Whether it’s nail art, fashion accessories, wedding favors, or homemade bread, everyone seems to be jumping on the “do-it-yourself” bandwagon these days. True, DIY can be time-consuming, but more often than not, the finished product turns out to be less expensive (and more fun!) than buying it in a store. And let’s not forget that a successfully completed DIY project means you have something really cool that you can show your friends (or Tweet/Pin/Instagram/blog about) and be proud of. When it comes to healthy cooking, DIY is more than just a money saver. Those cans, bottles, and boxes of processed foods in the grocery store are loaded with extra calories and preservatives that none of us really needs. Taking a little bit of extra time and effort to make your own versions of these store-bought items is well worth it for a healthier pantry.
Chicken Stock – Canned stocks are notoriously high in sodium, too much of which can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and other serious conditions. Homemade stocks do take time and attention, but if you set aside a day to make a large batch you can separate and freeze it for easy future use. All you need is a whole chicken, water, some vegetables and spices, and a few good hours to spend. And we won’t judge you if you read 50 Shades of Grey while your stock is cooking.
Soup – Like stocks, canned soups can also have a pretty high salt content. Making soup from scratch is a great way to control your sodium intake and pack in tons of fresh vegetables. Most take under an hour to cook (some are ready in under a half hour!) and are guaranteed to be more satisfying than anything you can buy in a store.
Salad Dressing – The base ingredients of most salad dressings are oil and vinegar, so why not try making your own? You can make tons of delicious dressings from a basic vinaigrette, like raspberry-pomegranate, balsamic, or classic Caesar. Best of all, it only takes two minutes to whip up—seriously!
Peanut Butter – Believe it or not, it’s pretty simple to make your own peanut butter. Put some roasted unsalted peanuts and a little bit of peanut oil in a food processor for five minutes and you’ll end up with a preservative-free companion for your jelly. Flavor it with a little salt if desired, then store in the fridge for up to two months.
Granola Bars – Most of us assume that granola bars are a healthy snack, and they can be—if they don’t come in a wrapper that lists hydrogenated-this and high-fructose-that as ingredients. Eliminate the added sugar and preservatives by making granola bars at home. You can put in your favorite combination of nuts, seeds and dried fruit, like this almond-honey power bar with apricots, raisins, sunflower seeds and flax seeds.
Popsicles – Who doesn’t love a sweet, refreshing popsicle when warm weather hits? The problem with the store-bought kind is—you guessed it—an insane amount of added sugar. Spend a couple of dollars on plastic popsicle molds and sticks and you can have fresh, all-natural frozen treats all summer long. Try a blueberry peach or watermelon margarita ice pop, or use your favorite fruit!
Another great DIY: applesauce