What expensive items do we spend money on that we could easily make for ourselves? This Reddit thread poses that very question, something many people don’t like to think about.
But they should.
The discussion comes on the heels of the saga of the Juciero startup, which sells a $400 juice press and juice packs that Bloomberg News recently reported could be just as easily squeezed by hand. Juicero’s CEO, Jeff Dunn, responded on Medium: “The value of Juicero is more than a glass of cold-pressed juice. Much more. The value is in how easy it is for a frazzled dad to do something good for himself while getting the kids ready for school, without having to prep ingredients and clean a juicer.” In other words, it’s slightly more convenient. But, critics say, only slightly.
There are exceptions to store-bought items, of course. “My mom complains about how hard baklava is to make whenever we ask her to make some and also says it’s expensive with all the walnuts she buys for it,” another Reddit commenter writes. “Baklava sells in stores for like $5 though, so this might be an exception.” Cooked chickens can also be cheaper or only slightly more than uncooked chickens, which can be reused for lunch the next day, as is bread in many large grocery stores. These are known as “loss leaders” in retail. The prices may be low , but they lure customers.
Some food worth making rather than buying include chocolate-coveredfruit (“I will never understand why people spend $12 on a couple of strawberries with chocolate on them”), fancy yoghurt (make it at home), smoothies (blend fruit and ice instead of spending $8), guacamole ($2.50 for a scoop in Chipotle CMG, -1.23% but a 99-cent avocado makes one bowl) and hummus (“You want me to pay $4 for an 8-ounce package of hummus, when I can take $1 worth of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), soak them, add 50 cents worth of garlic, lemon and tahini and have a goddamn gallon? Hell, no.”)
Here are five more worth making:
• Ginger syrup
Some items are not as complicated to make as they might appear. A bottle of ginger syrup can cost up to $12.51 on Amazon.com and that’s a bottle at the low end of the price scale. Try this recipe for homemade ginger syrup. All it takes is 8 ounces (225 grams) of fresh ginger, four cups (or 1 liter) of water and two cups (approximately 400 grams) of sugar and a pinch of salt. “When added to seltzer this becomes ginger beer (not ginger ale),” one Reddit user writes. “Add vodka and squeeze two small lime wedges and you have a Moscow mule.”
• Pasta sauce
“Pasta sauce is kind of expensive depending on the quality you’re buying,” another commenter added. “It’s literally just tomatoes, garlic, onion and meat, and tastes a lot better made fresh.” Another added: “Or for a white sauce: butter, flour, spices (as easy as garlic plus onion, or as complex as you want), and milk/cream.” They’re not wrong. You can make your own from fresh ingredients and control how much salt you want or buy this 24-ounce bottle of Prego pasta sauce for $7.49. However, it also comes with 480 grams of sodium per serving.
• Vanilla extract
“Homemade vanilla extract takes just two ingredients — vanilla beans and alcohol — and you can be as straightforward or creative as you like,” according to this recipe on TheKitchn.com blog. “Though it does take a bit of patience as you wait for the alcohol to extract the flavor from the beans, the delicious results are well worth it.” This 16-ounce bottle of vanilla extract costs $34 on Amazon.com. Vanilla beans can cost as much as $25. Vanilla beans are not cheap, however. These beans cost $7 on Walmart.com.
• Cup of coffee
Making your own caffè latte every morning could save you $337,942 over your lifetime, according to Beth McMillan, a Ph.D. student in the computer science at the University of Oxford. If instead of buying a latte, you invested 3 euros ($3.19 in U.S. dollars) for every day you bought a latte into an account that paid 6% interest for 50 years, that’s what you would get. Still, it’s not worth it for everyone. “I still buy a lot of coffee since it gives me a reason to leave my office,” one Reddit user wrote. This stressed-out worker adds, “$2.35 for sanity is cheap.”
• Bottled water
Bottled-water consumption in the U.S. hit 39.3 gallons per capita last year, while carbonated soft drinks fell to 38.5 gallons, marking the first time that soda was knocked off the top spot, according to data from industry tracker Beverage Marketing Corp. That’s $21.3 billion in retail sales, according to research group Euromonitor. That’s up to $2 or more for a bottle or, rather than buy water from the store and have to recycle all that plastic, you could also use the same flask or bottle and purchase a one-off $6.99 for a water filter instead.