tomato soup

photo by house of sims

Frugal people cook from scratch frequently. But there are some recipes they're not willing to make themselves regularly. If you have time constraints or don't have health restrictions, then there's increased value placed on ready-made and convenience foods. Homemade isn't always cheaper, but it's a surefire way to control ingredients, so it can be healthier. Take into consideration the number of people in your household, whether you have a well-stocked pantry and your cooking skills when making your cost-calculation comparisons.
What convenience products do you buy even when on a tight budget?
Here are a few common ready-made products that are the hardest to let go. But keep in mind that their homemade counterparts can be found on my forums (www.frugalvillage.com/forums) if you're looking to make some changes.

SPAGHETTI SAUCE: You can make it with canned and/or fresh vegetables, but it can be hard to beat jar sauce when it's on sale. It doesn't taste as good as homemade, but when you're faced with a busy schedule, jar sauce is a pantry staple in many frugal kitchens.

SEASONING PACKETS: These are relatively cheap and make cooking dishes such as chili, stew, tacos, sauces and gravy or fajitas a quick and easy task.

CAKE AND BROWNIE MIX: Box mixes are one of the top convenience foods that frugal people still buy. Often, they haven't found a cake or brownie recipe they prefer. There are coupons available so often that not many people want to pay more money and spend more time making homemade. And most people without a baking background opt for ready-made frosting tubs, too.

TOMATO SOUP: Homemade soups such as chicken noodle or vegetable and even cream soups are preferred over canned, but making a good tomato soup at home can be a challenge. Rather than experiment with multiple recipes and inevitably comparing it to canned, it's simpler to just buy the canned tomato soup and be done with it.

MACARONI AND CHEESE: Homemade macaroni and cheese and boxed are worlds apart in taste, yet the price and convenience of boxed makes it tough to refuse. Homemade macaroni and cheese is a favorite comfort food, but boxed continues to get prime shelf space in frugal kitchens. This is especially true in households with kids.

SALAD DRESSING: Homemade dressing is easy to mix up yourself, but when you're used to prepared salad dressings, it can be hard to replace it with homemade without resistance from family members. But when spending time on making a quality salad, homemade dressing is the only way to go.

RICE AND NOODLE MIXES: It's hard to believe that flavored pouches and boxes can be preferred over homemade considering taste and cost. Often, it's the portion size and variety that makes this the winner.

CHICKEN NUGGETS: Fast food and frozen nuggets are far less work. They're not nearly as tasty as homemade, but we're conditioned to love those little premade hockey pucks.

TORTILLAS: Tortilla presses have made the task of making tortillas much easier, but most people, frugal or not, will still pick up a bag of premade tortillas. They're cheap and easy.

STUFFING AND BREADCRUMBS: Preseasoned packaged cubes and crumbs are quicker to make and bake. Homemade is a great way to use leftover bread, but many people don't want to bother with the time and effort it takes.