It’s no secret by now that I’m a big advocate for all things natural (or at least as much as possible), including real food made with real ingredients. A long time ago, that was the norm for everyone. It was all anyone ever knew. Now, thanks to our current food system, we have been programmed to automatically reach for convenient prepackaged foods, and I don’t just mean frozen chicken nuggets. It’s something we’ve come to know and expect. However, as more and more information comes out, we are seeing that highly processed foods have ingredients that are better left out of our bodies. Deciding to make the switch to real food can often be intimidating.
Where to start? What to buy? I have to buy all those ingredients just to make this one thing? What brands are ok to use? Is this really going to work? Is it going to taste good?
I get it. My real food journey has been going on for several years and I’m still on it. Still learning new ways to cut out different processed stuff, still finding what works for us and what hasn’t so far. It’s not always easy but I truly believe it is worth it. I also believe baby steps are best because it does take time to figure out if these items are able to fit into your life. Just because they fit into someone else’s doesn’t always mean they’re right for you too. Would it benefit to replace a processed item with a homemade version? Most likely yes…unless it’s causing a ton of extra stress. Maybe, for you, it’d be worth a little research instead to see if there’s just a better store-bought version than what you’re currently using. Baby step improvements are still improvements. So take the journey slow, and decide what works for you.
In the meantime, here are 4 staple items you can make at home using things you not only already have in your kitchen, but often even throw away.
1. Breadcrumbs – This is probably a staple in most pantries. It has been in ours. We used to use one of the popular brands, typically the Italian Seasoning flavored one. However, sadly, the ingredients list was much longer than just “bread and Italian seasoning”. It included ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, and several other things that I have no idea what they even are. After a quick search, I saw how easily you can make your own.
By using bread you would normally throw away, (think of the end pieces/heels of a loaf, any pieces that have started to go stale on their own, clean crusts from sandwiches), you are not only minimizing your waste but also saving money by providing yourself with something you were likely to buy. It’s easy peasy…and basically free! You can easily flavor the batch or do it per use with things like sea salt and black pepper, Italian seasoning, fresh herbs, freshly grated parmesan cheese, etc. *Lisa Leake advises in her post above using a food processor or hand grater…I recommend the food processor, as hand grating can get pretty messy with this, at least in my experience.
Obviously the better quality your bread is, the healthier your breadcrumbs will be. Even better if you make your own bread and use pieces of that!
2. Stocks – Homemade stocks (and broths) are so nutritious! Most store bought stocks have questionable ingredients, including caramel color, MSG, and “natural flavors” (which, by the way, are anything but natural). Making your own is easy to do, and you’re using things that you’d normally throw away. Chicken bones, carcass, and gizzards can all be used for chicken stock; beef bones for beef stock; vegetable scraps like chopped off tips/ends and cores from spiralizing for vegetable stock. You CAN purchase separate chicken or beef bones for stock from local farmers or butchers, but you can also use bones you already have as well and when it comes down to it, I’m all for saving money. Toss in some chopped veggies and herbs for some extra flavor, and save any parts you chop off of those to later make the vegetable stock. Stocks can be made on the stove top, in the slow cooker, or in a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot. Once made, I strain mine into mason jars and store in the freezer. Having premade stocks ready to use has been such a help in avoiding the boxed stuff and saving money. Here are some sites with some guidance for different stocks: Chicken stock; Chicken stock. Beef broth; Beef broth. Vegetable stock; Vegetable stock.
3. Butter – Have you ever purchased a container of heavy cream for a recipe because you needed maybe a 1/4 cup, then had no idea what to do with the rest of it? Was it left in the fridge to go bad? Next time, make some butter! You’ll actually get 2 products out of this, butter and buttermilk (which you can freeze in ice cube trays for later use). This is a great start to making your own butter because you’re not having to buy a separate container of the heavy cream. So give it a try with your leftover cream. Here’s how to do it.
4. Spice blends – While this one isn’t really saving waste to make a product, it’s using things you have to avoid a processed product. Premade spice blends can be pretty convenient, but many times, they have additional salt added, or even MSG and “natural flavors”, aka stuff we don’t need! Here, here, and here are a few sites with recipes to make your own. *Grab a pretty little jar and a ribbon to go with it and these can also make cute hostess gifts!
Any time you can cut out a processed item in your home AND save money at the same time is an amazing thing for both your health and your wallet.
In good health,