For many reasons, whether it’s lack of time, energy, or even interest, it's often tempting to reach for store-bought convenience foods rather than simply making them from scratch.
Sure, prepackaged foods seem like a no-brainer and can offer a fast and easy solution come meal time, unfortunately, that convenience happens to come with baggage in the name of excess sugar, preservatives, salt, additives, and waste, not to mention they can also be very costly.
So don’t take shortcuts to your meals, and don’t let your busy schedule confine your diet into one of convenience. Take charge and start making these six foods at home. You’ll see that they can be easy, healthy and affordable. Plus, you’ll have total control to add your own flair to each dish, tailoring to your own taste (and we ALL have a control freak inside of us). Your body will thank you for the real food, and your wallet will breathe a sigh of relief.
My freezer is teeming with homemade stock -- beef, chicken, lobster, duck, ham, veggie, you name it. Basically, if there are bones or a carcass left after a meal, I make stock. A common misconception is that making stock is labour intensive. Nope. It only takes a few minutes to prep and then you let it boil away on the stove. The trick is to save all those odds and ends, like carrot peels, celery stalks, ribs of kale, mushroom stems, herbs, ends of onions, etc. Put them in a large resealable bag and keep in your freezer for when you’re ready to make stock.
Making croutons just might be the easiest thing, and it simultaneously helps get rid of day-old bread. If you have bread, oil and some spices hanging around the kitchen, then you have everything it takes to add that irresistible crunch to your salads and soups. Make them your own by playing around with sizes, shapes, types of bread, seasonings, and so on. You can tear up the bread for a more rustic look instead of cutting them into uniform pieces. You’re the boss. So long sodium-ridden, deep-fried, store-bought cardboard!
Next time you’re at the grocery store, look at the sugar and fat content of a bag of granola. JUST LOOK AT IT! It is insane. Many people think they’re making a healthy choice by adding granola to their breakfast, but between the fat and the sugar in the packaged stuff, you might as well start the day with dessert. Making it at home takes five minutes to prep, and about 40 minutes to bake in the oven. You have the liberty to improvise and make it as nutty, fruity, sweet or spicy as you want. It’s time to jump on the granola train and submit to chewy, oat-clustery awesomeness.
Making your own jams, jellies and marmalades will ensure you end up with chock full of actual fruit in the jar. Most store-bought brands are way too sweet and contain very little fruit, so it's a good idea to have control over the volume of each that goes in. Don’t be intimidated by the preserving process. There are plenty of “cheat” jams that will last up to two to three weeks in the fridge. But for longer storage, they will have to be properly canned. Simply take your favourite ripe seasonal fruit, combine with sugar and pectin (depending on the fruit variety), and simmer on the stove until it thickens. Voila!
Making pesto is a great way to use up your herb harvest year-round. It only takes a couple of minutes to blend in the food processor, and can then be used to dress up oh-so many meals. A traditional pesto consists of basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil, but feel free to get creative and play around with different herbs and nuts, like this Eat North favourite. A great way to keep pesto around for a few weeks is to freeze it in an ice cube tray, so you can conveniently pop the cubes into dishes to help brighten up any meal. Be careful, however, as with anything that's high in fats and oils, it can go rancid and pick up freezer smells.
Making your own dressing is much cheaper and certainly yields a much healthier product than buying pre-made. Eliminate all the additives, cheap oil, colouring, and chemicals from your salad by making your own dressing. For a basic vinaigrette, simply mix oil, like olive oil, balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, citrus juice, herbs and garlic.