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Is it better to make it from scratch or buy it?

There is a new book out there entitled “Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch -- Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods” [Hardcover]
By Jennifer Reese

The author did a series of experiments, taking into account the competing demands of everyday life as she attempts to answer the question: When is homemade better? When is it just better to buy it?

I really don't know much about this book other than the fact that it's $16.32 on Amazon. It has 304 pages. It was published October 18, 2011 and is fairly highly rated on Amazon.

The subject matter, however, has intrigued me. What do you chowhounders think? Let's see your list of foods that are either better to make from scratch or better to buy it. I suspect there may be some controversy over bread and mayonnaise to name a couple.

Oh. Does anyone know anything about this book? Did you like it?..hate it? Would you recommend it?

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  1. It depends so much on the person making the food from scratch and where they happen to be located. For example, I am not a particularly accomplished bread maker. There are a few kinds I have mastered and that are usually worth the time to make because they are fresher and cheaper than what I would buy from a store. Other types of bread (basic sandwich bread, for example) I would rather buy. But that's mostly because I am not very good at making it. A better baker than I would undoubtedly make sandwich bread far greater than what I get from the supermarket.

    I also find that I accommodate my cooking to where I live and the ingredients that are inexpensive and easy to find. I've started cooking all kinds of Mexican and Southeast Asian food from scratch since I moved to a city with copious inexpensive Mexican and Southeast Asian markets. It's worth it to make my own curry paste because I can buy lime leaves and lemongrass in bulk. Growing up in small town Canada, both of those ingredients were nearly impossible to find and it was much more practical to buy a jar of curry paste.

    Things I always make from scratch: cake, brownies, muffins

    Things that are better from scratch that I sometimes buy because I'm lazy or don't have the ingredients on hand: frozen pizza, pasta sauce, salad dressing, pickles (although I've been making these more and more often), jam, BBQ sauce

    Things I always buy: mayonnaise, ketchup, sauerkraut, canned artichoke hearts (except for when I'm eating the whole artichoke), vinegar, wine, beer

    That's all that comes to mind at the moment, although my cupboards are full of cans and jars, so I'm sure I buy a lot more.

    EDIT: I've never read that book, so I can't really help you there. Sounds interesting though.

    1. Commercial baked goods can be divided into two levels. The supermarket variety and the professional specialist bakery variety. IMO, baked goods from the supermarket "bakery" or prepackaged baked goods don't compare to those made from scratch by a competent home baker. When it comes to other foods prepared at home or in a supermarket or professional take out kitchen, if the home cook is skilled, the home goods will (IMO) be superior to those sold commercially. The only thing I rely upon commercially are condiments and some of the more common items like pickles, cherry peppers, mayonnaise, horse radish, jams and jellies.

      1. This books sounds quite interesting.

        I always made a delicious roast chicken. Due to the convenience and price of Costco's rotisserie chickens I can't remember the last time I roasted a chicken from scratch. Mine was healthier and tasted better, but theirs is pretty good and so easy.

        I do make my own stock. I like the process and mine tastes better than store bought. I do keep a few boxes of Pacific brand in the pantry just in case. Mine is inexpensive in ingredients, but it takes some time and uses fuel - so probably they end up costing the same.

        1. I think the idea that there is an objective standard about what is better to make from scratch is absurd. I make what I do from scratch because I like to and enjoy it ( important factor) , can control what is in it, can find ingredients, have or want to obtain the skill.That is completely specific to me and my household.
          This is one of my great pet peeves about food culture, that there is one right way and all the other ways are wrong.

          10 Replies
          1. re: magiesmom

            I can understand that point of view. I wasn't holding the book up as a standard. I'm sure everyone has make up their own mind. I for one do not make my own tomato pasta sauce. I know it is easy but opening the jar is even easier. Then again, I'm not a big fan of pasta with tomato based sauce on it and that may be the reason. Some day, I will have to find out.

            While everyone says they are lots better, I have my doubts as to whether it is worth making a cake from scratch as opposed to a mix. It is certainly cheaper and better to make one, even from a mix, rather than buy a bakery department cake from the grocery store for $10.

            Anyway, what will be interesting to see is what different people feel is worth their time and money to make from scratch. There will be some items that for some people just isn't worth the hassle.

            1. re: Hank Hanover

              Almost anything can be made better from scratch- if you have the time to practice and to do some trial and error. I make stuff because I enjoy making stuff, but there is almost always a really good substitute that i can buy ready made for almost anything we eat.

              Sometimes my only goal in making something from scratch is to produce something that is just as good as what I can get in a store or a restaurant, and when that happens, I'm happy...

              1. re: Hank Hanover

                I despise cake-mix cakes, and have had very few storebought cakes that I thought were worth the money -- so cakes at my house are always homemade. Fussy that way.

                Having said that, it was only recently that I *stopped* making brownies from a box -- I'd never found a recipe that was as good as a Duncan Hines box mix...I've found a good recipe now, so those are homemade, too.

                Bread? I'm quite good at bread -- but I have 7 bakeries within walking distance of my house (including the regional champion in a recent competition), and bread in France is cheap, so I can't come up with a good reason to go to all that work.

                I make really good, flaky pie crust, too -- but the refrigerated stuff is nearly as good, really cheap, and no work at all. Storebought.

                Roasted chicken varies - sometimes I do them myself, sometimes I buy them.

                So it varies -- everything swings on how much time and energy I have, and if there's an item that lives up to my scrutiny, and how big a difference it makes at the table.

                1. re: Hank Hanover

                  Tomato sauce is for me one of the things I always make in summer when the tomatoes are good. I enjoy the process of doing it. When Spring comes and I run out, I have been known to buy some.
                  I never make mix cakes. Scratch cakes are easy, except very elaborate ones, which I find fun. Cake mixes taste like chemicals to me, although I can't remember the last time I had one. I buy cakes sometimes at the marvelous bakery down the street.
                  Salad dressing is something I don't buy, no reason, it is easy and better at home.
                  I usually don't make mayo because it is hard to make a little, but when I do I am always glad I did. When the local farm isn't making ricotta, I make it, again, mostly because I like to .

                  1. re: Hank Hanover

                    I don't understand how making a cake from a box is so much easier, all they do is weigh and mix the dry ingredients for you, which is the easy part. You still have to mix in the eggs and milk, pour the mixture into a tin and bake it. Or are bake mixes in the USA different?

                    I think you've hit on something with the pasta sauce thing. It's much more worthwhile to make things that you like and use often.

                    1. re: ecclescake

                      I think one of the factors is the fact that most US recipes are by volume, not weight. You can't just slap one bowl on a scale and weigh as you go along - you have to sift your flour, scoop and sweep each cup, and dirty multiple measuring tools (cups plus teaspoons and tablespoons). It really does take more time to measure out dry ingredients from scratch - though it's usually worth it.

                      But it's also worth buying non-American cookbooks! I think it's SO much easier to weigh ingredients.

                      1. re: kathleen440

                        My US cookbooks are growing new columns, where I measure the traditional way, then throw it on the scales and note the weight so I can make it with whatever utensils I happen to have to hand that day.

                        (My European cookbooks are, too, just not at the same speed, because it's just so darned much easier to weigh, hit 'tare' and keep going)

                        1. re: kathleen440

                          New Zealand recipes are like that too. I usually don't bother with the sifting but I have been known to dirty multiple cups (although these days I prefer to weigh). I've just never though of it as a big deal, but then again I've never actually used a box mix so maybe I just don't appreciate how much easier it is.

                          1. re: ecclescake

                            ecclescake, they're not that much easier than making it from scratch -- you still have to measure and add oil, add eggs, and do the mixing... It might take 5 more minutes to make a cake from scratch than from a box.

                            And to me there's no comparison between a homemade cake and a spongey, rubbery, off-tasting box-made cake.

                      2. re: Hank Hanover

                        I read the book and even wrote a blog post on it. Her writing is pretty engaging so I think it is worth a read. In my case, I found I agreed with a lot of her suggestions, I do tend to make a lot of things from scratch though, including jams and pickles and all sorts of baked goods, so have a well stocked pantry.

                    2. I think this is an excellent point. Real life is somewhere between the two. If we buy everything, then it is like rice-roni or cup-o-noodle. If we do everything, then it is way too time consuming and unrealistic. So we have to settle to make some and buy some.

                      I like the idea of the book, but I don't know much. While it is interesting, I wonder if it isn't something we do all the time. We may not talk about it, but we definitely make this kind of decision on a daily basis.

                      1. I could buy lots of things cheaper than I can make them, but I take pride in doing them myself. Also, I've become quite the locavore, so I try to avoid buying things that are produced outside of my immediate area, which means making most things myself. Selection is generally poor here anyway, so I've simplified what we eat over the years to be able to focus on local products.

                        It's been years since I bought store bought bread, cakes, pastries, etc and even longer since I bought anything considered "prepared" except for puff pastry (just started making my own) and a few condiments. But most definitely, if you're trying to save money--there are some things that are more expensive made from scratch. I think the difference is most likely the costs of the raw materials, though, so if you're into organic flours or dairy products, then you can probably make things not available commercially.

                        I think this is probably the same with most household hobbies--you could buy ready made clothes and sweaters much cheaper than you can make them yourself, and you can buy cheaper produce than you can grow it at home (unless you have space for producing lots and selling some), but the quality would be superior in the homemade versions.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Transplant_DK

                          I think it's a little bit different for us expats, too, Transplant_DK -- there are things that we've eaten all our lives that simply isn't available in our adopted homes, so we either make it ourselves, or go without!

                        2. "I could make an apple pie from scratch, but first I'd have to invent the universe"...Carl Sagan

                          I don't make many condiments from scratch. I should make more bread from scratch. I've made butter and the store bought was better

                          I do tend to make most of my meals from scratch but lie some where in the middle. I agree with the title of this book. Some things are best made by professionals either due to equipment, time or ingredients

                          1. Things I never buy: cakes, cookies, salad dressing, etc. Making my own is vastly better and cheaper.
                            Things I almost never buy: pasta sauce ,but every now and then I'll pick up a jar for convenience purposes.
                            Things I like to make but usually buy for time reasons: bread!! I love to make bread, but I am busy, so I often find I just don't have the time. Especially to be around when it's time to shape it and let it do its second rise.

                            I rely a lot on canned beans, even though I know beans cooked from their dry state are much healthier, cheaper, and of superior taste. I would really like to change this. I also rely a lot on canned tomatoes, so I guess you could say my pasta sauce isn't really "from scratch," but I start with whole stewed tomatoes (muir glen fire roasted or san marzano), sauteed fresh garlic and onion, and add lots of herbs. Semi-homemade?

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: IndyGirl

                              most of the world makes tomato sauce from canned tomatoes, I'm guessing.

                              Invoking drunk Aunt Sandy is a crime against tomato sauce.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                Hah!!!! at the Drunk Aunt Sandy reference. I was just trying to be honest, you know? Anyway, once or twice I've started with the whole tomatoes from the farmer's market when they are in season, but mostly not realistic for me.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  Aunt Sandy's "semi-homemade" is really a misnomer, because she focuses on how to absolutely minimize the "homemade" aspect by combining store-bought pre-prepared ingredients -- to the extent that even the seasoning comes in through the prefabricated components. An Aunt Sandy "semi-homemade" pasta sauce would probably be a Unilever tomato sauce with garlic and herbs already included, plus one or more of Unilever's (Knorr's) packaged spice/herb mixture(s). (Disclaimer: I used to work as a process engineer for Unilever's food products business.)

                                  1. re: drongo

                                    I agree.

                                    I'm no fan of Rachel Ray, but at least she manages meals made from things identifiable as food.

                                    If they get someone into the kitchen instead of unpacking dinner from a box or bag, it's a start.

                              2. oh yes, someone brought up ricotta--it is SO good homemade!! Unfortunately, it does take some time to let it curdle. So I usually buy it. But once I was making a lasagna for a family gathering and my mom accidentally bought feta, so I sent someone out to the store to get lemons, heavy cream and whole milk---in a few hours, great ricotta!! Far superior to most storebought.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: IndyGirl

                                  I make ricotta regularly and it takes like 20 minutes to curdle.

                                  1. re: magiesmom

                                    you know, I was whizzing around the kitchen and not really paying attention, so chances are it was ready earlier than that! at any rate, a great foodstuff.

                                    1. re: IndyGirl

                                      Ah but did it have the indentations from the basket it was formed in, like the one I bought on the side of the road in Calabria? And it was still warm. Sigh.

                                2. a friend mentioned the other day that she bought a box of ina garten's brownie mix. it was FIFTEEN DOLLARS!!!! after my jaw hit the floor and i asked her wtf? she just said it was easier and she loves the barefoot contessa. brownies are one of the easiest baked goods in the world to produce, but i guess not to everybody.

                                  i buy condiments, like mustard, mayo and hot sauce. i don't eat ketchup.

                                  i happily buy cheese, butter and cream, since i do not own a cow. i also have access to a local organic dairy and fabulous cheese shops.

                                  ditto on local butchers, so i buy sausage and cured meats.

                                  my b/f does make his own beer, but augments that with a steady supply of harpoon ipa.

                                  i don't eat foods with flour, but enjoy baking for others, so it would never occur to me to buy supermarket cakes or boxed mixes for cookies and such.

                                  i just don't like other people making my food so avoid processed and prepared foods as much as possible.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                    hotoy, even during the years when I couldn't make from-scratch brownies that were worth eating, there's NO WAY I would have spent $15 on a brownie mix. I didn't even buy the Ghirardelli mix unless it was on sale!

                                    Other than brownies, I also find that baking mixes largely give me a weird, spongey texture that I really don't like.

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      When I was in college, my good friend bought me a crepe mix because she liked my crepes so much. I had to laugh when I got it. And when I looked at the instruction, it still required milk and eggs added to it. So, the Crepe mix was basically flour in a fancy box.

                                    2. Book seems interesting.....like the concept.

                                      I prefer the convenience of canned beans, so use them most often. Same with jarred pasta sauce, tho I occasionally will make pasta sauce using canned tomatoes. I recently discovered a local BBQ food cart nearby - fresh smoked meats....I couldn't do as well, so I will partake him as opposed to making it.

                                      Now that I finally got my wok, I hope to make various Chinese foods as opposed to getting takeout.

                                      1. Buying from local farmer's markets certainly will get you fresher items and you may be able to get truly organic produce from them but they are certainly not cheaper. They are necessarily more expensive.

                                        Almost all farmers sell most of their crop to a wholesaler or retailer of some sort. The rest has to be sorted, loaded onto a truck and taken to a farmer's market where the farmer has to spend his day selling the produce and then he has to go back home and continue farming. All this involves extra time that he has to be compensated for. Consequently his prices are going to be higher than the grocery store that bought hundreds of pounds of his product.

                                        There are only a few items like fruits and tomatoes, when they are in season, that it is worth it for me. Peaches and nectarines, in particular, aren't worth buying at the store. They have to be picked green and shipped. They never ripen once picked. Maybe if it was at the library. It would simply be an interesting 1 time read.

                                        Regarding the book, it would have to be very cheap on a used book site for me to buy it.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                                          I think cost depends somewhat on where you live, how much is grown in the area, how much competition there is etc. I'm in the central valley area of California and am literally surrounded by farms, and farmer's markets are nearly always cheaper than the supermarkets. Even the one-stand farmer's market a few blocks away is much cheaper than the major grocery stores in the area.

                                          What makes no sense at all to me is that even surrounded by farms, the supermarkets still sell rock hard, flavorless fruit that was picked green and shipped from god knows where. I can walk down the alleys near my house and pick fruit from overhanging trees for free that is far better than anything I can buy for $1.99/lb at the store.

                                          1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                                            when I lived in Florida, I was in the Tampa area -- arguable the #1-producing region for salad vegetables for most of the eastern seaboard in the wintertime.

                                            I had just returned from a U-pick farm with a big bucket of crimson vine-ripe tomatoes in the trunk, and had to stop to pick up something at the grocery.

                                            I was pretty disgusted to see square pink tomatoes shipped in from California sitting in a store not 5 miles from fresher, more flavor, and more nutrients -- and I'd paid a fraction of the price for the whole big bucket of tomatoey goodness than what the grocery was charging per pound.

                                            1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

                                              I do miss the days I lived in Sacramento. In the summer, I could drive north about 50 miles and get fresh peaches and nectarines the size of grapefruits. In October, I could drive up to Apple Hill and get fresh apples and pears as well as an apple pie about 9 inches tall.

                                              And, of course, i could always drive up to Corning and get Almonds and Olives at the Olive Pit.

                                              But what I really miss about Sacramento is coming home from work and telling my wife I could have her in Reno for dinner.

                                          2. I heard the author of this book do an interview on NPR not long ago. If my fragile memory serves me, she was an aggressive do-it-from-scratcher, including doing things like curing her own proscuitto in her tiny Brooklyn apartment, etc. The interview was short but I remember being surprised by some of the things she decided were better bought. The one I remember in particular was ketchup; she said she's certainly made some delicious homemade ketchups -- and I've certainly eaten some -- but one night she held a blind taste test at a party, and the one her guests liked best was the store-bought. She said this wasn't necessarily because it tasted better, but that the taste of the store-bought ketchup matched her guest's idea of "ketchup," for better or worse.

                                            By the way, I'm not commenting on whether or not homemade ketchup is sublime or store-bought ketchup is the anti-sublime; just relating what little I remember about the interview. I remember thinking that the book sounded good and I'm glad you reminded me of it.

                                            (edited to fix a silly typo)

                                            10 Replies
                                            1. re: darklyglimmer

                                              The only person I can remember making homemade ketchup was Doris Day in one of her movies. Do you remember which one? I can't.

                                              1. re: pdxgastro

                                                Nope, but there's a restaurant near us that makes their own and it's pretty damn amazing, although a long way from my toddler's beloved "keppup."

                                                1. re: pdxgastro

                                                  The Thrill Of It All....she played James Garner's wife.

                                                  1. re: pdxgastro

                                                    Homemade ketchup was being made at the beginning of the movie Meet Me in St. Louis with Judy Garland. That is the only time I've ever seen someone do it.

                                                    1. re: livetocook

                                                      Ketchup is one of several things I'd rather make than use from a bottle, mostly because the classic old-timey recipes don't call for sugar! I found one many years ago in a piece by the Maine author Kenneth Roberts; he says to cook down canned tomato juice, but I'd rather get some good ripe local plum tomatoes and run them through my Italian tomato mill. If I had a ketchup that was spicy but not sticky-sweet, I might actually like it. I can barely stand the bottled stuff.

                                                      I do make mayonnaise when I'm in the mood, but for most everyday uses it's Hellman's/Best Foods. The only pickles I care to make are the fresh ones, especially the Thai kind with just sliced cucumber, salt, sugar, vinegar, water and red pepper flakes. I buy most bread except for cornbread and biscuits; I don't make pasta anymore but I do make fresh egg noodles when the mood hits me, and my pasta sauce is as likely to be bottled, or to have some bottled in it, as to be from scratch. And I very much prefer a simple homemade vinaigrette for a big green salad.

                                                  2. re: darklyglimmer

                                                    Obligatory National Lampoon Vacation reference:

                                                    Clark: Real tomato ketchup, Eddie?
                                                    Cousin Eddie: Oh, nothing but the best.

                                                    1. re: darklyglimmer

                                                      Yes I agree. I enjoy homemade ketchup as an interesting sauce but store bought stuff does taste like the really thing. And it has to be heinz organic, which is better than their regular.

                                                      1. re: JudiAU

                                                        +1, tried a few different recipes. Not worth the effort for a family of 2 and we don't use it that much anyway.

                                                    2. I end up making my own bread-type things a lot because I'm gluten-free -- mixes are often either twenty dollars, pretty gross, or both. Still, they're getting better and I do usually keep a sandwich loaf in the freezer. I buy pizza crust pre-made some of the time (Aidan's), and buy a mix some of the time (Bob's Red Mill). I make cakes, pies, cookies from scratch. Ditto nearly all the meat dishes I eat and, although I have canned beans in case of emergency, I usually plan ahead enough to soak from dried.

                                                      I buy most condiments (I lurrrve store-bought mayo!), and make most pickles (usually just fridge pickles though). I only recently started making pasta with alternate flours, but I don't eat a whole lot of pasta anyway. I make my own soup, and often stock.

                                                      I'm in the try-to-eat-locally camp, which along with dietary restrictions really prevents me from enjoying many so-called 'convenience foods'.. so I'll make my own stuff by default. I kinda like it that way. :)

                                                      1. I try to make my own bread as much as possible, but on a lot of times I always end up buying them. I also always have store-bought paratha in my freezer. It's for the night I don't feel like cooking or if I have strong craving for bread in the middle of the night.

                                                        Other things I always buy include dairy products, jelly, nuttella, peanut butter, tom yum paste and condiments like mustard, mayonnaise, and Sambal Oelek.

                                                        I don't buy salad dressing though. One, because I'm not a big fan of salad. Two, because we would end up with 20 bottles of salad dressing in the fridge by year-end, and no one would eat it.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: tsl_saga

                                                          And three it's dead simple, cheaper and tastier to make your own

                                                          1. re: scubadoo97

                                                            I make mayo (aoli), a large tomato 'mother sauce' that I put in containers and freeze then from which I can use to make chili/lasagna/spaghetti sauce etc.. all soups/stocks/dressings from scratch the 'French Laundry' way, all meat dishes,breads. I don't make fresh pasta or preserves because I enjoy buying them from the local farmers market vendors.

                                                        2. I think availability is a huge factor. For example, I have made my own pesto once before, and would love to make it again, but it is difficult to find enough good fresh basil to do so, so it's store bought only for me.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: PotatoPuff

                                                            You can substitute Italian flat leaf parsley for fresh parsley.

                                                          2. It depends on the product and who is cooking it and what the boughten alternative is. I've never understood why the phrase "from scratch" is supposed to automatically equate to "better than someone I could buy" or frankly, even "good".

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: LeoLioness

                                                              I think the inherent goodness of "scratch" is that it is not processed, and therefore healthier. I don't necessarily equate "goodness" with "taste" but with its ability to fuel the body. Something can be from scratch and taste horrible, something can be processed and be tasty. In the end, though, anything from scratch, (I think, anyway) automatically has potential for being both more healthful and tasty than any purchased, processed product.

                                                            2. yea me too. I live alone and don't eat much bread, nor am I an accomplished baker, so I greatly appreciate the variety and selection available at the market for when I do need it.

                                                              I love homemade applesauce, and it is not difficult to prepare, but I seldom make it myself. I don't eat cookies, cakes, pastries or brownies so I have no opinion on that other than I would not even think of making a pie crust when they are readily available and of high quality.

                                                              I have a very good Italian market very near me, so I have access to some great cheeses and ricotta etc.

                                                              I do make my own soups and salad dressings so I guess it is what the consumer wants and is able to do. there really is not a right and wrong here, IMHO.

                                                              I don't understand why people feel superior about this. I made my own red sauce for years, but I find the prepared ones quite acceptable and certainly convenient. I have not roasted a chicken since rotisserie chickens have been readily available. OTOH, I would never purchase a pre-made frozen lasagna.

                                                              This holiday season I attempted making candy for gifts. I need more practice. I enjoy reading what some people are capable of and enjoy makeing and I am impressed by their ambition. Wow. It does not influence what I do personally, however. Reality is reality.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: laliz

                                                                laliz, it's really, really hard when you're only cooking for one. Much as I like to cook, my fridge looked like a bachelor's when I lived alone -- leftovers, beer, and takeout, for the most part.

                                                                If I really got the itch to cook, I'd either bake and take it into the office, take to someone else's for dinner (I had a tiny apartment), or I'd divvy it up and freeze it (VERY rarely).

                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                  yea, I live in a studio so there are few dinner parties here. I have gotten very good at figuring out what travels well, as you say.

                                                              2. Among other things, I make my own cranberry sauce. I used to find the canned stuff acceptable, but when they changed the recipe to use high fructose corn syrup instead of sugar I couldn't stand the overly sweet, metalic taste. I buy bags of cranberries when they are in season and keep them in the freezer so I can make cranberry sauce, muffins, bread, etc., all year round.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: bitchincook

                                                                  Agree on the cranberry sauce!! I love my homemade version much better!

                                                                2. I like to bake my own bread whenever possible, but living in an area that gets to 110 degrees in the summer, I tend to avoid baking then and give in to store bought bread.

                                                                  As for spaghetti sauce - I do both. I like having it in a jar so when I need dinner in a hurry, I can boil some pasta, drain it, pour some sauce and some extra seasonings over it, heat the whole mess and dig in. But I also love my home made sauce which involves first canning my own crushed tomatoes in the summer, and then hours of simmering the sauce to perfection.

                                                                  Beans are the same - sure, canned beans are wonderful to pop open and mix up a quick bean salad. But if I'm making bean and sausage soup, I start from scratch with dried beans.

                                                                  Condiments are always store bought. Since I'm feeding just myself, a single bottle of mayo, mustard and ketchup last forever. Salad dressings are a mixed lot, I tend to have a couple of bottles of store bought in the fridge, usually of a creamy variety, along with a small mason jar holding a home made vinaigrette of some sort. I have been buying pickles from the farmers market from a lady who makes them herself, but hopefully this spring I'll change that and start making my own. Last summer I made several jars of jam and relishes for the first time, and there is absolutely NO going back any more.

                                                                  I hate to say it, but even though I prefer home made, I buy prepackaged cakes and cookies. The reason for this is that what I buy is in a smaller batch than anything I would make, so I don't have a whole cake or a dozen cookies around the house tempting me.

                                                                  I like to make my own stock, but I use it up faster than I can make it, so I end up buying jars of Better than Boullion. I use that most of the time except when I am making something where the flavor of the stock itself would be the focus - that is when my home made stock comes out.

                                                                  I guess I do as the book says - take a look at which is the better option of the two for my situation and do accordingly. I find it funny that things I think are worth making (stock, jam) are items my mother scoffs at me for wasting my time on when she can buy them easily, while she gets all indignant at me about how I will buy the occasional TV dinner, saying she would never do such a thing. The line is obviously at a different place for everyone.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: JasFoodie

                                                                    It would be interesting to see if there's some sort of passive-solar oven out there that would allow you to bake bread on hot days without heating up your kitchen

                                                                    1. re: JasFoodie

                                                                      I've seen a couple of cookie recipes recently where you freeze the dough in a log. That way you can easily slice of just a few cookies and bake them when you want. The dough in the freezer can still be a temptation, but not as bad as baked cookies that need to be eaten before they get stale.

                                                                      1. re: ecclescake

                                                                        I've done that in the past, and probably will do it again in the future. I just don't want to get into the habit of having cookie dough easily available. It's too easy to just pop a few into the oven a couple of times a week, while if I'm going to buy cookies, I probably do it just once or twice a month.