • Start small. Don’t attempt everything on the list below or you may become overwhelmed and give up. Instead, start with two staples such as one salad dressing and one pancake syrup. Once you are making these regularly, add two more items, and so on.

Pantry Staples from Scratch

Katie and I are collaborating to bring you homemade versions of pantry (and fridge and freezer) staples.  She is covering ‘dry’ items and I will elaborate today on ‘wet’ products. So that means head over to Good Life Eats for baking mixes, granola bars, and more dried goods.

If you think about it, many basic ingredients and foods that we consume daily or weekly can be made from scratch for much less than it costs to buy prepared. As described above, smart shopping by buying in bulk and in season can also dramatically increase savings.

I can honestly say that, with the exception of ketchup and dill pickles (which I intend to attempt this summer) I make all of the following kitchen staples from scratch. And you know what? It doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Maybe because it’s become a way of life for me; a conscious choice.

I know why I can my own food, I understand the importance of healthy food culture, and I’m not afraid to roll up my sleeves and put in some long hours in the kitchen to benefit my family – and save some coin in the process.

I hope you are encouraged to do the same.


Salad Dressing







Do you feel like it costs too much to feed your family RIGHT?

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. I am always curious when I see jam recipes like the nectarine/raspberry freezer jam if you can use a sweetener instead of all of that sugar. I am diabetic so don’t want to use the sugar if not necessary. Really want to try this recipe since nectarines are my FAVE

  2. I came here via the granola bars on Good Life Eats! Thanks Aimee, I am spending a lot more time cooking since discovering this site. And I feel a lot healthier too actually.

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