Thrifty Thursday: Make vs Buy

Heather says:

In today’s world, convenience items are everywhere you go. From ready made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, frozen for your convenience to pre-hardboiled eggs in the dairy case, if you can dream it, someone is selling it.

Tell me, Home Eccers, what convenience items make you chuckle and which do you consider lifesavers? Answer here in the comments or feel free to leave a link back to your own blog entry.


  1. Ceci on April 27, 2009 at 8:56 am

    i buy, bagged salads, rotisserie chickens, condensed soups, lots of frozen meals. When someone makes a decent ‘cooking for 1’ cookbook, I’ll stop buying pre-made food. But to me it is more wasteful (both food & cost wise) to make a meal that serves 6, when i know i will only eat 2 or 3 portions (dinner, lunch, lunch usually). I do buy bottled tomato sauce and powdered gravy, and every time i use one i have to look up and say ‘please forgive me grandpa’.

  2. Jenny on April 27, 2009 at 3:06 am

    Jenni – If you drink coffee, try the flavored milk as coffee creamer. The vanilla flavor is great, and it’s way healthier than coffeemate type stuff. Has anyone looked at the label on it? It’s not as creamy as regular cream, so I just use a little more, and I really like the extra bit of flavor.

  3. Carol on April 26, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    I have crohn’s disease, and the moistened flushable wipes are a godsend to me. I’ve tried using witchhazel on regular tp but its not good enough during a flare.

    Frozen waffles, I don’t buy, paper towels, paper napkins, paper sanitary napkins.

  4. Mom4nell on April 25, 2009 at 11:46 am

    I used to think so many of the convenience foods were for wimps and a rip-off. However, we have a mentally and physically challenged daughter. I can see where she will need the ease of chopped onions or else take 10 minutes to chop one, besides the safety issues.

    On a side note, what about the gadgets we can’t do without like hand-held rotary can openers. We could use the old wiggle and push type, but we’re so accustomed to the rotary ones we don’t think that they were a convenience item at one time. Ditto washing machines, electric knives, packaging for food, etc.

    It’s all in what we grew up with and what we need/prioritize in life.

  5. Judy Hamby on April 24, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    I know it is bad, but I do buy the mashed potatoes. It is odd that when ever I am really ill that is what I crave. Just too sick to make my own from scratch. Also I buy frozen raspberries, no so much for the convenience but they are always cheaper that way. I am like the rest of you, I take alot of the convenience foods (bread, cookies, peanut butter, etc.) for granted.

  6. Tink on April 24, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Window cleaners…3+ dollars for a qt size spray bottle when a gallon of vinegar costs less than a buck and will make dozens of bottles of “window cleaner”.

    Or if you don’t like the vinegar smell, you can do the bottle of alcohol ,1/2 cup of ammonia and teaspoon of dish soap version for 89 cents a gallon.

  7. Judith on April 24, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Bextoronto made me think about how much I take for granted in the food aisles …. canned broths, pasta sauce, canned tomatoes, sliced bread, packaged cookies and crackers, ice cream and sherbert, canned and frozen veggies and fruit, frozen pizza shells. Somehow they don’t seem like conveniences because I’m used to buying them and not making them from scratch.
    I laugh at premade pb&j sandwiches and at packaged, microwaveable hot dogs in buns ….. but I am used to buying jars of peanut butter and of jelly and packaged bread ….. I guess I just take it one step back from what I laugh at!
    I do realize that these convenience foods are what allow me (and alot of other women) to go out to work; without them I would spend many more hours feeding my family.
    I make my own waffles, some o my own bread, bread crumbs, etc. I rarely use pre-washed lettuces (though I will buy spring mix). I buy few frozen meals (some ravioli or tortellini, once in a while). I buy juices and broths, but not condensed soups.
    So I guess it’s kind of hit and miss. But reflecting on it, I am very grateful for the conveniences I can choose when I want!

  8. Becki on April 24, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    I find myself laughing at an increasing number of convenience products. At this point, we make our own “Pop Tarts”, bread of all kinds and shapes, piecrusts, yogurt, lemonade, cookies, crackers, salad dressing…the list goes on. We save a ton of money (only spend about $100/month on groceries for two people), and about 98% of my health problems have cleared up. I’m never going back!

  9. Nancy on April 24, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    CanadianCarrie – congratulations on the breadmaker. I use mine mostly to make dough, for rolls, hamburger buns and pizza. Hamburger buns are especially overpriced in the store for what you are getting. The King Arthur Flour website had an especially good recipe for these entitled “Moomie’s Beautiful burger Buns”. Very simple, no weird ingredients, excellent results. They freeze good, too. You can also make small buns for the kids’ burgers ( if your kids are small).

  10. Nancy on April 24, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Premade mashed potatoes always make me giggle (usually sold next to the steaks in the meat case). So do frozen waffles and pancakes.
    My favorite convenience item is tomato paste. I also really like the small jars of already peeled and minced garlic. I don’t use much garlic, so buying a whole garlic is very wasteful for me – used to regularly toss most of it. Also, I don’t need to clean a garlic press with the jar stuff, and it keeps just about forever in the fridge.

  11. Rechelle on April 24, 2009 at 11:55 am

    bagged salads, sliced french bread, bottled pasta sauces are all three life savers!!!

  12. Princess Freckles on April 24, 2009 at 11:28 am

    I chuckle (and am a little grossed out) at frozen berries! I know it seems weird, but I just don’t think its worth the time one saves to eat thawed, bagged, berries. I’d rather just cut up fresh ones.

    I love the convience of shredded cheese (how can you go wrong?) and gourmet bottled pasta sauces. Sometimes I just don’t have to time to make the real thing, and I always seem to find at least one type of cheese and one type of pasta sauce on sale.

  13. DANIELLE S. on April 23, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    Packaged rice krispie treats are ridiculous, and homemade is so much better…although the last time I made them homemade I ate *way* too much and did not feel very well afterwards!

    How hard is it to buy a reusable water bottle and reuse it? Buy more than one so you can have one to use when the other is dirty in the dishwasher.

  14. Bextoronto on April 23, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    It’s interesting to see what everyone considers a convenience item. Before reading any other comments my first ‘go to’ convenience item was boxed broth. I use broth in so many recipes and I just do not (will not be bothered too even though I could) make my own. I’m just too lazy. I guess there are quite a few items one could consider as modern day ‘necessities’ that I just don’t make myself – anything canned for example (sauces, condiments, jam, applesauce), bread, juice, cookies,

  15. Carye on April 23, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    I chuckle at the frozen/ready made PB&J. Seems silly when it takes all of 15 seconds, if that, to make them at home. I do use convenience foods because of my hands. I use prechopped onions, peppers and shredded cheeses. I just can’t do that anymore. I love it when I find prechopped tomato although the taste is most definitely lacking. I readily admit to loving soups for cooking although I know that it is easy to make a white sauce and go from there, but so time consuming and I don’t think cheaper at all. I love that they come out with reduced sodium but they raise the prices…can’t have it all I guess.

    Love bagged salads, broccoli, carrots and cabbage bags too. While prepwork might not be hard for most, I am hand-challenged and just can’t do much anymore. These type of products are a life saver for me, not just a time saver.

    Biggest convenience? My crockpots. Several sizes depending on the meal, and whether I plan on cooking for several meals at one time. LOVE them.

  16. CanadianCarrie on April 23, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    I tried making homemade instant oatmeal, not so good. Instead of buying the premade jello cups, I make them at home, so easy and they taste way better. My only problem with those is that they are usually gone before I have time to hide them to only use for school lunches. Next week , I’ll have to do it Sunday night after the kids are sleeping. I also don’t buy fruit cups anymore, I buy big cans of fruit and portion them for kids lunches and snacks.
    I might even try doing pudding that way too.
    I like buying roasted chicken too, but occasionally I cook one up for a Sunday dinner, it’s so satisfying to open the oven and see and smell the deliciousness of homemade roast chicken!
    It does seem as though my kids are addicted to the flushable wipes, they are actually quite handy to have around for myself too!
    Store bought spaghetti sauce is good for quick suppers, when I have time, I do make homemade or buy everything and my husband makes it if he’s in a cooking mood.
    We have a french toast or waffle night and I use a whole loaf of bread or 2 recipes of waffles and freeze the leftovers. They are so quick and easy for breakfast, just throw them in the toaster.
    Coleslaw is so time consuming to make, so I just buy the bags. My kids even like it!!
    I recieved a breadmaker for CHristmas, and will be making my own this weekend, and hopefully every weekend thereafter. 🙂
    Sadly, I would buy frozen chopped onions if I found them, I hate chopping onions, they make me cry and I hate the smell on my fingers. (Stainless steel doesn’t always help 🙁
    I use paper towels too much, I realise it is a waste, but I’m just too lazy sometimes.

  17. Keter on April 23, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    My greatest conveniences are store-baked chickens ($1.oo more than not cooked!) and Bertolli 5 cheese spaghetti sauce. Both of these items are “real food” and can be used as the base to multiple recipes, or used alone if in a real time bind.

    On the non-food side, I tried alternatives to lotion (like olive oil) and was not pleased with the result with my sensitive and allergic skin, and then tried compounding my own lotion but was horrified by the expense, so I buy a cream and a serum version of a pricey brand – Origins – and add to it according to what I want to do with it, such as add liquid vitamin C with vegetable glycerin for a daily facial moisturizer, or add oil of oregano for a foot treatment, or mix it with Aveeno lotion and NA-PCA with aloe for an after shower body moisturizer. Each container lasts me about six months this way. It’s still very expensive, but it meets my requirements and is actually cheaper than making something not quite as good from scratch.

    The weird thing I make that most people buy: toothpaste. Noniodized salt, baking soda, and Arm and Hammer whitening gel. Works like a dream, and doesn’t contain fluoride, which I was overexposed to as a child and doesn’t agree with me.

    BTW, may I remind y’all that our grandparents or great-grandparents got by with the previous year’s Sears catalog or – shudder – rags that were washed and reused instead of specialty toilet paper?

  18. Heather on April 23, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Jenn, wow, I’ve never heard of peanut butter slices. That’s just nuts. Maybe, maybe I could see for camping. No, no I can’t, I’d make the sandwiches before leaving.

    Rebecca all standards go out the window during sickness and pregnancy. Sometimes you just have to play by the insane rules set by your energy and cravings.

  19. Cathy on April 23, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    My favorite convenience food – pre-washed salad/lettuce mixes. Costco has a great Baby Spring Mix that’s very reasonable. I HATE washing lettuce, but will if we haven’t made a Costco run, because the other stores are way over priced on their bags of lettuce.

    What I find silly – pre-cut fruit. Seriously. I can buy a pineapple for $2.50, but if I want someone else to cut it for me I have to pay over $8 – and get much less. Same with any other kind of fruit.

    Another thing that bothers me is all the Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice frozen meals. I really don’t think that stuff is as good for you as they’d like you to believe. I don’t know. Processed food just bothers me and that stuff is so expensive.

    hmmm… I sound a little judgmental, don’t I?

  20. Jenn on April 23, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Peanut butter slices are my favorite chuckle–more like a roll of the eyes. Because we are apparently far to busy to even spread peanut butter. (

    I’m drawing a blank on my favorite convenience food right now but I sure do appreciate them when I use them.

  21. suzanne on April 23, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Yep, no frozen pb&j’s here……frozen pancakes, no, I can make my own, but frozen waffles, I’ll buy since I don’t have nor do I want, my own waffle iron. What kills me is the pain reliever that says Brand name/Migraine, when it is the exact same formula as the regular……we have become a dumbed down society with way too many choices, and way too little motivation to do for ourselves. I will buy some shredded cheese occasionally, but they put something on it that I don’t always like…..yuck. I used to bake my own bread, but my son left for college and it would be wasted now……I don’t buy the convenience sized pre-packaged chips…I will package my own in a plastic bag.

  22. Rebecca on April 23, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Sometimes I see things and think, man is that silly. A crockpot meal that you take from the freezer and put in the crockpot? Diced frozen peppers and onions? Silly!

    Then you get pregnant, the sight/smell of food/meat/etc makes you gag, and its the best thing in the world.

  23. La Rêveuse on April 23, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Pesto sauce, pasta sauce, BBQ sauce. Rotisserie chickens. Pre-sliced “dinner” hams–we keep it in the fridge and use it for everything, including a lightening fast toddler meal with some frozen veggies.

    But hey, I make up for it. I make my own yogurt. 🙂

  24. chocolatechic on April 23, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    I giggle at the frozen chopped onion.

  25. Lisa on April 23, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    So the pb&j premades are definitely one that I find hilarious! I have to say that most of the premade stuff I see in the stores makes me smile a bit. Not only does it kind of scream “LAZY society” but it also makes you think about all the preservatives and bad ingredients that are put into something that you can make at home for 9/10 times less money and just a tad more time in the kitchen. I get a kick out of the tubes of premade cookie dough. A lot of ladies I know are so proud of themselves when they pull out of the oven a pan of circle cookies with a heart or a tree shape in the middle that didn’t burn. Oh to live in the days of our moms and grandmoms when making a home meant home-cooked meals and warm cookies when the kids get home from school. I’m so old-fashioned! 🙂

  26. Becca on April 23, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Convenience items I really like:

    Pre-made meat marinades. What is for dinner doesn’t become an issue until the kiddos get home from school or later! The idea of having to make a marinade and then do all the work with marinading the meat before we’ve even had lunch???……we wouldn’t be having dinner until 10pm in my house!

    Store bought french bread, rolls, etc: I do not bake bread. Sold the bread machine at a yard sale a few years ago because I hated using it (although I loved the smell it gave my house).

    Lasagna, frozen: We have seven folks eating in our house. We could make it from scratch….but if you figure in the time, cost of ingredients and energy costs of cooking it—->Cheaper to buy the frozen Stouffer’s. (Probably tastes a lot better, too!)

    PB& J weirdness. We buy peanut butter, we buy jellies, we buy bread. Its not like it takes a lot of time to make it, ya know?

    Toddler wipes: We’ve bought them and will finish the package….but eventually a kid has to learn to wipe their tushie correctly. All those toddler bathroom items are silly and way overpriced. My 3 and 4 year old do just find with the pump soap we all use!!

    I could list 100 silly things……we all could. Clever marketing makes them all seem so neccesary at the moment of purchase.

  27. thatbobbiegirl on April 23, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Convenience is a relative term. The most convenient things I purchase would be Heinz ketchup, French’s yellow mustard, canned & frozen vegetables, and Campbell’s tomato soup. It seems that pretty much everything else I make from scratch. Huh….no wonder I’m so tired…..

  28. jenni on April 23, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Okay, I see I was beat to it in the frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I also think it’s a bit crazy to buy the flavored milks. There is so much more sugar and junk than if you just mix it yourself and I find them too sweet premade; the one time I bought one I actually had to dilute it half and half with regular milk. Oh, and the absolute craziest for me is the cookie doughs that are out there; especially the ones already on a tray you just pop them right into the oven…missing all the fun with those! Can’t like the beaters that way!

    Can’t live without? The roasted chicken you can get at the stores now. It’s usually cheaper or the same cost as a raw chicken and I don’t have to do the work. I also love the bagged salads, but only when they’re on sale.

  29. candice on April 23, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    i have definitely thought about buying those pre-made sandwiches for picnics and such, but when i’m reminded of the $6+ price tag i decline.
    hmmm…speaking of jelly(jam) i do get the squirt kind for ease and because my husband refuses to spread peanut butter first. i hate hard jam in my peanut butter.
    i laugh at pre-chopped onions although i can see the appeal.
    i do buy 100 calorie packs even though i can figure out my allowance on the regular box. it’s a mental thing i suppose!

  30. Need A Nap2 on April 23, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    chuckle – I could see buying the premade pb & j if I’m completely overwhelmed but weekly, definitely not; our friends buy gallon bottled water whereas we bought a Pur filter years ago and love it. Lifesaver – one that came to mind is shredded cheese, I love saving my knuckles (always seem to scrape them when I’m trying to shred cheese) and TIME. Kroger always seem to have some kind of shredded cheese on sale!

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