Walk into any store and you will no doubt see row after row of convenience items, the kind of staples we stock up on to make our hectic lives just slightly more manageable. You know what I mean: ketchup, mayonnaise, onion soup mix, ice pops and so many other items that seem to jump off the store shelves into your grocery cart of their own accord.
Yet, like me you know that there are certain items easy enough to make at home, items that not only offer economic savings but taste worlds better than store-bought. Obviously, there has to be some sort of balance between saving time, lowering your grocery bills and coming up with the best tasting and healthiest products for your family. While I personally love the taste of homemade applesauce, I don’t often have the patience to spend time peeling, dicing and cooking apples for a weeknight dessert when I can just pull a jar of applesauce off the pantry shelf.
Salad Dressing: Sure, most of us are trying to be more careful about what we eat and if we know what is good for us, we should all be filling our plates with a lot more salad. What makes a good salad a great salad? A good dressing. While I take my hat off to Pfeiffer, Ken’s and all those other companies that line store shelves, you can’t compare the taste of store-bought to that of homemade. Oil-based salad dressings take seconds to whip up and while their mayonnaise-based counterparts are just a little more labor intensive since you want to make sure that your dressing is lump free, they still take almost no time to prepare. So save your empty mustard bottles and refill them with large batches of your favorite dressings. I promise you they will elevate your salads from ho-hum to yum!
Dips: Walk though any kosher grocery store these days and you are bound to see row after row of dips, which have magically become a staple on our Shabbos tables and otherwise. Yet, so many of them are literally nothing more than just mayonnaise, seasonings and possibly one key ingredient. So pull out your food processor and start concocting. Olive dip is really nothing more than olives, mayo and spices, and care to venture a guess what is in that fried onion dip that your family can’t get enough of? That’s right, it is just fried onions, swirled into some mayo with a few shakes of seasoning. Try dill, jalapeno, pesto or just about anything else you can find in your pantry or refrigerator and chances are you’ll have a winner on your hands.
Spice Blends: I confess. I do stock onion soup mix, beef soup mix and chicken soup mix and I use them frequently. But recently I have been making a number of things that call for Montreal steak seasoning, seasoned salt and a few other blends that I don’t have on hand. I can’t tell you if it is my unwillingness to mess with the symmetry of my spice cabinet or not wanting to run out to the store while I am in the middle of cooking, but it just seems logical and easier to make my own. Just google away and find a recipe for the particular blend that you need, dumping it all into leftover spice jars or other containers that you (hopefully) have on hand. Takes seconds, costs pennies, who could ask for more?