When you do a lot of cooking, you quickly come to realize that, ummm … well, you can make anything at home. Usually cheaper, probably healthier, and almost always better.
Those cinnamon rolls in the bag inside your grocer’s freezer? Cheaper, healthier, and better homemade.
That loaf of fancy artisan bread? Cheaper, healthier, and better homemade.
Those handy cans and packets that make such a lovely flavor base for so many meals? Cheaper, healthier, and better homemade.
For many of us from-scratch cooking families, this is the very last bastion of DIY food prep. We soak our dry beans, we only keep jarred spaghetti sauce on hand for emergencies, we no longer remember the taste of white, store-bough sandwich bread, but having grown up with a culture of “add 1 envelope taco seasoning,” we sometimes don’t realize how easy it is to mix up the stuff at home. And what about those ubiquitous cans of “Cream of XYZ”? Can you really find a way around that particular frankenfood?
Using what’s already in your pantry, you can easily whip up most of these substitutes on the fly. Or, if you’re a planner, go ahead and make up a whole stash to pull out when the time comes. For the soups, you’ll need to add a few extra moments to your prep time– they don’t tend toward the make-ahead end, but are so, so worth it.
Give it a try and see what works best for your family. You may find that you like your mixes spicier, or without minced onions, or … the options are endless. Best of all, you’re saving money and missing out on all the extra sodium, preservatives, and nasties hidden in those handy little packets!
Italian dressing seasoning— Like the envelopes you buy to mix up in those pre-marked glass jars, this mix is called for in one of our favorite crockpot meals.
Taco seasoning— I have used a couple of these over the years, but this one is nice and basic.
Montreal Steak Seasoning— this is a lovely rub for most meats, including chicken. We use half the amount of salt.
Italian Seasoning— Standby for the expensive jars available in the spice aisle.
Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup— You can use jarred mushrooms in this in a pinch and it turns out well.
Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup— Bonus to this recipe (which I use all.the.time) is an included note that outlines a solution for poultry seasoning.
Dry Cream of Soup Mix— Jane’s recipe is a catch-all, and works great!
Dry Onion Soup Mix— This one is easy to make in tiny batches for those “I need it now!” moments.
Bisquick— I use this recipe but add the butter later, so it can be stored in the pantry.
Hot Chocolate— This is really, really good. But add marshmallows anyhow. Just because.
Garam Masala— You might not have cardamon pods on hand, so plan ahead if you’re cooking an Indian dish.
Pumpkin Pie Spice— No more disappointing moments of being unable to make those muffins you were dreaming of because you’re out of spice!
Gravy mix— Note that this is not my preferred gravy except for random lunches when I decide that what we need, ASAP, is a big pot of mashed potatoes to put over our turkey sandwiches. It works just as well as the packets you can buy, but really, there is no substitute for making the real deal.
Shake and Bake— Because sometimes you just want to throw a little quick breading on those chicken breasts, shove them in the oven, and call it good.
Master Muffin Mix— Buy a bin to keep this in, print out the variations, and keep it in an easy spot so that anyone can make breakfast!
These are some of our favorites, but there are tons more out there. Any tried and true from-scratch cheats in your kitchen you can share?