What did you resolve to do this year? Eat healthier? Avoid processed foods? Stay away from GMOs? Stop buying products foisted on you by the man? Reduce the size of your weekly garbage bag? Become a domestic god(ess)?
I want to do all of those things, which is why I am so damn excited about this post. You see, until recently, these five packaged foods were staples on every shopping list I made. But, over the last few months, I’ve discovered that they are all completely unnecessary once you get the hang of making them at home.
1. Photo: madlyinlovewithlifeNever buy soup
I’ve always hated trying to shop for soup. They always hide nasty ingredients in there, and more often than not, even the most vegan-sounding soup is made with chicken stock or a little beef fat. Campbell’s makes a vegetable soup that isn’t vegetarian. Why?
If there are no animal parts in the soup, there’s usually lots of salt, fat, and additives, or a little GMOs just for fun. And in case you haven’t heard, soup comes in cans lined with BPA. Nasty.
If there’s nothing objectionable in the ingredients, eating store-bought soup usually means taking a trip to bland city. Seriously, I’ve never found one I like.
The funny thing is, when you make soup at home, you don’t have to add any junk and it’s always bursting with the flavor of whatever vegetables you put in it. That’s the magic of eating whole foods.
Campbell’s and their corporate buddies have somehow managed to convince us that making soup is a task better left to the experts. In reality, it’s the easiest, quickest meal you can conjure. You don’t even need any special ingredients.
Just open your fridge and Google whatever you see in there followed by “soup recipe.” I guarantee you’ll find lots of them.
So get to it. Here are a few examples (based on what we have sitting around right now) to get you started:
Super soup tips
- Sign up for a CSA box and you’ll always have lots of crazy fruits and vegetables on hand to make soup.
- Invest in a hand blender. I know, normally I don’t go in for buying gadgets, but we use ours every single day and it’s so much easier to blend the soup right in the pot.
- Make your own stock!
2. Never buy stock and bouillon
If you’ve done your homework with the soup, you’ve noticed that almost all soup recipes call for stock. Guess what? That’s another thing you never have to buy again. I discovered a few months ago that making stock is even easier than making soup. And you can make it from garbage! Honestly.
You know all those potato peels, apple cores, onion skins, leek tops, and eggplant stems that collect in your kitchen? Instead of sending them straight to the compost, stick them in a plastic bag in the freezer. Once you have enough to half fill your biggest pot, it’s time to make stock.
Here’s the method I’ve been using.
Hot stock tip: I pour the stock into some flexible ice-cube trays and freeze them. Then it’s ready to use in small portions every time we make soup, stew, rice, curry, stir fry … whatever.
3. Photo: SweetbeetandgreenbeanNever buy canned beans
Remember how we were just talking about BPA in cans? Well, it’s in your canned beans, too. And just like soup, beans taste better and fresher, and are better for you, if you buy them dried and prepare them at home.
I know all that soaking and cooking seems like a huge pain in the ass. That’s what I thought until my husband started coming home with dried adzukis, chickpeas, and black beans.
In reality, it takes around three minutes to put the beans in some water, another minute to change that water during soaking, and then about five more minutes to put them on the stove. All the beans you’ll eat all week in less than 10 minutes.
Here’s a great guide to preparing various types of beans.
When we have a batch of beans sitting in the fridge, we use them to make our own burgers (thanks to Peggy at Lovin’ Spoonfuls in Tucson for her delicious recipe!), falafels, soups and chili, or just sprinkle them on a salad.
Basic bean tip: Get your spouse or kids to soak and cook the beans while you relax. That’s what I usually do!
4. Never buy hummus
One of the things we use our fresh chickpeas for is to make hummus. This takes me, oh, all of about six minutes now that I’ve done it a few times. Unlike store-bought hummus, it is not too salty, too sweet, too lemony, too bland, or too garlicky. It’s just right, because I made it that way.
One of these days, I’ll share my recipe, though it’s better if you just make it to your own liking.
Tasty hummus tip: Add a little of the bean-cooking water into your hummus (instead of olive oil). It adds tons of flavor and creates the perfect hummus-y texture without adding any fat.
5. Photo: ruthiekiNever buy cereal
My initial eschewing of packaged cereal happened because of a one-two punch.
My mother-in-law started it. She makes amazing granola that we eat every morning at her cottage on Lake Muskoka. When we leave, the best way to recapture those lazy summer days is with a fresh batch of granola.
The other punch came when I discovered that most frosted mini-wheat-type cereal contains beef fat or gelatin!
What? There are cow and pig parts in cereal? Yes. Even in pseudo good-for-the-world brands like Trader Joe’s and Three Sisters. Bleh.
I’m really not a fan of standing in the grocery store scouring ingredients lists. But once I started, I discovered that most cereal is a combo of high-fructose corn syrup and GM corn. Plus, all of it is ridiculously overpriced.
So, the only solution is to make your own.
You can make muesli (granola’s uncooked European cousin) in a matter of minutes. Granola takes a little longer because it has to cook, but it’s also a no-brainer.
Try this recipe for tahini granola. So good.
Groovy granola tip: Make a huge batch and stick it in airtight food containers. It will keep for months.
A worthwhile investment
That’s it. Five things you never ever have to buy again. I estimate that by making all of these things at home, I have time to watch one less hour-long TV show a week. That’s a trade-off I’m willing to make. But if you’re not, you could always put a TV in your kitchen.
What other common packaged products do you make at home? Anyone trying almond milk, nut butters, or flour? I’d love to know.
More sustainable cooking tips:
- Sharpen your knife skills — and save time and money.
- How to stop worrying and start loving your kitchen timer.
This post originally appeared on My Five Acres.