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20 Things to Make at Home Instead of Buying

20 Things to Make at Home Instead of Buying

Sustainable Home

Last Updated on September 14, 2022

I adore DIYS but I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have time to spend hours making and doing. But did you know certain items you find in grocery stores can be easily and quickly made at home?  

You can cut your grocery list in half by learning how to DIY some ingredients and products. Some kitchen and toiletry staples only take minutes to make.  

20 Things to Make at Home Instead of Buying

Along with the monetary benefits, making your own products from scratch will help reduce waste simultaneously. It also connects us to slow living, which is inherently sustainable. 

For example, many ingredients and products come in packaging, be it paper, cardboard, plastic or glass. And not everyone has access to package-free bulk stores for those items. Take powdered sugar – which tends to come in a plastic bag – making your own would eliminate the need for that bag.  

Beyond packaging, we should also be conscious of what’s inside our products (ingredients + materials), who made them, and the impact the manufacturing of it has on people and planet.

Making things from scratch is healthier for you too, as you will know exactly what’s in it (no preservatives or synthetic fragrances). This is especially beneficial to those who have allergies or food sensitivities.  

Here’s 20 things to make at home instead of buying – and they’re not all edible items either.  

what can I make instead of buying? 

There are several items you can make instead of buying, which include foods, cleaning supplies, beauty products, and toiletries. A lot of items you can find at the grocery store are relatively easy to make if you have the right ingredients and tools.  

When I say foods, I am talking about two versions of food: Home cooked meals, and actual ingredients used in meals. Many food ingredients are surprisingly easy to make and more affordable than buying their packaged counterparts.  

what is cheaper to make yourself? 

Items like toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant and all-purpose sprays are cheaper to make yourself. There are also several food ingredients, like powdered sugar, brown sugar, almond flour, and plant extracts that are cheaper to make than to buy.  

While you will need to purchase some initial items to make these products, they’re typically more affordable than purchasing the product itself. And you can usually make a lot more of it than the actual product would’ve given you.  

For example, you can make toothpaste with three simple ingredients – and from those ingredients, you can refill that DIY toothpaste several times and reuse the jar you’re storing it in. Whereas once a store-bought toothpaste is empty, you must replace it with a brand new one, tube and all. 

is it cheaper to make food or buy it? 

It’s cheaper to make food in some circumstances rather than buying it. According to Forbes, it’s almost five times more expensive to order delivery from a restaurant than it is to cook at home. Meal kits are also three times as expensive as cooking from scratch. 

For example, ingredients like flour, cheese, and pasta are often inexpensive at the grocery store and can be used to make a variety of meals. A meal kit service or restaurant will charge more for those items than what you’d pay at the store.  

Making your own ingredients from scratch to make your meals with is also another way to save extra money. For example, instead of buying a jar of sauce, you can buy several pounds of plum tomatoes (approximately $1.99 per lb.) and make your own sauce that will fill multiple jars (some of which you’ll be able to freeze and save for a later time).  

what should you make from scratch? 

Glad you asked! I’ve assembled a list of the grocery items worth making from scratch. I’ve separated them into two categories: Food ingredients and non-edibles.  

Food ingredients are things you will use to make your meals, whereas the non-edibles consist of cleaning supplies, skincare, and toiletries. Some recipes will take only a few minutes to make, whereas others may take up to an hour. 

For the food recipes, I recommend shopping for ingredients at the farmers market and bulk food store. This will cut back on waste but also help you chose higher quality, in-season ingredients (nothing beats summer tomatoes in a fresh sauce!). 

By making your own products from scratch, you’ll be able to save money, reduce waste and eat more seasonally appropriate foods. 

food ingredients 

Never purchase these food staples again – you can easily make most if not all of them at home from scratch. 

powdered sugar 

This will literally take a few seconds to make. Take any granulated sugar you have, put it in a blender and blend for about 10 seconds, or until fine. That’s it! Never pay for powdered sugar again. 

brown sugar 

To make brown sugar, just mix 1 cup of granulated sugar with 2 tablespoons of molasses in a bowl and mix it until combined. Yes, it really is that simple. 

tomato sauce 

This is a little more labor intensive, but worth it. To make fresh tomato sauce, gather about a 6-7lbs of plum tomatoes, wash them off, and put them in a pot of water. 

 Let the water boil – as soon as you see the skin splits, you know they’re done. Drain and peel them, then process them in a food processor.  

In a separate pot, sauté some olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, basil and onion. Then add the pureed tomatoes and cook for about 30-45 minutes.  

peanut butter 

To make this, all you need is roasted peanuts, salt, and a food processor. 16 ounces of roasted peanuts should do the trick.  

You’re going to blend it for about 8-10 minutes. Every 2-3 minutes you may need to stop the processor and use a spoon to break up the peanuts/scrap down the sides of the bowl.   

You can make any homemade nut butter rather easily in fact. 

bread 

Making your own bread is time consuming, but rewarding. Zero waste chef has a ton of bread recipes on her site and even teaches sourdough classes online.  

You’ll need a lively starter which takes time and patience. Be sure to check out her recipe index to find the kind of bread you want to make, be it pita bread, multi-grain bread or Irish soda bread

ketchup  

Making your own ketchup requires 6 lbs of tomatoes, garlic, salt, onion, mustard seed, brown sugar, white vinegar, cider vinegar and other spices to taste. Zero Waste Chef’s ketchup recipe is easy to follow – make sure to upcycle an empty ketchup container or some jars for this! 

mustard 

Mustard is fairly simple to make, if you have the right ingredients. You just need 4 tablespoons of mustard seeds, 2 tablespoons of water, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, ½ teaspoon of salt.  

FYI, yellow mustard seeds are more mellow in flavor than brown mustard seeds. And black mustard seeds are the highest level of spice you can get.  

Just blend or grind mustard seeds until they’re all broken. Add water and let it sit for 1-10 minutes depending on level of spice desired. Add apple cider vinegar to lock in the spice levels of your choice (the longer you let it sit without adding it, the spicier it’ll be). Add salt and you’re ready to use! 

apple cider vinegar 

I’ve been making homemade apple cider vinegar for over 5 years now. It’s so easy and cheap to make. 

You just need 2 cups of apples peeled and cored, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 3 cups of filtered water. I have the full recipe here on my blog.  

breadcrumbs

Making your own breadcrumbs is very easy. You just need about 4 ounces of stale sourdough bread, torn into pieces (about 2-3 cups), 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and ¼ teaspoon sea salt. If you’d like to season it further you can add garlic powder, Italian seasoning, or red pepper flakes. 

Just preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Then pulse the bread pieces in a food blender until crumbly.  

Spread the crumbs on the baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and salt, baking for 10 to 18 minutes, tossing halfway, until golden brown and toasted. You can add any additional seasoning after tasting if you’d like. 

vanilla extract 

All you need to make your own vanilla extract is vanilla beans, whisky, vodka, or bourbon. Place the vanilla beans in a jar and cover them with the alcohol of your choice.  

Make sure the vanilla beans are completely submerged, secure the lid, and let it sit in a cabinet for the next several months (at least 2 months, if not longer).  

oat/almond flour 

It’s stupid-simple to make oat or almond flour. All you need is a blender. Just pulse your oats or almonds until they form a powder-like substance. The best almonds to use are the blanched, chopped ones. 

croutons 

To make croutons, just run a stale loaf of bread under running water and microwave for 30 seconds. Then cut it into small cubes. Brush the pieces with olive oil and bake at 400 for roughly 5 minutes. 

soup stock 

Making your own soup stock from veggie scraps is a great way to reduce waste and cut back on packaging.  

Just save up aromatic vegetable skins, odds and ends, like onion skin, celery leaves, carrot tops, mushrooms, garlic skins, and leeks. Just make sure you steer clear of the cruciferous family and potatoes.  

You can store these in a freezer until you have enough to make stock. Place them in a big pot, cover it with water and boil. Bring to a simmer, then let it cook for about an hour.  

Strain and store the veggie soup stock anywhere you like – fridge or freezer. Or, use it immediately. 

non-edibles 

Most of the items I’ve talked about so far are edible items you can make at home. But there are several non-edible items around the home you can make as well, such as toiletries, cleaning products and skincare products. 

toothpaste 

It’s so easy to make your own toothpaste – you just need coconut oil, baking soda and peppermint essential oil. Or, you can even make your own tooth powder if you prefer.  

mouthwash 

I have a homemade mouthwash recipe on the blog that takes about 10 minutes max to whip up. All you need is some aloe vera juice, distilled water, xylitol, and baking soda. 

deodorant 

You can make your own extra strength DIY deodorant using only five basic ingredients: Shea butter, cocoa butter, arrowroot powder, baking soda, and vitamin E oil. Even better, upcycle an old deodorant tube to hold your DIY. 

all-purpose cleaner 

Making your own cleaner is easy and affordable. Here are my two favorite all-purpose cleaner recipes. One of them is so simple you’ll only need warm water and vinegar to make it. 

Greenify Me: 20 Things to Make at Home Instead of Buying

toilet cleaner 

Greenify-Me has a recipe for toilet cleaner fizzies that work like bath bombs, but for your toilet. You need ¾ cup baking soda, ½ cup citric acid, lemon or orange essential oil, 1-2 tablespoons of water, and zest of 1 orange or lemon. The full recipe is on her blog. 

tub scrub 

My DIY tub scrub is so simple to whip up and will make your tub shine like new. All you need is ¾ cup of baking soda, 2-3 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide, and 2-3 tablespoons of liquid castile soap.  

toner 

Making homemade rosewater toner is one of my favorite ways to use up roses. All you need is some rose petals, witch hazel and water. 

You can use this to set your makeup, freshen linens, or spray on your skin to rejuvenate you. I love spritzing some onto my face on a hot summer day! 

body scrub 

Making your own body scrub is so much fun because you get to customize it to your liking. I make my own using sugar, sweet almond oil, honey, lemon zest, and juice of half a lemon.  

So, are you going to start making things from scratch? Let me know in the comments!

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