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Put It to the Test: Would It Be Cheaper to Make It Yourself?

Kitchen experiments aren't just for home-economics class. Perfecting your Orange Julius skills may not be as productive as it once was, but there is a prudent way to play in the kitchen. Jennifer Reese over at Slate recently put on her home-cook hat to test and ran a "cost-benefit analysis" on which of her staple grocery items would be cheaper to make herself.

She purchased the most affordable ingredients and detailed the total expense of cooking at home down to the cost of boiling water. Jennifer discovered that it's more cost-effective for her to make bagels, yogurt, and granola at home, and the quality of those items was accelerated compared to store-bought versions. She didn't have luck with the homemade cream cheese and now knows it's better to buy it, while she deemed her cracker experiment a wash when compared to the cheapest crackers at the store. As for her homemade jam, she recommends only going through the trouble if you have access to free (or nearly free) fruit.

Have you ever tried experimenting with this idea? Would you consider putting it to the test?


Join The Conversation
Chipa Chipa 7 years
A long time ago we invested in a bread machine (cost per use now is less than pennies!), and if you have the staples, it's cheaper just putting them in the bread machine with the timer and having fresh, amazing bread in the morning/when you come home from work. (And the possibilities are endless!) I think the taste and cost effectiveness of homemade products like bread and pizza are worth the extra time it takes to make them. And, if it is something that is important to you, then you will make time to do it. People work too much anyway.
nyxmoxie nyxmoxie 7 years
I would never make the basic staples myself like bread, cheese, yogurt, etc. I just don't have time for that. If other people do then I'm happy for them. I don't really care for cooking. I think its boring. I only cook at home to save money. I agree with others here, that by the time you make your own pizza and whatnot, it adds up and you would have been better off buying it.
Ladytron7000 Ladytron7000 7 years
We have concord grapes and heirloom tomatoes, so we make jelly and salsa. Yum. Making fresh bread in a breadmaker is way cheaper than $3.25 bread at the store. Plus, it doesn't have all those preservatives than keep store bread mold-free for a month. That's not right. I also bake chips from big packages of tortillas, for my butt and my wallet.
courtneyd courtneyd 8 years
Pizza is much cheaper when I make my own - but I make both the dough and the sauce from scratch. I usually make big batches of both, and portion out the dough and the sauce and cheese to freeze. So during the week, I just need to sit out the ingredients in the morning to defrost and I can use toppings I have or stop by the store in the evening. It usually takes about 20 minutes to stretch the dough, put the pizza together and cook it. Quicker than Papa John's, much tastier and cheaper.
Liss1 Liss1 8 years
I think sometimes it is cheaper to buy, like Skigirl mentioned pizza, i love making homemade pizza but by the time i buy the dough, sauce, cheese and toppings i could have had one delivered for cheaper.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
OMG, my husband is such a pain in the butt about this kind of stuff. We make our own bread a lot because it just tastes better than the store bought kind and yeah, it does cost more to make it than to buy it. He also thought briefly about brewing our own beer, but he decided against that because it would cost a LOT to buy all the stuff for it, plus unless you know exactly what you're doing, it doesn't always turn out as well as you'd like it to. I do make my own jam in the summer when we get boatloads of raspberries from my dad and my father-in-law. I also make my own salsa from the jalapenos and tomatoes we always get in the late summer as well. I probably wouldn't do it if I had to actually buy all the produce to make it.
itsme3683 itsme3683 8 years
I would make rather than buy if I had all the time in the world, but I value the time I would spend making my bagels at a higher rate than I value the marginal savings of producing something at home. But then, there are things I like to make just for fun, like cookies!
smashedpotatoe13 smashedpotatoe13 8 years
we do this in my nutrition classes. its always cheaper to make rather than buy.
bean1007 bean1007 8 years
Before I moved, we had blackberry bushes in the back yard - they produced several hundred gallons of berries in a season. It was much cheaper to make my own jams and jellies. They were much better than store-bought as well. In general, I prefer to make my own. The taste and quality is much better.
TidalWave TidalWave 8 years
im going to make my own yogurt!
bluebellknoll bluebellknoll 8 years
Nope, not for cost-cutting measures but just for the fun of it! I have been on a new recipes kick lately. :)
wmoonw wmoonw 8 years
Oh, wow! Making homemade bagels sounds fantastic! Still, for most of these things, I think that the cost savings wouldn't be worth the time put in (especially when the savings are measured in pennies). I wouldn't do it as a money thing, but I would definitely do it as a quality thing.
skigurl skigurl 8 years
i think, in a lot of cases, it's just cheaper to buy it ie: you think by not ordering pizza and making it at home you're saving money but by the time you buy all the ingredients, it costs nearly the same; same with making fajitas and stuff like that....she is making like actual items though, not "meals" and i'm not sure i have the patience or expertise to do that...finally, time cost should be figured in...if you stay at home all day and have nothing better to do than make food, then great, but when am i going to find the time to make bagels?
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