Whether or not we realize it, our most conscious choices are made in the kitchen. In today’s culture of convenience, food is regarded as something you can easily obtain or throw away without consequence and homemade products are seen as either a luxury or a hassle. And let’s be honest, even if we live consciously it can be difficult not to succumb to the lure of cheap, plastic-wrapped, forever-fresh foods in the local grocery store every now and again.
However out of reach it may seem, making pantry staples from scratch isn’t impossible or even requires much skill in the kitchen—the key to making delicious and preservative-free food from scratch is simply in being consistent.
So, to help you kick your grocery store habit, here are 8 surprisingly simple food and drink products you can make at home.
1. Nut Milk
If you’re new to making recipes from scratch, homemade nut milk is a fun and easy way to start. Requiring less than 5 ingredients (nuts, water, salt and a natural sweetener like honey) making your own nut milk is not only gratifying but delicious. Since it’s fresh and without preservatives, it will expire quickly, so be sure to drink it within two weeks. Try this recipe for Hazelnut Milk from Pure Green Magazine.
2. Nut Butters
The most expensive item of the bunch, nut butters like almond, peanut, hazelnut or cashews can be whipped up in a matter of minutes with only a food processor. Check out the Minimalist Baker’s recipe for a healthy and cheap alternative to the store bought version.
Another grocery item that’s much better when made by hand is hummus. Novice chefs, you have nothing to fear, screwing up homemade hummus is nearly impossible when all you need do is load everything into your food processor and whirl! Try Ina Garten’s tried and true recipe and then get creative by adding your own flavors, spices or different kinds of beans.
4. Salad Dressing
Whipping up your own salad dressing is a wonderful way to incorporate local, seasonal fruits. Whether it’s creamy apple, fresh strawberries or a tart pear dressing, choosing your own ingredient allows you to get even more creativity in the kitchen. To start, give my go-to recipe a shot and drizzle it over a warm and hearty harvest salad.
5. Jams + Jelly
If you’re searching for a way to use up an abundance of fruits from your last market haul, homemade jams and jellies will do the trick. Avoid waste by using recycled glass jars to store your jams and jellies without the nasty preservatives. Amy Chaplin’s Raspberry Chia Seed Jam recipe is a healthy and foolproof place to start.
6. Tortilla Chips
Ah, yes, the guilty pleasure! It’s easy to enjoy the the process of making tortilla chips from scratch as much as you enjoy the end result. Simply slice a corn or flour tortilla into 8 wedges, lay out on a baking sheet and drizzle olive oil and salt on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 7-8 minutes then let cool and enjoy!
Store bought bread is loaded with additives and preservatives and is a much cheaper quality than homemade loaves. Once you’ve become more familiar with scratch recipes, making your own bread won’t seem so intimidating. Find a simple recipe you’re comfortable with — I love Ilona Oppenheim’s Rye Bread from her cookbook, Savor—and keep making it! Before you know it, it will become second nature and you’ll always have a freshly baked loaf of bread on hand.
It’s a wonder we buy bags of granola from the grocery store when the homemade version is way more simple and cost-effective. Go totally plastic-free by buying rolled oats, nuts and dried fruit in bulk (with your reusable container, of course) and make yours from scratch with just an oven, bowl and spoon. Try it at home by making the recipe below!
Vanilla Almond Nut Meal Granola
Adapted from Amy Chaplin’s Perfect Granola Recipe
3 c. rolled oats
1 c. almond nut meal (leftover from the nut milk)
1 c. organic, raw almonds
2 c. dried coconut flakes
1 ½ c. dried fruit (I used a berry mix)
1 ½ tsp. Ground cinnamon
⅓ c. unrefined extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
2-3 tbsp. Local, organic honey
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
In a medium bowl, combine the rolled oats, nut meal, almonds, dried fruit and coconut flakes.
In a small pot, heat the olive oil, salt and cinnamon until warm so that it all emulsifies.
Add the vanilla to the liquid mixture and pour over the dry mix. Stir until combined.
Spread the granola out onto a parchment-lined baking tray and drizzle a little bit more olive oil on top before putting it in the oven.
Bake for 15 minutes then turn the pan around and bake for another 15 minutes.
Drizzle the honey over the granola and toss to combine.