Is it really cheaper from scratch?
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  1. #1
    Registered User rhiana's Avatar
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    Question Is it really cheaper from scratch?

    Shell's great earlier post about eliminating convience foods made me want to post about something I've been thinking about for a while. Is it always cheaper to cook from scratch? I don't think so. I think we should weigh our options before doing so.
    For instance, I purchased enough cheese, noodles, sauce and meat to make a lasgna, thinking it would be cheaper and healthy. However, it cost me over $35 dollars to make this one lasgna for my household of 5 adults. If I had purchased a family size frozen one it would have cost me $8-10. Also, this summer I purchased farmers market tomatos at about 1/4 of the cost as they are in the store. However, when I tried to cook these down to make my own sauce it cost me $6 to make one Jar of Sauce that would have cost me .99 cents on sale in the store (Ragu).
    Other things I have found that cost much more in ingredients than in the store,

    Bread, (one packet of yeast alone costs more than a loaf of thrift bakery bread)
    Potpies (Even using canned vegies it costs more for me to make one of these than buy them at .25 cents on sale)
    Ice Cream (costs me WAY more to make than buy on sale)
    Cookies (package of chocolate chips alone is twice as much as a package of dollar store chocolate chip cookies)
    Pizza (Frozen pizza bought at $1 on sale with coupon is cheaper than even the cheese to make one, let alone other ingredients)

    And much more.
    I'm even buying all of my ingredients on sale but I still can't seem to make some things cheaper than I can buy them on loss leader sales. However, I agree that some convience foods are a waste of money such as the noodle roni and rice a roni box things, frozen dinners (too small of portions for adults) and fast food.

    What about you guys. Are there some things that are just cheaper for you to buy the convience items than the ingredients?

    Rhi

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    I agree with you in a couple of areas. Lasagna does cost money to make in the long run, but its far better for our family when I make it because I triple the recipe and freeze a couple and I know what is in the lasagna.

    Yeast I purchase in 2 lb. cans at the health food store and I grind my own grain which I get at 20% off because I purchase the grain in 50 lb. bags.

    I grow all my own tomatoes but if I had to purchase them, yes it would cost more money than I could pick up at a grocery store.

    Chocolate chips - I purchase in a large bag and make a large amount of cookies in one batch. If you were to count the cookies in a bag as per the ones you make, it is cheaper to make your own in large batches and freeze!!

    Pizza - I don't like the taste of frozen pizza and if we had to purchase it, it would cost us at least $25 for 2 pizzas. I can make my own for about $5.00 for 2.


    I think in the long run though, if you were to really figure out the costs, you'd find that baking from scratch is cheaper. If you watch sales especially. You usually make much larger quantities than if you were to purchase them at the store.

  3. #3
    Registered User Shell's Avatar
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    I agree a lot of times I can pick up an lasgna on sale cheaper then making it. I prefer homemade. You have to keep your eyes open that's for sure. The more you study prices and check your price book I think the better you get at knowing if something is a good deal. Also, don't forget to use your leftovers to make another meal that really helps to keep you grocery bill down.

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    Registered User aylasmommy's Avatar
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    I agree rhiana...I usually do a combo of convenience and scratch..or sometimes just conveinience only

    I can't grow a garden here and with double coupons at the grocery store I can get a lot of really cheap things like pasta sauce, canned fruits/veggies, etc..

    The main thing I'm trying to look at now, is what is the healthiest...Even though I can get free ready to bake cookies at the market with coupons, they have about 6 grams of fat and they are very small..if I make my own cookies I can cut that fat at least in half and the cookie would be a lot larger as well...(granted i still give the fat laden stuff to dh since he rarely eats he needs it pretty much)

    I think lasagna for myself I might be able to do cheaper than store bought...plus the stores don't make the kind I like. It costs me about 1$ for the noodles, cottage cheese would be about .99, mozzerella bought in bulk would only cost about .50, then the sauce would be minimal about .20(this would be canned though), and for veggies I would use spinach and zuchhini(about 1$ total or less) and whatever else is a loss leader that week (tomato's etc.)

    I think it's a great point..for some people scratch won't always neccessarily be cheaper, or sometimes using some canned things and the rest from scratch(is that an oxy moron? lol) is a better comprimise for others...I still haven't been able to make a *good loaf of bread on my own, however with coupons i can get 3 loaves of ready to bake white bread for 1$ (dh ONLY eats white)so it's not so bad..even though I would LOVE to make my own for the health benefits alone...

    I know things like making my own polenta saves me a ton when I buy it in bulk...same with just buying oatmeal in bulk is cheaper than buying the instant packets(although i got lucky and got a lot free this winter in the express cups)

    It's all a careful balance for me..figuring out what I can get cheaper in the store or make on my own, or combining the two.

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    This is a great question and thread!!! Thanks for bringing it up! Boxed Mac and Cheese is a lot cheaper for our family than making it from scratch. So are huge boxes of corndogs when I combine a sale with a store coupon (my kids love these). We also stock up on Ramen noodles for lunches and find it is cheaper for us to do this than buying the noodles and then flavoring them ourselves. Canned pineapple on sale is way cheaper than fresh. I find that for us, living in the land of no double or triple coupons, there are still some things I can buy cheaper combining sales and coupons than I can by making it from scratch. However, I still make most things from scratch for health reasons.


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    Registered User scrappycat's Avatar
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    I agree with everything said so far. I make almost everything from scratch, except I will use a jar of pasta sauce in a recipe if I need to. I think the difference is that I do all of my grocery shopping with the idea that I will be making from scratch. So, in my pantry right now are most of the ingredients that I need except for the fresh produce or something specific. If I decided to make lasagna and had to go out an buy every thing I needed it would be exprensive. But right now, I have the cheese because I bought a big bag of it and have it frozen in smaller units. I have the lasagna noodles from last month when they were buy one get one free. I also have a jar of spaghetti sauce from another buy one get one free. And if I wanted to make my own sauce, I have plenty of canned tomatoes from when they were sale. I also have spinach in the freezer. So, really the only thing I would have to buy would be cottage cheese. So, for me to make lasagna right now it would cost me an additional .90 cents.

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    One thing that I think makes a difference that no one else mentioned is the number of people you are feeding. I think the big bulk buying is great if you have 4 or more people to feed. But for just me and DH it might take us 6-9 months to use a 5 lb bag of flour. It is just as cheap for me to use a rice mix for .75 and get 2 meals out of it as to keep all of the necessary ingredients on hand to make the same thing. So, I think it is usually cheaper just not always.

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    Registered User mandimade's Avatar
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    Sorry to bring this one up from the dead here. Has anyone tried making ricotta Cheese? I found some really good recipes online. Looks like all you need is a gallon of milk, lemon juice, and vinegar.

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    Registered User elphie's Avatar
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    For us cooking from scratch is cheaper, hands down. I often say I don't buy food, I buy ingredients. The main reason I like it is because nearly everything I buy can work in several recipes so I am never limited in my options.

    That being said I know lots of people on this board who keep their food costs low with coupons and that means buying more convience foods. We don't have any stores in our area who double coupons and my son has some food allergies so that isn't really an option for us. I think the most important thing is that you find what works for you, frugality is not a once size fits all endeavor.

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    Registered User britbunny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by elphie View Post
    For us cooking from scratch is cheaper, hands down. I often say I don't buy food, I buy ingredients. The main reason I like it is because nearly everything I buy can work in several recipes so I am never limited in my options.
    I agree with this, the initail outlay for some ingredients is alot but it opens up more options for different meals in the future.

    Sometimes the convenience option is cheaper but it doesn't necessarily mean it's better value for money. When I cook from scratch I know exactly what's going into my meal, I've seen the produce in its natural state and know the quality of it. There's no extra preservatives or fillers or any other hidden nasties - just the ingredients needed for the recipe. Things that I don't make from scratch are usually down to the fuss of making it rather than the cost these days.

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    First of all $35! Holy cow here for a pack of lasag. noodles I would spend about $2, sauce $1, lb of burger $2, and cheeses $5. Still adds up to $10 but probably healthier. Convenience wise I do stock up on mac 'n cheese which the kids get on our date night out, and I have a box in the freezer that has convenience/quick foods for dh's lunch. This is really handy on days when I don't have dinner leftovers for him, or he is in a rush to catch his bus (comes at 5:00 am) so I am by no means anti-prepackaged! $35 just seemed really high and if you get your yeast in bulk I get a brick for $3 and even after making bread every single day one brick will last between 4-6 months (just store it in a bag in the freezer) but then you live in Cali. and I know shopping is more expensive.

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    I find I have to take into consideration the quality of the food as well as personal preference as well like anything else.

    Can I buy a frozen lasagna? Sure but it's possible it's been made with tomatoes from Argentina, cheese from China and noodles from who knows where. It's loaded with sodium and unpronounceable other perservatives/ chemicals.

    I can make it at home and know what is in it.

    We garden and thus can, freeze and dehydrate our own organically grown produce. 5 tomato seeds planted in April, will grow enough tomatoes to see me thru the summer and fall with fresh tomatoes and will fill my cabinets and freezer with more than enough for the rest of the year. Those 5 tomato seeds are certainly way cheaper than buying sauce in store. But not everyone can/ want to garden.

    That frozen pizza that cost $1 on sale, tastes like cardboard to us when cooked and is also loaded with sodium and preservatives. If I'm going to eat pizza I personally want it to taste good, so that leaves us with the option of making it or getting it from the boutique pizzaria which costs $8 for a individual sized pizza. Yes, I can make it at home cheaper.

    Yes, some conventional stuff in the grocery store is cheaper to just buy, but in our house we just don't eat some of that stuff. It's not bad that other families do, but to flat out compare them across the board is not a equal as one would have to consider quality and individual tastes as well.

    For us, it's way cheaper to buy yeast, flour and what not and make our own bread as we won't eat most normal store bought bread because most of them have high fructous syrup in them. If one makes sourdough bread, no need for yeast then either, just keep your starter alive by feeding it flour and water.

    Does all this take more time? Absoultely, it is "easier" to buy bread in store, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily best for every family.

    I can get Totino's pizza rolls for free at the grocery store using a coupon and buying them on sale, but we just don't eat that type of processed food, so even if it's free, it's not consumable to us.

    All of this will vary in each household, what choices you make with food, can totally make a big difference. If the OP likes frozen store bought pizza then go for it!
    You say that Rice -A -Roni is more expensive that making it yourself, where as I bought 40 boxes last year for free (after sale, coupon and catalina coupon issued), so I personally have that in house. All of this is going to vary in each household, your personal food choices and your local sales will vary a lot.

    At least everyone is paying attention to what you enjoy and how that can fit into your budget and best serve your family.

  13. #13
    Registered User Cricketlegs's Avatar
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    Oldie but a goodie huh?

    As for that lasagna --wow I don't understand why it would cost so much today let alone 2003...?

    One thing no one mentioned is the important benefit of knowing what is IN your food.

    Prepackaged food is just crud. I have a diabetic, high blood pressure,dh. Too much prepackaged as well as just the wrongs kinds of foods(which tend to be cheaper high carb foods) can send us straight to the ER.

    True, a package of frozen fries onsale will often be cheaper than a 10 lb bag of potatoes BUT a bag of fries feeds you fries for 5 days but a bag of potatoes will get you easily 7-10 assorted meals/sides from mashed, fries,potato soup,hash browns, goes in veggie soup,cassaroles,augratin etc and potatoes have one ingredient I know of...potatoes.

    This is my take on it. Cheaper isn't always better.
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    Registered User lanford66's Avatar
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    I do a little of both since we are sometimes running w/sports and I don't want to spend $$ eating out so I do have some convenience foods, but in general I try to make everything from scratch. I know I can make a lasagna from scratch for under $8-10. I've attached the recipe I use and borrowed from the family homestead. She has lots of healthy recipes and most are homemade. U can do this one very inexpensively and healthy, just "tweek" it to meet your needs. I usually use the low-fat cottage cheese and NO ONE every notices the difference.

    http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/he...icklasagna.htm

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    Registered User The Muse's Avatar
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    Some things are less expensive from scratch and some things aren't. Like with most things, you can't make a blanket statement. In gerneral though, I do think it's less expensive to cook from scratch.

    I cook from scratch to save money, but also because I don't like the idea of processed food and HFCS.

    Sure you can buy a potpie for $.25, but the chicken in those comes from spent layer hens, which are generally sold only for pet food and the lowest quality processed foods because the quality is too poor to sell on its own. So yeah, it's less expensive, but do you REALLY want to eat that? *shudder*

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