Friday, March 9, 2012

Frugal Friday: When to Buy and When to Make Homemade

As any long-time readers know, I love to cook from scratch.  Not only does it often save a significant amount of money, but I love the process and creativity and the knowledge that I am feeding my family with the work of my own hands.  My homemade versions of snacks and other foods are also healthier and can be customized to my family's tastes.

However, you also know I am not above the occasional great deal on packaged foods!

In fact, I actively seek out deals, even on foods that I could and have made myself.

First of all, there is the time factor involved.  Time is valuable as well, and at this stage of my life I just couldn't keep up with making all of our bread, crackers, jam, snacks, and so on.  Also, there are sometimes taste and other preferences to consider when choosing homemade over store bought or the reverse.  Sometimes my kids strongly prefer one over the other.  For instance, they like my homemade pizza best, but they actually usually would rather eat packaged granola bars.  I have also found that sometimes the homemade version is less practical.  With the granola bars, it really is easier to take along the already packaged and less crumbly store bought versions when we're on the go.

So how do I choose what to buy and what to make homemade?  Right now, I have a little system whereby I try to balance savings on time and money.  Basically, if in a given week/month I am able to find a certain item at my target price or lower, then I buy as much as my budget or coupons will allow.  That frees me up to make other types of foods homemade.  So for instance with my recent deal on cereals and breakfast bars, I won't be making homemade oatmeal mix or granola bars for a few weeks.  Instead, I can focus on making bread or savory snacks or dinners for the freezer.

My target price is usually the best price that I can get on a semi-regular basis by combining sales and coupons.  I have learned these numbers for different products over the good length of time that I have been couponing.  These are not necessarily the rock-bottom, lowest prices I have ever gotten on the items, but they are also not deals that I can get any time.  My target prices may still be a little higher than what it would cost to make the item myself, but at that point I chalk up the difference to the time saved.  As I mentioned, I can't make everything from scratch, so at some point I have to accept a slightly higher cost.

There are also some items that I always make from scratch or always buy pre-made.  For instance, I would be unlikely to purchase any type of sauce, such as stir-fry sauce or enchilada sauce, since I can so easily whip it together myself.  I would usually never buy muffins, since the cost from a store bakery is so much higher than homemade.  However, I always buy jarred marinara sauce, since we go through about a jar a week, and I could never keep up with that homemade.  Also, after making my own bread exclusively for a couple of years, I now buy all our sandwich bread at the Dollar Tree.  I can get 100% whole wheat Nature's Own bread there for a dollar a loaf, and for several reasons it is a lot more practical for the kids' sandwiches, especially now that I pack lunches for school.

As with so many frugal habits and practices, it is all a balancing act between saving time and money and doing what fits into my lifestyle.

What do you make from scratch and what do you make homemade?  How do you choose?

Check out Frugal Fridays at Life as Mom for more money-saving ideas.


  1. I am making more homemade from scratch these days and loving it! So is my family! I recently made ketchup, and the hubs and son actually liked it! I finally found a recipe for deodorant that works for me and that's saying a lot! I got a bread machine at a yard sale for three dollars that works great, and I now make only homemade bread that we all love! I could list a lot more, but you get the idea. Blessings from Bama!

  2. What I make from scratch changes based on how my budget is going for the month and how cheaply I can find things like bread. I've never seen Nature's Own bread for $1 at our Dollar Tree, but that is fantastic! One thing I ALWAYS make from scratch is marinara. Try this recipe, the taste is great, it is very easy and it keeps really well. You can grate the onion and carrot with a box grater (I use the fine setting on the carrot and the bigger "holes" for the onion). If you want a perfectly smooth texture, you can use an immersion blender at the end. Use plenty of olive oil so that it is is shiny. I splash in a little wine (usually white) as well for more tang and moisture.
    I really enjoy both of your blogs, btw! God bless!


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