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Coupon Abbreviations
  • SC = Store Coupon
  • MC = Manufacturer Coupon
  • SS = Smart Source
  • RMN = Retail Me Not
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble
Coupon Terms
  • WYB = When You Buy
  • B1G1 = Buy One Get One Free
  • .75/1 = 75 cents off one item
  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

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Do you buy convenience items to save time? To save money? Or just because you never learned to cook from scratch? The real question is, does it really make a difference in your budget? By couponing, you can can often find killer deals on pricy convenience items, but would you still be better off making them yourself? Today we’ll be comparing homemade and store bought prices when it comes to cooking. As with homemade household cleaners, you’re the only one who can decide which is better for your family based on the following considerations:

  • Honestly evaluate whether or not you have the time to cook from scratch. It doesn’t take as much time as you might think, but it does take more planning. How much time can you afford to spend cooking? Are there ways to save time (i.e. cooking ahead, once a month cooking, etc.)?
  • Evaluate the “hidden costs” of convenience items, for example preservatives and additives that should be avoided for health reasons.
  • Evaluate the time you spend deal hunting. Could you have just as easily made the item from scratch in that amount of time?
  • As always, if you can get an item free, the comparison is easy! Take advantage of those freebies, even if you just end up giving them away to someone else who needs them.

This was originally posted back in 2010 (yes we’ve been around that long), and I’ve dusted it off, updated prices and recipes.  

Comparing Homemade and Store Bought Prices: Cooking

Deli pre-made tea: $1 per gallon
Homemade: 24¢ per gallon

Lipton Family Tea Bags, 24 ct., $1.45
Makes 6 gallons

Considerations: You can add sugar to taste; no high fructose corn syrup; no preservatives; you can add your own flavors like lemon or mint; it definitely tastes better!

Store-bought bread: $1-2 per 20 oz loaf
Homemade: $3.27 for 8 loaves, 41¢ per loaf

(Recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day)
6 cups water
3 tbs./3 packets granulated yeast ($1.79 for 3 packets, cheaper if purchased in bulk)
3 tbs. kosher or other coarse salt (5¢)
13 c. all purpose white flour ($1.43 at 44¢/lb.)
Yields 8 one pound loaves

Considerations: No high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, or soy products; great flavor and smell, very easy (you make the dough ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake); you might need to buy a few kitchen tools (baking stone, container for the dough, etc.) but they are a good investment and you’ll definitely make back what you spent

Idahoan Mashed Potatoes, 4-4.1 oz., 67¢
Homemade: $1.66-$1.94, 27¢ -32¢ per serving

5 lbs. Russet Potatoes, $1.70 at 34¢/lb.
1 cup milk, 16¢ (based on $2.50/gallon)
1/4 cup butter or margarine, FREE-28¢
Makes mashed potatoes for 6

Considerations: Taste is unsurpassed; it’s much healthier (just do a little research); I have never seen one of those little packages yield enough for more than one person; they aren’t as filling as homemade potatoes

Ragu Pasta Sauce, 26-26.3 oz., 28¢
Homemade: $8.50, $1.70 per 24 oz. container

3 cans crushed tomatoes, $3
1 can diced tomato, 50¢
1 can tomato paste, 50¢
1 lb. ground beef, $2.50
Spices — less than $1
Onion and garlic — $1
Yields approximately five 24 oz. containers

Considerations: No preservatives; can use fresh ingredients from a garden to bring down the price; can leave out meat; you can freeze or can your own

Nabisco Chips Ahoy! Cookies, 9.5 to 15.25 oz. pk., 89¢
Homemade: $3.89-$5.01, 8¢-10¢ per cookie

(Recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook)
3/4 c. sugar, 21¢
3/4 c. brown sugar, 36¢
1 c. butter or margarine, softened, $1.12 for butter and margarine is free-$0.50 with coupons)
1 tsp. vanilla, 25¢
1 large egg, 8¢
2 1/4 c. flour, 25¢
1 tsp. baking soda, less than 1¢
1/2 tsp. salt, less than 1¢
1 bag (12 oz. or 2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips, $2
Makes about 4 dozen

Considerations: No preservatives or additives; you can’t beat the taste and smell of a warm homemade cookie!

Lawry’s 30 Minute Marinade, 12 oz., 44¢
Homemade: $4.31, $1.61 for a 12 oz. serving

(Recipe: Chicken Marinade)
1 1/2 cups vegetable or olive oil, 99¢
3/4 cup soy sauce, $1.20
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce, free-$1.50
1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 68¢
1/3 cup lemon juice, 24¢
2 tablespoons dry mustard, $1
1 teaspoon salt, less than 1¢
1 tablespoon black pepper, less than 1¢
1 1/2 teaspoons finely minced fresh parsley, 20¢
Yields 4 cups of marinade

Considerations: No preservatives or additives; made with pantry staples

In the end, most from-scratch meals and meal components are healthier, and you can save on the ingredients by working common cooking items into your stockpiling deals.  Stay stocked on these regularly called for items just as others would stay stocked on the convenience versions and you’ll have low-cost meals.

What are your favorite made from scratch recipes and how do they save you money? What convenience items do you feel you can’t do without? Share your favorite made from scratch tips and tricks in the comments.

Comparing Homemade and Store Bought Prices: Cooking