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DIY Staple Foods: 15+ Items to Stop Buying & Make at Home

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They’re not a nutritious addition to our meals, necessarily, but toppings and spreads like mayonnaise, mustard, and pesto make meals so much better. Add some of these homemade condiments to your pantry for a flavor boost! 

Go here to learn more about making your own jams and jellies.

small white dishes filled with condiments: homemade pesto, ketchup, mustard

Can I make you think for a moment? If you pondered your family’s eating habits and figured out the one prepared item, one of the pantry essentials that is used the most in your household, what would it be? I asked a similar question on Facebook the other day and got a variety of answers: ketchup, salsa, ranch dressing, Miracle Whip*, barbecue sauce, bread, spicy mustard…

  • Now, think about the trash and plastic you could eliminate from the waste stream.
  • The chemicals (in many cases) you could remove from your family’s diet.
  • And the trips to the store you could avoid if you made that one item at home.

What if instead of depending on Heinz and Kraft and Pace to fulfill your family’s desire for that must-have item, you made it yourself? Of course, you’ll likely need the help of a farmer or two for some of the ingredients necessary to make your version, but removing that whole step of manufacturing your favorite staple foods is better for the environment and very likely better for your health.

It gives you the opportunity to choose organic or sustainably farmed items. And it teaches the younger generation that food, real food, doesn’t have to come with a label.

Homemade condiments

I’ve already converted to making my own grainy mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, hamburger relish, salsa, and barbecue sauce. My eldest son has started baking our sandwich bread. We’ve still got a long way to go toward eliminating all prepared foods, but it’s a start. And I can tell you that it has been a painless conversion.

In most cases, all you need to do is commit to a half an hour or so of cooking to replace some of your pantry essentials. And that half-hour in the kitchen will generally net you way more of your favorite condiment than what you’d get at the store – for less money. In the case of ketchup, it will take longer, but that’s because it needs to cook down. There’s not much active work going on during that stage.

*I’m not a fan myself, but I found this recipe for homemade Miracle Whip. Even that can be created in your kitchen!

Food staples: Breaking the store bought habit

Long before Best Foods decided to bottle up their popular sandwich spread, someone was making that from scratch. Same with so many of the things we buy ready made these days. What if I told you that making some of those staple foods isn’t only possible, but easy to do at home?

Certainly it takes a little shift in thinking, but that’s easy for someone as clever as you, right? Homemade condiments, here you come!

Why switch to homemade condiments?

  • Less packaging
  • Avoid unpronounceable ingredients and GMOs
  • Tastes better
  • You’re not at the mercy of big food producers. Run out of mayo? Simple enough to whip up a quick batch!
  • You can choose ingredients you love.

Below you’ll find a collection of some of the homemade condiments we love, along with links to even more great recipes.

3 glass jars of homemade mustard on a red background

 

Mustard

I start with mustard because it is one of the easiest homemade condiments to make and a great place to start if this is all foreign to you. Three ingredients (if you count water) and five minutes of hands-on effort and boom!

Here’s my recipe, but consider fiddling with it once you’ve made it a couple of times. Try white wine or ale instead of water, or add some spices to kick it up!

homemade mayonnaise in a white bowl

 

Mayonnaise

Another sandwich topping that we are used to scooping from a jar, mayonnaise has a reputation for being difficult to make–not because the steps are involved, but because the egg and oil sometimes don’t emulsify. Years ago, a reader tipped me off to an almost infallible way to make mayonnaise and I’ve been using that method ever since!

homemade sour cream in a purple bowl with an herb garnish

Sour Cream

This is my new favorite thing. As we peck away at making more of our own ingredients at home, I’ve discovered that DIY sour cream is crazy easy. In fact, my husband has taken to making it! Not that he’s incompetent — he’s a great cook — but he’s habitual. There are two ways to make it, with slightly differing results. Each requires only two ingredients! Try this sour cream recipe or this recipe for creme fraiche. (The creme fraiche sounds fancy, but it tastes just like our favorite store bought brand.)

Salad Dressing

The salad dressing section in my grocery store is about ten feet long and five feet high. There are flavors that appeal to every taste bud! But those bottled dressings come with wonky ingredients and yet another disposable bottle.

Instead, try your hand at making your own salad dressing. Switching out to this one homemade condiment will save you a bundle if you eat a lot of salad!

Garden fresh salsa recipe in a yellow bowl with round yellow tortilla chips

 

Salsa

I’m trying to remember if fresh salsa was even available at supermarkets when I was growing up. I don’t think so. And yet it’s standard fare these days.

Five ingredients and a little bit of chopping and you can kiss those little plastic containers goodbye. (You’ll definitely want to keep this recipe on hand for summer garden season!) Or try something a little different and make a batch of tomatillo salsa. For a sweet alternative to salsa that goes well with chicken or fish, try this pineapple salsa! I fermented mine, but if you’re not into that, no need.

For the freshest salsa tomatoes, think about growing some of your own!

small white dishes filled with condiments: homemade pesto, ketchup, mustard

Jam and Jelly

Making jams and jellies is a bit more involved, but if you’ve been wanting to delve into home canning, this is the best place to start. If you know how to chop and mix ingredients, making jam won’t be difficult for you. If you don’t want to go through the canning process, you can just refrigerate your jam, but it won’t last as long.

This recipe for homemade grape jelly can be canned or made as a freezer jelly.

More jam and jelly recipes:

homemade peanut butter on a slice of bread with strawberries on a white plate

DIY Peanut Butter

If your family is a fan of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, this is probably one of the most-used pantry essentials in your kitchen. You’ll need a blender for this one, but making homemade peanut butter is about as easy as it gets. Here’s how.

easy homemade hummus on a platter, chip and hummus in foreground

Hummus

Hummus is a fairly new introduction in the United States. Unless you grew up in a Greek or Middle Eastern family, it’s likely that the first taste of hummus you had came straight from the supermarket. But good news! Hummus is super easy to make.

And you can switch it up like we do with this spicy chipotle hummus recipe or this roasted red pepper hummus. You will need a food processor or blender of you want that creamy texture, though my son managed to make hummus while he was away at college, patiently smashing it with a spoon.

radish greens pesto in a glass jar from above

 

Pesto

Great as a topping for pasta, pesto also works well to make sandwiches and wraps just that much better. Try classic basil pesto or for something a little bit different, whip up a batch of radish leaf pesto.

hot fudge sundae in a tall glass dish

 

Hot Fudge Sauce

Everyone needs a little treat once in awhile, right? Store bought hot fudge sauce is usually heavy on GMO corn syrup. Make your own with some simple ingredients and a little bit of cooking time and you’ll be in hot fudge heaven.

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

5 comments… add one
  • Melissa Mar 15, 2015, 3:50 am

    Thank you for these reminders! Homemade is *always better than store purchased…but sometimes I slide back a bit and forget/go for the convenience factor :-/ I’m working on that 🙂

  • John Mar 16, 2015, 8:29 am

    I didn’t realize salsa was so easy to make at home! I eat a lot of chips and salsa and will definitely be trying some recipes out in the future.

  • Angi @ SchneiderPeeps Mar 17, 2015, 3:54 am

    I’m totally going to try your mayonnaise tip! Mayonnaise is one of the last few condiments I still buy.

  • Jen @ The Easy Homestead Apr 21, 2015, 12:59 am

    I am totally trying your 60 second mayo! We have tried making it before and it just didn’t taste good. Your’s looks awesome!

    • Kris Bordessa Apr 21, 2015, 10:28 am

      Please report back. My family has been VERY picky about this, and this recipe is one that they’ll use.

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