Making Your Own vs. Buying Pre-Made

The other day I went to the grocery store to restock some produce.   I picked up some carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, bananas, Fuji apples that were on sale for $1/pound, and some other fill-in produce.

Grapes were on sale for 88 cents/pound.

And rather than buying bagged lettuce which is usually $1.99 at TJ’s or as much as $3.49 per bag at the grocery store, I bought a head of romaine for $1.99 and cleaned it myself.

Ready…

Set…

Clean!

Slice off the bottom one inch and top inch.

Rinse the leaves in the sink.

I always wear rubber gloves when I am chopping and cleaning produce.  My hand skin would fall off and crack if I didn’t protect my skin from the constant washing, drying, rinsing, repeating, that I do all day in the kitchen.

 

Wrap in a few paper towels and shake, shake, shake.

Make a half dozen horizontal cuts.

Put in a bag.  Add a paper towel or two to absorb excess moisture to preserve lettuce life even longer and prevent sogginess.  Or, run lettuce through a salad spinner (however I don’t do this for the sake of time.  The shake, shake, shake by hand and adding a paper towel to the bag method works fine for me).


Done!

I now have twice the amount of lettuce that I would have gotten in a pre-bagged mix and it took me about 90 seconds and I saved $3 bucks. I am all about saving money and cutting corners when I can.

I once did a pineapple cleaning tutorial and felt a bit a lot silly posting How to Clean and Core a Pineapple, but I had dozens of people write to me telling me that they bought and cleaned their first pineapples because of that post and freed themselves of the habit of buying overpriced, pre-sliced pineapple or other fruits.

Also included in that post were tips on how to see if a whole pineapple was ripe or not

So, my lettuce cleaning may be silly, but whatever.  I’d rather be silly than in debt. Maybe it will help someone else save a few bucks.

From my last post, thanks for all the great sweet potato cooking tips and ideas.  I know food bloggers and food blog readers love their sweet potatoes.

And apparently mustard and nooch, too.  Lots of you chimed in that you love both.  Me too!

Questions:

1. Do you clean and chop your own lettuces/greens/salad mixes or do you buy pre-packaged?

I do both.  The TJ’s Organic salad mixes for $1.99/bag are hard to beat on price and convenience, but sometimes if they are sold out of my favorite blend or whole heads of romaine or red leaf lettuces or kale are looking especially nice, I will pass on the pre-bagged and just chop my own mix.   Takes maybe 2 minutes for me to wash and chop and bag up my greens and many times,  it’s worth it to me.

2. Anything that you think is just smarter to buy pre-made/pre-cooked/pre-chopped?

Most things I prefer to buy whole, or unpackaged, or prepare myself, but for my lifestyle and the sake of time/energy involved, some items I usually buy pre-made are:

Canned beans

Artichoke hearts

Frozen veggie burgers

Nut milk

I could make them myself and have but for the price/time/convenience involved, I buy them.

3. Anything that’s easy enough to make and you’re happy to make from scratch at home?

A few of mine are…

Crackers (Vegan, GF, Nut-Free, and can be made Sweet/Cinnamon/Sugar or Savory/Salty)

Chips like Kale Chips

Hummus (4-Ingredient, Vegan, garlic & onion free)

Vegan “Turtles”

Peanut Butter Cups

What do you make at home that’s super easy?  Or that’s definitely worth taking a little extra time to make at home rather than buying pre-made?

 

   

48 Responses to “Making Your Own vs. Buying Pre-Made”

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    kate@ahealthypassion — March 3, 2011 at 11:29 am

    I usually make my own everything but I always buy prewashed salad greens I can never motivate myself to prep them so usually they go bad and I end up throwing them out.

    Reply

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    Heather (Where's the Beach) — March 3, 2011 at 11:31 am

    I buy and clean my own lettuce, but usually buy the bagged spinach as I think it’s more tender. I almost always buy the whole pineapple and dice it up myself as well. So much cheaper and it’s really not THAT much effort (plus you can snag a few bites as you go along). I buy dried beans and cook those off and keep frozen and make my own veggie burgers to keep in the freezer too. There are a few things I do buy canned though like artichoke hearts and diced tomatoes.

    Reply

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    Maryea {Happy Healthy Mama} — March 3, 2011 at 11:40 am

    I definitely buy lettuce that I clean and cut myself. It’s soooo much cheaper it’s ridiculous. And like you said, so easy. I try to prepare as much of my own stuff as possible (salad dressings, dips, beans, etc), but always have a can of beans on hand for when I’m in a bind. :-)

    One thing I don’t make on my own but want to is bread!

    Reply

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    Sarena (The Non-Dairy Queen) — March 3, 2011 at 11:41 am

    I do most of it myself. Sometimes I will buy the slaw mix or frozen vegetables, but for the most part, I can’t spend extra on things like canned beans and pre cut lettuce. I am a budget freak when it comes to that.

    Reply

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    Ela — March 3, 2011 at 11:42 am

    I generally make everything from scratch, unless something’s on super-good offer at the store…

    Funny about the lettuce mix, precut pineapple, etc–that is such a recent phenomenon, and I think that it’s part of the process that makes people so distanced from their food (the same process that makes people not realize where milk, meat, etc come from and so be kind of innured to it–I think the situation is almost as bad around plant foods).

    I felt stupid, for example, buying pomegranate seeds–I’m perfectly happy to seed them myself!

    As for the lettuce, I love the outer leaves and the heart, shame to throw away. I love it most when I can buy organic, not worry about pesticides and not wash at all: I think it’s actually good for us to eat some dirt ;)
    Sorry I missed sweet potato talk–yams have been my revelation this winter. Yams and parsnips mashed with a little coconut oil, add nooch and (if you’re like me) something spicy like berbere, mix in some peas and greens–to me=heaven right now!
    love
    Ela

    Reply

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    cat — March 3, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Always buy whole and cut myself. It is so much cheaper that way. I pay 1/4 of what I used to by spending some time cutting. My kids like to snack when I am cutting and cleaning, and they get to pick through what we have. My husband is like a toddler and only eats what I clean, slice and have ready in tupperware for him. If I didn’t do this he would only eat chips and dip-ask if I am kidding either. I sneak in the raw when I can and how I can to them.

    Reply

    • Averie (Love Veggies and Yoga) replied: — March 3rd, 2011 at 11:58 am

      “My husband is like a toddler and only eats what I clean, slice and have ready in tupperware for him.”–

      REALLY?!! Our hubs must be twins. Mine is the SAME. Oh my. Yes, I know.

      Reply

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    Lindsay — March 3, 2011 at 11:45 am

    A tip I learned from a chef:
    Use a ceramic knife when chopping greens. They will stay fresh LONGER. The carbon content in steel knives reacts with the lettuce and causes it to brown and wilt faster. Ceramic and plastic knives are best :)

    Reply

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    Stefanie @TheNewHealthy — March 3, 2011 at 11:54 am

    I usually buy the organic pre-washed spinach so I can just grab it and throw it in my meal! I also buy pre-made nut butters, almond milk, veggie burgers–maybe when I have more time (ha!) I’ll make it all myself! :)

    Reply

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    chelsey @ clean eating chelsey — March 3, 2011 at 11:58 am

    I have never thought about buying heads of romaine like that – it is such a great idea! Whenever I pre=chop lettuce, I always use my salad spinner to make sure it’s all dry. Then I always put a paper towel in the bag with it so it stays nice and crisp/dry.

    I always buy my own whole pineapples – there is no reason not to! It takes about 2 minutes to chop it all up. Way to go on the grapes -t hat’s a steal!!

    Reply

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    hippierunner — March 3, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    I buy the bagged lettuce from TJ’s although it pains me to think about how much plastic that wastes, it’s convenient and cheap. I make beans at home because it’s waaay cheaper and tastier! And it seems like a lot of work but it really is nothing more than boiling the beans for awhile. I also never buy tortilla chips but instead cut up tortillas to throw in the oven since it’s cheaper and also, if there were chips lying around we’d probably gobble them up too fast! And I would never buy pre-made guacamole because it kinda creeps me out!

    Reply

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    SaaMMmmYY — March 3, 2011 at 12:04 pm

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    Reply

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    rebecca lustig — March 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    I definitely look for the best deal, which usually turns into me doing the work– which I really mind! However, I love Trader Joe’s french-fry cut sweet potatoes, I’m a sucker for them every time.. They’re just perfectly cut and shaped and ready to bake!

    Reply

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    bitt — March 3, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    I never buy all pre-chopped veggies as they seem rather dry to me. I do sometimes get bagged baby spinach if it’s very cheap, but not often. I don’t prechop my own lettuce much just do it as I eat it. Do you have a salad spinner? It’s an amazing tool and prevents soggy lettuce.

    Reply

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    Paige @ Running Around Normal — March 3, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Girl I think of you as a queen of making your own! I like to think I’m a mix of the two…more on the side of buying pre-made. I need to make my own stuff more often!

    Reply

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    Tina — March 3, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    I usually try and make my own, but I will absolutely buy canned beans or frozen veggie burgers if I am pressed for time

    Reply

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    Kelly — March 3, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    One thing my aunt taught me years ago that never fails is if you want to keep your romaine lettuce in it’s big leaf stage (in case you are unsure how you might use it) you wash it and layer it into a large baggie like this:
    Layer of paper towel, then row of lettuce on top of that, then lay a paper towel on that ro and another row of lettuce on that and so on.
    Keeps it SO crisp and SO fresh!!

    Reply

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    Christine (The Raw Project) — March 3, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Good info on cleaning. I’ll also chop, then drop into a salad spinner to clean.

    1. Yes, my salad spinner gets tons of use. Sometimes greens in my CSA box are extra mud-covered!
    2. I rarely buy pre-made packaged food now trying to buy as basic and close to nature as possible. It does save a lot of money and worth it if you have the time for chopping and preparing.
    3. Kale chips, creamy sauces, nut and seed milks, nut butters, coffee and salad dressings.

    Reply

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    lauren @ spiced plate — March 3, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    I totally agree w/ you on artichoke hearts! It’s so time consuming AND pricy to get artichokes, I always get those canned…and they’re so darn good!

    Reply

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    Jessica @ How Sweet — March 3, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    I say beans! I hate making beans, regardless of how much better they taste. I buy canned, rinse the hell out of them, and use!

    Reply

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    Jessica @ Dairy Free Betty — March 3, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    My mother in law bought me a plastic lettuce knife this summer, and it’s awesome, the lettuce doesn’t go brown when you cut it! BRILLIANT!!

    Reply

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    Ellie@fitforthesoul — March 3, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    I love cutting my own pineapple! Canned can be good sometimes when in a rush (unsweetened kind) but the fresh ones are the best!!!

    Reply

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    Paulina (One Smile Ahead) — March 3, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    I always chop and clean my lettuce! I’ve only bought pre-chopped ones maybe 2 or 3 times. I try to make my own as much as I can, but I usually buy pre-made nut milk and canned beans. Other than that I prefer fresh fruits and veggies much more! :]

    Reply

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    Missy — March 3, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Gah….where do you shop??? Excellent deals.
    Excellent idea to cut up the lettuce and store…never thought of that.

    And my must-do-myself? HUMMUS. So much cheaper and I can make it to my liking …thick and chunky not creamy. I prefer it to store bought 100%

    Reply

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    julie — March 3, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    haha you’re so good with washing your lettuce! i suck and i don’t even buy organic so major fail. my dad actually just yelled at me about this tonight. he was like “you didn’t wash that!” i said “dad i never do.” he’s like welll you’re gonna get pesticides haha i was like welp i have a strong immune system papa

    Reply

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    Jess@HealthyExposures — March 3, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    For some reason – I never thought to chop it all up at once. Such a good idea, though! I’m guilty of usually just ripping off what I want, washing and throwing in a bowl.
    In terms of what I buy “pre-ready” I’ve found I’m wayyy more likely to eat carrots if I just buy the baby ones. Maybe a little more expensive, but it’s that or let a whole big bag go to waste.
    I definitely try to make a lot of my snacky things. Bars, crackers, cookies, bread, etc. Anything decent is SO expensive to buy! Sometimes the fun packaging always has me tempted to try stuff, but I’ve gotten good at “behaving”!

    Reply

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    Pure2raw twins — March 3, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    I try to not to buy lettuce in bags, but sometimes I do find myself grapping them. I need to do better, get money saving tip Averie! I will remember next time at the store :)

    Reply

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    Christin@purplebirdblog — March 3, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    I went back to look at your pineapple post (I’ve been eating tons of pineapple lately, but all presliced) and I have to confess that I bust out laughing upon reading “Now you have a bald cylinder.” My dirty mind went there, oh yes.

    Reply

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    Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin — March 3, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    I buy whole heads of lettuce and chop them myself too. I’ve never thought to do it all and once and store it in a ziploc though. That would be such a time saver!

    I always buy canned beans because the dried ones seem like SO much work. And I hate to say it, but I always buy hummus too. One of these days I’ll make it though!

    Reply

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    Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple — March 3, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    We get most of our veggies from the CSA, so we are welll acquainted with washing lettuce. We use a salad spinner to dry it and then bag it.

    I buy premade salsa. I use to make my own. TJ’s is just better.

    Reply

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    Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca) — March 3, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    I love buying pre-sliced mushrooms, and pre-chopped lettuce. I absolutely HATE making salads, and it is because I HATE washing lettuce. If I can avoid it, I will.

    Reply

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    maria @ Chasing the Now — March 3, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    One of the best kitchen tips ever: put a dry paper towel down in the bag with your lettuce or spinach (doesn’t matter if you bought or cleaned them). It will keep your greens fresh for longer and prevent that nasty sliminess that can occur when they’ve been in the fridge for more than a few days. I keep spinach for up to a week using this.

    I always buy and wash my own. Japanese groceries aren’t too big on the pre-made salads and what they do carry is expensive and almost all iceberg/cabbage.

    Reply

    • Averie (Love Veggies and Yoga) replied: — March 4th, 2011 at 12:31 pm

      yes I know about the paper towel trick, actually edited the post b/c so many ppl wrote that, and i already do that too :)

      Reply

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    Carrie (Moves 'N Munchies) — March 4, 2011 at 3:44 am

    i def agree with you on the milk and bread.. i always buy bread and wraps.. never really make my own.. oh and i always buy canned beans.. i just cant do the whole over night soak and cook thing alll the time!

    Reply

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    Sabina — March 4, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Hi Averie!

    I wash and bag a head of kale and spinach each week: wash –> salad spinner –> air dry on tea towels –> bag (ziploc vegetable bags). the spinach and kale last a week – 10 days in the fridge this way.

    i also cook beans from scratch. we keep a few cans of no sodium beans on hand for emergencies (i.e., non-planned meal).

    we purchase frozen berries, mangoes and vegetables (edamame!!) off season. in-season, i freeze berries and mangoes (smoothies) and eat fresh, non-pre-cut veggies.

    we’re super fortunate to live near many walkable independent fruit and vegetable shops, which have waaaay better prices than the chain grocery stores.

    i’m not about to make bread or yogurt, so we buy those things already made.

    i’m really happy to make sauces, crackers, nut butters, coconut butter, and baked goods at home! (nut butters and coconut butter are SO EASY to make: just throw all ingredients in the food processor!).

    xo

    Reply

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    Katie — March 4, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Doesn’t your lettuce get soft and wilted by the next day when you put it in the bag wet like that? I would think it would.

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    Cassandra — March 4, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    I am constantly up to my elbows in cold water washing greens, greens, greens. Even if I buy the stuff in a bag, I still wash it (I’ve spent too much time studying food safety and reading about recalls, because I’m neurotic like that!). I used to buy the romaine hearts because I thought they worked out to be cheaper, but the whole heads seem so much tastier and more hearty. And they have more of the “dark” in dark, leafy greens, which is totally what I’m going for! I’ve been cooking beans from scratch more because they taste so much better, but I do grab a can or two for convenience every now and again. I have to say that reading your blog has given me lots of inspiration and motivation to stop buying things like snack bars and crackers! So, yay! Sometimes I weigh the advantages of the “cost” of my time in the kitchen versus the cost in money. It’s fluid. :-)

    Reply

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    Heather @ kissmybroccoli — March 5, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    I try not to rely much on pre-made foods and make my own most of the time, but there is no way I’m giving up my canned beans! I buy dried ones too, but I’m so bad about planning when it comes to meal times and most of the time I don’t even know that I want beans until oh about 30 minutes before I’m ready to gnaw my arm off!

    I once went to a Pampered Chef party where the consultant showed all of us how to peel and slice a pineapple…I couldn’t believe how easy it was! I’ve been doing it myself ever since! And I always go my the “leaf test” when it comes to figuring out ripeness. If you lightly tug on a center leaf and it comes loose, then you know it is ripe!

    Reply

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    Krista — March 6, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    I the summer I grow my own lettuce so I have to clean it myself. In the winter I buy roamine in 3 packs and chop & wash myself. I am happy to bake my own muffins, make my own nut butter and my own pasta sauce and broth. Some convenience foods for me would be pre cut butternut squash….they’re such a pain to peel!!….and almond milk. I also like to have pre cooked, pre sliced chicken breast on hand for easy stir frys.

    Reply

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    cheap josh groban tickets — March 7, 2011 at 9:16 pm

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