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…

MY OTHER RECIPES

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 comments on “Making Your Own vs. Buying Pre-Made”

  1. 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”!

  2. 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 :)

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

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  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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. :-)

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

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