a view from the laundry pile…

…it's all about perspective.

Don’t buy it! I can make it cheaper!

on August 5, 2012

I heard this, a lot, growing up. My mother has always been quite frugal and I’m glad she’s passed some of her thinking on to me. I can guarantee it’s saved me a lot over the years, especially in the kitchen. Not only in terms of making it for less but also in trips to the grocery store if I’ve run out of something I need in between shopping days.

(In no particular order…)

Brown Sugar

  • 1 cup White Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. Molasses

Combine these in a bowl and stir until it’s smooth (it will be a bit sticky). This makes 1 cup of brown sugar. To double the recipe use 2 cups of white sugar and 1/4 cup of molasses.

Baking Powder

  • 2 tablespoons Cream of Tartar
  • 2 tablespoons organic Cornstarch

Mix the ingredients together in a clean, dry jar that has a well-fitting lid – glass works well for this. Keep in a dry dark place. Always shake well before using to help keep the ingredients blend correctly. It will keep up to a month.

Peanut Butter
  • 2 cups Dry Roasted Peanuts
  • 1-1/2 tsp Oil (peanut, olive, or veggie oil – optional)
  • Salt to taste (also optional)
Pour peanuts into your food processor or blender.  Chop continuously for 2-3 minutes.  If you like your peanut butter really smooth, add a little oil to the mix to get it to the desired consistency.  Add salt to taste.  Store in the refrigerator.

Microwave “Ricotta Cheese” (makes about 1/2 cup)

  • 2 cups Whole Milk
  • 1/4 tsp. Table Salt
  • 2 Tbsp. Distilled White Vinegar OR Lemon Juice

Line a colander (or strainer) with 4 layers of cheesecloth OR 2 layers of food-safe paper towels (I’ve used coffee filters – they work fine) and set over a large bowl. Combine the milk, salt, and vinegar or lemon juice in a microwave-safe glass 1 quart (or larger) bowl. Microwave on “high” heat until lightly bubbling around the edges (about 2-4 minutes or until the milk registers about 165F on a food thermometer). Remove from the microwave and stir gently for 5 seconds. The milk should separate in solids (white curds) and translucent liquid (whey). If not, microwave for 30 seconds longer, repeating until it all separates.

Using a slotted spoon or skimmer, transfer the curds to the colander. Cover with plastic wrap and let it drain until the desired texture is reached. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Taco Seasoning (for 1 lb. ground burger/turkey/meat substitute)

  • 2 Tbsp. Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp. Cumin
  • 1 tsp. Coriander
  • 1 tsp. Garlic Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. Cayenne

Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container if not using right away.

Sweetened Condensed Milk

  • 1 cup Instant Dry Milk
  • 1/3 cup hot Water
  • 2/3 cup Granulated White Sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. melted Butter
In a blender, combine all the ingredients and blend until smooth. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.  Use this in any recipe that calls for 1 can of store-bought sweetened condensed milk. 
 Croutons (a very good use for stale bread!)
  • 3 slices Bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh herbs, such as Thyme, Rosemary or Oregano
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F. Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl and then spread out in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake, tossing every few minutes, until golden brown and crisp (about 10 to 15 minutes). Let cool and store in an airtight container (if they get a little soft, you can always “re-bake” them for a few minutes to crisp them up again). I’ve also tossed these with popcorn seasonings, like parmesan or cheddar cheese, depending on what type of soup or salad I’m serving them in.

Simple Ketchup (Catsup)

  • 1 cup Tomato Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Vinegar

In a small bowl, add all the ingredients and mix well.  Keep refrigerated.

Tortilla  Chips

  • Corn and/or Flour Tortillas
  • Oil Spray
  • Seasoning (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Lay the tortillas out in a single layer and spray with oil on both sides. (I use a non-stick Olive Oil nut any spray oil can be used). If you use a seasoning, sprinkle it, lightly, on both sides now.

Cut the tortillas into quarters (if using large flour tortillas, you can cut them into strips). You can use a sharp knife, pizza cutter, or scissors.

Arrange the tortillas in a single layer on baking sheets. Bake for approximately 6 to 7 minutes until the edges start to curl and turn lightly brown. Check the chips after 5 minutes — they can burn easily and oven temperatures vary.

Once the chips are done, remove from the oven to cool.  They’ll crisp up more as they cool.

*For Pita Chips, use Pita bread, separating the top & bottom after cutting then follow the same instructions as above.


I could’ve just cut and paste this recipe from Allrecipes.com but the pictures are wonderful — here’s the link for it.


Pesto Sauce (makes about 1 cup)

  • 4 cups fresh Basil Leaves
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/3 cup Pine Nuts (or Walnuts)
  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 tsp. Salt
 In a food processor or blender, blend the first 4 ingredients until it forms a paste. Then add in the Parmesan and salt and blend until smooth. You can make this a day ahead by topping it with a thin layer of olive oil (to preserve the color/flavor) and keep refrigerated.

Beverage Mixes (this is a repost from Hillbilly Housewife – wonderful website!)

Instant Cafe Au Lait Cafe Latte Mix
English Breakfast Tea Cafè Vienna Coffee Mi
Creamy Rich Hot Chocolate Mix Mocha Espresso Coffee Mix
Spiced Tea Mix Swiss Mocha Coffee Mix
Hot Cocoa Mix Ginger Tea Mix
French Vanilla Coffee Mix Bavarian Mint Coffee Mix
Toffee Coffee Mix Orange Nutmeg Coffee Mix

2 responses to “Don’t buy it! I can make it cheaper!

  1. Wow, awesome ideas!!
    I make croutons with old bread, too. 🙂


  2. LB Driver says:

    Thanks, Bonnie! I bet you have some wonderful ideas, too! 😉
    Happy cooking!

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