Monday, September 2, 2013

The Benefits of Doing It Yourself

A few weekends ago, my aunt came down to teach me and my cousins how to can.  We've all expressed an interest in making our own pantry staples.  Earlier this year, I wrote a little about my choice to make my own food versus buying it prepared in the store or at a restaurant.  But after last week's canning tutorial, I have a renewed passion to make most of my own stuff.

First of all, it's incredibly easy to do.  And it's so much better for you.  I spent the rest of my week on Pintrest, researching canning recipes and making a list of of everything I wanted to make and can.    I took it one step further and listed every grocery store item that I wanted to learn to make myself.  I'll admit, my list got a little out of control.

I decided to bring myself back to earth a little bit, by researching the benefits and disadvantages to making your own food staples.  I don't know how many of you out there are interested in this, but I thought it would be a good idea to check it out.

There has been a movement in recent years to start making your own insert food item here.  From pantry staples, to breads and grains, to extracts.... you name it, most people I know are starting to make their own.  I know this isn't a new thing.  I mean, past generations used to do these things out of necessity.  But with more and more chemicals being added to preserve the foods we eat, I think many of my peer group (me included) are shying away from buying pre-made things in the store, and moving toward making their own.

So should you make your own, or just buy it?  Here are the arguments:

-- Make --

It's healthier-- You control what's going into your food, and you can edit recipes to cater to any food allergies you or your family may have.

It can be cheaper-- Depending on what you're making, it can be cost effective to make you own food.  Canning fruits and vegetables only requires veggies, salt and water.... and the cans of course, but once you buy them you're only replacing the lids once a year.

It's fun-- This is especially true if you have a group of family or friends to do it with.  You can chat, swap recipes and help each other with the work load.

It tastes better--  Enough said right?


It's convenient--  Let's face it, sometimes making your own stuff is time consuming and you just don't want to.  That's when buying it can come in handy.  You can go to the store, and just grab food that's pre-made for your busy schedule!

It can be cheaper-- When it comes to some sauces and more complicated ingredients, it can be cheaper to buy them rather than make them.

It can be just as healthy-- Again, depending on what you buy.  The benefits of buying could be better than the benefits of make.  Take butter for example, honestly who wants to churn butter these days?  Buy that shit!

The whole make vs. buy debate has been going on for years.  I found an excerpt from one of my new favorite cookbooks that kind of emulates this ongoing debate:
"Until recently, I never considered making my own peanut butter.  Skippy was good enough for me.  
Until recently, I never considered buying a frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I hadn't even known such a thing existed.  I first read about it Smucker's popular frozen peanut butter sandwich-- the Uncrustable-- in a New York Times Magazine article by (of course) Michael Pollan.  He wrote, "People think nothing of buying frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for their children's lunch boxes."  I thought, People probably once said that about peanut butter.  And bread.  And jelly.  They almost certainly said it about waffles, and pie crust, and pudding.  Not so long ago, people must have wondered who could fry her own donuts, grind her own sausage, cure her own bacon.  Kill her own bacon!  The more I thought about it, the more arbitrary it seemed to draw a line in the sand at the frozen PB&J. 
                                                                   -- Jennifer Reese, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter
I love this!  I found it in my new favorite recipe book:

I found it while googling "reasons to make your food at home."  Give me a break, I was having a hard time coming up with arguments not to make your own food!  

I love how this book gives you cost comparisons when it comes to making versus buying the food that you eat.  Then, there are some awesome recipes that I can't wait to try!

Another favorite new book I found in the "hippie store" in Eugene, Oregon... which one, right? 

This book is also chock-full of some great homemade alternatives to store bought favorites like: fish sticks, pop tarts and fruit roll ups!

I love how the author of this book gives you a personal story with every recipe.  I think it just helps make the argument for making your own food.

I guess I was a bit biased while writing this post.  I will tell you this, every time we take the easy route and buy our staples, instead of taking the extra minutes to make them, I can taste the difference.  And I wind up enjoying my food less, which is quite the bummer.  So stop complaining already, and make your own food!

Do you make your own staples?  Why or why not?  What are some of your arguments for or against?  Leave your opinions in the comment section below, I'd love to hear your thoughts!


  1. I started really learning how to cook when I got married, and then with the explosion of Pinterest I was floored to learn of all the things I could make at home. I hadn't even realized! I made homemade pizza crust, homemade pop-tarts, homemade pasta sauce, you name it. It's even more important to me now that I'm stricter about what I eat and it's extremely important, for specific health reasons like PCOS, NOT to eat any food with chemicals in it that I can't pronounce or that truly don't belong there. I grind my own almond butter, make my own hummus, and try to mostly eat whole foods anyway that can only be purchased either fresh or fresh-frozen. I think one of the biggest things about making your own pantry staples at home is the sense of accomplishment and independence that it gives you. I canned 9 pints of apple butter last month and I felt like a pioneer woman! It's empowering and I think it helps us cultivate a healthier and closer relationship with our food when we're active in more steps in the process of preparing and eating. Even better if we picked it ourselves, too! I'll leave the pig slaughtering to someone else, though, thank you.

    1. It's amazing how much better I feel when I eat food that's fresh and/or homemade. Plus, you're right Sharayah, I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I make my own ingredients. We made our own beer-battered fish and chips last night, batter and all, and even though it's a traditionally greasy dish, I didn't feel disgusting after eating it. Every time I attempt to make my own food, I get yet another reason why it's better for me.


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