If you love food, a trip to the supermarket can be a glorious thing - zipping up and down the brightly lit aisles, grabbing items from bountiful shelves and placing them in a shopping cart that is full of possibility! But it can just as easily be a stressful experience, full of price comparisons, wading through difficult-to-understand ingredients lists and the eternal struggle to pick out the best product from a shelf of seemingly identical items.
There are, however, some grocery items that might be better to avoid as a whole. Some contain unexpected ingredients like refined oils, sugar and salt, some don't provide the nutrients you may be expecting to benefit from, some are way more expensive to buy than to make and most of them are vastly superior when homemade from the comfort of your own kitchen.
From convenience items, canned goods, and items that most people assume are healthy to products that are as easy to make at home and taste more delicious when you do, it's easy to save money and eat better by avoiding these 15 grocery items on your next trip to the store.
Sure, baking mixes are convenient - who doesn't love a lazy Saturday morning spent making waffles or pancakes, seemingly by magic? Just a scoop, some eggs, a splash of milk and voila! Batter is done. But those premixed boxes, while handy, are kind of a waste of money and, once again, could be loaded with strange chemical-sounding ingredients. So why not just make your own mixes? It's really not that complicated - simply combine all of the dry ingredients and store them in an airtight jar until you are ready to use them.It may be tempting and super easy to grab a box of cookies or a container of muffins as you whiz around the supermarket, but we all know that eating an excessive amount of sugary, floury (not to mention delicious) baked goods isn't a particularly healthy habit to have. This doesn't mean no baked goods ever, not by any means! But why not make your own at home? You'll know exactly what's going into them, which means no nasty chemicals and hard-to-pronounce ingredients - plus you'll discover the immense satisfaction that comes with home baking! Things are sure to taste even sweeter and more wonderful when you make them yourself.
Baking Mixes and Pancake Mix
Sure, baking mixes are convenient - who doesn't love a lazy Saturday morning spent making waffles or pancakes, seemingly by magic? Just a scoop, some eggs, a splash of milk and voila! Batter is done. But those premixed boxes, while handy, are kind of a waste of money and, once again, could be loaded with strange chemical-sounding ingredients. So why not just make your own mixes? It's really not that complicated - simply combine all of the dry ingredients and store them in an airtight jar until you are ready to use them.
Canned Fruit and Vegetables
If you have access to fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, those really are the better-for-you options. Canned vegetables sometimes have a really high sodium content, and canned fruit is often saturated in sugar, so if you're using them in lieu of the fresh stuff, you might be missing out on a lot of their natural goodness! Of course, if there's no other option, a meal made from cans is not going to do you harm, but try not to make canned fruits and vegetables the center of every meal.
When something is so easy to make yourself, it's just silly not to, right? Like canned vegetables, store-bought chicken stock can sometimes contain high levels of sodium. These days, there are tons of low-sodium options available - but even with those, you are spending money, which is kind of unnecessary when it comes to stock! Any time you roast a chicken, just store the bones in a bag in your freezer until you have enough to fill a large pot, along with any onion ends, carrot peelings, parsley stems and other aromatic vegetable scraps you would have otherwise thrown away. The magic of homemade stock is that you are making something that's so superior to anything you can buy and you're making it from things that would normally get thrown out. It's a no-brainer really!
Croutons and Breadcrumbs
Don't spend money on those dry, sawdust-like breadcrumbs that seem to have an indefinite shelf-life. Just make your own! If you have a stale loaf of bread that has seen better days, just slice it into manageable pieces and thrown them in your food processor. Then simply pulse until you have wonderful breadcrumbs-whatever size your heart desires! Store your breadcrumbs in an airtight container in the freezer until you need them and never rely on the store-bought stuff again.
Granola and Granola Bars
Homemade granola is so delicious and makes any kitchen smell absolutely heavenly. As with other homemade versus store-bought grocery items, making your own granola ensures you know exactly what's going into it - and it can end up being so much cheaper than the store-bought varieties.
It's the same with granola bars. They're often touted as healthy snacks, but all too often, they're loaded with more sugar than you might realize.
Instant anything tends to make life a bit easier, but when it comes to getting breakfast made in a hurry, that instant oatmeal that seems so convenient might not actually be doing anyone any favors. Like so many other items on this list, prepackaged sachets of instant oatmeal tend to contain a lot of unneccesary sugar, which most people try to avoid first thing in the morning. Those handy packets also tend to be way more expensive than plain oatmeal.
All you need to do to make your own homemade instant oatmeal is pulse some rolled oats in a food processor until the oats are roughly half their initial size - this is the secret to instant oatmeal. Then all that's left to do is mix in different delicious things to flavor it! Try chia seeds, some brown sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon, and don't forget a pinch of salt!
It may seem more convenient, but buying a jar of minced garlic (or ginger) is something no one should ever do. Fresh garlic is so readily available and tastes so wonderful that it makes no sense to buy any other kind. That stuff in jars that seems to last way too long (like, indefinitely... yuk!) may have been bleached and can even contain things that aren't garlic, which just seems bizarre.
By now we all know that some brands of peanut and other nut butters can be loaded with unnecessary oil and sugar. But often, the 'good' ones - the organic, raw, nothing-added kinds, are prohibitively expensive. Luckily it's pretty easy to make homemade nut butters, which means you never have to settle for added ingredients you don't want in your PB&J and you don't need to spend tons of money either.
Turn once again to your trusty food processor and enjoy freshly made peanut butter - or cashew, or almond... the possibilities are endless!
Pesto is a cinch to make and by making it at home, you can seriously tailor it to your taste buds. Not a fan of garlic? Add less. Trying to use up some arugula that's looking sad at the back of the fridge? Throw it in! Fancy using cheese that's not Parmesan? Use it! The world is your oyster when it comes to pesto, and making it at home will open your eyes to the numerous different ways you can use pesto. Control is the name of the pesto game here; add only the ingredients that you want. Nothing more, nothing less.
Pre-Cut Fruit and Vegetables
It's easy to cut your own fruit and veg, and doing so allows you to choose produce that's actually ripe and delicious. The pre-cut packages of fruit and vegetables may seem tempting as you walk into a brightly colored supermarket, but they are overpriced and basically just a waste of money.
Grab a can of refried beans off the supermarket shelf and you may be surprised by the contents-there's often a lot more fat and sodium in them than you would expect. Instead, make your own using a simple can of black beans; add garlic, jalapeños, salt and chili powder to a pan, then throw in a can of beans (and a bit of water if things are looking dry) and smash things about with a potato masher until it is the consistency you like. Homemade refried beans will taste better and cost less, so it's a win-win.
Here we go again with unnecessary ingredients! It's pretty common knowledge these days that a lot of salad dressings are masquerading as healthy and actually contain refined vegetable oils, preservatives, stabilizers, artificial food coloring and lots of sugar. Once you know a basic salad dressing ratio - two to three parts oil to one part acid - you'll be able to throw together delicious dressing in no time at all.
Sliced or Grated Cheese
If you're in a hurry, those bags of grated cheese may seem like a harmless way to cut corners and save some time, but the reality is, there's probably more than just cheese in that bag. In order to stop the cheese from sticking together and forming a lump of cheese at the bottom of the bag, most shredded cheese contains additives to keep it from clumping together. It might not be the worst thing in the world - but it is made from wood pulp a lot of the time, which isn't exactly an appetizing thought.
Buying the grated stuff instead of a block is also such a waste of money. You're paying more for the convenience, but is it really worth it, wood pulp and all?
Once again we come face to face with the demon that is added sugar and preservatives! If making your own tomato sauce seems like a tall order in the middle of the week, try making a big batch over the weekend and storing it in the freezer for the same sense of convenience that store bought sauce provides.
Whether made from canned tomatoes or fresh heirlooms at the height of summer, homemade tomato sauce is always superior to the store-bought kind. If you are in a hurry and do need to pick up a jar, though, we tried, tested and ranked the best premium pasta sauces.
More from The Daily Meal:
Grocery Items You Should Stop Buying and Just Make Instead
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20 Grocery Store Items You Should Never Pay Full Price For