I’m a big advocate for quick cooking. Oftentimes, the possible shortcuts are worth the price, as some grocery items are better to buy than to prepare at home. In opposition, many of the food items we all stock up on every week are very easy to quickly (and cheaply) make at home.
Besides saving money, prepping a few basics at home also allows you to customize and be fully aware of the ingredients you put in your food. Instead of looking at the label of something and not knowing half the ingredients, you can rest assured that your staples are wholesome and homemade.
Here are some of my favorites:
Customize your hummus with additions like avocado, caramelized onion, parsley or roasted peppers by starting with this base recipe and combining all the ingredients together in a blender or food processor. A can of chickpeas typically costs about $1, while a tub of hummus is around $3. I’ve used this recipe from Inspired Taste with great results.
- 1 15 oz can chickpeas
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- Salt to taste
- 2-3 tablespoons water
Instructions: Blend all of the ingredients together in a blender or food processor until smooth, adding water as necessary.
2. Pasta Sauce
Making your own pasta sauce can be as done in the time it takes to boil your noodles. Jarred tomato sauces often have a ton of added sugar, so an at-home version prevents unnecessary additives. This recipe from America’s Test Kitchen is simple.
- 1⁄4 cup onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1⁄4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1⁄4 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons basil, chopped
Instructions: Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup chopped onion. Sauté 2 minutes. Add oregano and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook with stirring 3 minutes until onions begin to brown. Add crushed garlic. Cook 30 seconds. Add crushed tomatoes and sugar. Turn heat to high and cook with stirring until simmering. Turn heat to medium low. Simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in olive oil and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Chicken Stock
The merits of rotisserie chicken are undeniable, one of which is the ability to make your own high quality, flavorful stock from the chicken leftovers. Not only is homemade stock delicious and cheap, it’s also lower in sodium and has a fuller flavor than bouillon cubes or boxed chicken stock. It also makes your home smell good. The recipe for a classic stock isn’t very specific, meaning you can oftentimes throw whatever vegetables you have into the pot. Use this recipe from Simply Recipes many times and keep the chicken stock in the freezer until needed. Like Simply Recipes, I put my chicken stock in mason jars.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 chicken carcass (AKA leftover bones and skin)
- 1 large yellow onion, quartered (no need to peel)
- 1 large carrot, cut into 2-inch segments
- Celery tops and 1 large celery rib, cut into 2-inch segments
- 1 bunch of parsley
- Leek or green onion greens (if you have them)
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 quarts of cold water
- 1 Tbsp salt
Put the leftover bones and skin from a chicken carcass into a large stock pot. Add vegetables like celery, onion, carrots, parsley. Cover with water. Add salt and pepper, about a teaspoon of salt, 1/4 tsp of pepper. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to bring the stock to barely a simmer. Simmer partially covered at least 4 hours, occasionally skimming off any foam that comes to the surface. Remove the bones and vegetables with a slotted spoon, and strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve. If making stock for future use in soup you may want to reduce the stock by simmering an hour or two longer to make it more concentrated and easier to store.
One of the other best benefits of cooking a few grocery basics at home means you can splurge on other items at the grocery store #treatyoself. All of the above recipes require minimal cooking time, keep well in the fridge, and use a lot of ingredients you might have laying around already. Prep the above recipes so you always have healthy staples available!
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