top of page

My Favourite Tasty Homemade Foods That Costs Less Than Store Bought Alternatives


The latest Co-op 'Freezer Deal' is now live in your local Co-op storeKeeping food costs down by making food from scratch at home:  5 favourite 'made at home' recipes that our tasty and cheaper than store bought alternatives.

Keeping food costs down by making food from scratch at home: 5 favourite 'made at home' recipes that are tasty and cheaper than store-bought alternatives.


One of the ways I keep our food budget low is by doing my best to cook at home from scratch. It's not always possible, but it can save you a decent amount of money by ditching store-bought prepared foods and doing it yourself.


I have five recipes I make a lot that I will share with you. Several of these can be made in advance and stored for use at a later date, which keeps food costs lower and makes life a little easier when time, or money, is short.


Homemade Pesto


Pesto is a delicious and versatile sauce originating from Italy, traditionally made with fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. It's a staple product in our cupboard for a quick and easy pasta dinner; my son would eat this every day if we gave him that option! Rising prices have resulted in the cost of buying decent pesto being a bit of a wallet buster, so we like to make our own, which is quick and easy and tastes better than any store-bought version!


Below is a basic recipe and method for making pesto. Pine nuts and basil can be expensive, so you can swap the basil for any leaves, such as parsley, spinach, kale, or rocket, which is perfect if you have some leftover leaves that need to be used up. In the summer, I grow my own basil, which grows quickly; you can keep replanting from the original plant cuttings and enjoy fresh basil all summer! Pine nuts can be substituted with any other kind of nut. I've made it with cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, and peanuts before, and it was delicious! Macadamia nuts were my favourite variation of not using pine nuts, but they aren't cheap, but if you have them, definitely use them!


Ingredients:

  • 4 oz fresh basil leaves or any other leaves you fancy

  • 2oz Pine nuts or whatever nuts you have in the cupboard

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled

  • 2oz grated Parmesan cheese or any other type of hard cheese; most supermarkets do a budget version of Parmesan.

  • Glug of olive oil. I've successfully used normal vegetable oil for this with no issues, which keeps the cost low!

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Toast the nuts (optional):

  • If you prefer a richer flavour, you can toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan over medium heat for a few minutes until they turn golden brown. Be careful not to burn them.

  1. Prepare the basil:

  • Wash the basil leaves thoroughly and pat them dry with paper towels. Remove any tough stems, as they can make the pesto bitter. If you are using leftover salad, make sure you wash off any dressing it may have on the leaves first.

  1. Combine ingredients:

  • Add the basil leaves, toasted nuts, garlic cloves, and Parmesan cheese in a food processor or blender. Pulse several times until the ingredients are roughly chopped and combined.

  1. Slowly add olive oil:

  • With the food processor or blender running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula to ensure all ingredients are well incorporated.

  1. Season to taste:

  • Add salt and pepper to taste. Remember that Parmesan cheese is already salty, so you might not need much additional salt.

  1. Adjust consistency (optional):

  • If the pesto is too thick for your liking, add more olive oil until it reaches the desired consistency.

  1. Store or serve:

  • If you're not using the pesto immediately, transfer it to an airtight container and cover the surface with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent oxidation and browning. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for longer storage.



Serving Suggestions:


  • Toss with freshly cooked pasta for a quick and flavourful meal.

  • Spread on sandwiches or wraps.

  • Use as a marinade for grilled vegetables or meats.

  • Stir into soups or stews for added depth of flavour.

  • Mix with mayonnaise or yoghurt for a tasty dip.








Overnight Oats


When we are going through our more healthy stages, this overnight oats recipe is one we often use for a yummy and filling breakfast that's healthy and relatively cheap.


Ingredients:


  • 2oz rolled oats. I use Organic Jumbo Oats, but all sorts of oats work fine

  • 4oz ounces milk (dairy milk, almond milk, soy milk, etc.)

  • 2oz Greek yogurt

  • 0.5oz chia seeds (optional for added thickness and nutrition)

  • 0.5oz to 1oz sweetener (such as honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, or sugar) to taste

  • Tiny drop of vanilla extract (optional, for flavour)

  • Pinch of salt

Optional Add-Ins:

  • Fresh or frozen fruits (berries, sliced bananas, diced apples, etc.)

  • Nuts or seeds (walnuts, almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.)

  • Nut butter (peanut butter, almond butter, etc.)

  • Spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.)

  • Shredded coconut

  • Chocolate chips, coca nibs or cocoa powder

Instructions:

  1. Combine ingredients:

  • Add rolled oats, milk, Greek yoghurt, chia seeds (if using), sweetener vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt in a jar or airtight container. Stir well to combine.

  1. Add optional add-ins:

  • If desired, add any additional ingredients such as fruits, nuts, seeds, nut butter, spices, coconut, or chocolate chips. Stir to distribute the add-ins evenly.

  1. Cover and refrigerate:

  • Seal the jar or container tightly with a lid and refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours. This allows the oats to absorb the liquid and soften.

  1. Serve:

  • In the morning, give the overnight oats a good stir. If the mixture is too thick, you can add a splash of milk to reach your desired consistency.

  • Add toppings, such as fresh fruit, nuts, or a drizzle of honey if desired.

  1. Enjoy:

  • Enjoy your creamy and nutritious overnight oats straight from the refrigerator!

Tips:

  • Overnight oats can be prepared in batches and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days, making them a convenient meal prep option.

  • Adjust the sweetness and thickness of the oats according to your preference by adding more or less sweetener and liquid.

  • Experiment with different flavour combinations and toppings to keep your breakfasts interesting and satisfying.



Pearl Barley Soup


A family favourite soup that's hearty, nutritious, easy to make, and freezes beautifully! I quite often make this when I find yellow sticker vegetables in the supermarket, especially mushrooms. I recently picked up a 12p fresh vegetable soup pack as a yellow sticker bargain and 25p mushrooms, and it made this already pretty cheap to-make soup amazingly frugal! I always have pearl barley in the cupboard; a little goes a long way!


Ingredients:

  • 2 litres of vegetable or chicken stock

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 onion, finely chopped

  • 3 carrots, diced

  • 1 celery stalk, diced - I don't use this as I hate celery, but it will enhance the flavour of the soup

  • 8oz mushrooms, sliced (button mushrooms work well)

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish, optional)


Instructions:

  1. Prepare the pearl barley:

  • Rinse the pearl barley under cold water to remove any debris. Set aside.

  1. Sauté vegetables:

  • In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, diced carrots, and diced celery. Sauté for 5-6 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften.

  1. Add mushrooms and garlic:

  • Add the sliced mushrooms and minced garlic to the pot. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and golden brown.

  1. Add barley and herbs:

  • Stir in the pearl barley, dried thyme, and dried rosemary. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, to toast the barley and herbs.

  1. Simmer the soup:

  • Pour in the vegetable or chicken broth, stirring to combine. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes, or until the barley is tender and the soup has thickened to your desired consistency.

  1. Season to taste:

  • Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper as needed. Adjust the seasoning to suit your preference.

  1. Serve:

  • Ladle the mushroom barley soup into bowls. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley, if desired. Serve hot and enjoy!

Tips:

  • You can customise this soup by adding other vegetables such as diced potatoes, diced tomatoes, or spinach.

  • You can add a splash of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce to the soup for extra flavour.

  • Leftover soup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days or frozen for longer storage.



Homemade Pizza Dough



Homemade Pizza

There is a reason there are so many pizza restaurants around, and that reason is that pizza is super profitable, mainly because pizza dough is so cheap! Making your own dough to make your own pizza will save you a fortune over getting a takeaway pizza and is still far cheaper than buying a frozen supermarket pizza, as you need very few ingredients.


I usually make a batch of pizza dough using the recipe and method below and freeze the dough I won't use immediately.


I freeze the dough in pizza-size balls, and it defrosts in under an hour so that you can make homemade pizza pretty quickly again at a later date.


Alternatively, you could make the pizzas and freeze them and then reheat them straight from the freezer in the oven; they cook super fast, so you can have homemade pizzas in minutes, which will save you the cost of a takeaway pizza when you are short of energy to cook or have time constraints.


The recipe below will make about six thin pizzas, less if you like your pizza thicker. I prefer a thin and crispy pizza, which is good as I can make more pizzas from my dough batch, making it even more economical.


Ingredients:


  • 1 packet of Doves Nutritional Yeast Flakes (Dried yeast)

  • 3/4 pint of warm water

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 1.8lb of bread flour, although plain flour will be fine as well

  • 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Instructions:

  1. Mix the dough:

  • In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a food mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, combine the dried yeast, flour and salt. Make a well in the centre and pour half the water along with the oil.

  • Mix the ingredients together until a dough forms. Add more water until the dough comes together. You may not need to use all of it. If using a food mixer, knead the dough on medium speed for about 5 minutes. If kneading by hand, transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead for about 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic.

  1. First rise:

  • Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover it with a clean kitchen towel or cling film. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until it doubles in size.

  1. Preheat the oven:

  • Preheat your oven to the highest temperature it can go, typically around 475°F to 500°F (245°C to 260°C). If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven to preheat as well.

  1. Shape the dough:

  • After the dough has risen, punch it down to release any air bubbles. Divide the dough into two equal portions for two medium-sized pizzas, or leave it as is for one large pizza. I divide this into five balls for my thinner pizza preference and roll the pizza base to about 12 inches in diameter.

  • Stretch or roll out the dough to your desired thickness on a lightly floured surface. You can also use your hands to gently stretch and shape the dough.

  1. Assemble the pizza:

  • Transfer the shaped dough to a lightly greased pizza pan or a piece of parchment paper if using a pizza stone. Add your favourite pizza sauce, cheese, and toppings.

  1. Bake the pizza:

  • Carefully transfer the assembled pizza to the preheated oven. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

  1. Serve and enjoy:

  • Remove the pizza from the oven and let it cool slightly before slicing. Serve hot, and enjoy your homemade pizza!

Tips:

  • For a crispier crust, you can pre-bake the dough for a few minutes before adding the sauce and toppings.





Homemade Granola


I love granola! Granola with a dribble of honey and a big spoon of Greek yoghurt on top is my favourite breakfast and often my dessert! The luxurious blend of nuts and oats, mixed with spices, floats my boat! My gripe is that decent granola is so flipping expensive, so I make my own!


Making my own allows me to put the ingredients I like in the blend, allows me to use up ingredients I already have in the cupboard and is, even after buying potentially lots of different ingredients, cheaper in the long run, plus it tastes better than any shop bought granola I've found to date!


Below is the recipe I use for my granola. it's super flexible as to the ingredients I add, so it can be adjusted as you see fit.


Ingredients:

  • 9oz rolled/jumbo oats

  • 4oz mixed nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc. I swap any change depending on what's on offer at the supermarket.

  • 2oz shredded coconut (optional)

  • 2oz honey or maple syrup

  • 2oz melted coconut oil or vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 4oz Organic Dried Fruits such as raisins, cranberries, chopped apricots, chopped dates, chopped figs, etc. I tend to buy the more premium fruit (often bought when on a special deal), and frankly, it's so much nicer than the cheap and cheerful fruit you can buy, but if you are trying to stick to a budget, cheaper fruit still works!

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven:

  • Preheat your oven to 300°F (150°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

  1. Mix dry ingredients:

  • Combine the rolled oats, mixed nuts and seeds, and shredded coconut in a large bowl. Stir to combine.

  1. Add wet ingredients:

  • In a separate small bowl, whisk together the honey or maple syrup, melted coconut oil or vegetable oil ), vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, and salt (1/4 teaspoon) until well combined.

  1. Combine dry and wet ingredients:

  • Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients in the large bowl. Stir well until all the dry ingredients are evenly coated with the wet mixture.

  1. Bake the granola:

  • Spread the granola mixture evenly onto the prepared baking sheet. Press it down slightly with a spatula to create an even layer.

  • Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until the granola is golden brown and crispy. It doesn't need to be super brown to be crisp; it'll continue to crisp up after it's been taken out of the oven.

  1. Add dried fruits:

  • Remove the baking sheet from the oven and sprinkle the mixed dried fruits (4 ounces) over the hot granola. Press the dried fruits gently into the granola.

  1. Cool and store:

  • Allow the granola to cool completely on the baking sheet.

  • Once cooled, transfer the granola to an airtight container or jar for storage. Store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.





Comments


bottom of page