Ask the Audience: DIY

Heather says:

Hey hey Home Eccers, it was a very long day here at chez Heather, so I’ll be covering my slack by putting the ball in your court.  It’s time for Ask the Audience!  ::cheers and applause::

Today’s topic:

Companies make money by creating a perceived need and then filling that need.  What culinary products out there are you capable (and willing) to do yourself and which do you think are worth the cost?


  1. Heidi @ Carolina Dreamz on April 9, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Food allergies keep me from buying pre-shredded cheese, even if its cheaper or of equivalent price.

    I won’t buy spaghetti sauce when #10 cans of crushed tomatoes are $2.16 at Sam’s.

    But while I’m at Sam’s, I’ll buy the bagged chopped Romaine, but mostly because its affordable and fast.

    I buy bread. I buy good bread. I can’t make it. It is my major splurge. I need intervention.

  2. MarkK on April 6, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    I second the better-than-bullion for making stock. I’ve made my own on occasion, but better-than-bullion is pretty damn good and I can have a cup or two of stock ready in a jiffy.

    I _do_ try to make a lot of stuff from scratch, though. I make pancakes and waffles at least weekly and I don’t understand why one would want to buy frozen waffles/pancakes. They aren’t very good, they have nasty stuff in them, and making them from scratch is really easy! OK, waffles are more work than pancakes, but it is still not bad.
    I keep what doesn’t get eaten the first morning in the freezer and I have easy breakfast for the kids for the next few days.

  3. Jasi on April 5, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    With a food processor handy, I won’t buy hummus or pie crusts. Takes all of 2 seconds to do myself, tastes better (sweet or savory, dig), and costs tons less. I also like to shred my own cheese, portion and freeze. Salad bags give me the creeps.

    But I do mini carrots. I hate peeling carrots. All wobbly and uneven. Silly, I know. Organic ones around here are pretty cheap ($1.79) for a huge bag of lazy. A stupid splurge.

  4. tammy on April 5, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    I’m totally guilty of pillsbury refrigerated pizza crust. With a coupon I usually get it for less then a buck and then the hubby and kids will make the pizza without me! I love a night off!! 🙂

    I’m also terribly guilty…I can’t believe I am admitting this….of buying Horizon Organic milk in the ind. cartons. (gulp) My son is autistic and he LOVES these. You don’t have to keep them cold, I usually keep one on hand when we are out to calm an unexpected temper tantrum.

  5. hsgbdmama on April 4, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Willing to buy:

    – Organic lettuce (the 1# box) as it is more economical than the bagged stuff and healthier than iceberg lettuce.
    – Canned pumpkin here too! 🙂

    Waste of money:

    – Easy Mac&Cheese and now the frozen Mac&Cheese. It’s not that tough to make in the first place!

    We are now shredding most of our own cheese and I have to say it is a better deal and it tastes better. We purchase a huge block at Sam’s, split it up, vaccuseal the chunks and then pull out and shred as needed and keep the shredded cheese in a plastic (reusable) container.

    I’m also making more of our own bread and it does taste so much better than the store bought stuff.

    My next conquests: homemade spaghetti and pizza sauces.

  6. JRae on April 3, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    I thought I read somewhere that shortly after chopping onions, most of the nutrients “leave”, therefore it’s best to use onions as soon as possible after chopping them.

    Would freezing chopped onions stop that?

    I love the shredded cheese in freeze idea! How do you keep it from clumping?

  7. Peintre on April 3, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    I call guilty on: baby carrots, bagged salad, and the Uncrustable frozen PB&J (but I only buy it on the occasion as a special treat! My kids like the edges so I bought a Press and Seal made their sandwhiches and they were none the wiser).

    I’d like to make pasta, but I don’t have the equipment.

    When my brother worked for In ‘N’ Out Burger (fast food joint in CA), he would bring home onions. My mom would chop the onions using the food processor and freeze them in a bag for later use.

    As for unnecessary? PB&J mixed in the jar. Also premade spegehtti sause, frozen hamburger patties, and frozen foods. Neither have much taste and are way too expensive for my taste.

  8. Tammy on April 3, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    I don’t buy shredded cheese, but my reason is because of the cellulose (read: wood shavings) that they put in it to keep it from clumping.

    I also don’t do pre-cut fruit or veggies (except baby carrots sometimes).

    I’m with SpaceDog on the pasta–no way do I have time for making fresh pasta on a weeknight. I do like the pre-bagged salad. I could do the lettuce on my own, but keeping the other veggies on hand and FRESH is my challenge.

  9. Bramble on April 3, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    now that i’m making a habit of it making my own bread isn’t so bad a deal. I would however love one of those slicers that make potatoes into perfectly shaped french fries. i hate chopping/cutting/dicing things.

  10. Lisa- Domestic Accident on April 3, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    I’m guilty of salad in a bad for sure. Or precut carrots. I don’t make my own hummus either and we eat lots of it.

  11. warillever on April 3, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    Convenience foods in my pantry:
    -dry pasta
    -canned beans
    -basic sauces (ketchup, bbq, mayo….even canned tomato sauce)
    -Tyson chicken nuggets for the nights that I just DON’T want to cook
    -Goldfish crackers
    -cold cereals

    Things that are not allowed in my house
    -boxed mac-n-cheese
    -microwave popcorn
    -jellied “fruit” snacks
    -instant oatmeal
    -juice boxes (the waste factor drives me BONKERS)

  12. Susie on April 3, 2008 at 10:50 am

    Okay. Premade peanut butter and jelly is a total pet peeve of mine. PB& J is not rocket science and takes about the same amount of time to make one as it does getting the premade ones out of the freezer. I saw premade cream cheese and bagels in the freezer the other day so I’ll include that in my list of ready-made food that irritate me.

    On the other hand, canned pumpkin is worth it’s weight in gold IMHO.

  13. Mrs.W on April 3, 2008 at 9:28 am

    That is, I DON’T buy pre-pattied hamburger. Don’t know why those are even on the market.

  14. Mrs.W on April 3, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Hmm… good question. Well, let me preface this by saying I have particular dietary restrictions, and most convenience products on the market are things that I can not eat–so in order to satisfy my foodie cravings I make quite a bit from scratch.

    Except maybe for pre-pattied hamburgers. What’s that all about?

    That said, I do buy the pre-bagged baby spinach, because it’s not possible to buy it any other way here. For other greens, as well as other fruits & veg, I clean & cut my own.

    I also use the better-than-bullion products for quick broth. I prefer it to cans/boxes, because it’s easier to store, I make it weak so it’s lower-sodium, and it isn’t as bad (ie, no msg, not too bad sodium-wise) as other bullion and some broths on the market.

  15. SpaceDog on April 3, 2008 at 7:03 am

    Ready made pastry (puff, pie crusts, whatever). It takes too long to make it myself (I know, make and freeze, make and freeze).

    Does pasta count? I could make pasta from scratch but no way am I doing that for a Wednesday night supper.

    Apart from that I do things mostly from scratch and get the ready-made stuff around for the days when I’m under-the-weather or in a rush.

  16. chocolatechic on April 3, 2008 at 6:45 am

    Baby food
    Bottled water
    Shredded cheese~~however, if I can get it at the same price per pound (I can and many times I can find it cheaper) I will get it.

    I like pre-bagged salad, but we don’t get it much. I just hate all that chopping of lettuce.

  17. Fawn on April 3, 2008 at 4:19 am

    It’s so interesting to read these comments because you really see the “one man’s junk” wisdom coming out. I, too, appreciate bagged salads on occasion; some days the time saving is totally worth it. I also sometimes make my own stock, but still find having the canned kind around a huge convenience when I don’t feel I have the time to thaw out my own. And I LOVE keeping grated cheese in the freezer because we go through SO much cheese that there’s never enough to grate just when I need it. Where I live, it actually costs the same as the equivalent weight of a block of cheese, so I don’t see it as a waste of money — and means I go through fewer blocks of cheese, so I’m saving packaging, too.

    I’m with Sally on the pre-cut fruits and veggies, though. I can’t believe how much they charge for that! I don’t even get baby carrots .

    The other thing I rarely buy (bought, because my toddler is past the stage now) is baby food. I did have a few on hand for emergencies, but I always preferred to make a batch of pureed veggies and freeze in ice cube trays. Convenient, and I felt so much better about the nutritional/preservative content.

  18. jennywantstocook on April 3, 2008 at 3:41 am

    bags of grated cheese! I know some people swear by it because they can keep it in the freezer and just take out what they want. But really, it seems to me to indicate the decline of western civilisation. not that I’m overreacting or anything…

  19. Claudia (cook eat FRET) on April 3, 2008 at 1:46 am

    homemade stock as opposed to boxed or canned. homemade is the only way to go… save your bones and freeze the stock in small batches for when you need it. it is so much better than storebought.

  20. Lark on April 2, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    I think bottled water is a rip-off. Some people I know buy it (and use it) by the cases but they wouldn’t be caught dead ever re-using any of the bottles with culinary tap water. Reusable water bottles, (like the Camelbak, my fav), are dishwasher safe, don’t affect taste of the water, and keep lots of disposable bottles from going into the landfill. That said, I must admit that I do have a case of bottled water in storage for emergencies when culinary water may be unsafe to drink.

  21. minnemom on April 2, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    The refrigerated rolled pie crusts. Yes, I can make pie crust, and yes, it tastes better, but my husband gets a lot more pie when I use the pre-made crusts. (That reminds me–should be less than 30 days to rhubarb season. Yum yum!)

  22. Sally on April 2, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Oh, I think bagged salad is completely worth the money. A bag in our stores is usually $2.50 and is about the right amount for our family. When I buy lettuce it either ends up being too much, so some gets wasted, or it all gets thrown away because I put off using it until it goes bad. But then I’m juggling a four-year-old and a baby, so maybe I’ll feel differently about in a couple of years. I also don’t have a salad-spinner so I end up using up lots of towels drying the lettuce leaves when I wash it myself.

    I do, however, think other pre-cut fruits and veggies are a waste for us. We go through vast quantities of snack fruits and veggies, so it would cost a lot of extra money for us to buy pre-cut pineapple or celery or bell peppers or melon.

  23. JayMonster on April 2, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    It is really hard to justify the cost (to me anyway) of a couple of different products. All of which are for “convenience” and really don’t save anywhere (and in some cases hurt the planet as well). But you said culinary products so I will pick the worst (in my not so humble opinion) offender of what is not worth the cost.

    Ready Made Salads – They are expensive, are of questionable quality and some even contain traces of bleach. Is it really all that hard to rip up a head of lettuce? The time saving here is so negligible, that it really amazes me.

  24. Bean on April 2, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    Frozen chopped onion. I hate onion, don’t use it often and at .99 a bag? So not worth chopping my own.