8. Work on replacing foods each month that I buy as a “convenience food”.
This has been a fun one to do. I am always up for the challenge of making new foods. If I can cut down our grocery bill by doing it and the benefits of knowing it is GOOD for my family not full of chemicals—then all the better.
How I did this was I started taking note of things that we buy A LOT of. Things that were in little packages. Those little things that added up on my grocery bill. Some of the first things that I noticed we bought much of and I KNEW it wasn’t very good for my family were:
Chicken bouillon—this was my “go-to” spice. Whenever I needed to spice up my macaroni and cheese, I would add chicken bouillon. If I needed to flavor my soups more, I would add chicken bouillon. Mashed potatoes, pasta, just about everything tasted better with chicken bouillon. I had to find an alternative. Which I did.
This recipe is made with nutritional flakes. I was concerned that maybe I would spend more for the “homemade” version verses the store bought kind, but the cost is similar. And guess what?? I have STOPPED flavoring everything with chicken bouillon. That Parmesan cheese container full will last me a few months. Where if it was filled with sodium-rich, preservative filled chicken bouillon, I would have used it up within 2 weeks!!
Taco seasoning—-this was another item that we would buy much of each month. We could easily purchase 6-8 packets per month. If you look at the ingredients listed on the package–it is an easy fix to make it yourself MINUS all the preservatives and “extras.”
This version is “hot.” That benefits me because we usually make taco’s for dinner. In our family we could easily go through 4-5lbs of hamburger if everyone is having one. To cut down, I decided to pull out my homemade refried beans and offer burritos for some of the children as well. The taco seasoning is “hotter” tasting so my little ones prefer the refried beans.
You can scale back on the cayenne pepper if too spicy. If you mess up and it is too spicy, just add some more of the ingredients to your mix and it will make it not so spicy. Click here for our version of taco seasoning.
Ranch mix—this was one of those items that we would buy each month and I did not like spending the extra $5 just to flavor those few extra dishes. We use ranch mix in spinach dip, to mix with sour cream to make a veggie dip, or added to mashed potatoes to perk up the flavor. That is about all we use it for. I make a large 4 cup container and it has lasted us 2-3 months. Click here for our version.
Okay, now that I was on a roll making these items, I kept going. I started looking at my pantry shelves and seeing what it was I could make instead of buy.
Here was my “full pantry.” This was after shopping for the month and having some items stored up. I liked the satisfaction of having my shelves full of food. Made me feel good. Then I realized this was all canned, preservative filled, and some–convenience food. What was I thinking?
I started with my cream soups. I like to buy a half of a box of soups per month to help mix into my recipes like Salisbury steak, burrito casserole, and tater tot casserole. This was something I definitely wanted to replace because whatever was in that can, cannot be as good as homemade. I started searching, most recipes that I found were ones that you have to mix it up right then. I still wanted the convenience of a can but with the knowledge that it was “homemade and perservative free.”
Our version is a dry powder mix and I store it in my freezer in a plastic container. Whenever I need my cream soups, I mix up a little. Click here for cream soup recipe.
I only make cream of mushroom soup and cream of chicken soup. For the chicken I would add 1 Tablespoon of chicken bouillon. For the mushroom one, I have frozen diced mushrooms that I use. I used an ice cube tray, froze them, and popped them into a plastic baggie. Whenever I need to make cream of mushroom soup, I pull out the cube from my plastic bag in the freezer and add it to my liquid.
Bacon bits– This was another downfall that my children, and I love. We really like to sprinkle it on eggs for a quick perk. We also love making pizza’s on pita bread for lunches and this with some tomatoes and Parmesan cheese is really good. But bagged bacon, how can that be good?
For 1, we don’t usually buy pork products as I know they are not good for you. For 2, the price is ridiculous just for the convenience. So, why did we buy it? I don’t know, but I had to stop. Buying 5-8 bags per month, is wasteful. I decided to make my own. I don’t usually make bacon, because it takes awhile to make, plus the mess involved.
What I did, was I bought my turkey bacon and made ALL of it, in one day. I cooked my strips and put them in plastic bags to freeze for BLT sandwiches another day. The rest of the bacon, I put in the food processor and then put in containers. Now, I have homemade bacon bits. These work great in the freezer, because of the grease, they easily break apart. You can pull out what you need and put the rest back in for later.
Baking powder– I stopped buying deodorant that had aluminum in it, but I was still using baking powder for ALL of my baking and guess what? It has aluminum in it. You can easily make your own version without it. Click here for recipe.
If I look at my pantry and look for those “packaged staple items,” we don’t have much more. The only other items that we buy packaged would be:
- cake mix
- ice cream cones
- graham crackers
These items would only be bought for special occasions and parties. Not a staple item, more of an easy treat.
Now that we have eliminated our dry mixes, keep watching for how we keep purging from our convenience food mentality. part 6