10. Vanilla Extract
Pure vanilla extract is really easy to make—you just need vanilla beans and a cup of vodka, rum, or bourbon. Not only do you get a much better ingredient than the store-bought version (and more extract than if you bought the same amount), everything you use the vanilla extract in (cookies!) will taste better as a result.
Making your own American cheese, cream cheese, and other cheeses (homemade ricotta isamazing) is surprisingly easy with just a few basic ingredients. Besides having really fresh cheese, you can mix in other flavors if you like.
Most of us don’t have buttermilk around all the time, and when we do need it for something, the carton is often too big and we end up wasting the whole thing. Add a little vinegar or lemon juice to milk, though, and you can whip up some buttermilk in a few minutes on the cheap.
7. Spice Mixes
Cajun seasoning, Old Bay, and other pre-packaged spice mixes are very easy to recreate on your own when you have the ingredients list. So instead of paying $5 for a bottle you might not use up before the mixes get stale, just stock up on the basic spices that are behind these mixes. And if you haven’t tried it already, you might want to make your own bacon salt too. (Who am I kidding? Go make some bacon salt.)
When you make your own stock, you turn kitchen scraps—things you would normally throw away—into an awesome base for soups and other dishes. Make chicken stock like a pro and customize its flavor and healthiness to your liking. You don’t even need a recipe to make vegetable stock.
5. Alternative Milks
Soy milk, nut milks, and nut butters are all cheaper to make at home, not to mention fresher. Our own Dave Greenbaum says he saved 20% on almond milk when DIYing it using organic almonds at home—plus the added benefit of getting almond meal, which you can use in other recipes.
4. Cocoa Powder and Instant Hot Cocoa
You only need three ingredients to make better-tasting, higher quality cocoa mix: powdered chocolate or cocoa, sugar, and a little salt. If you want your hot chocolate to be creamier and taste more chocolatey, add in a few more ingredients to your hot cocoa mix and you’ll be all set in these cold winter months.
There really is nothing quite like freshly baked bread. Although some breads may take more time and effort than it’s worth, many breads can be made with just a minute or 5 of prep time. You don’t even need a breadmaker: a pressure cooker will bake a warm loaf in minutes or you can “bake” bread dough on the stovetop.
2. Peanut Butter
DIY peanut butter is worlds away from the commercial stuff. All you need is a food processor and five minutes (plus roasted peanuts, of course) to concoct your own better-tasting peanut butter. Let Alton Brown show you how to roast peanuts for it in a wok.
1. Salad Dressing
When you know the formula for salad dressings, there’s no need to ever buy packaged dressing (which often has so much salt, sugar, and other ingredients you might not care for), since it’s so easy to combine simple ingredients into a great vinaigrette.
Photos by kavastudio (Shutterstock), Silanti (Shutterstock), Matthew Cole (Shutterstock).